Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Mountaintop

She had been on the mountaintop since the early afternoon the previous day. She had watched the birds and the lone hawk that swept over her in circles again and again, as though he had something specific to communicate. She searched his feathers and form for a message, letting the tenuous sparks of insight fall to her like snowflakes.
The afternoon had stretched long and wide, opening its tunnel of curiosities as the sun arched across the sky. She walked the path of the day without fear of a setting sun, and soon, as she knew would happen, the light turned golden and then slowly drifted below the long mountain range in the distance. Her vision blurred and she opened her arms wide and lay back on the firm soil of the earth, letting blue twilight spill over her like the sweet arms of death.
Blue turned to crisp black and without light, her body quickly grew cold. She kept her eyes wide, letting the blackness and flickering stars roll and tumble over her with possibilities, letting it drag her mind into depths that daylight preferred to avoid.
There were demons and they laughed and giggled. There were animals with horns and a lilting flute somewhere in the distance.
The wind moved over her and a nearby howl danced with her fears. Dark time lasted for an eternity, just the slowly arching crescent moon marked the movement of the earth and her body’s place upon it.
Her body held onto the deep worry that came from childhood and her parents and the movies she had seen. Her mind clung to visions of chains and bumpy demons and the sounds of crying. She knew she held on to the light, thinking that it alone would ease her deepest fears.
Just as she clung to the daylight, she held on to the world, to the flowers and plants and dreams that she could see. As she looked, she saw the nightmares of her youth and the cold waiting chains of years within a sphere of words she had never asked for.
The long night opened its tunnel and she walked in, letting herself be filled with its chill and rich sounds of pain and mystery. And then there was a chamber without words. Here, she was truly scared. Here, she had no body, no role, no purpose. Here, she was nothing.
Then the nothing found its way back, it found the body, the fears, the worry. It found all that it ever was. But it brought back the memory of the chamber. Her eyes were wide once again, and she knew that to live in the light, she would have to learn to voyage in the dark.
She lay on the mountaintop as morning light spilled into the world of a newborn day, and she drank in the pale pink light, letting it come into her like the semen of the sun. She opened her arms wide, letting the day bathe her in its clarity.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Place in The Symbolic Order

She read the email on her small laptop with a slight sense of curiosity. It was a small update from her mom.
“Erin’s doing fine, she lives in Massachusetts, Tess lives in Germany with her boyfriend and she teaches English, Shelly lives in London.”
She nodded to herself. They were all short one-liners about friends she had lost contact with years before, but she felt satisfied and reasonably caught up. Then her brain did a little twist and she smiled when she realized she didn’t know anything. She had no idea what Tess saw every morning on her way to work or what her boyfriend looked like or how she felt close to midnight when she looked out a window. She knew nothing about her old friends, just a few simple words. Germany, boyfriend, teaching. Three simple words that helped her place Tess within the world. She had never even been to Germany, but she imagined Tess walking on a cobblestone street eating a sausage. It was her own imagination that made her feel like she knew how Tess was doing. Those three words gave her images, they gave her pictures and implications that had nothing to do with the Real, or with what was really true, but the three simple words satisfied her curiosity for a moment. Now she knew.

She wondered what her own mother had said about her. Did she make up a few lies or did she simply give them her location on the planet and another word about her job. They probably nodded and were satisfied, just as uncurious about the details as she had been. They would be able to imagine her somewhere within San Francisco and that would be enough. Everyone would nod while taking another bite of dinner, imagining her somewhere next to a red Golden Gate...yes, that was San Francisco She was placed, comfortable within the symbolic order. They would have no idea that she lived in a large studio with a backyard full of trees and flowering shrubs. They would not know that she woke up every Sunday morning and sold bread at the farmer’s market and felt tired afterwards and then would go home and start working and soon someone with a friendly voice would call her and she would smile and feel her chest lift and lift and a smile within her would burst and appear on her lips. They would know none of that, just as she knew nothing about them. She lived in San Francisco. Erin lived in Massachusetts. That was enough to know.

