When she was ready to write, the first word that presented itself was: nocolor. Autocorrect corrected it three times over. Autocorrect wrote: “No color”. The word as it needed to be was: nocolor. She knew what it meant. It was … Continue reading
He turned around and looked in my direction, his dark glasses reflecting the library lights like distant stars. Then he smiled. Automatically I smiled back at him, but then I remembered that he was blind, and my smile froze. I … Continue reading
Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore …
I couldn’t make this the twelfth night theme. “Nevermore” is not the note I’d choose to conclude this season’s “Twelve Nights”. But on the eleventh night it brings together further elements of reading, words, images evoking coherent comprehension beyond words, night time, magic realism, dreams, illusions, delusions, sleep deprivation, time, meditation, past, progression,automatons, determinism, choice, knowledge, intuition, desperation, endurance …
Two weeks ago I listened to a musician on DRKultur (radio) talking about time and about the experience of time during extemporaneous composition and performance on the piano. He talked about experiencing eternity not as an endless repetition of events in a space of time never ending but about as an experience of time being suspended. I think about art – writing, painting and illustrating – as taking place in just that space of time being suspended, a space that I can enter and where I can linger at will.
It is Borges’ library that makes another appearance in this drawing meditation. One of the themes that is never far off my mind. How does our mind chooses the images that are essential for its own comprehension of the world? How come an image such as Borges library can be so powerful that it assumes an reality of its own, in an alternate universe not so far of our own house number? Just try a different key, open a small door you have never quite paid attention to before and beyond you will find the octagonal library with all possible version of all possible books, written and unwritten … my kind of paradise.
the shadows were moving slowly, swaying like branches in a light breeze or high buildings on a windy day. to detect purpose in these gentle movements required a slight degree of paranoia, and yet there was no apparent natural cause to explain the shift of the shadows away from their corresponding objects and towards the center of the village like water draining from upset glasses.
finally, there were just a bits of shadow left, like drops in a sink adhering to the enamel by their surface tension. these droplets of shadow were sparkling like rainbows, no grayness reflected. the air was still and non-expectant, noon in a depressed small town, and the realization that the world was without shadows had not yet sunk in. in a dirty jeep, parked close to the village center, a woman lit a marlboro
even those who had dismissed the shadows as inessential, felt disconcerted when the birds ceased to sing. on the morning of the third day, after a dawn without luminosity had given way to dull day light, small insects began their crawling procession towards the centers that had swallowed the shadows.
and someone laughed at the gray man in his wrinkle free woolen suit who solicited signatures on retro-active insurance policies. “one day only”, he implored, “an amazing offer”, but they shooed him away while watching the myriad of tiny, scarlet colored spiders tie a living ribbon between the outskirts of the village and the shadow drain.
and yet, the spiders said, too easily do you accept that we form a living ribbon, and wander into oblivion. one by one. what to your eyes a living ribbon is, to ours is a band of pain, and joy, and hope against all odds.
It only occurred to me some years after first meeting him that his brain had been on fire probably day and night, during waking moments and during sleep. He was, I could see that right away, back then, high wired, hyper intelligent, super sensitive, coy, cornered, cynical. In was apparent in the first conversation one would have with him that he was constantly computing any kind of informational offering of his environment for bits and pieces of useful knowledge, useful in his own sense, not ruling out the value of overheard conversations of strangers, visual clues of bill board advertisement, the color scheme of the dioxin polluted NJ marsh lands, conspiracy theories and their opposites, math, astronomy, information technology, Shakespeare, even the CNN news ticker. He was reading, forever reading, and then reading some more, his brain was speed feeding itself knowledge, and he could recover this knowledge with the casual speed of a trained illusionist. When I knew him better he showed me the encyclopedic if highly individual work he was dedicated to, a work in many volumes bound in blue linen as soon as a new one was considered completed. A friend who worked at a university library did this for him volume by volume, one for the shelf in his den, and a twin one that he archived openly secretely in said library, for everyone to see and no one to find in maybe another century. It was a work so biased and yet so beautiful that it was unquestionable that I had been admitted to a unique work of art though he preferred to call it a scientific study of random code.
And still, it was only years later when in the course of an increase of my English language skills I could not only read but also hear all the different voices merging in “Infinite Jest” by David Foster Wallace that I realized I had actually met a man who is – if that is at all possible considered who Wallace was – the dark twin of David Foster Wallace, sharing his semantics, his obsession, his socioeconomic circumstances, his despair, his addiction, his near autistic ingenuity to gain access to ever deeper layers of information and information encoded within this information,and that he was the man who had to be expected to exist in the margins of literary history, never to be found, as we know that there is never just one genius at any given time, but often just one to emerge to public consciousness , maybe to his own destruction. so that, with other words, i know there to be one other living madman, or genius, or whatever you’d like to call a man with a brain on fire, to weave the net still, to still find the words, to write the chronic of what is and was and will be in all its Borgean implications, thereby freely accepting the responsibility of calling the world into existence.
this knowing “you are on to something good” is exactly where the artist meets the scientist. only that in general the scientist will be patient and disciplined enough to acquire the skills necessary to actually explore and eventually understand that unfounded suspicion and the artist will just take a cursory inventory of the idea’s implications and then take to the type writer (or the canvas) like the monkey, ready to blindly shell out the sequence of letters to actually and surprisingly eloquently prove that “it” was always known.
walking up some flights of stairs in the morning, taking one step at a time, my thoughts start drifting, and i continue walking, and i keep thinking, and my feet continue climbing up the first flight of stairs, one step at a time, one step at a time, and i continue dreaming pleasantly, and my feet continue walking until i grow aware that it is taking a rather long time to climb that one flight of stairs, 13 stairs at most, and while my feet are still climbing i see that i have reached the second to last step and still i climb and my feet continue to move obediently, my thoughts retracing my steps, until finally, and i can measure that time span of the last step, i have reached the first landing.
