Just because we’re sentimental about a household object that used to belong to a grandparent, doesn’t mean the dog won’t eat it while left at home alone all day. To him, a coaster with the Notre-Dame cathedral painted on it is – while not the preferred afternoon snack – quite suitable to chew on.
“To think of all the grand plans you once had”, he says, smiling up at me one day as we walked through the park, with an expression indicating that he is at once a wise sage and a mischevious trickster. “You were trying to be more than you are.”
He’s right of course. I am only a wanderer, like the kind you see sketched on a Chinese scroll, small and off to one side. I am the reader in a chair, in the corner of the bookshop with tea and an apple fritter.
There’s just something about a hot cup of tea and a warm apple fritter, when you’re perched on the shore of the Milky Way, fiddling with the margins that exist only in your mind.
The list in my pocket is where I keep track of all the things I need to remember in order to be responsible.
I rewrite it every few days, so that my mind may freely go about the highly important activity of daydreaming, contemplating, blurring the line between where I end and the world begins.
Because how can I make conversation with the cosmos otherwise? You don’t have to confine yourself to being just the artist – you can be the paint and the canvas as well.
Our creations marinate inside of us, waiting for us to develop enough discipline to bring them to fruition.
They don’t try to dazzle us, or sell us anything – they simply regard us with the deadly quiet of a tiger’s eye, the urgency of the wayward moth, and tremble in their readiness to flutter through our hands.
Eavesdropping on your observations with transcendental accuracy, the gleam of something half-buried catches your eye.
You investigate it as if it were a valuable relic, bring more of it into the light where you can see it, turn it over with a delicate hand.
Working carefully, you begin to chisel fragments of it away with your lead, your ink, your blinking cursor, until its true shape is revealed.
Though I never knew you, I love how – in the old photographs – you look up into the camera lens at what always seems to be the perfect time. You look up from the dials of an antique radio, shadows falling from your eyes across your gorgeous hands. Shadows of patience, humor, vitality, stillness. You look up with a face like an open road along which poetry often travels.
I wish I could see how you moved, behaved, truly, outside the claustrophobic borders of photographs and video cameras. You, and all my other strange dead heroes. The subtleties of your way with driving a car, falling asleep, drinking, smoking, making love. Did you eat rice with chopsticks, a fork, or your fingers? Did you storm out, or gently go your way? Did you wipe your feet on the mat or just walk in? Were you irresistibly transcendent, or just plainly human like anyone? Or were you both things at once, and how many others are both things, and how many others could be, if they could only pull it off?
Seeing reflections of others in yourself, you looked up. Sidestepping with the ease of a professional dancer, you looked up. Beauty and pain in your chest, your abdomen, your arms, your spirit, your throat, you looked up. Sitting on a bench like a weather-worn rambler who drifted into the city on a fortunate wind, you looked up, and watched the pretty people, in the park, among the trees, beneath the sky. The big sky that – whether you were inside or outside – stretched above you all the days of your life.
What have I learned as muddy wet earth became sun-baked became leaf-covered became snow-buried became muddy wet earth? What have I learned by paying attention to Nature (not learning the names of things because they are just names) and in my mind separating out its cycles from the implicit order of Man?
I learned nothing, but there are a million Somethings in the onion of Nothing. There’s the fluid character of Change Inexorable. There’s how Time swells collapses constructs deconstructs reconstructs, how it breathes outside of the bubble containing everything available to our senses, beyond the burdensome clanking chains of reason. Like Art or a poem or a sad old folk song, there is so much more to it. (You see more out of the corner of your eye than when you look directly at it. The corner is less critical.) There’s all the vast open possible space existing in the soul, but due to the limitations of human language and the interference of emotions produced by the brain like radio signals, the only open road to communicating about that space is paved with Music and marked with Art.
So: may we become creative heroes crusading for Art, and master the recipes for carrying on through non-filtered eyes with mountain-goat determination and armadillo grit. Through the gates of all worlds steps the Creative Hero – sometimes a saint among his people, sometimes crucified, sometimes both. May we feel called upon. May we know it is our time. May the great Deja Vu of mythical purpose swallow us into its belly and digest our dreams. May we splatter the world around us with paint music language and the million Somethings. Might as well. When the great silence comes, maybe it’ll make it easier to let go.