Funny thing to do in the morning: brush my hair. Sweep those bristles over my head and put everything into order. Become presentable. Less savage in my appearance.
I like order. To a degree. No need to get carried away. But a little symmetry here and there, a little balance, a little harmony, a little sense of control are good things.
Most control is illusory. But I’ll take whatever I can get. It’s comforting to have a sense of agency. Even if it’s only the agency of hairbrush swept over one’s head.
We live in a universe of such spectacular distances and mysteries that a little thing like doing the dishes can make existence feel a little more meaningful and a little less haphazard. At least I’m not an asteroid, a rock on some arbitrary trajectory. I have skin and blood and legs and arms and a pair of glasses and a mug of coffee and a trajectory that feels somewhat purposeful, a narrative of growth and disappointment, fulfillment and frustration.
Every day’s pageant brings something new. Sometimes a lot of new, sometimes a shade or hue of new. Sometimes I can float through it buoyed by the right amount of insights, percipience, platitudes and drugs. And sometimes it’s overwhelming. Can’t eat. Can’t sleep. Can’t get a moment of peace. That’s when a hair brush can seem like a solid piece of information, an easy way to put things in order. To put something – anything – in order. Even if it’s just fucking hair.
Life is never any one thing; it’s always a blend, a mingling of having and not having, reachable and unreachable. But there’s always a degree of agency. There’s always at least one option, one alternative available. Sometimes I’m Charles Bukowski. Sometimes I’m Marcel Proust. And surrounding it all is the daily enigma, the daily ambiguities, the churning burbling bubbling brew that is the stew of life, seasoned internally by emotional cacophony.
I never use a comb. Combs get stuck in my hair. I find hygiene in general to be a bit of a nuisance. But you can’t go around looking like a mess. You can, but it doesn’t produce happy results and inspire warm handshakes.
Articles of personal hygiene discovered in ancient graves are often indications of social status. Combs discovered in archeological deposits from the ancient market of York, England, were made of reindeer antlers. Combs were also essential in removing head lice. Thirty years ago, eight of the eleven first-century combs discovered in the Judean desert by the parasitologist Kostas Mumcuoglu and anthropologist Joseph Zias have revealed ten lice and twenty-seven lice eggs hidden in the fine teeth of the combs.
And then there’s the whole question of laundry. But let’s not get into that. I can already begin to feel the tedium permeate the day with its implacable monotony. Monotony can be a pain, but it isn’t always bad. The monotony of a job requiring routine tasks can sometimes create an agreeable trance, as can a long stretch of highway more or less free of traffic.
The mind craves novelty. Sooner or later, the monotony of a job or a long drive will have a dulling, soporific effect on the mind. You’ll need to stop at a greasy spoon just to hear the clatter of silverware and the sizzle of grease on a grill and the muffled intonations of a quiet conversation. God forbid there won’t be kids running around, or a drunk complaining about the eschatology of toast.
What is a trance? Is it anything like a hair brush?
According to Wikipedia, a trance is “an abnormal state of wakefulness in which a person is not self-aware and is either altogether unresponsive to external stimuli (but nevertheless capable of pursuing and realizing an aim) or is selectively responsive in following the directions of the person (if any) who has induced the trance.”
There’s always a part of ourselves not altogether present, not altogether alert to the exigencies and peculiarities of the environment, but in accord with another dimension, another region of indeterminate phenomena. Why is that? It’s a little maladaptive.
“Strange things happen in the mind of man,” observed Paul Bowles in his novel The Spider’s House. “No matter what went on outside, the mind forged ahead, manufacturing its own adventures for itself, and who was to know where reality was, inside or out?”
Clearly, something is going on. Something sublime. Something like the thunder of a waterfall, even if it’s just a brush, a brush with a brush, I know beauty when I see it. Why is consciousness imbued with thoughts of an elsewhere, as if the ghostly aura surrounding all language provided a sense of presence at the far end of the bar when no one is actually there.
But let’s not get lost in the clouds. I don’t want to spook the cattle. Sometimes a hair brush is just a hair brush. And pulling things out of the air is as simple as speech. A white-feathered dream-catcher in a white Ford sedan. Atmospheres and maps. The solace of fire, the requiems of fog. The glimmer of the Seine in August under the Pont Neuf in Paris on my laptop screen while I wait for the blood to re-enter my leg so that I can get up and get something to drink. And brush this night out of my hair.