Edward Williams


April 2010

What Actually Happened

——What ever actually happened is now glorified, or it is shattered; it is pure pathos either way. Life in the future open to us will never reconcile what we have done. Or straighten out the mythologies of the dead and gone. The past is confessedly no longer happening, in any sense, and has spent its fury. Why celebrate, as if wishing to be back there? Or whine, as if wishing time never passed?  Go on, and send the best calculated truth to a risky place in your sentiments. Why methodically investigate, and prod the carcass of a leftover past that is obviously inert?  Study cannot find the missing ingredient to make fragments suddenly cohere. I need a miraculous context, I think! Do you think people in the past knew any more than you? What actually happened? This cannot be pursued, in such terms! How often is this tag applied, these days? When am I writing, in what year? Is this the year of infatuation with reality, as to what could actually happen? Stunned, I stood before a waterfall; and I knew then the past was gone. It would have to be conjured from very slim remains, in order to supply that cavity in my brain with content to address the murdering mystery I saw all around me, in conjunction with silent nature and all that half-baked learning thrown at me, like chunks of plaster.
——Sorry. When I find this paragraph later I am going to repair it. I see myself in a place, like some hotel suite, engaged in endless textual revisions.  Though they can’t keep up with my other galloping self, who keeps plowing into things, and burying me again in the crisis of awareness.
——Reality–what binds it–has been whisked out, at a moment’s notice,  like it was a proposition briefly held and even, dare I say it, meant to be discarded. I am on thin ice. I have seen how others can plunder the archives of this missing world, that left itself in evidence, and find it subject to any quick use, or convenience, or delay. We are so vacant of standing purpose, so versatile!  Unsalvagable ruins are available, any motive can work them over; we are so greedy, whatever dispute you are involved in in your life, or fiction you wish to inflict on your neighbors, needs but a moment’s strategy.  Versions of what actually happened multiply, research into it becomes a game of trivial pursuit, then the algorithm, of the search engine, of the internet, and a dissembling roaring in the ears. The phrase itself, what actually happened, is a bridge over an abyss, a billboard, a palliative, an advertisement, an acceptable contradiction, a shrug, nicely sloughing off any job of making sense–I mean it sounds to me almost intentional.
——But it is just a compact of neglect. I am just naturally suspicious, I always think everybody else knows what I am thinking. There is no such thing as what actually happened. Nothing ever actually happened. This is a thing reserved for us condemned to be alive. Ha!  Do you think mystery is not a hard sentence! That men and women were once of greater mettle?  Balderdash, I say. Could they stand this?  Much less enjoy it! They died on the vine. We live in a flow of unprecedented, assaulting confusion, tasks unlike anyone ever faced. We must be dauntless,  and epiphanies are like a regular occurrence around here, and only a synthetic style can sort it out, or paste it up for further review, in moments and sidelong glances, by reference to the lodestone of a miraculously attached memory of life. I’ll say that.
——My readers are superior, they are relaxed, or trying to relax, with a book in hand in the garden, with that old familiar sun descending, say, late in the afternoon. Reality holds. It is a gift, insisting on relating to the crying crystalline world at your feet.
——There can be no actual happening without a witness. You are alone. Reporters are not available for the past; we are never there. It would be a neat trick to visit there, but one cannot find the garden gate.
——Nor is memory devoted to the past. I said this to my friends. You are a witness to your memories, but they are not at the place, they are in your mind.  Memories are a spectacle complete in themselves. Memory is not a witness. Even though it could be an exact duplicate of what happened, it still is not a witness. Memory does not go lock, stock, and barrel into the past; but it is instant revision. I will tell you what: if the event was pure, and people were just so vivid, memory might be accurate, for memory is an honest broker. It wants a finished product. So if, let’s say, we were all shallow, memory will gloss it over. It might even forget that day. Memory is a truth merchant, what else could it be? It belongs to you first of all.
——I have a source for knowing about memory, alright. I just get serious. Memory is a pal. Hey, I can add to it, and find memories I forgot I had. And as I said before, they are of all one quality, one sort of burnt orange color I think to say, all my memories together fill the same size room. I have noticed I seemingly have the same amount of memories as I always did. How’s that! I said seemingly. Of course I also believe my memories are stored elsewhere, while I am not consulting them, so to speak.  This is the kind of belief you realize you have, if you are honest with yourself, and just casually inquire of yourself.  Okay, on this score I must be just like anyone else.