Because a simple word will easily place us within the symbolic order, what we do can easily be explained with a sentence.
“I’m a saleswoman…”
“I’m a musician…”
“I’m writing a story….”
“I live in London…”
You will see a head nod, the chin rising up and down slowly, yes… it is understood. They can picture someone behind a counter and a cash register. They can picture someone with a guitar and hear some music in their head, they can picture a book and a pen…it is all easily understood, you are now known. There will be no further questions, you have been placed within the symbolic order.

Because it can all be so easily explained, we can hide what we do. Never mind that the dark mystery envelops you in a crystal sheath and takes you beyond the realm of words, somewhere that cannot be explained. It is not for the world to know.
People are satisfied with a one-liner. Your emotions, the way the light fades slowly out the bedroom window and makes you feel like the twilight holds every secret in the world, it cannot be explained with a word and it can never be known. They think they know you with a word, let them. The things which cannot be explained with words will always remain invisible. If it cannot be explained, it will not be seen.
We can hide what we need from the world even when we live among the crowds in the city. We can even show ourselves to them, we can show our books and art, and as long as there is a word to describe it (colors on a piece of paper is called “art”) then they will feel like they understand. If what is true is spoken, then it will be changed. It cannot be otherwise.

A woman is working undercover for the CIA. She pretends to be the girlfriend of a gangster and follows him around the world, reporting his whereabouts whenever she can to the authorities. In her role as the gangster’s girlfriend, she pretends to be sexually interested in another man in order to lure him into her bedroom to gain his trust. It will be his trust in her which makes him go to a secluded field and wait for a man which will never show up, which is what the gangsters want. But after sleeping with him, she develops true feelings for him. What she had once pretended, what had once been a cloud of dust and lies has become real.

A young boy wants to be a doctor. He sees his father dressed in a white lab coat, grabbing a thermos cup of coffee before heading out the front door to perform a few surgeries, and that is what he envisions for himself. He wants to be in that lab coat, kissing his wife goodbye before he goes off to save a couple of lives. The boy spends his evenings studying a mountain of books and because of his intense effort, he gets into college and then becomes an intern in a hospital a few miles from a choppy ocean. After a few years of intense memorization and fourteen hour days and many tests, his internship is complete and he is now a doctor. He now wears a spotless lab coat and walks on the shiny linoleum floors with shined shoes. Patients call him “doctor” and he interacts with them using a tone of authority. As a sign if status, he buys an expensive watch, which is what every doctor on his ward wears.
The only thing Real is the watch. It can be seen and felt. The symbolic order creates the “doctor.” There are extensive ideas of what doctors should do and wear. How they should act, what they should drive. None of these are inherently real. These things do not make a doctor, they do not determine if someone has the know how to set bones or perform surgery. A lab coat does not make a doctor, but within the symbolic order, it does. The role of doctor is adopted and acted out.

In the symbolic order, little girls are given dolls and tea sets and pink clothes. The babies do not come out of the womb asking for these particular things, but they are given them by adults because within the symbolic order, that is what girls play with, that is what they like. Little boys like sports because they are told they do. They prefer blue because they are given clothes in that particular color. Eventually, after enough time, little boys do actually like basketball and little girls really do like to play with their dolls. What was not real to begin with has become real. The girl is placed in the symbolic order as a girl, she acts like a girl and is given “girl” things and then, she becomes a girl. Pink clothes are not an inherent part of having a vagina, but within the symbolic order, at least in the United States, it is.

If a little boy is only given pink clothes and tea sets and baby dolls, he will probably grow up liking them and playing with them. It will be all he has ever known. But when he steps into the broader symbolic order, where most boys play with trucks and wear blue, there will be a serious clash. To the boys in his school, he will be seen as “other.” They will not understand why he is not like them, and they will search for a way to explain it and place him within their symbolic order.
Placing someone or something within the symbolic order is a quest for Order. To make sense of chaos. The boy who likes pink because he was given pink (just like the other boys like blue because they were given blue) will be called gay or sissy or whatever word can be used to place him in the symbolic order. It will be the word used to understand him. One word will be enough to provide the explanation.

Our purpose is to be awake within the symbolic order. It existed long before us, it will continue after the last breath of our body. Our purpose is to be free to fit in or not. Our purpose is to be awake enough to have a choice. The left hand path is the path of breaking the rules of the symbolic order.
The symbolic order has been given to us, it has been placed on us since birth. It was imposed upon us by parents and teachers, just as it was imposed upon them as infants. No one chose it, we stepped into the role that was placed before us and pretended to “be” until we “became.” The left hand path breaks the rules of the symbolic order. That is one of the choice at our disposal. We can also choose to fit into the symbolic order without becoming identified with it.

