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CROSS TALK

Edward Williams

Month

October 2008

78) Fame

—–Only half-awake, and tempted strongly to sink back into sleep, succumbing to the pulling and beckoning forces of a strongly familiar set of dreams, it occurred to me that the content of my life was being siphoned off into another world. I was already there in that other world, even helping with the construction of its scenery, there in chains of sleep as a worker. Obeying commands that I did not understand, but that I was obeying nevertheless. But this other world was not completely assembled, and I was not fully reconciled to it; nor was it calling for my total cooperation. Or my exclusive participation. I was not a central character there, in the same way I am in my waking life. For in my waking life, my awareness is more sure of itself and its path, as it maintains a vaunted and vital identity. In this world I am famous, I move within the charmed circle of my notoriety. But now my dull and inert body was being drained; I was being robbed of valuable material strength, and even concrete ideas that apparently would be vital. . . elsewhere! Of use, just a plebeian use, in an already existing alternate locality, the route to which was established in this dragging, dreaming state. And what if it was my most unique insights, those which still remained inexpressible, or not yet made known to others, that I had only put on deck, because they were unfinished and too precious to expose yet to the needful world? What if this is what they, the dream weavers, the stalkers, wanted? And before I could find a way to bring them into use here, they were being siphoned . . . Had I been in this life only as a scout, an explorer, a researcher, a gold miner? Meant to bring back gold, to my somehow long forgotten fathers? Who had sent me here.
—–Surely this is a primitive myth, surely a hackneyed dream, dreamt by an amateur dreamer. I would not want to believe that what I found as truth in this life was not, finally, applicable here, profound only as insofar as it was meaningful here. Nothing I could think could belong in another place–why this was an operating principle of mine, was it not?  “I better get up and put my boots on,” I said to myself. But the fearful notion kept on for a while, wrapped around me still, and went through all my limbs. Riveted me further, impaled me with the singularity of the notion alone–because I didn’t know where it came from. I was half awake and stupidly lulled with the possibility that such was the scandal, that it was in some other place, where I was deserving of my ultimate fame.

77) DEATH?

—–On this topic, hey, I don’t even know who I am addressing half the time, but I just am muttering under my breath, sidling around with my head bowed like I am earnestly talking to someone–it just isn’t very resolved what I am saying, or whether I take ownership of what I am saying. Or, I might be listening to someone in the shadows, who is walking half a step behind me, talking in my ear, and repeating what they say, because I can’t get it straight the first time, but it is important, it is on a vitally important and consuming subject, that concerns us all. You see what I mean, it is the subject of death, and its final import, all of its meaning as it clamps down on individuals I can only know as alive, and cuts into the future–this is under discussion as life relentlessly flourishes. I have to fit this discussion in sideways. People’s nerves are raw.
—–It isn’t that I don’t accept the idea . . . of people still existing after they have died. Certainly! I pretty much think they do, and they certainly don’t leave my thoughts. But–I have trouble picturing them, I can’t find anything for them to be doing, like right immediately after they are dead, and forever after! That’s what the funny thing is, and what this mumbling is about, why I am not satisfied with the state of my own understanding, on this topic, you see. For the people who die, I have no location, no setting, no rigged-up theater, to put them in. I’ve used up all my understanding on the humming totality of this world, and soaked all perceptible matter with tingling life, like the majority force, and I couldn’t say it more baldly. Right here in life is where we are invested, and we have served it, lapped it up, and royally enjoyed ourselves, together in this one-time world. When somebody leaves, what do you do? Close the door; leave it slightly open? I have seen the life get drained right out of someone, and I’ve seen people get knocked silly and shunted aside like rag dolls. I have attended funerals, like it was just a ceremony and there would a reception with the dead one attending, right after in the main ballroom. There are dry arguments for the immortal soul, that poorly compare and don’t measure up to what I see. They are like twitterings next to the howling in one’s mind that says “I don’t understand this at all!”, and if that is your bootstrapping religion it will fall apart in your hands. I am embarrassed by my poor progress on this theme, I am clearly soft-headed, persuaded by images, when death is on deck. I simply end up fascinated by possibility.
—–Who is going to say about someone, whom they have personally known, that they are obliterated by their own death, that they are over the ridge and gone forever? It’s all about other people, not yourself, every time. You yourself, clearly are a special case, because, well–there is a point of view difference, to put it dully. One laughs at that, and the laughter catches in the throat of someone, and there is another one gone.
—–I am addressing the question of what happens to other people after they die.
—–And I can’t transfer anything of this world anywhere beyond or outside this world. And if these other people have gone somewhere, fine, abstractly that is just fine with me, but I can’t begin to construct this other place, I have no timber for these mansions in heaven, I used it all up here so eagerly and so endorsing of the spectacle of the totality of this world. Precisely, insofar as this world is meaningful, it is self-sufficient and I have have burned up all our resources. I have no emotional bridge to make, to form, say, the beginning of a way of speaking of these newly dead people who used to talk in my living room, and with whom I jogged side by side, and sat with at picnic tables. It is an impossible topic, and precisely so it cannot be denied and must be addressed. But you are false if you deal with it falsely. Do not think I am eliminating any future continuity; but I am asking, what will I have to recognize them with?
—–It certainly isn’t that I don’t assent to the idea of people still existing after death, I am sure I have made that clear. I am mumbling “of course I am thinking of specific people”, this is is not philosophy, but desperate dealing between me and the individuals themselves, whom I remember. They must exist, I have confirmed it, they are not eliminated from my thinking certainly, I just can’t put them anywhere. But thought has horizons beyond my sight, and they have gone into my thoughts for good–so they are working full-time you might say.
—–But I do not name them, or trample upon this memory, because this memory is open, still in progress. I think they are beggars now, not wrapped in glory. I hear them in my prayers. I worry about the dead. But this is self-serving, it is my peculiar requirement, for I am scheming still in their regard, rather self-righteous, rather possessive, no? But I am sure I am not more radically mixed up than many others, still living, out there, say, on the tennis court. That is what it is, a tennis match, and the players are silent, or have just left the court and it is beginning to rain. People don’t talk about the dead, their own dead, because their thoughts about them specifically are so mixed up they would confuse anyone listening, and impinge upon them, the one listening (or, far away, or in close, the one dead). The dead are finicky. And it is hard too getting along here, with each other. And people covet their own preliminary conclusions, about those who have abandoned them, or whom they cherish, or murdered in their thoughts already, and must keep them from rolling too far out of place, in case . . .
—–In case there are scenes in eternity which make these earthly scenes pale like they were provisional all along, because the dead are themselves jealous of us, perhaps, they are not gloating and they are not having dinner with gods. On the other hand, surely they have overcome the petty things here, and the things they bragged on. For example . . . no, I said I cannot get into it, because it will jeopardize others, who are living. This is impossible! Yet it is inevitable, this line of thought. How to put it? On this topic, I want to begin by saying, should one utterly succumb to the discussion of it, then . . .