——Seriously, anything washed in memory has been worked over and put to use to excuse all future behavior. Is it saving you. Memory sustains obscurity, rationalizes things, carries them to a far shore, or to the limit of its own terrains. But if you ask, ” how did I get the things I remember?”,   the answer is not, “just by being there”. No, no, consciousness is waiting, and it has a trapdoor, and is  judgement. More is required to produce any flowers of thought that are going to represent my life. Yes! Things do not get into the past, the one and only past, by having happened and then being insensibly pushed there by a dumb witness simply remembering them, more or less as they actually were. And that is not because memory is unreliable. Memory is not clumsy, it strives to get a handle, put focus on what was only flipped by as a fleeting reality.  You see, perception–that exciting, disappearing thing, and imperious memory–which vouchsafes to make a life, to risk and define a person– they are carving different fortunes.
——Memory is inescapably plunged into debt, and deep meaning.  Participation in a present scene, what is that but . . . the beginnings of a . . . process? I think so, says the dour faced gentleman, a stumbling process.  Oh what a hero is required, for a struggle! Is it a struggle? Is life undefined? Are you not equipped with any powers? It is like in the blink of an eye, the lights go out and come back on, memory is there and is picking up the sound and sights and the scene is reanimated, repeated in thought. It is like someone brought in recording equipment. Thought itself is a damnable repetition. No wonder we like movies.  The smallest event gets a new context entirely, and silly old time marches on, like an affable professor. Or a fiend, in case you are not ready for the results–then time will stalk you!  The dire motive, the blessed purpose, the idle terrain, the still heart at the center. . .  Memory, I am going to persuade you, might rescue you. It has designs on exalting life.
——Without any prompting, and with the assumption that it knows of another world where it can deposit pure meaning, memory acts like is a partner in truth itself. This is why I have found you coy, when I prod you to reveal an inner religion. Truth is a context from nowhere, it is not present at all, has no strict obligation to what actually happens. It sounds laughable, to even say that it would. What actually happens is a blip on the radar of truth. I could go on in this vein, profundity serves me in my house. But–people are different,  some feed on the ephemeral, and clownishly revel. The shifting spectacle of the present is for all, it is always a modern epoch, and it is to truth but raw material. If you are set to deny truth, freedom is given; that will land you in a place . . . too.  Perhaps no memories at all will be your diet . . .
——But for most of us, there is a humble past, we have earned it, right within our own lives.  It is regarded as a totality, even though it is unfinished; and we regard it personally, and variously, randomly, and in pieces. Largely it seems by association with what is happening, do we go there–and that is largely how the deception grows that the present and past are tied to one another, like the past were a kite at the end of a string you are holding tightly. But this is not the story. It didn’t get there by harpooning assaults of what seems to accidentally happen! The apparent passage of time, it convinces you of things, and quietly erects a kind of clothesline, and lessons in narrative, and the suggestion of sustaining chronology.
——I can wonder what is finally there (as if I meant to travel there someday) in the immemorial past which surrounds me in thought.  I can also find out partial things about it. Many books zero in, and avenues in this town suggest I walk . . .  the pier out on the lake is a precipice. It is beckoning–it is made of what is retrievable. We don’t know what is in store for us, but now we know a large part of the story, and we know that it is ours. It is personal, it is the prelude and platform for awareness. Upon which thought doggedly proceeds. This mind of mine is operating, I feel, as a separate aspect of reality altogether.  Tell me I am crazy. Point out to me that these are the wrong words to apply in this kind of a context. Give me some token credit, though, for steering around to the subject of where memories belong, in any rickety hierarchy happening in your crazy patchwork brain. Tricking you into the occasional vanity.
——This will stay as presented.
——An interesting consequence of my line of thinking here, which denies what actually happens in the present any quick entry to the fortunes and vaults and tombs of the past, and which instead sets a task for the thinker to stand alone on a mere platform of experience, and allow associations to insensibly catapult him into regions of the past–good Lord!–an interesting consequence, therefore, obviously, is that there can be things in the past (which is secure) that never happened to any people at all. No reports of them.  But might imagination put them together?  Creation could be quite haphazard.  I mean, is what appears in the world only a window, or a slamming screen door? The wide heavens stand there anyway, bright, blue, ringing, implacable. Or the day goes indoors and it is raining. Life is always in crisis mode. Good Lord, there must be plenty of things, in the big past that we know is already there, that skirted this locality. That is the way it looks, gazing into the bottom of my hourglass.  I don’t circumnavigate very far, so how much do I know? Surely, I mean from my point of view, much of what this real past I speak of consists of are things visited in thought.  A missing realm helps supply it. Things that happen in the present just disappear, unless, as I now have endeavored to rather exhaustively brag, they help the mind of the author create his suggesting text. And that is exactly the ambition here, and my work.


