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CROSS TALK

Edward Williams

Month

November 2007

15) LOGGERHEADS

I got the perfect example to fit the burning theory I’d advanced when Diane was over, but I got it later, way after I had already speechified in the most horrendous, abstract manner. This happens often with me, because I’m head over heels with inspiration. I often get a revelation before I know how it applies. Because, of course, I don’t derive it from anything at all. I am just gifted; I see things backwards. I am also useless, since I only ramp up examples after I’ve missed the occasion, where they would have been handy, handy as hell. Well! The perfect example of my current thesis, I could have told Diane, is the way historians try to reconcile disputes between partisan politicians, by calling in from the past “the founding fathers”. This is a perfect example of the process that typifies all debate lately. This sequence is so familiar now that it seems normal; it is habitual, like in society itself, to try to answer what amounts to an intragenerational squabble, with a cold shower of ancient history. What the “founding fathers”, or what perhaps the Constitution itself actually intends, appears as the solution to a debate between parties that are at loggerheads . . . over an issue that has to do with . .. events in the recent past. I go over and over this. If I can put it in this skeletal fashion, what we have is attempted resolutions by reference to what actually happened in the historical past; this is the past which we cannot touch. Advanced to quell a dispute between two other parties representing, willy-nilly, the Present and the Recent Past. Which are at loggerheads. I hate it when I have to use italics, I need more words like: loggerheads.

But, the reason why this is so familiar is simple: there is no issue in which these two parties are not in disagreement. For the simple reason that established facts never fit a shifting reality. Which is another way of saying that within the course of one lifetime, cause and effect are not operating the way one would expect. But here I go again off the deep end! Into a world of abstractions, onto a field littered with . . . arrowheads or something. Or broken glass. Its like trying to get out of the parking lot, and backing up and running into every car on the way. It is obvious what always happens. History is dragged into the room like a referee to settle a dispute between two parties who represent, variously, points of view derived from (1) direct opinion or (2) received knowledge. Received knowledge is ever being encroached upon of course by new fangled methods of research, which is exploding due to information technology. Direct opinion is wrong every time! Everything is exploding! Until someone, and it is who is first to microphone nowadays, calls for an authority, a historical perspective, a context–of course! We wouldn’t be debating, if we weren’t in the arena–I mean the world (often, one speaks in metaphors)–which was here before us. As has been right along.  So if we can get back to the founding principles, the ground on which we stand, then . . .  Someone let me out of this lecture hall!

Yes. This fantastic proposition always flies, because everyone is so fundamentally ignorant that whoever gets to the idea that the past can be a judge automatically gets the floor. No matter that this process produçes nothing but delusion. And lately, science, that big baby, has made a grab and a heist of the whole subject of the origin of the universe! God! Now I really am drowning. It is unfortunate for me I guess that I brought this up, to myself, while backing out of the parking lot in the shopping mall. Or maybe it is fortunate, that that is the place, the parking lot. Though actually that is not the place, but only where I put myself in my imagination, of course! Where I really am is here, in my office, typing, barricaded, considering my options. I came in the house about two-thirty, after making a dangerous trip to the Plaza, and the telephone was ringing. I picked it up, but the person must have just hung up, for the line was dead. Of course the calls coming in on this telephone, the one in the front hallway, the huge heavy one that is connected by actual phone wires, are categorically different than the ones I get on my cellphone. I lead two lives, you see. And they are in a debate.

