Chapter Two

February 16, 2011 § 2 Comments

——“When I worked for the railroad,“  Steve Eckhardt was saying, “they were very big on seniority.”  They were so rigorous on seniority, he said, there was one guy working there still, who was older than the railroad itself! He was a teenager, when the railroad first came through; and he has been working for it his whole life; so he is older than the railroad itself.
——“Which makes him one hundred and sixty eight,”  he concludes, from the top of the ladder, looking down to see if that piece of aluminum soffit is ready.
——“Like a monk,” Steve Eckhardt is thinking, and then he is shouting down to his partner worker, Monty Brigges, “can you go any slower!”
——What he means is, you can speed it up. Brigges is virtually a duplicate of the ageless railroad worker who, in this useful legend, is a wiry, tireless, perennially balding teenager, or rather octagenarian, who never gets bored through several incarnations, never talks much either.  Too bad because he must have stories. Probably not though; he no doubt forgets things as soon as they happen, working on the railroad. It’s one railroad spur after another. Pretty soon, if he doesn’t hurry up and die, he is going to outlive the railroad itself, which is already quaint, and then where will he be? Where will any of us be? I just don’t understand–but is there time to understand, when you are always living, working, fixing the house so it can withstand or take the weather, like preparing it as if for one day, when freezing rains come like in some book. Life resembles a production we are preparing for in our minds, I often say.
——On a smaller scale, minute by minute, it’s all comparisons, people’s minds are filled with comparisons, waiting for some organizing principle, some postulate, I mean some way to see through the exhilaration and identify the real person doing the thinking.
——“Getting back to our previous discussion,” I said to Loretta, I mean Diane– though I could see that, either way she was so distracted the chances she was listening were . . . outrageously distant. Unfinished sentences are the best kind of sentences, she was thinking . . .
——I could hear her thoughts, but not quite read them. This is the situation,  isn’t it? It is ceremonial, and I was drifting myself, as towards the actual moment of awareness,  a one-man jury in the house where I belong, at the round white table in the kitchen.  It was a monks’ quarters. It was about seven-thirty, and they had now come indoors from touring the gardens, in the front and back yards, Janet and our troupe of friends who had miraculously dropped by.  They didn’t all come into the house, but some were lost wandering around in the yard. The accidental nature of the scene is what frames it, for dire remembrance.  Sometimes I act like I can manufacture memories, or  evidence that memories are impossible, I take the digital camera outdoors and steal, I mean photograph, the immediate vista.
——But when you look at this place, look at the moon staying up there like a suitor, or a guide (she knows the oceans), though mum on directions, I take it defacto as memory. The moon is an ornament alright, every night I walk out into my own memory of the street. It is an historical occasion, drumming itself up for notice.  The questions we face, I say to Mondrago, are devised like by angels for us, precisely in response to the world, which is determined as ignorant of such questions.  Hey! What I face is the explicit scene, in which I are not really there. The world is continuously an experiment, into which one might step. These are the kind of judgments I make . . .  Because of the new ways there are to look into every aspect of everything, there are no actual decisions being made, but we are sliding away. If anything is decided it is immediately challenged and maybe reversed; though that is too simple. I don’t have the statistics on anything, really, but over half the questions in the docket are challenges to cases in the recent past, so you can see that if this trend continues it is certain some cases will never reach the courts. And the judge too, he is like a monk, with awesome time to speculate. Or meditate. Another spur on the railroad, and another aluminum wedge are handed up the ladder, to the worker who is two steps ahead of this process anyway. The moment when he is back to himself is when he is playing darts, at the local bar, Monty’s Krown.
——Echoes and reverberations, who is not aware of what it takes to preserve a sense of self? And refrain from admitting that you have it?
——Plus, more than half of what seem to be events are staged events, staged by the very party they seem to be hurting, for the purpose of showing that that party will withstand a scandal or two, weather any storm, etc. etc.
——Plus, every instance of plugging into the new technology involves a setting up and a constant vigilance–well, not so much vigilance as worry.  One is patriotic to the product, and alert to the working of the system, much time is spent preparing for the actual benefits. Over half the time is spent making sure the system is ready for the occasion which . . . never happens; when you talk to people about what they are doing they mostly tell you about their preparations, or things going wrong–things that are not getting back to normal. But there was no normal, the cue was missed, or to be truthful  . . . life was never meaningful, in general.
——“So you see, Mrs Soffit, the old days when you could just read the newspaper at breakfast with your cereal, and consider yourself informed, are rather now as far away as . . . ” I said, drifting off.
——Obviously everything has already happened; except the specific adventure of how, in your case, knowledge of this is being obtained. Obviously, life is a big secret being revealed to you in pieces, and in such a fashion that you keep losing some of the pieces, for lack of knowing what the puzzle looks like, like on the outside of the box. Where it was pictured. Ha! What if, after this life, you are further away from the truth than you are now? Ever think of that?
——The problem, as I see it, is the constant difficulty we face, of handing off ownership of the vibrant scene we are living in.  We keep ditching personal consciousness, and then ask humanity to account for it. I never really was a person, she says to me. How can the world sustain my utterly incomplete life?  It’s like, who is taking care of the outdoors, the swinging traffic light, while the customer is in the shop. I come out of the shop–I mean the store (for I must upgrade the setting, the language demands it)– and the antique streetlamp is tipped over, or the moon is in the trashcan–well, actually the moonlight is rippling over the ridges of the metal surface . . .
——My primary example, those days, of how the world was creating itself in the direction of our hopes and fears, and not, say, in the direction of any outside inevitability, was the cellphone. What do I mean by “outside inevitability”?  She had to ask, and just then got a call . . .