——When I think about what it is I am referring to, when I say “the past”, I realize that I assume this past to be a stable entity, shot through with one essence, like a heaven established, whether or not I or anyone else has gained access to any part of it. It already is a totality. Even though it is open to more being added to it, that doesn’t change the nature of this past, as being a totality. It is not here, and it exists on its own. I realize I just accept that what is added will be absorbed into it, without changing the size or essential substance of this past. I realize that I assume the past to be stamped, like from the same post office, that all of its content shares a similar nature. And I realize that I simply presuppose that this one substance is not like anything in life. When I refer to “the past” it is as a thing accomplished in a transcendent realm. Far from mundane, is this past of mine.
——The content in this past is recognized as from life, from the world, and yet it is already no longer of the world, it has survived the world. Yet it is not because it has survived that it has been carried into the past. It has been claimed, or pushed, by this other element, the one by which I, who already have a hankering for this region where the past is located, recognize it. It is this qualifying, stable element that is holding all the content of the past together; not because it was ever in the world. Everything that happens in the world does not qualify. In fact, percentage wise, we are poor players. I say that there is only one past, but it didn’t get there simply by having been real, in the present.
——Or to be put it bluntly: There is only one past, and it isn’t there because it actually happened. The past is not established by virtue of worldly appearance, and it does not last because it survived the cauldron of life. There could very well be things in the past, as I so embrace it in thought, that never happened–though this really stretches the imagination  . . .
——When I bother to shift into thinking about this lodestone of the past (when I refer to this powerful, invisible magnet), I don’t question where it is, for it is a comfortable reference, located as if quite near at hand. Thought alone has the challenge, and the ability to grasp various elements in this past. But the actual content of the past is not even related, not even of the same species, as the thought that refers to it. You think is must be, but it isn’t. It is of a different nature, another material, as I said. And that other nature is, as I said, radically sufficient to itself, and established by virtue of a process totally defying time, which only chugs along, and space, which indifferently balloons. Just as there is no route by land or sea to the past, there is no way to get there in time either.
——And if the past was simply a matter of a previous present, if that were all it took to get a previous time, that it was once a present time, I swear by now science would be able to get there. We’d have more than droning computers. But the substance that holds the past together is as mysterious as the secret of creation, and, I find myself tempted to think, it is also a different secret, making twicefold the narrative I am going to have to work my way back through before these thoughts and words are hinged.
——Each of us holds not only this already labored over and ladled general past, which we intellectually ascribe to the world, but we also have a personal memory of life, and can emotionally rally that, and always refer to that like some ship in the harbor.  Even as you keep considering it, this too remains a kind of total entity, always the same size, your life, one thing being added to and deepening but not destroying your ability to grasp it as your own. Amazingly, it is still being achieved, as it is remembered, the past feeding the ideal future, which quickly drowns in it, and sets sail again.
——And this past too, I am saying, this life we already have, is in the mind when you go there–but not simply because it is what actually happened. Once something has happened, it vanishes, it does not just automatically survive in some smoky chamber, or beehive brain, some memory bank. You are destroyed as you walk. There is a gap that is every future moment, and if anything you had a grasp on is to reappear, as now fitting in the past–this past I keep promoting–it is another propelling miracle that makes it so. On that bed of coals the reality of the past burns.  What mystery generates that miracle that is this held substance of the past, both yours and the world’s?
——And now I say, your memories are no longer an idle reference to what seemingly happened; for it did happen. I am front and center now, thoughts are judgments, they determine what exists. Every one of them, decisions are made as to what you can say happened. And it did happen; only it is maybe more powerful now than what is going on in the present. I say, draw upon the past. You cannot live there, it’s just a reservoir . . .  You are armed pretty much only with your opinions. Running deep, pervasive, even into the scenery. Certainly into expectation, and planning. And when I make some plans, I want to discuss them . . .
——This is all so obvious, who needs to mention it? We simply don’t live in a mere extension of what has actually happened to us, or the world around us. We are obscurely invested in our own lives, which are singular, and we use what we think is the history of the world to our own advantage, precisely for our own lives. The evidence for this is embarrassingly clear. It is in the constant harping and inclusion in all science and debate on the incredible notion of a past that “actually happened.”  It is the hypocritical promotion, as if it didn’t matter to a person, of the blatantly  false assumption that time is a continuum, instead of a paradox. And the blurring of the radical mystery, that past and present are made of different substances–which makes you a hybrid, I said to my friends, of body and spirit, no two ways about it.