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14) Stupid

When she asks that question, with that particular tone, showing how infuriated she is, she really isn’t (I realise quickly) asking that particular question, I mean like literally or as if she expects to get an answer, so much as she is pointing to the questionable nature of it, the spectacle, the fact that it actually is a question. She is expressing her amazement that this is so apparently true, this observation, or this experience she has had. The experience that consists of repeated contact with one or another of the human race–if I remember at least that much. And when she says such things, I have to admit that at first I am dumbly tempted to blather out an answer, an explanation, to satisfy her. For it seems easy, I mean I have answered this question, in one form or another, to my own satisfaction many times before, I am sure! And I feel I could supply–though it would take some patience on her part (if she could listen)–an answer, to what obviously is a complaint, general and of such staggering proportion as it is (the way she has put it). Though I might be irritated that she is so naive, to not have recognised that this has been a question repeatedly torturing and befuddling us (that small elite group of us), for years. But, on the other hand, that is precisely what she is doing–expressing a current frustration, that this question still has to be asked. Well, now I remember vividly the form of this, but have, however, let slip away what the exact question was, or rather, exactly how she phrased it. But this will happen again, this pattern itself will repeat, and maybe even she will put the question the same way, and use that same infuriated tone, and then I will snag it. For now, I think the question she asked was something like: “Why is everyone so stupid?”

13) NUMBERS

It must be that it isn’t necessary to see the death in order to know a person is back from the dead. I mean it can’t be solely based on one’s having seen or heard about them dying, for that is relative and subjective. Instead the dead must have an aura, a whole new aspect about them at makes one know them, now that they have conquered death. Now that I have seen my father as resurrected, I know that this is what has happened to him. Is this too difficult? The recognition of such a resurrected person, can only be flimsily based on knowledge previously gained. What! You are astonished? But in the case of my father, it was the whole point, that he was resurrected; that is what we were discussing, in the dream as I have reported. He was doubtul as to how long it could last, this new life. From this I have concluded, I repeat, the dead must have an aura about them. Thus goes the further explanation.

And it will be longer, since he is not in this life, and days are rapidly passing. I will have to keep adding, keep explaining. He certainly had an aura, he was trembling with a new awareness, as if on the cusp of something impossible; and it is impossible, consequently, to describe, doubly so!, since he was, as I have emphasised, also the same person in all other aspects. All you could say is, he was more himself than ever. And struggling as such a description is–there is an astonishing implication to it. One could take this as indicating that he was, as a resurrected person, acceptable. What! Now this is really something, friends. How many of us are going to be able to say that? My father is apparently passing muster, in the next life. Well, this leads to a host of considerations, which I can hardly wait to get to.

(1) The premier case of resurrection, of course: the historical Jesus, come back as The Risen Lord. It is that resurrected Jesus that starts the religion, and maybe that is why everything in Christianity itself has an aura of retrospection about it. This certainly fires up the reflective soul! When Christ appeared to the Apostles, and others, that is what made them think back, as reported in the witness text, New Testament.

(2) On a more neutral, or secular plane of mere invention, like a novelist I might wonder: Would it be possible to have a person who is still alive come visiting you, say in the dream world, as dead; is time itself relative here in some way? Also, is this dream world, where I say I encountered and talked with my own father, the only milieu for encountering the dead? Equip yourself with this idea before you go up the street to Monty’s Krown. Half the people in the bar might be dead.

(3) Consider Phillip Bloy, the ghost, and hero of my novel THE BLUE SEDAN. He seems to be, at first blush, the unlearned exception to very revelation, that the dead are conspicuous. At least when I wrote the book, twenty years ago I didn’t put an aura around him. In fact I portrayed him just the way I have portrayed my father here, a man who was always in character and innocent of it; he doesn’t even know he is dead, until he reads about the car accident he was in, two hundred pages into the book! And even then he doesn’t know what to make of it, but just keeps driving. I borrowed my father to create this character, twenty years ago. How’s that for consistency, in one’s obsessions? On the other hand, maybe that aura does surround Phillip Bloy–he certainly has some protective shield, and gets his own way–fated as he is on his trip back into the past. Well, I could write notes to my own book endlessly–a more fruitful course than . . . worrying over why it isn’t published.

Miraculously, after tentatively establishing this colloquy with what I knew were at probably seven or eight readers, I am now caught in a whirlwind. For the numbers of readers, and demanding ideas are both multiplying rapidly now, clamoring.

