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CROSS TALK

Edward Williams

Month

November 2010

“All Things to All People”

——Some of these extended articulations–whatever went into the origin–become so successful in their bid for attention, so in gear, that it occurs to the writer he has been seduced by the expectations of his public–or what he thinks are his own readers. Telepathically, on their instruction, he is leaving the first plane of reference, and the realm of pure thought, right whilst in the act of constructing a small paragraph. Some writers are lonely; but not this one. Whilst in the act of expression he has to fend off commentary coming at him out of the hills. To which he eventually succumbs, for all he knows–as he now confesses. I am engulfed the act of my own generosity, he says; I want to be all things to all people, like St. Paul. So interested is he, this author, in being heard and even applauded, in being quotable, so sure is he that it all comes back to the truth, somehow!, that he will detour from the main topic he thought he started with, and build you a tent, weave an invisible spell wherein you can live, and pray. Well, of course he will!  Everything is against staying on the point, all is changed, the ancient syntax is reminding him of old songs, or no, it is making up new songs–and mere phrases are transporting him.  The author in rags and the public speaker by demand, he goes pandering to the crowd at the first rumbling of approval. For they want to hear . . .  Obviously, he doesn’t consider himself alone in these important investigations, but he is vitally working for others, for whom he is not just making a mundane report. Nothing is simply for your edification. No, there is always a radical synthesis at work, and the continual death of assumption leaves us standing . . . in the air. I am not, he says to himself, and within earshot of all the others, those others whose ears are always cocked, whose eyes are always peeled, I am not doing all this only for your collective wisdom.  But it is an otherworldly ambition that fuels my rapid talking style, and the sense that there is an enemy, who will not identify himself and fight directly, but creates an arena and then leaves it, like a legislator, or maker of modern cities, or a glutinous magazine editor. Yeah! there is a shape shifting enemy alright, and I cannot find him in person, unless it is . . . well, I am listening for slamming doors.
——Next paragraph. It is not the difficulty of fitting Christianity into an otherwise plausible history, or interpreting Christianity, so as to reconcile it with an idea of the historical past, that has been delivered free of miracles. It’s that what is taken for nature, and the reality of life, is only done so by pressure of a set of assumptions, which if dropped would render it incomprehensible, chaotic–and the witness feeling out of his senses. Truth, the shape of Christianity would meanwhile stand there, like a pillar frozen . . . in the air, against a backdrop of the inexplicable forms, in a sea of unexplainable events, amidst a babbling and repetition of ideas.
——-I think it was William James who said: “The truth is what explains in one context both the present and the past, which are in our experience psychologically incompatible.”