A little boy is dressed in a fancy suit every Sunday and brought to a small church with a white steeple. He copies what his parents do. He kneels and clasps his hands in front of his heart, he bends his head forward slightly and closes his eyes. He asks for things he wants while his eyes are closed and he imagines something, somewhere, fulfilling his wishes. Soon, after enough imitation, the boy comes to church thinking that he has made the decision, he has chosen this path for himself. He is now a full grown believer. He is too identified to see that the people around him on the wooden pews have all been taught this just like he was. They simply imitated the others around them, just like monkeys learn to ride bicycles and wash their socks or bang shellfish until the shell cracks.
We do as we were shown and religion is no exception. Our choice can be to come into the small church, to feel the pressure of the floor as we kneel, to drink in the scent of the candles, to close our eyes and act out the part without becoming identified, without being absorbed into the act, without letting the imposed symbolic determine the real.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

On The Edge

“I want to fall asleep, but I just cannot let myself dream.”
He said it softly and so close to the glass pane that his breath momentarily fogged a small circle on the window. And just like the dreams he would not allow, the little galaxy vanished before he saw its nebulous shape.
Five inches above, his eyes looked out the window. Below him was New York City and a skyline of gray and glass and snow covered branches and impatient taxi horns. There were a few speckles of green that dotted the sidewalks and in the very far distance against the white horizon, the promise of Central Park. The open. The wild within the tamed.
He looked out, his eyes burning with the cold that found its way through the glass, wishing he could just blink and find himself in a grove of tall trees, perhaps watching a chipmunk gather some nuts amid buried oak leaves and empty potato chip bags.
If only he could travel so easily. If only he could let himself wander from the room, beyond the walls and carpet and structured glass. The world out there was spiraling through the dream, and he wanted to be part of it, only he didn’t know how.
He looked out the window. He wished for something he could not name. He tried to claw at the feeling, he tried to turn it around and examine just what he wanted or how he could find it, but the shape was a gray cloud that morphed every time he tried to focus on it. There was nothing to hold onto, no word or action he could use to explain his irritation, his frustration with himself and his constant need for control.
“And why can’t you let yourself dream?” the thin voice of a woman finally responded.
He rolled his eyes towards the city, hating her voice and the question. Hating the legs that sat crossed and covered in sheer black pantyhose. The leather chair held her. It touched her legs and the back of her torso which was covered in a white collared shirt and a blazer above that.
It was a question he tried to avoid nearly every time it was brought up. He just didn’t have an answer, not an answer he wanted to reveal. What if he jumped into the cloudy stew of colors and shapes? What if he jumped and could never find his way out again?
He would be stuck in the world of twisting reason that leaps from moment to moment without sense and logic. He would be trapped within his own mind, unable to drag himself back from the deep waters of unconscious darkness. He had the vague memories of nightmares that squeezed the breath from him. Thick armed and tentacled men who tried to drag him to their chambers while he gasped tugging at their claws.
He couldn’t risk it, he might not be strong enough this time. He cleared his throat, preparing the simple answer she could understand.
‘It’s all chaotic and nothing makes sense. I just wish it could tell me something directly. Something I could use right away. What do I do with a flying mattress or an octopus that keeps trying to eat my hand?”
There was a heavy silence between them, as if the woman on the firm leather chair could not think of a good argument to counter. He looked to the horizon, finding the greenery of Central Park with his seeking eyes.
If only he could leave his small apartment or the doctor’s office two floors down. If only he could find his way to the lobby and out the front revolving door and onto the sidewalk. It was through the doors that the world awaited. The park was beyond the walls of his building, beyond the cage of his skin.
In the distance there was a bit of the wild within the tamed. That small part of him wanted to run towards the trees, to dive into the dark lake that waited impatiently for curious hands.
A small howl emerged from deep within him, but he stifled it with a little false cough.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Game

