Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Joy of Insignificance

Last night during an interview on Marc Maron’s WTF podcast, Judd Apatow remarked that Jerry Seinfeld likes to tape a photograph of the universe taken by the Hubble telescope to his dressing room wall. It’s a reminder of how insignificant he is. He finds it uplifting. I know what he means. If the consequences of our actions are so insignificant in relation to the rest of the universe, the stifling weight of responsibility is lightened. It’s exhilarating. If a joke flops or offends someone, who cares? An ego is just a fragile egg of nonsense anyway.
This explains a lot, but not everything. It doesn’t explain hemorrhoids or toggle bolts. We must search elsewhere for clarity. There’s a book that rises with innocence and a book that breaks the chains of dogma. There’s no philosophy that doesn’t require a little sweat. At low tide the sea recedes into itself and furnishes the sky with indigo. Camaraderie floats on tolerance. Hope matures into coalition. And yet one has to wonder: what is the true spirit of evocation? The bow of our boat pierces the fog. Wine mellows the nerves. We construct a new paradigm by singing and invocation.
I have needs like anyone else, but no radar. I have to stumble around, feeling my way as I go. Timid creatures blink their eyes in the fog. Theories of undulation multiply like colors. A hawk hovers over Ireland. James Joyce lifts a bar of soap to his nose and sniffs. Certain things serve my needs, others show different ways to tolerate the world. Some things are simple pleasures, and other things shatter preconceived ideas. Take the bees, for example. What marvelous creatures. Sucking, humming, pollinating. Bees are parables of ecological equilibrium. And yet they’re dying. Sometimes the referent escapes its sign.
I go to the hardware store. I need some caulk. It comes in a tube like toothpaste. Squeezes out like toothpaste. I need it for the window in the living room. Mildew has invaded the space between the window frame and the wall. Yesterday I tried cleaning it as best as I could with a product I found under the bathroom sink called Method Tub and Tile Cleaner, which boasts being made up of non-toxic chemicals. What would those be? Curious, I read the ingredients on the back of the bottle: water, potassium citrate, ethanol, decyl glucoside, lauryl glucoside, sodium methyl ester sulfonate, laurel ethoxylate, polyquarternum 95, ethyl levulinate glycol ketal, ethyl levulinate propylene ketal, benzyl salicyclate, citral, linalool, methylisothiazolinone and methylchloroisothiazolinone. I spray it on the aluminum window frame and rub hard but it has little effect. I try some Comet cleanser. That doesn’t work either. I hope that the caulk will cover it up. I squeeze a line of white goo and run it down the window frame, then smooth it out with my fingers. It looks good. Some measure of equilibrium has been established in the universe.
The ghost of Picasso clanks by. I can tell what kind of day it’s going to be. Even the mint has a refractory taste. I feel the need for some speculation, for further reflection, for birds and words and rings and things. Why are we here? Where do we come from? According to the Bushongo of Central Africa, in the beginning there was only darkness and water and the great god Bumba. One day Bumba suffered a bad stomach ache. He vomited the sun, which dried some of the water up, and so some land appeared. Still writhing in pain, Bumba vomited the moon, the stars, and a host of animals, including the leopard, crocodile, turtle, hippopotamus, elephant and human beings.
A bomb of spit thuds on the ground. The sky is boisterous. I can feel the frequency of the philodendron. The pickle emits a metallic sound in the mouth. I stand next to a Cézanne which hangs in the air like a fever. My anonymity lodges in a stick. The water is sublime. Descriptions will stir if the weather holds. The universe explains my fetal position. The puddle explains nothing. It’s lost in its own reflections. An amiable distance flourishes under the chalk. Wonder rips the outdoors into moist circumferences of thought. I clutch the immaterial. I think of Apollinaire on the western front. I think of caulk, and chalk, and the joy of insignificance.


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Steve Finnell said...
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