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.

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