They played the game as honorably as they could, as honorably as they could being men. Being men began with long organs that dangled between their legs that caused them to belch with ferocity and cry in the middle of the night while swimming in a small pool of white liquid. They played as they knew how. As men. They were beings that charged forward into the fog, with pistols at their sides and laughter from behind and ferocity that burned deep. They played as they were taught. As little boys they were divided into teams and shown how to tackle and dodge and score. They did as they knew, as they were instructed, as they were shown. They followed the long trail. The pants. The mustaches. The beards. The guns. The ferocity. The analytic. The cold. Other men had come before, and the road was well marked. It was colored in blue and black and brown. Colored with little helmets and little plastic bats and science kits. These were the things of boys. The clear indicators. They went well beyond the name and hair style. It was the rearing. The leaning through imitation. They were boys because they were raised as such. Before the plastic pistols was the suppression of tears. Sensuality hid in the closet, constantly tormented by the ape in the room. Father was watching. There was no room for softness. The moon hid because there was only room for strategy. The rules were written on the blackboard. The locker room smelled of damp clothes and fear and sweat. It was each man for himself. Attack or die. In the whirlwind of manhood, she was lost. Hidden behind the glare of the sun, she sat back watching silently, absolutely hidden. The trees held just the faintest whisper of her presence. The cloudy sky was as soft as her bosom, gentle and pillowy and smelling of wildflowers. But they were blind. All those boys were so utterly blind in their hard helmets and shoulder pads and uniforms, so blind in their hard muscular bodies and sense of importance. She was their ruler, the silent empress present in the air that they sucked, present in the woods surrounding their field, on the grass below their spiked shoes. They were the players in her kingdom, only the blind could never tell which way was up or down. Her markings covered their bodies with moles and hair and sinewy muscles. They were birthed from the folds in her great round body, suckled on her milk. But they might never remember. Theirs was the game for the moment. They were in the game of men. They played their parts to perfection, each move and line delivered flawlessly. Like blind actors on a stage, they were the men. The athletes, the boys successfully reared into manhood, so deeply enmeshed within the game that they could not see the empress on the dew, or the tip of the blackbird’s beak. They could only see the importance of their game, the game of skill and force and ferocity. She held back, silent, cloaking everything with her breath. She was just an inch away, but lost forever in the shadow of their game.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Crumbled Bodies

There is an orange skyline hugging the awkward angles of fallen structures; the foreseen time that the insane have warned of is here. The towers of glass and steel have taken new shape. Piles of rubble and trash rise up like little mountains. Gray mounds of crumbled concrete and steaming piles of burning wood have reconfigured the city streets. Like scavengers in a sunken ship, we pick through the debris, looking for gold and pictures in frames, anything we can use and shape anew. The dust of the orchestrated implosion is strong, and in the setting sun, everything is cloaked in a thick golden haze. Through the murky light, I look for you, for your blackened contour in the earthly clouds. Your curving shape is close, walking on the loosened train tracks, picking up bolts and small pieces of iron. The heavy metal screws designed to last centuries have been defeated. Strait lines and symmetrical patterns have deviated from the original plan and now, in defiance of blueprints and architects, they skew to the right. Loose wooden beams poke from the earth in every direction, looking more like the decaying posts of a pier battered in the salty elements than the dry as bone metal tracks. The boxcars and trains have long since disappeared from the rails. The masses have taken them as housing; stopped in their tracks, the dwellers live side by side on the thin rails and cluttered railroad yards. The solid colors that once passed mile after mile of corn fields; the dingy red, blue, yellow and green remind the little girls of the rainbows they have only heard about. The clouds have disappeared from the sky, and with them, the rain. We live in landscape of heat and dust, altered only by the fast moving gusts of wind that momentarily delight us. The lighted prisms that bent over us have no home here, they are shapes of myth and memory in the few that have stable minds. Some of them journey on, following the rambling train tracks, using them like a well lit path that turns in unlikely directions. The earth, what is left of the green and blue planet has jumbled the metal course. A better path? More natural? There is debate amongst the walkers, but still they follow the rusted metal pieces, for no better reason than to discover where they lead. In the remains of the cities, where the high rises lay in smoking piles and the street lights have all gone out, people still scream in the streets. There is no fear in their voices, but they scream to their god. Are they heard? We leave them to shout their profanities, we walk by them with sympathy, soon, perhaps, we may be like them. When our stomachs rumble and begin to cave, when our bodies have taken hold of the small kernels that remain, perhaps we will stand atop piles of rubble, naked below the waist and foaming at the mouth. Or maybe I will end up like the wandering girl, still wide eyed and smiling, the dirt on her face outlining her tender eyes like well applied makeup. She left her kinsfolk in the hills and came to us alone. But I found her in the green land, not far from where I stand, three bullets in her head, disguising what was once her mouth. I found her at daybreak as I scavenged for pine cones to warm our cement cave. She was like me once, open and oblivious to the terrors, never knowing the surety of death… that it happens, in one shape or another, that it comes. The crusted brown shapes around her face and body once flowed a bright red, hot and clear and humid. When I saw her, she was long gone and what remained was already ice cold, taken out by a passing group of dark-skinned boys. I see them in my mind, shouting from a car as she rode on with an increasing sense of dread. Just hecklers, right? Death cannot come. Now? Why would it come now? And then the sound. A shot. At her? Really? It happened fast…it happened so slow. The way death moves and time escapes perception. She lay on the earth as they came closer. She thought of her mother, high in the hills. Did she beg? Did she cry? Did her coming fate slow her mind, did every instance of her fleeting life pass through her like a pretty kaleidoscope? Did she smile, remembering the sweetness that surrounded her in a younger age? Death, approaching her from all angles, a couple of boys that forgot her face as they walked away with her bag. They destroyed her body, ripping apart her flesh like children with tools of men. I saw her cold body and covered her in dry leaves and a yellow flower plucked from a cluster of weeds. Just like the crumbled edifices that litter the small city, she lays still for the birds to pick through. A changing form, from flesh to dust, she moves as I will soon. Like her, I will someday surrender to the fate of circles that never come to a final rest.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Using Time

