—–What I said was that I only do things that only I can do. I got some looks, from three directions, for saying such a thing, and one person even ventured to challenge it. Do you want to repeat that? he said. I wasn’t sure if he was asking me to repeat it because he thought I would trip up, if I tried to repeat it, or whether he wanted to see if heard it it right, before considering for himself whether it was . . . viable. It is something I have come to understand about myself, I said; that I am so constituted as to be only capable of doing things that only I can do. This sounded worse, downright idiotic. Everyone was hanging their heads. What I mean, I said, is that I am a natural born leader, and know no other way than to be a leader. Ah! A natural born leader; here is something to consider. It only occurs to me, I said, rising to my feet, to get involved in things in which I can so far excel, that I must be in charge of the whole shebang. That got their attention, the concept of the whole shebang.
—–Of course this was not a jobs seminar, or a leadership training session; this was a dinner party, and it was after dinner, there were beer cans on the table, and these big salty chips. It was sort of a strategy session, since we are inveterate revolutionary types around here, but mostly one falls into defining what one has already done; that is really the challenge. Defining yourself after the fact, when you have alot of evidence! This is why I said, “I am so constituted”, and “I have learned” that I am a . . . what I am. That I only get involved in things requiring the particular kind of leadership that I naturally have; it is not something I look for, but something I gravitate to, and then wake up in the middle of, because I have already taken charge before I even think to declare myself in charge, you see. Yeah, but what can happen is that the other people question my leadership, the very role, as it has devolved. Too fast were they swept up in my ambition, and the whirlwind visions I have for the greatness of the enterprise.
—–And I have to say that I understand them, what they might be feeling, while I am helpless myself. While I only know how to advance my own ambitions, I understand they are competitors themselves, who may assume they have equal rights. Of course this is without looking at what the thing is all about–because if they did, they wouldn’t even want it, it is way too difficult, one would have to have a special talent, and an unbelievable self-confidence to take up such a project, if you really look it it–that is what I am thinking. For I know I have not taken this mantle on lightly, not in fact without long inward schooling, and sharpening of my skills, and it is not a matter of ordinary leadership skills at all. But more like who is most humble, in the fact of the possibility of greatness, if you really look it it. They should let me be in charge, for I am the only blacksmith in this forge–I am thinking.
—–Or they are followers, who are so shame-faced, they do not want a leader at all, because they shrink from the prospect of having their sheepish mentality made evident. Such is the highly neurotic society we seem to live in, that it can neither accept born leaders, or produce a staff of willing followers! Such is our culture, where there are more writers than readers . . . for God’s sake! But the main point is that I realise–and this is a peculiar insight I now have, keep in mind–that I only get involved in activities in which I am bound to excel. With total humility, and what turns out to be (I have learned, looking back) an infuriatingly calm manner, a cool personality, even a non-chalance in all my actions–especially the actions where am forced to make what you might call “executive decisions”. Calmly, I take the reins. I can be so gracious, it is ingratiating. I am ambition in the extreme when I see the possibility of really excelling in my chosen activity, and, furthermore want to be known as the one who is the central creative force, the exceptional case, the real original. Of course, for what a disaster it would be if someone else were handed the reins! Right off a cliff is where this horse and buggy would go. Watch me now, I will go as far as to work the call for recognition into the very process of getting it, so that my acceptance speech is another and even grander speech.
—–And guess what, I am so authentic that I am naively surprised when my audience doesn’t see every aspect of the irony, the extreme humor, of my success and my travail–which are the same thing. This is the psychology of the tyrant. I retrofit the story as I go, so that the biography is perfect, and the legend fitting. I seem to know the ropes of achieving this kind of dominion and its necessarily attached, worldly fame. Others, those only watching from the sidelines, can always see this glowing confidence and constant magnetism, and will assume I must be very successful in what I do. I exude it. People ask me what I do, just on sight.
—–And yet, really there is only one specific arena in which I operate: literature. And not even literature in general, but one type of high-class, historical literature, which, dear readers!, I am actually so suave as to believe I am defining for the future myself! I am self positioned, obscurity itself. Then again, you could say I am operating in the largest and most well travelled arena possible: language. The arena we all share as readers, voracious readers of everything under the sun, and talkers, non-stop talkers buzzing in sundry, uncountable occasions that call for novelty of expression. . . But language, I say, is my possession, total and wholesale. Somehow by now I have come to regard language itself as my possession. How’s that, for bravado? And mystery–that is my subject, for I am conscious of living in a complete mystery–how many of you can say that? You can recognize the idea, but it is like a childhood memory at best, or a piece of mystic reasoning–to you. But I live there in that mystery, one glimpse and I stayed.
—–Then I went on; I also said that I am a worker in the language mines, and that what I write is a product like an excavation brought up from the mines, and what I have to do is diligently sort it out and express it, and lay it out on the table, right between us, and this is historical gold. I said this is causing a seismic shift, its’ very brother is the technology causing a shift in publishing formats, that fits the anxiety of the moment. The accomplishment is in the writing itself, the subtle material changes in the language–as delivered, wherever one can–ecstatic.  For we are not using a dead medium, but we are working the material of that medium, as present to the occasion. I am the author, I say, of the language–which is at the same time to be the steward of the language, that is the identity I gain in an ever escalating sense of my powers. To honour and to advance, in a whirlwind mystery, by expressible thoughts. Very expressible–that is what I went on saying.
—–And by the time our talking companions left, the lopsided moon had climbed, very awkwardly, into the arms of the radio towers, those stalwarts, steadily blinking as if announcing the arrival, I keep thinking, of an alien craft . . . every night I think this, just as I am closing up the house.