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Friday, May 23, 2008

A Quasi-Fictional Rumination Published in Notre Dame Review

To get away from what people generally call "politics" and "news," here's the piece I originally called "Interview with Self," revised as "A With/out Q With/out Self," published in audio with music by Don Meyer (my composing collaborator, Head of Music Dept., Lake Forest College)in the online edition of NDR (scroll down to the link to hear if you wish - Don is Q the bassoon & my voice is A the I). The text below is, of course, in print in NDR, meaning that nearly 100% of the planet's English reading population has never read it. (There is MUCH to be said of publishing on the Internet as well as off it.)

Comments welcome.



A: It was at no point whatsoever at which I realized there was nothing else to do and that was that. Well, maybe it was that or that was that or this. I couldn’t be sure until I’d gone through the process. When I was four or five at the beach near my house, peering into the beach bags of bathers, finding banana skins and eggshells. I seem to remember an ovular moment . . . or oracular.

A: The first thing to think of after that was this. So with that in mind, I would naturally have to be the centerpiece of the allegory. Then I thought I could possibly relate the tiresome ontological metaphors, the isms and ologies and ohms and ohmygods, you know Being and Non-Being and it’s all the same and everything but not but no thing and illusions and all that and this in an innovative way, meaning by means of an interview with me, my Self, and that by so doing, I would be original.

Then of course there are so many possible audiences, a veritable cornucopia of ears. If you are performing in front of a Romanian audience, you don’t want to play Indian pop tunes, do you? Well, that’s the point precisely now, isn’t it?

A: That may be so, frequent fragility, I admit, and it could be vitamin deficiency during pregnancy, too many martinis, I’ll say Mother’s fault to be kind to you. But it was hard to find anyone else available off the bat and with time, people disappear, or in time they become lost. Oh oh there was this one and that one, and theoretically, I weep. Either way, scheduling is always a problem; then there’s the mortgage, much to lose, little to gain, though in truth of course property is a laden donkey, but on the other hand, there’s crème brulee. So to cut corners became critical and then of course money and also fame, objects of desire. The audience always takes bets: this one will be a winner, 10 to one; that one will place second, and so on. With the right agent, consider Self as syndicated in scarlet or lavender, black, teal, indigo, non-fat or 100% fat with anti-toxins. Sold! Voila! It’s a matter of flexibility. Mother told me I could become. But with money and fame would I strut about the globe blowing kisses from yachts and exhibiting my latest endangered species fur? I would be stealing the allegory of myself. Horrors!

A: Oh now you’re talking ideology and semantics. Your insistent literalism and exactitude is exasperating. You take all of this and that much too seriously and think the only people worthy of being interviewed can be found on with five star reviews or viewed on talk or news shows. That tells me a lot about you. Frankly, your imagination has close walls.

A: I am most adamantly not a dog, chasing my tail. Simply let’s say childhood was okay as childhoods go, probably better than yours but maybe not. I’ve heard of worse. Nobody locked me in a cellar, shoveled dirt into my mouth or poked objects into my delicate overtures. Nobody told me I couldn’t eat ham if I didn’t first eat my peas. So I am very lucky to have gotten away with a tolerable childhood. Not the best but not the worst, no not by a long shot, even better than worst though lesser than best, if you get my drift, you understand, the occasional nagging and smothering, to be expected, and my head hurt when she brushed my hair.

Asleep during childhood, we can scarcely remember details, but emotional tones, themes, as in subtle transformations of the child in her own eyes, in kindergarten, first grade, summer camp, and so on, by means of humiliating experiences. Example one: two older boys tugging at her underpants, tearing them off. Example two: she forgets purposefully. So there are memories, tales and rumors, but you can never believe any of them completely. Take what you want and discard the rest I say. End of temporary reverie and on to the next.

A: Well, it’s a mark of maturity to realize that one’s most attentive audience is Self. But also one’s least attentive. And then one must ask what is Self, most often referred to as one’s self or my self, and that is where the amniotic fluid gets murky. We ourselves have wondered that so many times. But contentment?

Okay, I understand a diversion, though we are so tempted to try, say this or say Eastern methodology or phenomenology, to empty Self of self or resist self without resisting Self or become either a cathedral or gargoyle. So the question is: will you dance with me? But can one tell the dancer from the dance or know that one is not say, a butterfly? Unless one falls into a bucket full of collective shit, no question mark. So the bottom line is let us return to Exhibit “A.,” the dear forgotten womb, nostalgia of beginnings, terrifying tabula rasa.

A: Now it’s your time to listen, so listen. I have this to say. Picture a donkey with a cargo of bananas and hens. She is stumbling on stones through the night, smells a bewildering frenzy of unidentified flowers, somewhere under the shared sky of dim, far flung stars. She hears the voices of creatures she can neither smell nor see and trembles, feeling vulnerable to their genetic destinies. Inevitably, the donkey, exhausted, sits down by the roadside if she is allowed. Her nose longs for only one scent, her eyes for only one vision, and her ears for only one sound.

A: The first aroma: the one that assaulted and tempted all of her senses as she emerged from womb, warm, sloppy scent of milk in the breast or could be roses tossed by an appreciative audience, as in congratulations, happy birthday, cherished miracle! The first vision: through fog, breast and light. And the first voice: well, one might ask if it’s the mother or midwife or father in the labor room. Or is it the infant’s own voice? Or the hollow black hungry sound of the cosmos? Or is the sound-vision of the cosmos merely a mirror reflecting our reckless, dull mirrors? Not to mention the taste of custom-made milk and the feel of attending mother breast and hands, sound of hands clapping.

A: My dear pathetic Self, you are so distraught with my distractions you’ve forgotten your questions. My audience is you, my Self, or not mine, as I can’t own Self. Self is not as it would be or I would wish it to be, would wish I to be, heroic and coherent, glorious and true. It is frequently breathless and comes in a cacophony of colors, nuances of light, sweet and bitter aromas and tastes. Naturally, Self is subject to the effects of negligent parenting, Bombay Sapphire, nasty people, broken clocks and hurricanes; sometimes goes on vacations, threatens suicide, and believes it loves another Self, and then it sometimes propagates its self. That is who is interviewing me or we. And that is what we have to say to the audience. Are you my audience? Are you listening?

A: Tell me where you are and who you are. Please do. I have a tale to tell, no time to waste, no time.


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