12) Incredible

Hold onto your hats, friends, I have to report the most incredible feat, accomplished by my father, who appearing to me in a dream, has come back from the dead! Note, I do not say this was just a dream, or that I dreamed this; I say he appeared to me, via the dream. This is very different, in fact I was worn out by the experience. Even my father is amazed. He said he doesn’t know how this feat was accomplished, which though it has happened to him, he knows he he didn’t accomplish himself. But it was just foisted off on him. Characteristically, he is amazed, and expects that it cannot last. But it has lasted. Of course from my point of view, when I first woke from this I thought, “what a dream!,” and attempted to just relax and meditate on it for a while, sinking back into an even heavier sleep. But there he was again, and it was on the morning of the second day of my fathers revival (that seems like a good word for it: revival), for he was so fully embodied he was more alive than I had ever seen him, sort of more familiar than ever! And that is something, considering that he is my father, and what he always was like. If you knew my father, you couldn’t ask for a more unassuming, graceful gentleman. He had no superior attitudes, and met his own death, six months ago, without a protest. He wasn’t prepared for it, but only seemed to gradually get the message from the way things were happening to him, physically, and the way we all were acting, of course. And I couldn’t find a way to reverse it myself. Now here he was, and he was taking this full-bodied reappearance in life with a boyish amazement. “This can’t last,” he said directly to me, for I was right there. I am telling you, this was just like my father. We always try to understand what it is about those we know so well, how they can be so, you know, just like themselves. Which makes them irreplaceable as people, when they die and are, no matter how we prepare, just not there anymore. So characteristically there right down to the soles of their shoes, which are left in the hospital room. He was always so top of the morning, you know, in his personality, and you knew this indomitable cheerfulness was precisely not of a strength to combat death, if that was coming for him. He exuded that, and even more when he repeated to me, “I didn’t think this could last, but . . . “ pausing for the longest time and looking at the floor. “But it seems to have lasted,” he said, upon my seeing him the second time, in like the replay of the dream, now amplified after I had gone back to it, back to the world this dream took me to, rather!, and then putting out his hands like to say, “these are real.” He was glad I was there, I know that, and I remembered how I had only managed to make it clear to others in my family, and they had acknowledged, how very much alike I and my father were, or always have been, rather. I don’t know whether I actually said, or just thought, “truly, you have a second life!”, but we shared it, in the room together. It was like an examination room, at first, and then with the appearance of a window it was like that second floor outdoor porch in the condominium in Florida, where we would just look out at the sunset, I guess with some cool iced drink on the glass table. There wasn’t any great question about what was going to happen next; it was kind of non-dramatic, really, just an accomplished fact, friends. And so, I now have my father in mind as having conquered death. So there you are! One always feels they should report their dreams accurately, and not embellish them, for they are truth reports; one strives to do this, against the pressure of any less than fully comprehending listeners. It is a rather funny moral obligation one imposes upon oneself. A kind of rule of common sense, or decency in regards to the content of what is presented in such a milieu as dreams. You don’t lie about your dreams, and you don’t go adding scenical elements right off the bat, but report exactly what happened, like in the front of your mind, when, caught unawares, you witness the incredible.