76) Shimmering

Quoted from a LETTER to Gabriel Josipovici:

“Many of these seemingly fundamental inquiries may prove, in the end, interchangeable, the signal and the clue being that, despite initial differences in content, and starting points, they are all tending drastically towards the abstract. They are elbowing each other out of the way in their determined march toward the abstract; shedding their armor, and their attitudes, and drawing towards some pinpoint consideration, some excruciating issue in consciousness, common to them all. Shimmering, they will . . . embrace or be embraced by a greater thesis yet, or general oblivion.”

75) MAILMAN

—–Well so, the mailman on my street seems to come later and later in the day, these days, now he comes around 3:30 pm, this October, and he doesn’t have much. The furtive mailman comes lurching up to my house, and rattles the rusty mailbox. He put something in there I thought, but then he is knocking on the door. The cat wants to get out, so I open the door to speak to the mailman and let the cat out, which means I almost bang the mailman in the face with the screen. But he is already talking. It is like he wants to take a break. He says he has to apologise for having nothing, today. I seem to be getting to know this fellow by a process of mutual disparagement, as to our stations in life. He is apologetic, and I am by now . . . sanguine! But–the mailman is gushing with things to say. Well, sure!, I am all ears. He says he may have outlived his usefulness, there is nothing but flyers and stuff and a bunch of letters addressed to Resident of Such and Such Address. He is spinning his wheels, he is old fashioned, people don’t even write letters anymore, and he feels ridiculous half the time. He feels like a fool, and his mail truck looks like a toy, he is embarrassed to even get in and turn on the toy engine. Absurdly dressed in his mailman’s uniform, he is nevertheless exposed, and yet blank. He is beseeching, but such a grandiloquent fellow! So I invite him to partake of a cup of coffee, I am on no regular schedule, quite flexible and home all day myself. Come on in, I say, I am a writer, you know. Writers can be very free, or very busy, depends on when you catch them; they might seem totally idle, longing for human contact, lonely–or they might be sealed off, impossible to locate, haughty as hell and in the middle of some world-changing project. The mailman knows what I mean.
—–“People always wonder what you do,” I say apologetically, talking about myself. “I have found it’s better to get out ahead of it, and just tell them you are a writer, even if that gets doubting looks.” The mailman is sympathetic, and follows me into the kitchen.
—–“And/or frown at you,” I add, “people actually frown at you when you tell them that. Like you are telling them you think you are better than them.”
—–“Well, I knew you were a writer,” the suddenly jaunty mailman says, like he is cast into the role of listening to me, or understanding, intuitively, that this is his role now that he is in the house–to let me ramble. In fact, he seems to take on the role of a journalist. It is a sort of game, like he is interviewing me. “Well,” the mailman say, “can you remember the days when you were clicking along on a novel? The way you engineered those plots, foreshadowed those scenes, and clashed those characters, ‘till they drove each other into action?”
—–Yes! Yes! That was paradox, that was something! That was expectation. How many times did that happen? How this mailman knows my novel writing days are in the distant past, I don’t know. But it’s powerful invitation being made, to go looking back. I feel this new friend of mine is asking me to assess the situation, and like I should overturn some assumptions, ransack my memory, my unfinished stories, my dangerous theories!, see what I left in the breezeway, look for that most dire of suggestions–when suddenly I get it.
—–That’s it! My head is cleared. I now realise that my instinctively reserved, consolation prize, end-run fate for my writing, may be unrealistic. What I mean simply is that the future I was subconsciously counting on–the quietly assumed, rolled out historical terrain where my books, my notebooks and my lectures, editorials, et al, are delivered and read to an audience, say in the year 2088–the truth is I don’t have this future, and can’t begin to see it. This projected land in time is nothing but an extension of the miserably understood present. And there is nothing in the present that has the kernel, the expectation, the time-release, of my current threatening awareness–such as it is when most engaged, precisely, in this literary effort. I have no future, for pity sake, for the precise expressions of this carved out, fought for, awareness that is, also, the express grid upon which is played out still the drama, beauty, and ultimate meaning of my life.