I smiled as we approached the corner. Ahead of us in the dark night was the circular shaped building I had always wanted to enter. I had seen it years ago, I had watched couples walking towards its wide open doors, I had seen the warm yellow light of the interior cast into the street, the people inside, just beyond the thin window panes. Now I would be that vision for another curious girl, in another car, as she passed down Van Ness on her way towards nowhere. The imposing size of the symphony hall took up a good chunk of the city corner with its massive cement walls and long, rectangular glass windows which offered a fractional slice of its inner vibrancy to the world as a silent gift.
Once inside, we walked up three levels of carpeted stout steps to the outer narrow lobby that wound along the outside of the auditorium. Between the outer lobby and the inner chamber was another narrow curved hallway. Every hundred feet along the interior wall was a door that led to the deep auditorium. On the outer wall were doors that led to the exterior lobby and to the long flight of stairs that would take us to the street. The inner hallway was lit along the outer wall by circular shaped lights that seemed like crystal covered portholes that fragmented the daylight into a kaleidoscope of shapes.
We followed the usher down a row of deep narrow stairs to our seats and I experienced the slightest bit of vertigo as a looked at all the tiered seats below us. The auditorium was arranged like posh rice paddy fields that descended into the wide-open space surrounding a smooth wooden stage with built-in tiers for an absent symphony.
A few rows away I watched two girls approaching and recognized myself…but wasn’t I here? In this chair? “Those girls have my same hair,” I said smiling. “I have no interest in talking about your hair, just be here with me.” I fought back the tears that sprang up, the machine feeling slightly reprimanded. My stomach felt a little queasy. I took a deep breath in, beginning in the stomach and then filling the space of the chest…VAHHHHHHH, my mind said in movement with the breath. KAHHHHHHHHHHH, there was no movement, just the holding of air. When I could not maintain the pressure any longer, I released…DEEEHHHHHHHH. Without anything left, I held and maintained silence within. The murmur of the room was loud. There were words coming from the people behind us, they were loud, their words came in and out without understanding, I recognized the sounds, the words, but I didn’t latch on, they went through me like clouds. VAHHHHHHH, my mind said in movement with the breath. KAHHHHHHHHHHH, there was no movement, just the holding of air. When I could not maintain the pressure any longer, I released…DEEEHHHHHHHH. Without anything left, I held and maintained silence within. The woman in front of me was reading a newspaper, there were photos of a beach. On the tier below us and towards the center of the room, was a man standing by the entrance to the balcony seats. He was wearing a black tuxedo and a bow tie, his hands were clasped in front of him, as though waiting for a command. VAHHHHHHH, my mind said in movement with the breath. KAHHHHHHHHHHH, there was no movement, just the holding of the air. When I could not maintain the pressure any longer, I released…DEEEHHHHHHHH. Without anything left, I held and maintained silence within. Across the space of the great wide auditorium, there was another man, dressed in a similar tuxedo, he stood silhouetted against the illuminated rectangle behind him, the open door. VAHHHHHHH, my mind said in movement with the breath. KAHHHHHHHHHHH, there was no movement, just the holding of the air. When I could not maintain the pressure any longer, I released…DEEEHHHHHHHH. Without anything left, I held and maintained silence within.
There was a pretty girl with long hair several rows down, a man with a pony tail just a few seats from me on the left…he reminded me of someone, but his beard was much too trim to be an exact match. The voices behind us peaked into a raucous chorus of laughter. Then the lights dimmed and the room was full of applause as a man in a suit introduced the three band members of the quartet. As the applause peaked with enthusiasm at what was coming, a man stepped onto the wooden stage. He was thin, slightly frail, in a suit that, from our distance, looked maroon. The musicians gathered in their appointed positions. The young drummer went to a slightly raised platform and sat on his stool, gathering the two wooden sticks in his hand. The guitarist nestled his instrument on his lap and beneath his arm and found a comfortable place on a tall stool. He reclined against it, not exactly sitting. One of his feet remained on the stage, the other balanced on the rung of the metal stool. The bassist stood behind his instrument, he put his arms around it, about to dance, about to show her a good time. He was ready, in his black pants and collared black shirt with the top two buttons undone. And then the man in front, the man described to me as a living legend, a demigod among the mortals. He stood closer to us than the rest, just a few feet in front of the bassist and guitarist who stood across from each other, the drummer was a few steps back but centered. The four of them made the shape of a square cross.
