Thursday, July 8, 2010

What is vanity but the longing to survive?

It's hard to live by paradox: in order to gain your life, you must first lose it. Or, to master others you must be their servant. And so on. I mean, it's difficult enough putting in the hours to make enough dough to survive. Who amongst us has the time to worry about existential paradoxes to boot? Even if we ourselves are paradoxical creatures, immortal souls who die, lovers who hate, wanderers who stand still. We try to make time, find time -- so we can kill time, as the Spaniard put it, he who bowed before his Lord Don Quixote, the exemplary knight of paradox. We look at the animals -- a squirrel, a fox, a crow, a turtle, you name it -- and see how unparadoxical they are. In your unguarded moments, when the contradictions inherent in simply being are really weighing you down, you envy them. They eat, scamper, copulate, chatter, run across the road and get killed. Easy shite. Meanwhile, you're stuck with the burden of being human. Ugh.

An old friend writes me a note.
Hey, poot, you know you did your best thinking when you were eighteen, nineteen. Hell, you haven't progressed one iota since then. It's true. I'm still carrying the same worry beads I had in my pockets back then, and the same companions: Thoreau, Augustine, Dostoevsky, Unamuno, Camus. The usual suspects. James, Montaigne, Shakespeare, Yeats and a whole slew of poets who followed him. I've always listened to the lyrics even while dancing to the music. But I forsook rationality a long time ago -- the world I see around me, the effin terrarium, won't support it. A tree limb kills a baby, a barge hits a tourist boat, a missile destroys a home in Gaza. Sure, we've got answers, formulae, technology. Sure, we've imposed a marvelous rational order on existence and -- thank god -- it's comprehensible most of the time: we can live each day without falling limbs, drifting barges, missiles falling from the sky. I'm telling you: it's the 99% that works that's the effin mystery.

Real life Sherlocks like Feynman, Bohr, avuncular Einstein, and a host of giants before and after them, they pierce the mystery a little bit at a time, illuminating this corner and that nook, gathering evidence, examining the crime scene, finding a weapon, working out a chronology, cracking a code. Despite the forensics, no one's found a motive yet. Hey, every man dies alone. Or, you better work it out for yourself, cousin. Or, one child grows up to be somebody that just loves to learn/and another child grows up to be somebody you'd just love to burn.

My friend is right. I'm just as restless and filled with unwarranted wonder, as when I walked the streets, heart-broken, in a fog, thirty-five, forty years ago. The world works, with me or without me.
In order to gain your life, you must first lose it. I wake up in the morning, stare in the mirror. My old man stares back at me in reverse. I recite the Lord's Prayer, out of habit. Today I watch myself do it. Those words coming out of that mouth. I come to the word "trespasses" and stop. Is it "trespasses" or "sins?" Are they the same thing? And what about forgiveness -- is it easier to forgive than to accept forgiveness, and is one dependent on the other? I remember Hemingway's reformulation in "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place" but that was bullshit too. Nada is still something.

I give up. Urgencies are calling me to the conscious day. In my beginning is my end. Or is it vice-versa?

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