Saturday, June 27, 2009

To Dive for Pearls

In the last chapter, my vard√łger stood calmly as a great tidal wave crested above him. Returning to witness the aftermath, the small rocky island remains, almost unscathed. Here and there a stray baguette lies soaked and forlorn among the stones.

And sitting among the pools of water, poking his finger at some small creature, is my double. He looks up as and smiles; he's lifting his hand, thumb and forefinger together, and between them something glimmers in the sunlight. It is a pearl.

The metaphor is clear to me --- of course he had no fear of the legion facts and memories that swelled from the depths. Who is afraid of their own mind? The thousand things I know about Paris don't wander about like so much mental flostam, getting in the way of my thinking. They are organized in clusters, with all the properties of the butterscotch/ponderosa/hiking pearl; Thinking of the Mona Lisa makes me think of Paris in terms of rennaisance art; it also makes me think of an episode of Doctor Who. It does not make me think of the extensive Parisian sewer system.

If I think of mimes, I think of an entirely different Paris, of streets filled with parisians and tourists --- but also Marceau and Irwin, and the feeling I get when I pretend to be good with kids.

It begins to strike me how difficult it would be to bring everything I know about Paris into my attention simultaneously. Accidental associations, like grains of sand in an oyster, have fractured that knowledge in a thousand places, burying each Parisian idea with a thousand feelings entirely unrelated to Paris. What ends up where seems to be entirely at the mercy of the universe. Whatever events make me feel, think, or move me physically begin to tangle up my thoughts into shimmering concretions.

I look with more respect at my doppelganger, as I gradually become aware that he must have awakened that wave on purpose --- and wondering at how he was able to conjure up such a thing, when it might take me hours or days of thought to touch even a fraction of the things I know about Paris --- the pearls are too random, scattered at the whim of the world.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Two of Me, in Paris in the The

(A New Autotelism IX)

"Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)"
—Walt Whitman

Our transparent eyeball, a metaphysical camera, is in orbit looking down on the watery sphere. Somewhere, deep inside, the crew of the submarine continues to explore and argue. From out here, there is little we can do to help them; so far away, the whole ocean is glittering and featureless.

Almost featureless. There is a single aberration — a speck of dry rocky land.

Even while I still tap restlessly against the glass of the submarine's porthole, there is another figure, who, if he is not me, uses my body. He is ghostly and ill-defined, fading in and out; he stands on the shore of that lonely island. Beneath him a massive volcano is hiding, but only a few square yards is consistently above the waves.

From where that me stands, he can see to the horizon, but can also touch the waves. He appears to see us, and mouths something calmly; he cannot be heard above the waves.

There is a rumbling in the distance; a great rushing of water bears down on the suddenly tiny figure. Wearing my face, he does not seem concerned. The camera flees.

It is a tidal wave made of the things I know about Paris.

parisisinfranceparisisacitypariscontainstheeiffeltowerpariscon
tainsthelourvepariscontainsthearcdetriumphepariscontainsthechampsellyseparisisacenteroffas
hionparisiansspeakfrenchparisisthecapitaloffranceparisisineuropeparisisthecityoflightsparisheldaworld'sfairparisis
hometoartisitsparisishometoexpatriotsparisisbuiltonariverparisiansworklessparisisthesettingforlesmiserablesparisist
hesettingofthefrenchrevolutionparisisthesettingofanamericaninparisparisisincoleporter's"alwaystruetoyoudarlin..."pari
sisthesettingofpartofcasablancaparisispoweredbyelectricitypariswasoncelitbygaspariscontainsbicyclespariscontainsp
eopleparisendsinerisparisispronouncedpaireeparisisfamousforfoodparisisfamousforsaucesparisisfamousforthee
iffeltowerparisisfamousforthelouvreparisisthesettingforthedavincicodepariscontainsbuildingsparisconta
inscatspariswashometotalouselatrecpariswashometomonetpariswashometogeo
rgeseuratparisisthesettingofsundayintheparkwithgeorgeparisisfamous
formimesparisisfamousforpeopleinstripedshirtsandber
etsparishastrafficcirclesparishaspublicsquaresp
arishasmanysewersparishasratsparishasb
arsparisisfamousforservingwineparisi
sfamousforcafesparisisfamousforp
eoplewatchingparishasfewercafes
than50yearsagoparisisfamousf
orbaguettesparisisland-locked
parisisintheillusionparisinthe
thespringparissharesitsnam
ewiththetrojanwarkidparis
beingswithpparisisspelt
parisparisisananagram
forpairsparisoncehad
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parisisacrossthe
englishchannelf
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risislargepa
ris'sinhabit
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Think about the number of events in your life. The number of things you know, that you feel and have felt, that you think and have thought. How can you bear the weight?

Monday, June 1, 2009

Two Lines on the Glass

(A New Autotelism: VIII)

We're traveling by submarine, deep in an alien ocean; its waters are 30,000 years old, maybe more. The view out of the porthole is filled with bizarre creatures. We all struggle to understand what we see. Without a clear taxonomy, we can only make sense out of one creature at a time; there are thousands, hundreds of thousands of different creatures out there. We need to be able to relate them to one another. Always willing to make a mistake, I pick out four particularly visible things — plants? animals? — as they drift in slow circles, and with a white grease-pencil draw two lines on the glass that divide them from each other.

In one corner is Tree Soul. The joy of Tree Soul is in its beauty; the spiral of ice is a transcendent image. I label that corner of the window "Aesthetic".

Drifting lower, The Matter of Time is physiological; its steel curves affect how the body moves and breathes. I scratch out "Physical".

The Treachery of Images concerns itself with the concept of a pipe; it makes demands of the intellect, so "Intellectual".

Finally, the fear and rage of Saturn Devouring His Children. "Emotional".

None of us has any doubt that this is a flawed system; but already it has become easier to bear the view because we can begin to classify the denizens of this dark world.

A few of the crew get carried away, using the submarine's robotic arm to move the poor creatures around, so that we can view them in the proper quadrant of the window. Soon arguments break out.

"On the Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living — that's intellectual, right?" the first mate asks.

"Naw, idiot. It's physical. Lower left," the man operating the robotic arm tells her.

I am asked to intercede — it was my idea, after all. I sigh, but seeing the glare on the face of the first mate, decide on intellectual.

Inside, I am malcontent with my own new world order. It seemed like a clever idea, but something is missing. There's something vitally important about these creatures that my silly grease pencil squares can't convey or classify. While the arguments continue, I tap my fingernail on the cold glass; my hand unconsciously pointing to Walking Man.