The man in front picked up his saxophone, beside him was a trumpet and violin. This was Ornette Coleman. There was silence as the applause died. The men on the stage held the silence with us as well, then burst into a frantic bout of noise. I was immediately lost. The sounds seemed to slap me in the face, moving fast, repeatedly, hitting me again on the other side before I had time to completely fall over. It felt like a storm. A big messy storm. I heard my brain say that I couldn’t hear them. I wondered if it was the room, but wasn’t it designed with acoustics in mind? Was it me? The CD I heard earlier in the day sounded clearer…I thought of my mother saying there were better Italian restaurants in LA after she returned from Italy. The piece abruptly ended and I clapped along with everyone else. The second piece began more slowly, a little more moody and seductive. I focused on the drummer, then closed my eyes to try and hear him moving with the other three.
I opened my eyes, I looked slightly to the right and saw him holding her hand. Immediately my body tensed. He was not touching me. I let the breath come into me slowly. NO, No. Do not fuck this up. Breathe. Pay attention to the music. The sound of the saxophone was high, seeming to screech. I closed my eyes. I listened. Yes. The bass. I like the bass. I tuned in. Song after song passed. Then I noticed that his hand was on her knee. His other hand rested on his left knee. I brought my knees closer, I tried to position myself close to him, so that his hand would come casually to mine, but it did not. When the song ended, he leaned over with a smile and gave me a kiss. I smiled, wondering if my eyes revealed my thoughts.
I watched the drummer, whose shirt was showing signs of dampness. He was a monster, tapping, moving, striking, there was so much variance, then I listened to the bass, I tried to hear it, I closed my eyes and tried to find it through the melody and the violin and the drums. But then I looked over at her knee, and I saw his hand there. “I just cannot do this. He really does love her more. He really does. I never spend the night, and he loves her more. It is always like this. Always. Oh my god. Ok.” I let out a sigh. A tear began to form on my right eye. I took a long deep breath, I felt my chest. “May the result of this small sacrifice be for the benefit of all beings everywhere.”
BAIIIoooooo….Ornette called me back with his saxophone. Come back, listen to me. I closed my eyes, I listened. It got deeper. I felt sleep tugging at me and I fell deeper into the sounds. It seemed to get louder. Was it me? The song ended and he leaned in again and gave me a kiss. His smile was bright, he was having a good time. But why wouldn’t he touch my leg? “He really loves her more. It is just so simple.” A long deep sigh. The drums…the bass…his hand on her knee. I looked at the filled seats around me, the bodies, the shape of the theater. I felt myself in the auditorium. I felt myself as a body. “Do you always want to be like this? Do you want to remain trapped in this body, in this realm? In this fucked up mantram that cannot let you pay attention to the music?” I didn’t. I knew that. Each one of these thoughts was the jealous machine that just couldn’t believe it was loved despite its foibles. I closed my eyes again. My head was moving. I realized I was bobbing to the beat of the bass… was that right? I wondered if I did this often, I wondered if the drummer had his own rhythm, if there were multiple beats to bob to. My head moved and I heard the screech of the violin enter. I tried to listen to the melody of the guitar, but it seemed the most buried. Then there was a fast little melody of the saxophone, then the response of the guitar, only slightly higher, then the response again of the saxophone, now higher than the guitar, it went higher and higher three times. I smiled, hearing it, happy that I had. “His hand, her knee.”
And then the three musicians quieted slightly while the guitar rose. I heard him clearly. Then the guitar faded while the bass became the center of attention. “Oh no. It’s over. It’s ending. I spent so much time begin jealous, I didn’t spend enough time listening. This little life is over. I wasted so much of it. I am here in this auditorium, I am here, in this body, I couldn’t focus on what was here, I spent so much time focusing on what was not happening. What I wanted, what was being fulfilled, what wasn’t. I wasted the life. If I don’t stop the habit, I will really be looking back, if I am lucky, sixty years from today, thinking the same thing.”
And then it was over. The lights came on and we walked out into the cold air of the night, staring from the balcony to the lighted citadel on top of the capitol building.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Everything Is Nature

