Sunday, September 25, 2005

Blogging Kafka

September 25,2005

Blogging on the internet reminds me of Kafka's Imperial Message: the emperor of all the vast kingdoms of the earth is lying on his deathbed. With his dying breath he calls his courier to his side and whispers a message in his ear....a message meant for, the farthest flung of all the empire's millions of anonymous subjects, you, the most insignificant speck on the map of the empire......the Emperor expends his dying breath on a message intended for

And now the messenger sets out to deliver the you.He pushes his way through the throngs that are gathered in the castle and in the courtyard, he finds his way into the street and then into the village, finally onto a country road and hence on to the next village, pushing through that village and on to the next. In village after village he prods his way through the crowds. And that is only the one province. There are countless other villages in countless other provinces. And if he makes it to the end of the last village in the last province then he must cross the ocean to other countries and into other provinces. Everywhere he goes the masses hold him back, the weather, the threat of highwaymen. Still he plods on with his message. If he had ten lifetimes to pursue his mission he could not find you wherever you might be in the hinterland of millions. It's plain that he can never reach you with the message. And yet, as Kafka says, you sit by your window and wait.

Blogging on the internet is similar to that. You write your message. You think it has a special meaning that people will be interested in reading. You send it out over the airwaves. And you wait for something to happen. But the internet is vast and anonymous. Surfing the blogosphere page after page you find not a single soul mate and if you surfed a lifetime day and night you would only make a tiny scratch on the surface of the internet. Your literary efforts are like those audio sounds that scientists beam into space in search of signs of life. The audio signals disappear into the void and no one can be sure whether they're heard. Yet still you continue to form the words and put the message out no matter what. It's the perfect example of hope springing eternal in the human breast.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Stairways and Little White Dogs

September 18,2005

Sigmund Freud liked to think that the organic sensation of anxiety occurred when the child's body was squeezed through the birth canal on its way to being born,ever after experiencing moments of anxiety as a reference to that peculiar,breathless sensation.
I cannot say if this is true but I know that emotions--can we call them sensations--which occur for the first time in the most ridiculous of settings remain forever associated with those settings.
When I was a small child our family lived on the second floor of a house which was a kind of four-plex with two apartments up and two down and a stairway in the center from the street. I remember every detail of that stairway,every scratch on the wall but I remember nothing of the apartment. Go figure!
At the back of the house there was another stairway which led down to the yard. This stairway was on the outside of the building but it was covered in the manner of covered bridges that you see in New England towns. In the center of the stairs there was a diamond shaped window which looked out into the yard. All of my life I've dreamt of that stairway; it has always represented something gloomy and foreboding in the catalog of my emotions,the kind of feeling which can never be explained but only .........embodied. Go figure!
In order to reach the street from this back stairway one had to walk along the driveway at the side of the house. At the end of the driveway there was a depression which filled with water whenever it rained, creating an impassable puddle. The only way to get by this puddle was to negotiate a narrow tuft of grass which required one to squeeze along the chain link fence that separated the two yards.
In the yard next door there was a little white dog which charged out at you suddenly whenever you were walking on the driveway. This dog had a nasty temperament and a ferocious manner and never failed to take me by surprise. Whenever I would need to circumvent the puddle he would appear in a rage and try to nip me through the chain links. As a child I lived in terror of this dog.
All of my life I've dreamed about that dog. He has come to represent some nameless, anticipated terror in my life which I have never been able to shake.He comes to me from time to time in my nightmares and is never far removed from my uncertainties. Go figure!

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Is It Real?

September 17,2005

When my father had been dead for several years my sister said to me one day, " You know, when I think of dad now it's as if he had never existed at all but had only been a character in a movie or a dream sequence. It's as if he had never been real, as if our lives with him had not been real."

I know what she was talking about.The present drifts away from us into the past in little dribbles. Everything about my father was gone, his old chair, his radio over which he fumed and fussed about the Red Sox, his old wrought iron lamp which had been painted gold,the desk drawers full of trinkets that it was his habit to pick up in the street on his way home from work. The house in which we lived together--gone. There are fewer and fewer touchstones to his existence. The real father belongs to a long gone world, a world before cell phones and computers,a wordl before technology, a world in which you had to wait for the operater to come on the line and ask, "number please", a world that no one living can go back to.

