Edward Williams


November 2008

82) Einstein


—–It’s the impression I get around here that, for the moment, we are just straightening things up, getting ready for later. We are relaxing after a drama that took more out of us than we thought it would, or needs some thinking over, or time to settle in to see what the full ramifications are, I guess, and we aren’t talking about it. We’re tidying up, repairing, mulling things over, gaining our strength, before we actually get back to the central game, I mean business of life, proper. Being on the sidelines, having time out, doing some serious idling, gives you perspective. Yes, it’s very often the impression I get, that this isn’t the time, right now, to be too explicit. Though one could, if one’s skills were quite as sharp, as they have ever been, rip into the heart of the matter. And a kind of wisdom has crept in, that says without saying it, that nudges you with the salient truth, that it never will be the time, we never will face life squarely. With a dulling insistence, some new prerogative, or an old worry, some damned distraction will have us making further dealings, like a sustained trick was being played–to see how much we can take. Gee, you will say to yourself, it is almost like I am being asked to show I can, after dallying around and being wasted by these amusements, put it aside. Put what aside? Well, you have it. Once everything is cleared away, we will define and address the crisis head on. The crisis? What crisis?
—–I get the constant impression around here that the main part of life is not what we spend our time dealing with, but that nevertheless it, the main part, has been somewhere acknowledged. I have to guess it was deferred to a later time when, well, we have more time and clearer heads to deal with it. There is no question of our original focus, or our stored up strength; it is only a question of . . . timing! Though sometimes the horrible feeling I get is that no one remembers what the main question was. Or they will say, what question? Was there a question? If by chance I should pipe up, they will just look at me.
—–Mystery! It has been blasted from the area, like it was at that demolition site where the old Monroe Theater used to be. They are going to build a 24-hour Rite-Aid Pharmacy there, so if you ever get a headache, or still have a headache from the blasting . . . Yeah, today, and despite the rain, they are blasting the hell out of that corner lot, as if to rid the memory of it. What memory? It isn’t as if this was a coherent city, ever, was it! I drive by there and I would like to pull over and step out, like a man in charge, and look around. I would like to think about this situation from where it is happening, before it has completely happened. But how can you do that? You would be in the way of some blind bulldozer, rearing up over a pile of bricks, in the middle of the picture. There is no place to survey what is happening. In life, where can you stand? What is the best place to observe what is happening? This is both a general and a specific question, folks. Does anyone know? I get the feeling that no one has stood back and looked at the main issue, not this one small rip in the street, but the whole terrain, I mean, for so long they are now crippled–for lack of exercising that facility for, um, seeing it. That would see it! And no one is sure how to get a perspective. It’s like they studied philosophy in college, and that one professor fired them up, a couple semesters even they were on the edge of understanding great things, magnificent, transcendental terrains opened up. This was imagination! And it was too hard. No tools to connect ideas in the abstract, and in the mind alone.
einstein-on-bike—–But anyway, life is long, and this was a long pursuit, it was life itself, this strain of potential, or recoverable, meaning, this philosophical inquiry. Seriously, really, there would be plenty of time during life to deal with it. Plenty of time during life to deal with life! Now that is a good one, for a poster. Like Albert Einstein on a bicycle. Here we are, I say, and I get the feeling that I can’t afford to stop and look at the traffic, and besides I am in it. Driving the car down Monroe Avenue. With the the radio soundtrack, it is a movie. You are an inveterate observer, don’t try to tell me you participate in much. It is never the right time to have a dead-on serious conversation, and it never is the right time either to totally enjoy yourself. We are kind of uncomfortably, but leisurely, stranded. Boy, isn’t that the truth of it. And the way you feel most of the time, not able to focus and not able to get perspective, spinning in the middle of the scene, dallying in anticipation, killed by the very mood. About to laugh, and then laughing, and knowing it relates to nothing you can put your finger on, but . . . that is just it, you see, I am perennially off balance.



