Monday, June 13, 2011

Dark Clouds, Fading Lights

 I was drunk.

Drunk on romance, drunk on manifesto, drunk on that vainglorious philosophy, which, if scrutinized by the lucid, would sooner be tossed than a graduate's copy of Meditations.  Mostly I was drunk on that bottom of the barrel brew, bistro's soft-pedal as 'house wine'. It's that filthy red shit that conforms your cogitations to its own murky character.  It's a conduit for ersatz genius and desultory conviction.  In most probability, it had a hand in the deluge of many once-great empires.  And then there was the ouzo and single malt.

I meandered the cobbled path, pivoting about my feet, pitching back and forth, my focus on the ethereal.  It would have been better served guiding my amble.  I tottered as my thoughts ran distances; fetching poetry and insights from dusty cranial alcoves.  You use this word, alcove? Ok.

At Lontza, a stone fort precariously protruding over the melange of soily volcanic rock that maintains the city, one could garner an unobstructed panorama of the Aegean, the caldera, and distant islands.  When the sun sits high, it is a bulwark for shutterbugs, newlyweds, and stray dogs piqued by the clamor.  Later, though, it functions closer to an altar.  Sacrosanct ground.  It epitomizes social divorce and celestial embrace.  Before Elysium.  The pulpit from which your final sermon can be pronounced without an utterance.  The congregation, blinking onlookers.

And so it's used.  A podium beside St. Peter's Gate.  For peepers and proselytizers...

There's no majesty to the place when you see it.  It's trivial when juxtaposed, and it always is, with the enormity of the figures in the backdrop.  During the day, crimson mountains ignite, smoldering down to the lapping cobalt waves that cut at their feet.  The offshore thunderheads keep watch.  There's coastline and hills and alabastrine houses dug into the pumice, that snow cap the island's few crowns.  And with all that, who would condescend to look to their feet, to the pedestal that provides such a vantage.  Statues don't often look down.

I stumbled across crumbled stone as so many feet had before.  My gait probably less deliberate than most preceding.  Taking the scenic route across the veranda, I cast my eyes upwards to resolve the theories rebounding in my mind.  I was spiraling as the skies spiraled above.  And yet, what a feeble notion it is, that staring blankly at nothing should resolve everything.  At what point had I mistaken paradox for zen?

Still, I was fixated.

But quickly nothingness died.  It disappeared, as the cathodes that do their work behind the screen began to warm.  Tiny pixels of white appearing, peeking out, flickering in place.  Little by little, they strolled in, populating the pews.  Ready, it would seem, for tonight's rambler.

I wasn't intent on taking the charge, asserting my positions.  In the case of the sot, it seems that the first concepts are always spoken with marked eloquence and more concern than the rest of his harangue.  What begins effortlessly, with structure and purpose, dissolves quickly into oblique and uncoordinated ripostery.  Drunken polemics had gotten me in trouble before.  Unfortunately, more often than not, men are thrust into action without the chance to formally decide.  So I steadied myself, shoulders pulled back, giving earnest look to my disciples.  This was all conducted metaphorically, of course.  To all appearances, I was bracing myself from the spins, mumbling a sobering mantra under my breath.

I discharged rapid barrages of rambling locutions.  Rants really.  I spoke fast and I spoke slow and I never stopped speaking and I never made a sound.  Dendritic trees flourished, verdant, anticipating arrivals from terminals across the synaptic ocean.  Their flowers blossoming and pouring life into the next transmission.  Ideas flowed as if out of a bottle, direct from the grapes and vines and earth that filled it.  There was my voice, committed to page, in the only way existence can be measured.  My beliefs enunciated, albeit non-verbally, for the collective.  My self, eviscerated, both creating and destroying myself.

Between bursts, a choir of hiccuped giggles and muted guffaws showed the congregation that reverence, too, can be irreverent.