11) SUBTERFUGE

Evidently, I only wish to work on this writing in complete isolation, drawing the shades even, in the daytime, and then opening them to the night sky and the radio towers blinking outside of my office, on Pinnacle Hill; symbolic actions, evidently, but obviously indicating that I want no readers, or rather want no thought of readers, but to keep certain topics secret. It’s as if I had been hurt by direct exposure, in the past–and the very thought of the prying eyes of a reader seizes me with fear of condemnation. Colossal themes, like the one about the New Testament gospel writers, which I thought for a long time might coalesce and become a full-fledged play, seem to blossom only when I am free to roam about in my established routine; they seem to require this total isolation, because, if I consider, even just casually consider, testing out a paragraph or two on the public–and I can get to the public, you can be sure of that!, well I freeze; it becomes a different thing, the writing, from that point on, an ungainly annoying task. Even if I talk about this topic, I can make no sense with it, because the sound is turned off in the room, when I start to speak. I actually just considered going back and getting some of those notes about the gospel writers, in order see if they would fly here, in this tentative and still forming series of paragraphs. And when I had the thought, an invisible hand came out of the darkness and grabbed my wrist, and said, “stop!” Well, more gently, it said, “desist, you fool”. Because, evidently, as soon as I treat this previous material, and maybe anything else in my vast and expanding notebook!, as if I were preparing it for publication, it is like I become actually a monster in its regard, certainly not the happy scribe who first fashioned it, but now a desperate man who can’t wait to get it out there, and have somebody rifle through it. What can readers do, but degrade what they get their eyes on? Though maybe, even here I am preparing a subterfuge, being very sly by simply introducing the fact that there is such a work in my notebooks; and giving the readers (for, oh I know I have readers alright, why do you think I moved to this obscure street and adopted such a narrow routine?), in spite of my own fears, the tiniest glimpse of it. So they can go imagine what such a play, called The Gospel Writers might be. Then, later, I will come along and bring it back up, for I am no doubt in possession of a highly original view of this matter, of the New Testament gospel writers–and the other writers in the gospel genre, for it was a whole genre back then, new to literature, well!, new to more than literature! Evidently, if you just mention something, even though you are not prepared to really discuss it this evening–you will be surprised how much easier it is to talk about it, when you bring it back, on some other evening. This time it has a great advantage in that it can be referred to, it is an established reference, has gotten some cache, by being a reference, and not some grubby, ill-established current issue. Thus the subterfuge is complete, you see. You never want to be caught holding the bag on the main topic, I have learned, but you want to be dealing things in sideways. Let somebody else be crucified. Yes, referring to something is completely different than dealing with it directly, I have found. And I have to admit sometimes I drop in topics and swerve away from them, just so that I may bring them back. Devious, eh? No, everybody does this, that is why so many people start sentences like, “I was thinking about,” or “as I was saying to my wife the other day,” to introduce a topic, when in fact they probably just came up with the thought–certainly they just came up with the inspiration to talk about it. But they don’t say, “now, listen, clear the dishes, we must deal with the the question of the four gospels writers tonight.” No, you want to sidle into it, come to it like it were a digression, as if you were getting back to it. And, since nothing else is going on . . .

10) Cracked

Dialogue between the present and the recent past, the conversation within a lifetime, is not touched or addressed at all, by the reference to a more distant historical past, and the attendant fanatic impulse to determine what actually happened there. In fact it is only the severe method of a present consciousness, that endeavors to do this study of unreachable history, while, in doing so, betraying just a further attachment to unreflected experience. You retroject a level plane of time, and an infinite field of space, the most elementary philosophy, in a hopelessly empty set of retrofitting solutions–and tire in the very process, before dinner. While the cause of this is obviously, I would say blatantly, in contemporary, emotional disappointment; in the constant lack of resolution in our futile dialogue with the recent past. This seems to be why this refuge is even attempted. For we do not really care about history, per se, at all; we would just as soon demolish it, and our notion of finding out what actually happened there is an all consuming sport, a fashion. In your living consciousness, there is no method for reaching history, so covertly despised. The sequence is clear. Dialogue between the now and the before, a generational conflict; and a seemingly novel and brilliant solution: history, like a sacred category. Endless books offer this smart solution. The very pattern of conversation follows this sequence in every dining room. It always sounds learned. But it won’t work. Because the past is not available, except by revelation which totally sacrifices itself to the tangible body of the world, and by a leap of faith asserts a continuous line of being with what must be a hypothetical, and different past. We are cut off. Certain things in the world smack of this break, this mystery; language and art which can be said to resonate from some separated state of existence not our own. I say our dialogue with the recent past, which is like an argument within our own lifetime, should be seen only as it presses upon this crisis in the awareness. And yet, all I see is this screen of false solutions, recklessly promoted by the worst kind of intellectual posturing, and most puerile forms of literature, all harkening to the ultimate idol, who looks two ways just like any god. The ultimate roadsign, the completely impossible category of what actually happened–a mere contradiction in terms! Monuments to this irony littering the landscape, technology eating it’s tail, and the mind infected with a plague. Black mirrors. Cracked. Or better yet, highly polished, throwing back a self against a darkness complete.