——Before anything, it filtered in to me, a blessing, the thought that there was an origin to the mystery.  It was like I arrived with a quandary ready made; a story to solve before anything could really get started. It was in my own hands now, the question of where I was, because I was supplied before anything with an idea that there was an answer. Life was a challenge, beyond my ability. The beginning of an inquiry, which I knew I was not quite capable of managing, even for the first three seconds–the thought of some foundation, some ground, a former place that must have brought me here. To be delegated a task that clearly you are not up to? This I immediately saw,  like a baby, was both meaning and high humor. Life began for me on a note of giddiness. And this happy imperative still envelopes my every move. Haunts my awareness. It was never a question, but the thought of an answer. The sense of possessing a journey.
—–Possibly, I considered, this was a personal debt, I was spoken to as one issued a responsibility; and in such a career it would be always almost consoling to think so–if out of self-pity a needful worship, for the unknown source of any held grief, was therefore born, and the story of salvation drawn.  Or possibly I considered pure mystery as a license to wildness, particularly as I had a handle on its twisting nature, its chief feature, within three seconds of a bursting awareness, now to be relentless.  Following which, adhering to that vanity, surely I would seek to distinguish myself . . . and promote my discoveries.
——Surely, clinging trust in my own first vagueries of thought, has the side effect of exposing how lost and vulnerable I always am, and it configures a God that utterly owns my every move.  But there was personality in these charging first thoughts, and as dependent as I was, I was also coy. I thought I might be able to tend to, and cultivate, the local scenery, and move smartly and seductively among other people, who seemed to be roaming about with no instruction!  I was lordly, even arrogant, and wanting to claim authorship of my own experience. I picked up the very first signals, built duplicity into every utterance, spying, found wide gaps, lack of meaning, before I was even a person.  I sensed early on the task would require total mastery of the obscure. What was going into the forgotten, the slipping into unexplainable death, I set out to deny.
——Does everyone, everyone on their own like I, land in a quandary, swept into the thought of the missing beginning?  Does everyone come into life carrying a burden of truth? Early on, I ask, does embryonic thought barge in and embrace your sudden existence, even before it has got skin? And follow you like in your conscience every minute in your swirling, blanketing obscurity? Does this paper suit fit your embarrassed body?
——In my earliest thinking I could not proceed without a serious, winking compact with total mystery. I was a spirit. Ultimate, reconciling change in reality was guaranteed, revelation always waited for, and scored, as it came in to me, in successive intuitions, generating overwhelming enthusiasm, as life stood proudly upon its obviously insufficient origins.  The foundation was in question, as it related to me–and just so, confidently the world and its supply chest,  its bandied knowledge of itself, was seized in my furious assessment, for a pattern of thought was backing me up also, in tandem with my own emotional grasp of the possible history of the world. Knowledge of everything going on, and learned about the past gone by, was matching what I had imagined, searing and real and all on an equal plane.  As if I gave credit to my teachers for actually having lived in the past they were reporting on;  like I thought they went there and brought something back, at least they flew there in their imagination.  I identified the historical world as a prelude of transcendent origin, a forming mist, made of the forming emotions I had a wish to enact,  an unfinished canvas, upon which primordial landscapes could be painted, and the first utensils of a livable world put in, and heraldic narratives to be filled in, meant for now as symbolic.
——Whether anyone else has isolated it, this notion of a spiritual place that authored them, stamped them in righteousness–or whether the idea of their own rare ushering has just flashed by, and got trashed–however you have faced the isolation, I say–the pact is drawn. The windows in the mind, like the leaves of a book, are open. For the notion of this preface to your own life, that the world is already here when you arrive, that you are flowing in an already established continuum, means that no matter what you do it must compare, and be judged as part of one story, one background ruling the land of reality.  That reality that stretches back to the creation of the ground, the air . . . when you stepped into the picture. How quaint a way to put it: stepped into the picture.  That is exactly the way it is though; insensible and odd, for who would come here unless they were dragged and propped up? And yet, look how immediately busy with little things that are available– it is like you had a built in knack for life.
—–And were profound to begin with. Everything is framed by initial thoughts that are unlocated, the highly audible–I want to say–thought of this answering, originating past. It is providing you with all your strength. Intuition and all later learning, no matter in what blunt form, or insinuation it arrives; or whatever strain of authority seems to provide impartial clues, all sources eventually overlap and coincide, one day in an exciting clash.  Or the next day they blend into a disappointment that is just as . . . exquisite.  For finally a perspective is achieved into which the secret history of thought a person holds as their very identity, and all the fumbling theories they witnessed, are mashed into one . . . tremendous focus. At which point it is kind of — the future.

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