Am I sometimes obstinate? Yes. A lot. There are things I will not do. I will not put lipstick on a lion. I will not deny the redness of Tuesday. I resist. Am I tempted? Yes. I crumble before the spectacle of the clouds, any clouds, any formation, any manifestation of mist, trails of vapor in the sky, mountains of fluffy humidity, hoards of columnar aerosols, droplets and crystals. They make me giddy. I feel an ancient darkness flying through my furniture. It stirs me. I'll do anything. I will wear the uniform of death, which is ice. I will rinse my faith in the young. I will sew the light of thought with the thread of contemplation and crown my head with proverbs.
This morning, as I ate a banana, I thought about the quiet life of the refrigerator.
I have no theories of life. Logic suggests that at one point there was an intersection of the organic and the inorganic. A mixture of molecules became animated. Metal catalysts formed proteins and lipids and ribonucleic acid. This is one theory. Another suggests that acetylene and formaldehyde underwent a sequence of reactions that resulted in a chain of nucleotides. Fast forward 440 million years and here I sit writing this sentence, a chain of words seeking to find life and animation in the proteins and mind of anyone who reads them.
It would cost me $39 dollars, roughly, to resurrect the voice of my father. Twenty-four years ago my father and I went on a three-day road trip around eastern Washington, the gentle hills of the Palouse, pictographs of Horsethief Lake, windsurfers in the Columbia gorge. I taped our conversation on a RadioShack microcassette. I think I was inspired by Kerouac’s tape recordings in Visions of Cody. Which I began re-reading recently, which made me think of the microcassette in my desk drawer, with the tape still in it. I rummaged around and found it. I opened the battery case. The batteries had corroded. I got them out and cleaned the compartment. I put two new AA batteries in. No go. The machinery inside had probably corroded as well. RadioShack has since gone bankrupt. I went online. There were a few available through Amazon. The cheapest was $39 dollars. But was the tape still good? Probably not. For now, I’m content to let it rest in its micro-coffin, mummified and pharaonic, in the tomb of my drawer.
When you cross the Cascade Range in Washington State you go from a mountainous terrain of thick Douglas fir and mists and dense underbrush to a more arid terrain of rock and Ponderosa pine. I always enjoy that.
Aging is a very similar process. I went from the more crowded years of my youth - a time of fertility and hectic socializing - to the more reclusive years of my forties. I withdrew. I think a lot of people do. It’s exhausting to be around other people.
People get along because they’re strangers to one another. Civility is the best means available when we have to be around other people, people we don’t know, or people we know, or think we know, until one day we find out we don’t know them at all. We put on a good show. Smile when it’s appropriate to smile, frown when it’s appropriate to frown. Our true emotions and thoughts are prudently hidden from the world. This doesn’t mean that all our thoughts and emotions are negative or hostile. But the conceptions we make of ourselves are a very volatile compound. It only takes is a little rude jostling to make it all explode.
And look at me, commenting on all of humanity as if I were some sort of expert. I’m not. But I have been around the block a few times. I know what it’s like to explode. And regret exploding. Because when you explode there is fallout. Seismic billows and stern usherettes with flashlights. Let feelings incubate. Mature into fruit, flashcards and games. Don’t let them explode, transmit them from the backbone. Affirm them with emergency room saucepans.
Why should it bother anyone if their opinions are scorned by someone else? By a lot of people? I’m not a fan of solipsism, but when I’m certain about a thing, and someone argues against it, it’s hard not get a little hot under the collar. Take Galileo (and I’m not saying I’m Galileo) who saw what he saw and knew what he knew: the moons of Jupiter orbiting Jupiter, proving heliocentrism. That disturbed a lot of people. Galileo was not being egocentric. Galileo was being heliocentric. I like to think that I’m being heliocentric, at least most of the time.
Feelings are weird. These dancing lights around me are produced by fireflies. Why do they glow? Are they communicating, and if so, what are they saying?
My feelings tell me that the landscape is mostly fingers, and that language is violent when it distorts its own postulations. Sin is a growl. Innocence is a pulse. The parlor savors of coincidence.
How is the value of a feeling determined? I use a series of bathythermographs to measure the underwater acoustic speed of my feelings when they begin to surface and seek expression in words. I do this for two reasons: one, I like boxes, and two, I expect to sneeze at any given moment.
If you perform an act that will confirm and define it, the feeling will form a piano and climb into the sky. If you ignore a feeling, it will grow into a mountain and bake. If you consult a priest who is a member of the resistance, you will have already decided that your feeling is a plump apocalypse waiting to happen. Most feelings want you to do something. Most feelings want you to change. Or get a hammer and build something.
Let me show you some feelings. This one is blue and this one is a long lock of hair trembling in rapid vibrations. This feeling just spins around shooting sparks. And this feeling walks around in my head precipitating books.
Just let me say that writing about how you feel is totally slate. Any fine-grained rock will tell you that. But you must chip at the edge with a geologist’s hammer. Nothing will be revealed until you learn to mimic other birds and regard the water lilies with a twinkling congeniality. I have to go now and patrol the maples in their underclothes. If anything backfires I will develop a spice and hobble toward you with my confidence quietly concealed in a mulch of bark and peat. Together we will respond generously to the spirit within, even if it means denuding a perception of its bias and tongs.