Tuesday, April 15, 2014

But After Awhile

But after awhile you stand up, wipe the frost out of your ear, go someplace to get warm, bum a nickel for coffee, and then start walkin' toward somewheres else that ain't near no bridge.

- William Kennedy, Ironweed

* * *

There are three sorts in this world: the living, the recently dead whose lives overlap with those still living, and the dead so dead there's no one alive who knew them. There is a type of conversation had between them: memories rounded and burnished, gaps ever widening and the need, for now - always now - to keep moving. It is what we have done since memory was first invented. Later, we figured out how to leave our stories behind, stories that didn't need to passed by word of mouth, but by the magic of symbols and signs: our tongues turned to text.

Always, it is a conversation between the three sorts. Always, we pattern ourselves on the patterns laid down before we arrived. Always, we have to answer the answers others came up with to figure out what we're to do with the incredible phenomenon of breathing and thinking and feeling and longing and wondering and fearing and loving and trying, always trying to figure out purpose and meaning and rarely getting out past the patterns laid down before us. We are original only in that we are a unique, solitary, one-off expression of life.

And it troubles us that this is so.

* * *

I have been looping back through a thought over and over. I come close to understanding it, but it moves away like mercury and I run the film again trying to find that line of thought and I come close to understanding it, but it moves away like mercury and I run the film again trying to find the line of thought...

It is this: we are here to help each other move on - in life, in death, in memory, in love, in action, in sweet repose, in daylight, in midnight, in fullness, in part, in the myriad ways we've devised to put one foot in front of the other. We are on our way to find out what it is we can find out about being the incredible phenomenon that breathes, thinks, feels, longs, wonders, fears, loves and tries to riddle out meaning in the infinitude of time.

I dreamt I was standing along the Pacific, on a windy beach. It was bright. The spray of the ocean fell on everything, salting it. I was with a woman. In the dream I knew she and I were together, but I did not recognize her from my waking life. It was the moment of our deaths and when we realized it we were, for a flash, afraid, then it passed through us. We took each other's hand and smiled.

This is the loop, the film. She is back lit, but I see that smile, that calmness and I think, "Of course."

* * *

You are not alone in this world. You come from people who handled their lives well or less well. You've been told stories about the people who came before them, or you've created ones to fill the gaps. You are known. You belong. You have something to do while you are here. It mostly has to do with love - not of any god, or cosmology, but with the incredible phenomenon of being here. If it has run off the rails, so what? Fix it. If it hasn't been easy or just or fair, so what? You still breathe. If you fail to fix it, if you stay mired in the muck of being affronted by life's indifference, then you'll have burned time for nothing. When you get to the shore you'll fear it.

You can fall into the trap of an existential crisis. You can despair of your finite nature. You can do all that (and it happens to us all), but after awhile you stand up, wipe the frost out of your ear, go someplace to get warm, bum a nickle for coffee and then start walkin' towards somewheres else. It is in the moment you decide to get up, to move that stories are born. The things we do when we push away from the bullshit ennui are the things that populate our lives, are the doings of our lives. It is the first word in the conversation we have with the lives that surround us, the lives that overlapped ours, that exist now only in story and memory and by doing so we reach, "Of course."

* * *



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