80) Zonked

—–Often it occurs to me that if I stay in one place for long enough, the whole world will file by, and all options will present themselves, be made available for the judging. I am only sitting calmly with a book, and my notepad, in Twelve Corners Starbucks, that spacious coffeeshop that occupies (I often reflect) the space where Neisers Five & Dime Store was, in my long ago childhood. I am there for only a half an hour with my StarbucksDoubleshot, when already it has occurred to me that I am so situated, and in such a receptive, expansive mood, that virtually anything can happen. People I haven’t seen in years will file by, or materialize right in front of me. Their faces I will update, their names will fly into my mind, and I will address them with mock formality. “How have you been?” I will say, or just casually, “What’s up, Bob?” It will turn out that Bob has gone into real estate, or owns an Athletic Club, and he will flash his business card. No, maybe that scene is now quaint. Instead, his cell phone will ring, and I will deduce what’s up with Bob from the clipped talk, which he cuts short, in order to get back to me. Only to tell me–this is Bob alright– he has to fly, unfortunately, but what a surprise to run into me. “Here?” I think, and almost say, “at Neisers?” I never left the intractable orbit of the local universe I have been trying to figure out since . . . long ago childhood. In some sense that is true, the setting has changed, but the mystery has remained.
—–“But,” Bob says, still standing there, “what has become of you?” Ah, my long lost friend Bob, is asking. But he steps away, even as I am telling him. But that is alright, since I don’t like the way I was putting it. “I became a writer,” I had begun to say, and it sounded like an apology alright, like I was saying, “oh, I dropped out of life, in order to study it.” That is me, ringing up. And right then, this girl Sheila, I see, is casting a glance back over her shoulder. Not at me, and that wasn’t Sheila either. But the idea that the whole place is connected, like on a switchboard somewhere, has caught fire, and suddenly I panic. It is way too much. And then I think, you must be lonely and quite out of luck, to be pretending you are located in a magical crossroads, where all options file by. In fact the thought has now backfired, and made me extremely nervous. Instead of an invitation and breakthrough into larger society, great reunions and opportunities, I am getting the nudge that I should get up and leave. The nudge? Three people have stood up, I feel I am getting shouldered out. I am losing my memory, and my voice. The brush with sociability has reminded me of my other constant companion. My invisible other self, who is in a constant quandary. What kind of word is that, quandary? And this tenor breeds the idea that I have infected the whole place with deadly self-consciousness, and, surely, attracted attention.
—–But of whom? Glancing over my shoulder, I note that I am being watched in fact by several people. Fair enough, I think. I scan them with glazed eyes. But one local madman seems especially trained on me. His eyes meet mine, and they say: we are already conspirators. Well, he looks familiar, maybe I knew the guy and ditched him in some conflicted past, and here he come to remind me. He is one of those Brighton High School drop-out types, “hoods” we used to call them, that I distantly revered, for their rebel status. He still has his instincts, and sees my rebel core. We are the outsiders, and we scorn the ground we stand on, seethe with hate for this very place, with its framed photos on the wall, its comfy chairs, its parquet floor, it’s cheeky people, etc. That is one choice attitude to have–but hold on, fella. I like my Starbucks Doubleshot, it lasts as long as twilight, and has zonked me out, with it’s aroma–I’m not kidding; and not only that, I am only halfway into an important book. A literary masterpiece, that presents with amazing truth the group consciousness, the small societies of people in Paris, between World Wars . . . I am on assignment, and I come here to work. I may have managed to alienate, or at least unsettle a number of individuals already, so now I must not look up at all–lest this one total malcontent think I actually recognize him. I make to emphatically, that is to say decisively, continue reading my book, Men of Good Will, by Jules Romains.
—–The place has not collapsed under my called-off scrutiny. Indeed, there are several groups secure from all intrusion, and many individuals busily employed with their laptop computers, and these will be preserved, in their own reality, and in my estimation. There! I have almost fully recovered. Now, I have to get up and leave, to avoid egging on this crazy fellow, who wants to disturb the peace, which is fragile. A veneer, a polish, a consistency of styles, a repertoire of greetings and goodbyes, a smell of coffee, a sheen of metallic surfaces–an agreement and a pact between all renegades, for we are all outsiders, this theme holds the place together. Enough to think about! I must pretend to have somewhere else to go, and continue my research.
—–Lord! Dusk has fallen upon the mini-plaza. I have other places to go, and errands in real life too, I am fumbling to realize. Fully waking up, I remember that I have to go grocery shopping, at Wegman’s, where I always think I will run into people I know . . . before I pick up my wife downtown at the library. These tailor made Starbucks, they hover and land in small shopping plazas like Twelve Corners in Brighton, where I still comfortably roam–satellite installations especially catering to a current trend, serving a public that is nicely in transit, I think, from one era to another. There! There is the thought that will carry me right out of here! How many ephemeral places do I go like this, like gliding through turnstiles that are to be lifted and removed just a few years hence. In fact I am indulging these nearly idle constructions, to an extreme, milking them for all they are worth, when in fact I move within an established sphere of people, a bolstered, confident world, a literary realm, that precisely allows them to flower, like in their own zones, their milieu. And has furthermore empowered me to study them for what is their blatant obscurity.