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Chapter One

February 7, 2011 § Leave a comment

—–—Late in the afternoon the thunderstorms roll in; Mondrago the magician is still sleeping. He is rummaging about in an overly packed warehouse, at an undisclosed location; Mondrago’s young wife is making him guess how much she spent in the purchase of a golden mattress, with black stitchings, and it is going to be . . . four thousand dollars!
——Walking home, laboriously transcribing his thoughts, trying to find a semblance of the kind of diction once spoken before the curtain fell and a fog came upon the populace, half-drunk, half-confused, half-blind trying to maintain the midway focus, the monk, Frere Severitus, finds a small vase-like lamp, sans shade, on the street. He exhorts all eternal souls.
——A thousand interlocking weird situations; that’s what the world is, tens of thousands of interlocking weird situations. Loretta, or is her name Dianne?, was wondering how she could figure out why some of the people she knew were so close and knowable to her, and others you could stare into their faces all week and they just seemed unknowable. Most of the people who came to her Plant Stand are either unknowable, or maybe they belonged to some group of intimates that sat around in kitchens and on front porches and were friends like we are.
——Was it possible it was she was incapable of knowing them? The look on her face when she is saying this shows she is really considering it; it’s enough to make anyone pause, and I had to reassured Loretta, I mean Dianne!, that it was as it appeared; these were not people, per se, but members of the general population who had not coalesced, and maybe never would. They had no aggregate central selves of furiously important meanings, as we did.
——And the actors? Often they say that they feel they are reenacting history itself, in their dedication to getting the character right and displaying Agamemnon, or King Arthur, even Honest Abe is in need of an actor to bring him across the impossible suspension bridge of history, on the screen for all the populace to see. Psychologically, I get the impression they, the actors, think of themselves as even more than just actors, they think of themselves as the historical characters themselves now happening or the first time.  Wow!
——This is one of the major themes, developed by my longtime colleague Mortimer Shy, who lectured in many mid-sized cities, and also small towns,  in fact in front of anyone who would listen in the early 1990’s, before disappearing during a trip to Tibet.
——Next we may summarily disengage the politicians and mock their use of basic metaphors, like referring to soldiers in Iraq as “on the ground”, or events as “turning the corner.” There are days, indeed, when to even listen to the News of the World for even the length of one broadcast at the top of the hour, is to be a fool, feel like a fool, and have all the future of a fool. But this is where we live, and the television needs to be tended, like the front garden.
——The day after the tremendous night rains there were fallen flowers all over the yard, it was a massacre of beauteous Foxgloves and Dame’s Rockets strewn about, and so Janet went out there with her big vases, those gaudy ones we’ve been saving, and gathered up the fallen flowers.
——If and when I stopped bringing in philosophical, or I might say immaterial concerns, the talk would simply revert to monotonous information about the new ceiling tiles and bathroom fixtures, or cars, that was always a topic. It was so clear, after many years!, that I was the sole keeper of these topics that I had to realise these other so-called people were really empty headed in that area. One could not convict them of actual thoughts. This  brings in a whole group, which might be identified as the people in life. They are sort of given to you, or me, to deal with. You can’t tell, at even a short distance, that what they are talking about is in fact the smoothness of the new bathroom tiles, when they make a chopping motion with their hands; at first you have to assume they are making a vital distinction, until you get in on the conversation, and find out it really is all, what shall we say?. . .  secular!
——The meaning that is immaterial, of which Frere Severitus would speak, is only known by examples. It is not a category that you fill up, as is the purely material. The material world is held together by a set of categories, while the world of meaning, which is immaterial, is known only by examples, and we do not know what holds it together. Maybe the fact that we know this world only by examples, and do not know the whole, are the same thing–or, what informs us that we cannot know the whole truth is that we get the truth only in parts. Furthermore, perhaps things which are held together by being in a category together have a strict dependence on that category, and no other meaning.
——Thus, for example, a person can have their apparent existence in the category of person, that is they appear to be a person; but their meaning is held entirely elsewhere, in pieces, and never aggregating, so to speak, into an individual person. Or, conversely, as in the case of our most serious monk, Frere Severitas, one might be such an individual that they regard the rest of the people around them as only . . . so-called!
——These aren’t just vital distinctions making content available; these distinctions are the content. The reason I am so concerned with defining history is because I am aware that I am in a different place than history; it isn’t that other writers ignore history and act as if they were standing on the same starting block as anyone ever; it is because they never conceive of the difference to begin with, and therefore act that way. They aren’t really even people, these writers, but facets of the general populace. Voices of stupidity, I might say.
——I most frequently find myself saying, “This system accounts for everything but itself.”
—–What system? It is comprehensive but doesn’t include the facility of comprehension itself. It organises everything but can’t account for itself inside the that organization. This is certainly true for the theory of evolution, which is a complete crock, I mean skeleton,  and can’t account for the occurance of the theory itself; and it is a contradiction that an entirely unconscious process should suddenly become aware of itself. The only understanding that accounts for the act of its own comprehension is one which is totally retrospective, so that all the content occurs within the idea. So there! This is the way I speak at dinner parties at my house, and at the bar when I get the chance, and if I am voluble then . . . that is the story.
——There is much to do, before Mondrago awakes.