The past becomes smaller and smaller. When I returned to my high school after many years I was amazed at how small it was. I felt like a giant inside it. Did I really walk through these hallways, open these doors? My locker number still exists except that someone else now owns the number. Note how we get pushed out of our historic places, out of our lockers, out of the cradle,out of school, out of the corner where we used to like to hang around, out of everywhere. Others are goading our steps, anxious to occupy our place; we have to keep moving on like fugitives on the run. Finally we become the historians,the know-it-alls, the ones who say," You see that school over there kid!? Well,I remember when we used to skate on a pond over there! It was a dirt road had to park your car and walk through the woods."

And the kid would say, "W-O-W!" and not be able to know how things had been in that place. He would create his own past and save it in his own way.

Lighted Windows

September 17,2005

Years ago I had a friend who was a Bulgarian artist. He operated a small gallery in the city but he lived with his mother in a small Bulgarian community in the suburbs. At night we would drink together and afterward I would drive him home.
On the way to his house we passed a hospital. There were invariably lights on in a handful of windows. He said, "Those are the rooms where people are dying." When my own father lay dying I remembered that. I looked out the window at the passing traffic and saw myself looking up at me waiting for my father to die.Whenever thereafter I went by hospitals at night I'd say a little prayer for the people waiting behind those lighted windows.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Intuition Conquers

September 15,2005

Outside my apartment window there's a bee hive in a hollow section of the roof. All day long the bees flash back and forth in the sunlight doing their work. Every morning when I rise I go to this window in the hope of seeing an owl whom I suspect is living in the barn out back. Every morning I notice a knot of bees scrunched together in a small space on the window screen.

At the back of the house there's a generous yard with a stone wall and an enormous rotting stump of a weeping willow tree which came down with a dull thud in the middle of the night during a windy storm several years ago---luckily to no one's disadvantage. Beyond the yard a dilapitated barn on a high brick foundation. Next to the barn a tree growing on a tilt which has benefitted mightily from the demise of the willow and its gift of new sunlight.Beyond barn and tree, a sliver of land-locked woods perhaps three hundred feet wide and, beyond that, the rear of a house which fronts on the next street.

You would think that all these obstacles would prevent the low,rising sun from reaching my window...but they do not. There it is, at first light, a pencil thin line of brilliant yellow sunlight reflected from the narrow brass barrel of a floor lamp onto the pale eggshell wallpaper of the room and entering at the window in precisely the spot where the knot of bees are gathered on the screen. For ten or fifteen minutes this line of brilliant light windens and gradually pales but it's enough to warm the bodies of the bees so that they can fly away. How the sunlight finds it's way through and around so many obstacles and how the bees know that it will arrive is a mystery but there it is nonetheless. Intuition conquers.

Borne again

September 15,2005
I'm always suspicious of people who are "born again". They have a curious certainty which is not quite convincing. They're always playing religious pop music up loud (I'm thinking of someone in particular) which hardly anyone else listens to and acting as if they don't have a trouble in the world. They remind me of certain people that you see jogging on the street. There are some who just run and then there are others who do a whole theatrical routine with sweat bands and weights and heavy breathing, swinging their arms and shoulders in ridiculous gesture. They want us to know that they're not just walking and running, they're "exercising". They want credit for political correctness.I always have the impression that people who exercise like this hate every minute of it and would be much better off changing their lifestyles.
People who are "born again" are a lot like that. They don't just experience quiet joy in the knowlege of their religious fervor. No,they want the rest of us to know that they have Jesus on their side while we continue to struggle with our demons. They even presume to give us advice as to how we can be like them.
All the while I have the impression that they're whistling in the dark. Being "born again", after all, means that you were born once and it didn't work out so well and now your back for another try, this time with Jesus as a crutch.I doubt that invoking Jesus is gonna be enough to get over life's bumps. All this "born again" stuff takes it for granted that Jesus loves us. Unfortunately Jesus hasn't weighed yet in with his opinion.