The room is lit with a bright artificial white glow. The space is wide and long and the powerful light bulbs hide high overhead, their distance is like the sun, far away but felt by everything beneath it. A long stretch of black and white ads run across the back wall of the bowling alley. The smooth wooden floors of the lanes gleam with thick varnish and a weekly dousing of wax. Echoing through the space is the low rumble of heavy bowling balls. They hit the wood of the lanes. They hit the white pins waiting at the end. The temperature is a perfect 69 degrees. Everything about the room is artificial. Without a word, it manifests its aim, the geometric perfection of clean lines. There is no wave, no tilt, just constant even shape. There is nothing natural about it. Not the wood floors, long cut from the old growth forest. Not the paper used to create the ad campaign along the back wall. The bowling balls and white pins are smooth and nearly perfect. Nothing about this chamber is found in nature. There are no rocks so round, no trees so straight. It is a created room, a created game. But this is nature. It is here, on earth. On a flattened piece of land, in a city shrouded in mist and lit by a distant sun, it is “natural,” mutated and rearranged, but “natural.” The sun, a million times removed, is still present here. The nearly flawless shapes and lines, they exist because of the gleaming orb a million miles away. The wood of the floors grew with heat. The metal foundations were forged with tools from the earth and fire. The artificial composition of the pins and bowling balls are a conglomeration of substances transformed through human hands and ideas. And the humans playing the game, walking in mismatched shoes, smiling after rolling a gutter ball. They exist only because of the sun. Light brings them food, it nourishes plants and animals. Light gives them the ability to build and create artificial worlds with bright lights and wide lanes. The room does not smell of dirt and pine. It houses all the strange creations of the world, but the elements of the earth are still present. The life blood, the moving red vein, is here as well. The flowing red vein moves through the people, moving and walking and rolling. It moves through the filament of the lights overhead. What was once a living, breathing tree is the ground at their feet. What were once buried elements in the soil are now bowling balls. Everything has been transformed, but it has come from the one source. The source of it all. The sun. And while they play indoors, while they try over and over to hit straight rows of white pins, the sun shines outside. Far away, perhaps covered by clouds, but it shines. There is nothing unnatural, not in the cleanest white room, not in the grocery store or chemist’s laboratory. This is nature. Every thought, gust of wind, packaged food, water bottle. Each object is affixed with a million invisible tendrils, tied one to the other, eventually finding its way back, winding and curving through machine and heat, finding its way to the brightest star.