time perception of course, by its nature is subjective, but how long a dream can one dream climbing up one flight of stairs, i wonder. on the landing the grey light filtering through the milky hall way window does not admit to time passing and i almost dread climbing the next flight of stairs.
but, of course, i do, what else is there to do, but to continue. so i focus on the steps this time, 13 at most, and i am resolved not to allow my thoughts to drift.
i focus while i am walking, and i focus on my focus, and i see myself walking up that flight of stairs, 13 steps at most, while i am concentrating so hard on not dreaming, not drifting, on almost not thinking that my brain starts feeling cold.
and my feet keep moving, climbing up the steps, and i am carefully keeping my focus, and yet when i have mastered not even half the flight of stairs, i realize that once again the time it takes to climb these steps does not correspond to the number of steps i have been climbing and i freeze in the midst of climbing, one foot on the seventh step, one still on the sixth, and i have a hard look at that staircase but there is nothing out of the ordinary to be observed.
and yet i am sure of it, it takes too long to climb these stairs, and ideas start forming, offering themselves with deceptive playfulness, but i reject them because now all i want is to be done with climbing that staircase and so i continue.
trying to regain that coveted state of unconsciousness with with which one climbs a step of stairs, not observing the act of climbing, not synchronizing mind time with physical time, i pitifully fail.
again i step up and step up and step up as if climbing that staircase was a specific task to fulfill, as if i was not mastering some flights of stairs but was struggling up a mountain to reach a monastery carved out of the mountain side, as if i was following a pilgrim’s path to enlightening. i couldn’t be more aware of every single neuron firing to accomplish this complex daily task though all i crave is unawareness towards it. and i continue climbing.
on the next landing i hardly pause to contemplate what i must do as there is no alternative to walking, and i simply walk up the next flight of stairs, i walk and i walk, and by now i am not struggling against the perception of the walk that does not correspond to the space though i am not accepting it either.
on to the next. i know by now that this is and is not an ordinary staircase, that i will resume life once i reach the top but as of now my life is suspended and all that is asked of me is to walk up those steps, so i keep walking.
my unimaginative mind gets bored of this existential task, even slightly amused, rather than to be terrified, never mind that for all i know this stairway might be sartre’s huis clos and gabriel, ines and estelle might be right behind me, or i might be ines or estelle, but still my mind gets bored of this task of climbing some flights of stairs as if that was all there was to do for eternity.
when i am bored of being slightly amused by my own superior outlook on the terror of eternity i start swearing silently under my breath, but still i am climbing, and at some point i am done swearing, too, or rather i run out of entertaining curses.
so when i am done swearing , i start wondering who is going to study my briefs today, or tomorrow for that matter, who is going to review my documents, conduct my research, draft my pleadings. and after climbing another flight of stairs, i start feeling pity for myself and i sadly ask myself who is going to comfort my children and read my books and paint my paintings while i am climbing this endless staircase. and still i am climbing.
and this i do every morning. i tell you this just because you asked me whether i believe in eternity (or anything, really). sure i do.
every morning, rejecting the elevator, i do repent of my choices by climbing that eternal staircase and, for all i know, i never leave it, for all i know, i am forever walking up one flight of stairs after the other, because i do not remember ever reaching the top of it, i do not remember opening the door to exit the hallway and entering my office even though i won’t deny either that i am indeed sitting here, at my desk, drafting my briefs, conducting my research, writing my pleadings and trying to convince you if not myself that i am more than a speck of transient dust.
In the meantime I discovered the places “where the seams come undone”, as my mother called it. Every classroom in my school had a clock on the wall right over the door, and all the clocks had identical clock faces, and every one of them showed a slightly different time.
I don’t know whether clocks in classrooms today are all connected to one central, totalitarian time piece as I suspect might be the case, though I hope it is not so. I always loved the way time oscillated between classes, obstinately refusing to be tamed. Officially, students had three minutes to walk to the next classroom after a period ended. But for the way from science to math, for example, you’d better made do with 1 minute and 29 seconds – the clock in Ms. Kirsch’s class was as fast as our teacher’s ability to conjure numbers out of the back entrance to Hilbert’s Hotel and as inexorable as her refusal to admit to time measured outside her class room.
On the other hand, you could afford to leisurely stroll to French after that, using not only the 1 minute and 31 leftover seconds from math but also the 40 seconds the French clock was late, giving you an ample 5 minutes and 11 seconds (not counted the additional minute or two Mme. Petite rustled with her papers, ignoring her students’ ongoing conversation). The clock in language arts had the peculiar and infamous habit of stopping at exactly 12.01 pm every couple of weeks and could only be persuaded back into service by Superintendent Segrob who, for that very reason, was particularly fond of it, and year after year insisted on repairing rather than replacing it.
Every day for a few moments just before noon instruction in language arts paused and everyone’s eyes followed the unhurried second hand making its way from 11.59.59 am to just after 12.01.02 pm. It was almost like a pagan ritual, these approximately sixty-three seconds of silence, as if we were paying our respects to the spirit of the clock, Time. Time, sputtering, fleeing, stopping, resuming its course, divided itself up over the 79 clocks in our school according to its own preference. With other words, it seemed to be on our side and refused to be institutionalized.
I know that the language art clock did not stop on that day. I don’t think it would have been possible for it to stop while I was willing it on. Apart from Time herself though nobody noticed that I counted every second of the school day, 24,000 seconds in all, stops, gains and losses, until, at last, the 2.47 pm bell wrapped it all up hurriedly and dropped the leftovers for the time dogs.