fiction, philosophy, Uncategorized

Four People Who Don’t Know How to or Have Difficulty Talking

My own difficulty talking is stuttering.  What it is, is an arhythmia.  Why is arhythmia a problem?  Rhythm synchs us up with our listener.  We both enter into a pulsation that carries us both out of ourselves, and out of the present.  BUM bum bum bum BUM bum bum bum BUM bum bum bum BUM bum–even if I died while writing that, if I were capable of rhythm — i.e. facile at it — not a stutterer — you would know what would come next, after my death — bum bum.

My friend Avis is so nice she is nothing but engaging, appealing rhythms which she assimilated unconsciously in childhood.  When I hear her talk I can always tell who actually said what she said, and she appears something like a human being muted by an enormous puppet costume, unable to express herself in language at all, though from deep within her suit I can hear the animal expressions of emotion — sadness, anger and ecstasy.

David was so traumatized that all he hears when he talks is the scolding voices of his parents threatening to destroy him.  He can’t get a word out, he is so choked with terror so instead he produces sentence after sentence which conceal him from his own fear, or I should say attempt to, like someone with chattering teeth saying that he is quite, quite fine.  If he could ever stop being afraid of what he was about to say he would find what he was saying was different than what he thought or feared or imagined he was saying.  Much simpler, more beautiful, as clear as a bell.

My friend Richie is deeply, deeply silent, like a thousand-year old stone on a forest floor.  What does he have to say?  What do we want him to say?  Does he know?  Do we know?  If he could ever gather himself together and give speech to himself I am sure it would strike me with the force of a command that I had been waiting for my whole life, like a sentinel on duty who finally received his orders.   Sometimes I look him in the eyes wondering if that moment will come and if it comes if the order will be “STAY AT YOUR POST!” or “MARCH!” or something I can’t imagine yet because it has yet to be communicated to me, or perhaps a message for someone else entirely.

The four of us together miscommunicate in exactly twelve different unsuccessful ways.

Me talking to Avis

Me talking to David

Me talking to Richie.

Richie talking to Avis, Richie talking to me, Richie talking to David.

David talking to Avis, David, talking to me, David talking to Richard.

Richard, me, David, Avis each talking to ourself

Each way of communicating a failure in its own entirely distinct, unique, wonderful way.

Those 12 ways together are like a single word that hovers on the tip of God’s tongue, frustratingly close to expression, tantalizing and yet far.

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fiction, philosophy, religion

Fathers and Sons

i

I signed up for Google Life Recorder when i was in high school because I was thinking of becoming a writer and I thought it would be useful to be able to go back and review every moment of my life.  It was.  I was able to write much better things about my first heartbreak when I looked back and relived the first time she and I met, kissed, slept together, fought, broke up.  And I was able to write much better things about the formation of my self-consciousness when I was able to go back and re-experience the first time I went back and looked at my first heartbreak.

I never thought my son of eighteen years would stand before me and ask me for my Lifetape.  But why wouldn’t he?  He wanted to write as I had wanted to write.  He wanted to know himself as I wanted to know myself.  He needed to get clear what hopes, dreams, fears, aspirations, sexual fantasies and religious yearnings within him came from him and which came from his old Pa.

We met in the office a month later.  “There’s a lot I have problems with.” he said.

“Tell” said me.

“I don’t like the way you backstabbed people at work in your 20s.”

“Neither do i, but thanks for bringing it to my attention.”

“You eat too much, masturbate too much, and have fantasies about killing and eating Mom way too much.”

“I’m sorry.  But thoughts come unbidden.”

“Fair enough, Dad.  But I did not like, really did not like the way you forced yourself on Mom and fucked her.”

“Well I get that but you see if that had never happened, where would you be?”

“I see but I don’t like it.”

ii

I took my son to the Hall of Documents to read something his great grandfather had written.   Grandpa Eddie had among his other accomplishments (silver medal track star, mafia lawyer, teller of tales in children’s nursery schools) been the discoverer and translator of a lost manuscript by the Norse poet Snorri Sturluson.  Snorri was the poet of the old gods — Thor and Odin and the Fenr Wolf — although he wrote the eddas at a time when Christianity was supplanting the old religion.  (Snorri, as it happens gave JRR Tolkien the names for his dwarves in The Hobbit).