—–The world does not unfold in time, but a complete world descends upon us every moment, with just one moment added. We are receptive, made to see a past that is always there in our thoughts. We just get the impression we are linked to something, but in fact we are being driven deeper into complete mystery. One big clue that this is the case is that it is impossible to mentally construct an indifferent, disconnected past, like for study; or indulge the slightest memory, without doing so in thought. Everything is loaded. I mean we meet up with our past like some injured friend. “Where have you been?” he says. Oh, I was out galavanting in the present day! Life is always after the fact, and this is entirely consistent with the obvious impossibility . . . of experiencing the world as a series of consecutively meaningful events. We can only look back, are only equipped to look back. The setting itself is a swarming in the eyes! But compelling, and meaningful–connections are explicit, obvious; meaning is everywhere! In fact, it is embarrassing, this surplus of meaning. Shall I go on? One recognizes oneself, and they are blushing. I guess we figure the world can be established, any old time, hitched onto the present scene. And ready for recall.
—–I say! The heart of memory, close to you, is the memory itself, of course. Do not ask whether it is accurate! It is the repeated moment that is the moment. But this could not be unless the consistency was established wholesale, in every blink of an eye. I said the world does not unfold in time, but a complete world descends, like rain; we walk out of the rain, into a sun-splashed arena. Now it is the slightly more established, brand new version of the world, the apparently slightly older world, that we have here; it has descended upon us like a ready made carousel. We are on a carousel. The world is obviously a public spectacle, available to all, and shared by all. Some people are completely acclimated to this quiet explosive scene, as they stroll about and talk, of sports and weather, politics, without asking where it came from–this world. I am not one of them; I think I have to account for it, or I will disappear.
—–The carousel was made today out of the air, and look–it looks just like it lasted more than a century, it is so old-fashioned. We can project it in our reveries, as if it did contain all its predecessors, in every year in a serial back to when it was, in some fabulous former time, brand new. There was no former time, though, that was like this, brand new. This past is a grand illusion, and an ordinary miracle. Thus are even important events we strive to connect, as they seem in our reasoning to contain sufficient cause . . . But no, it is only the world, the seeming past of the world, which is secured by this process, as if it were a sturdy ramp to walk out on. Not the future. Nothing is created that can produce a future, out of the matrix of what exists. The field is inert, but always a new moment must replace it totally. This is the absolute power, a whirlwind constantly on the spot, at the vortex and at the outer edge.
—–There is no direct correlation between the body and this spectacle, but the body is deposited, flexed anew every day by some internal power, and empowered to walk into what appears to be a visible, already made, historical world. But no world can produce its immediate successor, which is so much like it that, indeed, it appears they are linked–no, forward motion does not exist, that is why you stand, under an umbrella, safe, wild in your thoughts, on a carousel, time and the mystery whirling. All causation is discovered as a theory. It must be the way I am describing it, because the way I am describing it accounts for memory also, memory the impossible phenomenon!

—–Memory is always traceable to some present association; in fact no one can just close their eyes and remember anything. Try it! What you get is a void. In order to remember you have to experience something that calls the memory to mind. This is why I say that memories are not a lingering of the past; instead, the past is always there in the brand new world that is fixed up every moment. Because the creator is aware of the coherence, and we are not. And that coherence is not what we make of it, short-term even, and certainly ultimately. It is a mystery. Getting deeper. Mystery is my focus and occupation. Now I have come to realize how silly, how reprobate it ever was, to assume that mystery was just an element in the picture, a little technical problem with life, or that any semblance of life could happen or persist without mystery at its core. And how therefore if mystery was not secondary, or pitched into irrelevance, it must be instead extremely relevant. That blankness, that gap, that question, that consciousness, must be the theme, and focus of all inquiry. It couldn’t be a former part of the world, or a processing factor in experience; it must be the whole point of life, to face and blast right through the mystery.

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