9) KAFKA

What you you think when a person starts talking about their father? For one thing, you don’t know who this person is, and the guy talking about him is anything but dispassionate. Well, it is his father after all. I don’t say he is not objective, just especially interested and with special access to the subject–which is his father. This is not calculated to inspire confidence in the person listening, that the person being talked about is going to come through. To put it lightly. In so far as he does, this father figure, come through, it probably would strike you as wrong, inaccurate, not the man, unfortunately, precisely because it would be a familiar figure, a cliche–one of those fathers authors concoct! For how could anyone’s real father, if known, not be . . . one of a kind? To the son, moreover. The very son! And just so, therefore inaccessible, in his uniqueness to others, like you, who are getting this spiel.

So what I am saying, Mondrago, to back up and calm down a bit here, is that it is precisely impossible to convey the truth about one’s own intimate relationships. So when you hear someone talking about their father, maybe the best you can do is think of your father and make comparisons. But that is also dumb, isn’t it? The point is the actual man that is, or was, the father of this maybe distraught elocutionist, is not only gone, but only your talker has even mental access to him. His father is living in another place now, in his son’s mind really. You can’t say, I wish I knew him; the point I am making is that when people start talking about their fathers, or their mothers, most of us just stop listening and wait it out. Unless by some miraculous literary or oratorical skill the talker manages to make them interesting, right off the bat, manages to make them so attractive you can actually imagine him, say the father, like from a quaint past, and imagine dealing with him in some context. Very sketchy, indeed. Like I wish I knew Franz Kafka and could go strolling through the twilit streets with him, or see him on a train like W.G. Sebald did.

Though actually I don’t wish I knew Franz Kafka, personally. Kafka’s father, on the other hand, I think I could deal with him! Portrayed in Kafka’s own “Letter to My Father”, well, he seems rather alot like my own father. So here I go, watch out. Apparently, to some sons, fathers are all alike. And I might be alot like Kafka, if I can believe this little manual (call it that) on his father. I would have to say from this “Letter to My Father”, which (if you can believe Max Brod) Kafka never even sent to his father–so the whole thing gets rather removed from reality, you might say–nevertheless I would like to meet, and can imagine meeting, Kafka’s father. One thing I would do is . . . compare him with my own father. Like I said, this is the usual procedure, when presented with someone’s father, or a tirade about him, one gets talking about their own, equally inaccessible, immortal father.

8) CATAPULT

In an effort to explain the process, or procedure–haphazard as the origin of each topic may be–that I use to write the entries in this blog, I said that while I could not sufficiently account for the choice of subject, why one thought seemed ripe for expression and another too sorry to worry into presentable shape, therefore dooming the blog in general to randomness, I could however explain, was quite sure of by repeated experience, how subjects, once launched, got their ending. And it was, I explained to Mondrago (an on-again off-again visitor to my kitchen table) by the fortuitous appearance of a single word, a word that would seem to catapult itself into prominence during the exposition. The appearance, yes, and then the seizing of focus on that single word, would together propel me to actually organise the piece, right then and there, as if a time limit had been imposed, around that word, which would then become the title of the piece itself. Rendering the subject, chosen as I said by untraceable and erratic means, as yet another example of the outstanding fact, that the task of writing is largely an unveiling of latent mysteries. Especially for readers such as yourself, I said to Mondrago, who would be insensibly pulled into the drift, and then, signaled by that one word, be able to catapult themselves into a free zone of imagination. Should no such word appear, I go on forever

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