Grandpa Eddie had translated the following

DIALOGUE BETWEEN MAN AND THE ALLFATHER

Man: Allfather. I wish to read your book.  The book of your lives and where you came from and what you are about.

Allfather; Read.

Man: (Having read) Why did you make man to suffer?  From plague and earthquake and war?  Why make a being for pain.

Allfather: Good question.  When the giants stormed Valhalla and caused much rapine and suffering and pain they wished for something that would wipe away their gigantic guilt.  The only thing I could do was to create a world where they could suffer.  For their vainglory they learned to be low.  For their brutality they learned fragilty.  For their egotism they learned love.

Man: Okay, but why did you make giants lusty for storming Valhalla

Allfather: What kind of question is that?

Man: What do you mean?

Allfather: Who would even think to make a world without giants?

iii

My son said “I think you wrote that.”

I said “I did not, but you are close.”

My son: Who?

I said: You.

You wrote it without paying attention to it but it is in your handwriting. You are writing so many things that you don’t even understand yet.  Brilliant things. Wonderful things. I’m so proud of you.  I’d do a milion more brutal shameful things to give you something to be ashamed of and something to write about.

My son: But how did I write it?  Why isn’t it in my Google Life Record?

I said: That old thing?  You are rewriting the rules of your language every moment to make your past tell the story you want to tell.

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fiction

“What Are We Going to Do with the People Who are Not as Smart as We Are?”

Sometimes I hang around with scientists who are much smarter than most people.  One of them recently told me that he had figured out that nothing was good or bad and the universe was just a meaningless play of forces, but that he still chose to be nice to people.  I was scared.  “What will we do with all the people who are not as smart as we are?” I asked.  “Surely when they find out nothing is good or bad they will come and hurt us, and blind us, and make us circus animals in their traveling shows.”  “Don’t worry.” he assured me.  “We will lie to them and tell them some things are good and some things are bad, and not killing us is in the former character, and torturing us and turning us into human chickens like in Freaks is in the latter.”

Sometimes I hang around with unselfish people.  “What should we do about the people who are not as good as we are?”  I said.  “Fight them.” they said.  “Love who they are but fight them, until there is nobody left who is not good.”

My smart friends thought my unselfish friends were stupid and my unselfish friends thought my smart friends were bad.  I was hoping to get my smart and good friends together to work it out.  It was just hard to make the schedule work.

Truth be told my heart wasn’t in it.  I was having some problems at home.  My family, for reasons I don’t want to get into on a public blog, had decided they didn’t like me so much any more  Also my illness had flared up and I was afraid — that my skin — but you don’t need to know about that either, and to make things worse the discomfort of the illness had me fearful and I couldn’t tell if I was afraid of the skin thing cause the medicine made me or cause it was scary.    Also my job, which is a little uncertain always had taken a turn for the worse — they wanted something slightly different than I was able to provide and they found somebody who could do what I was best at doing but better — but I don’t think that cause an employer might read this blog and I am very good at the thing I do.  Very good.  The best.

I started to draft a letter begging for help.  First I thought I would send it to my smart friends.    I read it over and the request for help was not smart.  It was stupid.  I thought I would send it then to my unselfish friends but I read it over and it was the most selfish thing on Earth.

I realized both my friends had been polite.  When my smart friend had said “We smart people” when my unselfish friend said “We unselfish people” they were including me in “we” by courtesy.  Where I belonged was somewhere else.  I was one of the people not as smart as us to be lied to.  I was one of those people not as good as us to be fought.

I took a bus down town trying to get my thoughts in order — maybe also my life.  At the moment I fell asleep and missed my stop I was thinking “How can I convince all of you who are smarter and better than me to stop lying to me, stop fighting me, and help a brother out?  Do I have to be so sweet and innocent and darling that they all take pity on me and love me and take care of me, all the smart ones and great ones and good ones and rich ones and my family and the lady who does the bills at the HMO?”

“Wake up you pathetic character.” said the bus driver finally.  “If you’re too sweet they will eat you up.  If you’re too bitter they will spit you out.”

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