—–So then! If this is no longer plausible, can there be some other place, or eternal value, to my writing? Could it exist elsewhere entirely, and this world itself be only the place where I set up my desk and go to work? Sailing up and apart, words transcending, aimed elsewhere than the mundane world, where people so blithely execute their lives. Outreaching, and out distancing the yawning past inactive memories and mere engulfing carbon copy futures that quash everything? What of my desperate diligent reportage?
—–I now realise, as I abandon this ridiculous idea that I am anything to a future generation, that precisely to project any person even a generation younger, involves putting them on a terrain where I myself am quite questionable, or missing. Absurd, but poignant somehow, that I the commentator, the one who frames reality and gives speech, gives words their meanings!, have nothing to say, anymore, in the year, say . . . 2088! This is such an elemental issue, it seems I ought to already have addressed it in my writing! Quite comical, fearful, unresolved, and unreasonably silent–I am in regards to my future, non-existent self. Though, in a sanguine mood anyway, I have no lack of confidence in these same children of the present hour, along with all the rest of their contemporaries, being able to make lives for themselves! In this same stretched out, hardly figured out, future where I will be . . . evaporated, somehow. There is a gloss! Maybe I mean . . . eviscerated. Smoked. Risen from the dead. But the point here is that there is no great necessity for my books being there, either, I now realise; there is no hint, actually, of the preparatory atmosphere for their reception, if you see what I mean.
—–“Oh, I quite see what you mean,” said the mailman.
—–Okay, then in fact I must go on with this line of revelation. My whole understanding of history has been such that my own writing occupies a special place in it; that is clearly an assumption I have had every time I have sat down to compose. That place I have positioned myself in is the last place, of course, as the one alive who is the assessor, the one who caps it, not to end it, but to secure and recreate it, so as to make it the conquering field of awareness. I have always been addressing an audience that includes those authors in the past whose writing has so challenged me to be conscious, vis-a-vis writing, of the mystery of this existence. I chose them, say, over some assemblage of historical figures in other fields of influence, like scientists or politicians, or emperors, or even philosophers. I chose the writers, the talkers, the little guys, to be in my pantheon.
—–But I see now that I have only assembled the crowd at the bar at The Afterlife Hotel, and not addressed any determined, or even reasonable future at all. I am like oriented totally towards this one selective past! Now I see how my temporary successes and my ability to charm in the moment are will-o’-the-wisp, now I see why nothing I do sticks with any force of necessity. For it is all an aggrandizement to please and get cheers from one group of intimates, the majority of whom are, shall we say . . . fully accomplished.
—– “I know that,” says the mailman, “that is why I have known that I would not be delivering notifications of your awards and publishing offers, but only and increasingly flyers and official communications from your creditors.” Well! I really appreciated this conversation, and I told him it was great to have him taking a break like this, we were kind of similar in many ways . . . both engaged in professions that were, you know, a little out of sync. “Out of sync,” he repeated, “that’s a good one!” Then, he said he better get back out to his mail truck, which was parked right out in front of our house. Over the years, it is where mailmen have traditionally paused on their route down our city street. So! A great talk. When I let the mailman out, the cat was waiting to get back in, and she ran right through to the kitchen, skidded to a halt in front of her food dish, and looked up at me.

74) Free

“Are bloggers free? Or are they like people writing from some prison? Like maybe the prison of a communications industry, a newly autocratic media, that has totally taken over, via the computer.”

Seriously, I asked this question in a Comment on Stephen Mitchelmore’s blog THIS SPACE, and since then I seem to be stopped in my tracks. Staring at the glowing screen, listening to the very soft humming of the machine, thinking: open the window! Detour into the longer draft, once and for all . . . digress! Once again, give ’em the slip.

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