BELOW THE WATER LINE
I used to think that someone would someday
take me aside and begin explaining things to
me. It was a kid-idea, stupid, but in the normal
sequence of events, the way I saw things unfold,
it always seemed that was the way things happened.
It's a pretty funny idea actually - and one you'd
think more normal than not since everything else
in life is always presented to you as having rules
and rational logic and sequence. So, I figured, it
must be like that for everything else too, except
that I - as a little kid - just wasn't up to speed
on it yet. It seemed most sensible that, in the way
things were run, the whole idea of adults was so
that at some point they'd whisk a kid away and
start telling him everything. Sort of like that big
'sex talk' everyone was supposed to eventually
get from their parent - the birds and the bees
and all that. Just real simple logic - the line ends
here, and now we tell you everything you'll need
to know. And then you continue living, we die,
you do the same to your kids, and then you die.
Weird stuff, but to me that's how logic/life went.
I always felt that was the difference between us
and the animal kingdom as well : no one ever tells
a dog that 'way' things are, how it goes. That what
instinct was, how people always put it. Animals run
by instinct, they just inherently know things, and
their bodies and senses operate for them. Humans
were apparently supposed to be different in that
they were a tad better than that. Choosing
themselves, etc. I guess it was self-awareness
or something. No one ever taught dogs how to
poop. They just do it, and never wearing clothes,
nor having to, it doesn't make much of a difference,
in their subsidiary animal-kingdom position, where
or how they do it.They don't get the big 'poop-talk'.
Or the doggie-sex talk either, I guess.
Pecking orders. Vertical lists. It was as if the world
had been laid out in some fashion wherein only the
logical and precise kind of person could prosper. I
guess that was the eternal conflict, from day one, or
ten, or whatever. As an Artist type, I knew that was
always going to be the farthest sort of approach I'd
ever take. Never in fact, perhaps in concept. The
world seems a'priori, or it wasn't. It was random,
or was it precise and rigid in sequence. Never
solved, for me, but I knew which side I'd be on.
The old conflict of Cain and Abel, Gilgamesh
and Utanapishtim, any of that, much of it was
about devastating logic - the cities and the rules
and the organizations, (certainly the Alexander
Hamilton sort of thinking), versus the random,
agrarian, roaming, nomadic sort of thinking,
(again, the exact Thomas Jefferson model), land
versus city, and the rest. Cain and Abel - one guy
got the farm-feel, and the other got the fixed-city
feel. Institutional conflict immediately. Hairy Esau
versus smooth Jacob. It goes on and on. The world
took sides a long time ago. I never did. In the way
of the flesh - A always follows B. Traffic signals
have a sequence, we learn the sequence, things flow.
You get a piece of paper in hand, things upon it are
listed out, in order, formed into paragraphs, it reads
as one thing after another. You follow all the words,
you get to the conclusion. You absorb the idea. Day
is followed by night, but inherently we know that
that night is also followed again by day. That
inherent logic, sequential, is in our brain. Good
versus bad. Wrong/right, finished or incomplete.
Soft versus hard. We know these opposites, we
array our lives around them.
However, there's an opposition to all that too. I
inhabited it, I know for sure. I'd walk around
Avenel - me, Mr. Incomplete - doggedly
determined to refute or prove-off all these forced
opposites and conclusions. Knowing it did NOT
have to be that way. Look. Some of the houses
were shaped this way. Others that. In the end it
made no difference - everything within them
was the same. I couldn't even buy the design-ethos
factor of fashion and architecture. It just didn't
matter. My way of living was more slap-dash than
that - impulsive, radical, creative, with a dare,
everything and all of it. I'd stare at a picture and
take it apart, piece by piece, with my eyes. I'd try
to learn about the interpretation of things rather than
the things themselves. That seemed the opposite of
everything else. Counterintuitive, it was called. I think.
A business person operates in the opposite fashion.
Even that strange guy at the low end of Prospect
Street or wherever that was, Mr. Miller, with his
weird 'used' lumber yard. I would have figured
him to be the abstract one, the concept-or, the
darer, selling all that oddment of re-used lumber
and cut pieces. But it couldn't be, because by his
practices of 'buying and selling' it just went (with
the logic) that he had to be concerned with the
THING itself, and to hell with its interpretation.
That's what business people do; they sell 'things'.
They buy and they represent the sequential and
the logical. That's their trap, what they get caught
up in. Why they crack or go crazy or fail or have
breakdowns. The ARTIST, no he says, to hell with
the 'thing', and he works the interpretation. Makes
power and glory from that instead. I knew, early on,
that's what I wanted. The rest was mud, blood and guts,
slime and drudgery. I wanted flight and dream instead.
Something in the Spirit of Mankind, born with us,
comes and goes with us too - keeps us going forward.
Propels as we resist. If the 'resistance' gets strong enough,
we die. Whether by our own hand, jumping off a bridge,
shooting ourselves in the face, or dying of some slow
disease, hoist somehow by the prongs of sadness and
the dark. If we can just manage to stay with the 'propel'
part of things, we can make it. Make it swell,
or not so swell, but make it.
Another matter that rose to the top, conceptually
anyway, was the matter of 'feeling' one way or
the other about yourself. That was pretty difficult,
and I went through a lot of that - I'll admit, I still
do. I had a friend back then, Alex, and whenever
we were driving home from somewhere - usually
a late-night exit from a local watering hole or
somewhere, I'd usually end up - besides driving
him home. - driving some lost soul, most usually
female - home to wherever she lived as well. My
wife and whatever ever girl this would be, would
always somehow end up taking the back seat, and
Alex and myself, as driver, would be in the front.
He'd start this little morality harangue he had, in
the interests of uplift and good psychology, to them
about once again being in the 'low-self-esteem'
seats, meaning the back seats. Somehow he
equated the politeness of a ride, back or front,
with an idea of low-esteem for accepting the
rear seating. I never quite got it, but it went
on. In the same way, the individual has to
come to grips of a sort with his or her self
about how they are going to view themselves.
For instance (I just happily told this today to
someone dear to me, and have here worked it
into this piece. Go figure that. I call it
'high-esteem') - I awake on a day when
I have a hundred things in my mind to
get done, or to do. That's way too many, and
I know it. By the end of the day I'm lucky to
have done ten. Do I berate myself then for
failing? Do I moan and cry about what a
miserable fop I am for not doing everything?
No, of course I don't. I may have, once, long
back; but now I've found the better pleasure of
telling myself how well and how thorough and
how sparklingly those ten things were done. I
am reinforcing myself positively, and not
slamming my foot into that brick wall of the
negative and the down. I did something, and
dammit I really did. Forget the ninety things
I did not do. Appreciate the ten I did.
I did not do. Appreciate the ten I did.