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THAT SMILING FELLOW

——Who is that smiling fellow in the mirror? I often wonder! There is no question that when I turn away from the mirror, I leave that fellow, who just pasted a smile on his face, I think, in order to give the appearance of some readiness–for what exactly he cannot know. I leave that hapless man to fend for himself, to wait for me to get back, I guess, giving him a look of approval as I depart . . . into reality, you might say. He, who is I, is helpless, abandoned, naive in the extremity of a residence in a mirror that is positioned, yes, it is positioned in my path, halfway between where I have been and where I am going. This mirror man is paused in the middle, and his crisis only lasts for as long as I spend looking. My ever calculating self, suspensefully considering myself like in some captured realm that contains deep files of others persons I have been and formerly scrutinized, and others I shall return as, awkwardly in some future exchange. Future exchange? Indeed!  Always halfway into life, and with an equivocating smile, a half-smile, I bid this fellow adieu. That’s suitably vague. Who is more familiar with the sight of yourself, caught in plans, wide plans that narrow now in an instant of life, than yourself?  Harrowing, specific life–to be met with a jaunty air, for sure, for I am in debt to my own self-confidence. As soon as I walk out the door, and the chilly air slaps my face, I remember life, as if from long practice. As I greet you, soldier-like, in the very next moment, I mean precisely to salvage all your stored-up solitude, erase it with a glance. I am so well-prepared, collared and cuffed, I just put that billboard smile up, like a farewell to all mistakes, as a final primping of the man who, ideally, faces a challenge. Before going out to meet this challenge, one smugly reassures an imprisoned other self, a resident mirror mate, speaking freely, that they will be back later. Perhaps then we will get an overview, I say.  Though, the next consultation is not subsequent to the last dialogue I had with you, friend. One can only speak in general of this situation, so universally loved, since, I guess, someone first glimpsed their avatar in a reflection made of water, or rubbed into being in a diamond, or saw the face of God in the sky, or whenever . . . like the Indian maiden, all these legends being subservient, I mean retrospective, to the standing image of a riveted person regarding himself, with duplicity, and wisely, with twisted sympathies, in the hallway mirror, right now.   When you turn away you leave him in that folklore happy land, and you go back to your dour, creative concerns, for which in fact you are well-appointed, quite sparkling and in  good spirits after all, I must say. It is an achievement, and an omen, if you got this subtle, this flashing and bright, and have become so very intelligent!
——Quickly, or not so quickly, the terms of the contrast between myself, and myself, are framed. I am essentially disingenuous, in regards to my last quizzical, utterly feigned, glance in the mirror. Don’t think I don’t know myself, from long acquaintance. Rooted in inaction, a long unanswered question flashes across his captured face, directed at me. What question?  Is your secret task taking too long? Is it even acknowledged? Well, how could it be?  If it isn’t made explicit, over the years, this secret task, how could life do anything but grind its gears, envelope you in base emotions, flatter you with highest aspirations, also. Do I linger in thought? Time does not pass in the mirror, you can stand there forever. Virtually! Of course I have been hiding in the mirror most of my life, says my compatriot, and only coming out for brief appearances, like on holidays. Or rather I act like it is a holiday every time I appear in public. Basically, I reside elsewhere, in deep thought, and this mirror talk is an all-time favorite piece of jazz. Life, I feel I took it on assignment, so it isn’t really possible to be jinxed, blindfolded and spun around, tricked by reflected lights, say, in the mirror behind my head, or sent into the wrong story.  No, for this is the story. Any insecurity I may have evinced is transparently a ruse, meant to foil someone else in this story. I have them vaguely configured, it is a tennis match, but the court is in a rain delay.  The story has only a central theme, which we are exploring, and has many flourishes and endings–it is all exaggeration. We have the timetable of a threat that will disappear, or a hope that will vanish before it plays, and now I am empowered, thoughts born here are affecting my every move. Can I betray a former self-confidence, and even recover?  Everybody knows your adolescent self will eventually crush you. It is legion. It is too funny.  Who is that fellow smiling in the mirror? If you walk away, you leave him with his arms folded, where he is smiling more confidently than you ever could, and he keeps it up like a curse, as you go into battle. I mean life, so to speak.
——Darting in and out of mirrors, in and out of reflection, it’s like seeing the facts in the plot before they happen. Who isn’t a prophet in their own regard? That is basic. But I say now that a good story can’t be ruined by knowing the outcome, even though the teller has contrived to build maximum suspense. That is what is original to this mystery.  Perhaps! Perhaps the shape of the suspense is identical to the story, and within the story are similar shapes, irreducible . . . suspenseful . . .  and now I must go out, I really must get more words!

Hardly Human Yet

——There is no neutral ground, no place for the surveyor to stand, and get a measurement, an initial assessment of this horribly incomplete terrain–so scathing, half in the mind.  His tripod is is the mud. But there is nevertheless the pretense of a disinterested search for meaning. That is a wonderful, suggestible mood. Real interest will begin only once the ambiguous data, all my archive of images, is rolled up, and banked. We are hardly human yet. We’ve got time aplenty, and antennae. The fun is that one immediately hedges, adopts a methodology that is the very enshrining of doubt, since it refuses and cannot think before collecting quite enough, staunch, evidence. Hear it!  How can you beat this picnic?  I am declaring myself as one free of prejudice, and then I am burying and busying myself in scouring the horizon, the floor, the air–I am not opposed to anything.
——Nor does it stick that ever more incoming streams of data mean, in fact, payback like for my inability to–say, establish a vocabulary.
——Establish a vocabulary? That can’t be any issue. Words are only currency, a type of money, a type of learning.  One cannot attempt to directly focus on a field of dandelions, so to speak, or a field wherein everything is still innocent, when gilded with the slightest taint, fever, breeze, sceptre of worry or idea of bravery. I am not yet quite alive, and never have been.  I have assumed the world is so bereft of meaning that it can wait for me to ascribe, describe, the effects of my fantastically delayed study, with all hands on, improving within my reach. Yes, by fiat I have made the skeptic in myself a citadel. While any gruelling, toiling person who pauses to consider a solid form, will appear to be naively clinging to one or another false tradition, half in the mind. What indicates a believer is one who pauses, like even in the grocery store, if you pause you are convicted of belief. But if you shuffle on, you are like me, I say.
——And I yell to them as they are going to their cars. We have achieved this freedom, by dint of a series of denials, or let’s say extended trips into available realms of the imagination, where–it scans–fear and guilt breed stories that never happen, but pierce to the core, make fiction of and for the renegade, like a series of glorious aftermaths, and unscheduled parties. Free of life, and whatever it was, or might have been.  Marrying innocence with faith in attempted comprehension, veiled, sliding into a ruined November, always haunting, no matter on how small a scale you tried to experience it, how personal with those few others, in the favored dialogues, that you once got and you still would get later,  except for this privileged freedom earned, tearing at you on the inside.
——But the sky is glibly scanning over all of us. Does it envelope all in the same mystery?  Probably not, there is a false universal that is a devilish invention, I think, of my own ambition. I keep trying to write this complaining monologue, but it always breaks down, and I have to go back to listing all my previous triumphs again. Waiter! Bring me the telephone. Where am I?

