A Brain Dump after Reading Too Much of Czech Writer Hrabal Before Bed
note: sometimes I can’t sleep and just stare at the ceiling and type, getting thoughts out so I can go back later and see what’s there…here is one example, unedited
Some Germans took Goethe way too seriously and those with will to live should avoid Schopenhauer completely, but it doesn’t matter. We find ourselves dying on a daily basis. We start complete and lose a little as we go, like that small bozzetti of the Visitation by Tagliapietra that started as a block of terra cotta clay and ended with Elizabeth and Mary, both with child. We blow through our teens until we’re twenty when we know we’ll live forever. At thirty we think we’ll die so we open the Book of Hours to the Office of the Dead at night when we’re alone to prepare ourselves for the hereafter. We try and rise above it. At least that’s the assumption.
So we leave our marks: carve our names, write our memoirs, sign the canvas, pee on trees. We look for spices and find new worlds, we avoid persecution and found religion, we speak our minds and lose our heads, we say what’s right and get left behind. We find out fast that Orwell knew in a “time of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” We teach such a small portion of information it’s barely noticeable—but leave out that amount and the life crumbles, falls, and can’t be found; we take pictures to show to recall to immortalize; we can’t remember faces we forget to write it down, we lose our energy, our memory, our courage, our determination, our purpose, our identity, our drive, our car keys. We vow to do better next time. We take vows of chastity of obedience of poverty marriage vows we vow to improve get even to avenge. Instead we stand on the dock and mock our hesitation while foot soldiers garrison themselves and face death for an eggshell.
We start slow. One channel, then two, off the air by 11:30 to the sound of fuzz, a long annoying beep a circle with an x across the white noise screen until six am when the flag flies and the National Anthem plays and the new broadcasting day begins. We pick up a few more channels, we add public broadcasting, we add some locals, then some nationals, then the sky cracks open and we spit out hundreds of possibilities from porn to pygmies on the Discovery channel which tricks us into believing we haven’t yet turned over every stone.
We dig up the bones to point to the obvious: that we’re not the first, not the last and not here long. We get dumped at sea, mummified, burned at the stake. Been going on forever. We pass through once. Some drink the poison, some lose their heads, some get trampled at coronations, millions die in battle, hundreds of thousands of hunger, many of disease, some assassinated, some crucified.
We pray. We say the rosary, go to mass, thank God for the bounty. We eat what’s on the plate because some are starving somewhere else and we keep our mouths closed as we eat and hope no one quotes Isaiah Chapter 49 Verse 10 proclaiming “they will not hunger or thirst_for he who has compassion on them will lead them” and we pick up our forks and swallow the damn peas. We follow St Mark’s quill to the Lion of the Tribe of Judah and hope He’ll help us through. Just in case, though, we pick up the toys because some kids must go without. We keep our lives neat for those who have no life. We want it to look perfect. We want to look right. We buy mirrors. We make mistakes, call the wrong number, bounce a check, steal a pen and run down stairs; we speed, we waste food, we waste time, we worry more about our waist than the serving size of rice in a village. They eat grain, millet, rice, wheat, ground in a bowl in the sun, they wait at the well for the women to haul the camel-skin bags and pour them into buckets, they wait at the truck for relief, they wait in line for bread, they wait for the allies to break the blockade, they wait for the sentence, they wait for the end. But they keep going.
They hike across deserts and seek something else, the were lost they were boys they were soldiers. They were Francos Bok who escaped a shed in Sudan, they were Socrates drinking an avoidable cup. Maybe they were born in Brooklyn not Baghdad, they went to school and ate custard. They played little league and went to summer camp where the local villagers put on a show at night near a fire; they moved to the suburbs and got a new car, they shot off fireworks and fired at pop bottles; they ate barbequed burgers and corn on the cob, boxes of clams and played with a little red Spalding ball. They swam in ponds, they hiked the hills and bought postcards; they stayed too long, it passed so fast, what year was that? Who is that in the picture? How did that song go? When did we own that Oldsmobile? Where did we get that painting? We forget to write it down, we’ll remember. We make the mistake of assuming it’ll be alright.
We like to laugh. For fun, of course, but just as much for survival, to blanket our fears, to extinguish our anxiety, to take away the hurt. It hurts anyway so we laugh and hope Buddha’s Vinaya was wrong when it called for ancient monks in India to go to confession for such an offense as laughing. But we laugh. We tickle we entice we ridicule we play the clown the fool. We work the mirror and tell jokes into mock mics to an imaginary crowd and wait for the laughter to subside before emerging at school the office the party to make others laugh, the ultimate in now, the definitive value of absolute present. Why did the chicken cross the road? A man walks into a bar. It’s Nietzsche’s need to call every truth false which was not accompanied by at least one laugh. We laugh and nothing hurts and no one is going to die. We laugh and we must stop eating, talking, drinking, even moving because it is time to laugh and no one worries when someone laughs. No one is plotting damage or pouring hemlock; no time when we are laughing and everyone lets enjoy the moment the joke the break from the cold reality of life where things fall apart but not when we let ourselves rejoice and be glad.
(then I fell back to sleep)