Exhausted from revelations on love and addiction and power and vices and Who's running the show and why I can't have faith and the value of pain and why I can never be who I see myself as and just what I need but what exactly I deserve and whether voting is really such a big deal and what the goddamn difference between between garlic and sapphire is, I focused on the blinking horde, taciturn, staring back.

There was no response.

Seldom does one's mind to go completely blank.  Subjective thought, it seems, is ubiquitous.  The dialogue that drives man forward doesn't, can't, won't, and shouldn't ever stop.  It sustains inspiration, and impels progress.  Nothing is alone and thought always comes from a preceding antagonist.  There's always something tickling before you itch.  And sometimes, even when you thought you've scratched it all and you're raw, the itch persists.

I staggered dumbstruck.  After all that, I get nothing.  In truth, I envisaged core collapses and supernovae.  The night to burst with luminance in honor of my catharsis.  I had reached deep within to weigh on what I thought were momentous existential matters.  A surfeit of 'informed' judgments had been mined, aligned, and refined.  But still there was an irritation.  Something laid untouched.

This wasn't the first time I had felt this deficiency.  Strolling about campus late at night, I would similarly peer into the empyrean and feel looked down upon.  The house was packed to the aisles back then.  Harder to look, yet harder still to look away.  The inescapable swarm.  Even in Portland, where it's easier to hide and where night can't always consume you, they still found their way in.  Out on the fire escape with a PBR and a Spirit or through the kitchen windows, they would look over my shoulder.  They didn't dictate the conversation, but simply made mention that there needed to be one.  That whatever I was ruminating upon wasn't getting me somewhere.

Truth is, I've been trying to avoid their buzz for as long as I've heard it.  There isn't much deep semiotic significance to them.  They don't belie the ostensible.  Stars are what they are.  They're old and they remind me of my mortality.

It's evident we're fated.  We're endowed with a faint voice, flimsy constitution, and fickle longevity.  Our (my) ambitions are greater than the form provided.  The struggle to cope with the Moirai breeds two types of men.  There are those, whose appreciation of this circumstance fuels their endeavors.  The stride towards death, a constant well for motivation.  Ticking hands propelling them forward.  I've always slightly despised these folks.  Simple jealousy, I assume.  Ignorance or dogma or stupidity must predispose such a futile enterprise.  I, on the other hand, find myself frozen.  Any rational thought about a world, in which I will cease to exist inevitably leads to nausea, decreased salivation, and terror-pangs, that can only be described through such an onomatopoeic term.  It's something that pit of my stomach would have an easier time explaining.  And it's something I've never had the guts to explore.

I still might not have gotten anywhere.  But these aren't the sorts of questions where we get places.  And I guess that's what stars reveal most.

There are algorithms designed to tell us how many stars the universe may hold.  Sextillions and Septillions are unlike any 'rational numbers' we've learned.  Their immensity remains veiled to many.  The scope of our universe is unfathomable, and growing.  Coupled with parallel universes or modal realism, it may be greater yet.  The scale established, it's humbling to recognize our position in this larger context.  And yet, I don't want to leave without knowing, understanding it all.

As I said, there is always some doubt or dream nudging us forward.  For me, it's in the stars.  They illuminate the brevity of this passing flicker.  Sisyphean or not, a life well-lived deserves passion.  And, though I am still uncertain of what lies ahead for me, the answer surely isn't found in paralysis and escapism.   

Sometimes a man stands up.

When I left my perch, losing myself into the narrow alleys that dead-end with no warning, I caught glimpse of a stray dog violently pawing at his ear.  I wondered if we weren't really doing the same thing.

Writer's Note: Loosely based on some times in Greece, and especially inspired after reading a poem by R.M. Rilke (below).

Sometimes a man stands up during supper
and walks outdoors, and keeps on walking,
because of a church that stands somewhere in the East.
And his children say blessings on him as if he were dead.

And another man, who remains inside his own house,
dies there, inside the dishes and in the glasses,
so that his children have to go far out into the world
toward that same church, which he forgot.


1 comment:

  1. this is good, it makes me wish I had a girlfriend. And there is no higher praise than that.