Language

——It seems there are people who insist on talking, though they have nothing to say, who are always glib, and yet need to be heard. They will club their fellows with any old cliche, and ill-formed opinion, just to retain, I guess, mere visibility.  And it seems there are people who have stirring, but yet invisible thoughts, but are too shy–or they find it too difficult to express themselves, in the fray; who have the notion of contributing to the general talk, but are always failing to find the right words, preferring to be silent rather than butcher their own thoughts. The truth is that meaning itself is rarely explicit; every novel insight faces immediate humiliation, and the threat of extinction.  Taking this as wisdom, which you must, brings newly difficult emotions, added even to the history of your silences, but then a greater sense of duty still, to keep an identity unravaged in the presence of brutish purveyors, a language untainted by common chatter, and free of  the culture of despondency that must follow.  Sure, there are those who will not shut up, and there are those who are painfully inarticulate.
——But there is a context here, and a synthesis in which one side triumphs. For it is a mistake to not point out, I say, that language itself is on the side of the difficulty, not the glibness. In all its variable, malleable, and changing forms of expressions, language is filling the mouths of the glib with cotton, and meanwhile amusing and suggesting, catching and informing the ears of the diffident ones who, eventually, will put together a new speaking. The matrix of language is ahead of us, surrounding us, we live in its large, public sphere. No one owns it, and the language is looking both into the past and the future. It rears up, as an invisible material built in history, and yet is fed by living imagination, by novelty of immaterial thought. This is our mantra, language thrives in possibility.  We are nothing, if not original in our thinking.  I falter myself in the expression of this, and then pick myself up to describe this very faltering.

HONKINGS

——When I started playing into simple conversational modes (simpler by far than it takes to express this), on those paltry subjects always in the air, and made myself appear to be a regular guy, a person full of variable opinions, it was as if I thought there was always someone else in the room, standing with reserve, aside, watching, capable of seeing my behavior as a necessary, and highly moral concession. I was making a concession of my better nature, for the sake of infiltrating social situations where, in due course, my presence would work invisible miracles. Transforming sympathies on the spot, or later . . .  Later would find us, poring over the results. How heroic! And also how questionable, even how twisted, is this? For, of course these transformations did not happen–that I could see, but the conversations only became more intensely focused on their subjects, sports-talk, or opinion-politics, nicely and predictably degrading, right in my presence.  And further, for my special reward, the thought was granted, revealed to me perhaps by just that listening better nature, that among the people I was now talking to, not a one had any cognizance of my previous incarnations. Royal humor here, but I do not complain, nor do I suffer too greatly the history of these delusional incursions into . . . workaday reality.  My estate is large, and I have always experimented with defiant withdrawal, the idea is always there: retreat from the others’ honking, from their confabulated society. I am always testing it, to see what happens when I don’t ring anyone up, or barge into their houses, start any project, provoke any detour in conversation even, but just play dumb, and at the most encourage them to keeping walking in circles. As they will! Essentially, I feel that when I am not stirring things up, I am snubbing everyone. How’s that!  It is never my role to just add to a consensus. For I am different, explicitly of a different nature, it is obvious to me, for I am always in peril of my very soul.  Can the others say that? I feel I am broadcasting, wearing it on my face, that it is obvious in my tone of voice, and the dismissive gestures that I make before I even know how to stop–that I am exasperated.  Exasperated, say, let’s say, with a lack of cooperation. And yet, if I protest, all I will get is questions. Peculiar looks and defiant behavior from those whom I most intend to protect. Why I am riding the edge, trying your patience, should be clear to you by now, I say.  Exasperated with what, will you say? How dare I speak of what is wrong? Did I say anything was wrong? Missing, maybe, but let me show you this fortress  . . .   Come to fetch me, a crowd of considerations are driving me deeper into irony and bitterness–they will honk. Ah, but I no longer convey any true information about myself, but act as if I am not able to say anything about any current divinations, or projects.. I have had to go outside my usual recruiting sources, do some finagling to get any semblance of players, and use my imagination, dearly, to get a playing field at all. Being so utterly out of luck. But I am chipper, in the main, and go on about my apparent routine, seeming to perfect a spiritual isolation, like a man going around his estate at night, checking to make sure all the gates are locked. A most stealthy transition is made in the course of a text that begins with the stating of an abstract distinction, and moves to the building of a setting, by the suggestions for that setting within the language used in the distinction. Unobtrusive, common metaphors take over the reader’s interest, rather than the distinction being made, and draw the author himself into imagining that his arguments are taking place somewhere close by.

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