Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Laundromat as reading library for Nihilism and other personally pessimistic philosophies (or Who Will Lead the Charge? Not me).

Jesse S. Mitchell

first part, About the birds in the Airhere

Don’t break rank.
William Saroyan and Kurt Vonnegut, Virginia Woolf all sitting stacked on my desk.
I had to go to the Laundromat yesterday.  I am fairly sure that early trips to the Laundromat made me a nihilist.  All that bright white light digging into your skin, trying to eat out your eyeballs.  All those bleached rebleached chipped white vinyl tiles all stacked together on the floor with thick black lines in between, all running one way and then another until its all wavy and blurry, like forest fire and you lose your mind.  And in the front of the building a long big window with a elongated thick crack all through it.  Horizontally.  The crack was thick because the glass was thick and the very broken edge was clearly visible both top and bottom and you could see inside it a perfect reflection of everything happening inside the Laundromat and also everything outside the window, overlaid and hazy and flipped upside down, both ways, facing each other.  A provocative sight to a sensitive sort.  It is just this kind of thing that will make a person lose all faith in humankind. It sucks the soul away.
Yesterday, there was a new addition to further deepen the already sophisticated gloom and wretchedness of the place.  A television.  Not only a little grey box of blathering mercantile fuzz but a big one, a flat one, a loud one.  Loud enough to drown down even the mechanical hum of the tumbling dryer drums.  Some recklessness, some party political broadcast gone twisted and left to linger too long.  The kind of thing sensible minds are being made to endure all over this world since everything became merchandizing.  We got a file on you.   Know how you shop, how you vote.
I swear I heard a voice utter condemnation for every human ill, snake oilers, traveling circus tent preachers…, ears all piqued, all jealous.   Parasites.  I clearly heard that one.  I love the old chestnuts.  The swastika memories of these sad heathens that choke and surge down our streets, run long, they do…
It’s a fabulist’s  world anyway.  No one ever learns a thing, gets a punch line.
Like in front of the Laundromat, on the other side of a spiraling curve of the oddly circular road  between them stands a small globular park. Not a playing, bring the kids, kind of park, but one with neat lanes and short tasteful markers and one gigantic statue of a miner.  A coal miner in fact.  The major occupation of this area when it was still a job.  It is still around, in bits.  It is basically slavery is what it is…but not to the terrible limits, not yet.
But this is where I get off the boat.  This is where humanity and I usually part ways.  Because to most people, especially locals, it is some spot of at least half-hearted reverence and a little bit of pride.  To me, it is definitely in the running for one of the most legitimately depressing places of all the Earth.
You can walk up the sidewalks and paths and almost stand directly in the center. Past the scrubby boxwoods and quasi-feral rosebushes planted beneath the statue base and get yourself quite nearly smack dab in the middle, pause for a breath and look all around you, up, down, everywhere.
   But what does that tell you?  You are at the center of the universe?  Your universe?
And to most people who ever lay eyes on it.
How awful.
I have no pride in that at all.
I have no idea for sure where I was when I first realized I was all alone.  We are all alone.  I could have been on the cloudy banks of Iona or Skye, the ocean water mere inches from my feet, gray fog rolling over in billows.  Soundless.  On some solitary stroll when I first looked up and observed the heavens and noticed they were naked, devoid of any divine reflection.
I could have been there, quantum physically, but I wasn’t, never have been.  And a good thing too, I think it would’ve killed me, pulled me out of myself and left me like a fish to drown in the unfriendly thin air.  But instead when that realization came to me, I was surrounded by family and friends, in the normal course of my daily life.  This is the way such things should happen.  Such shocks to the system must be singular and must be buffered by stiff reassurance.  
It is also not wise to deal with life alone.  And I do not.  I have a large family.  A wife. Children.  All of them better and more talented than me.  More of that old time brilliance, glorious.   But far from threatening me, it relaxes me, relieves me.  I am free to be dimwitted to the very end, released.  Neil Innis singing in the background, playing the piano.
One should not look at life alone.  And one should not look at life from any bizarre angles or from afar. Not from top or from the bottom or sideways, glancing.  If you cannot look at life straight on, full on in the face, best not to look at it at all, keep your eyes off it.  Let it pass, like water, don’t bother.  Don’t make a splash or a sound.  Go your whole existence without, devoid of it.  That is if you can, if you’re lucky.
But there is so little life at all to see anymore.  The chance of a set of eyes mistakenly dooming themselves to a subsistence of introspection and insight is so mind bogglingly slight, so small, it is safe to cast about stares anywhere.  But be wary, lest you catch the old bugs of compassion or selflessness, both still communicable by way of hearing or reading.  Not that anyone listens, not that there is anything to read.
But it’s not so bad.  We are all alone together.  We sympathize.  We are in unison.  A lonely herd of ennui-beasts, blood red lips and weepy eyes, two long hands full of fingers slipping and probing into the surrounding everywhere darkness.  Shoulder to shoulder with each other.  We should understand.  We should.
I mean
Imagine trying to be a human being in this world today and all the multitudinous problems this age brings.  But you don’t have to imagine them, you live them, so just recognize them.  And recognition of what it means to be a living thing in a living world and empathy for its troubles, is all it takes to be a human being.
But like nothing more than zombies we wander over the surface of the earth, a cloud of caffeine, amphetamines, and television fumes.  Eyes eaten out by eagles.  Blind.  Groping.  Clumsy with perception and deficient of compassion.  We tear at each other.      
Imagine a thin magnetic film stretched over the surface of a tumultuous planet, pulled tight and held between Heaven and hell or between earth and sky, a translucent membrane, a continuous cloth, all woven together, a vast human field…of atoms and molecules, made of taste bids and finger tips, of the bottoms of feet and the corners of lips.  Just one thing, here we are, just one thing, a human race.
You can’t.  No one can.  We aren’t wired that way.  Not yet anyway.  We struggle and we grind our gears, the best of us even.  But something is amiss. Because as music is just one fire and each note a flare or spark, we too are just one ocean.  But it is tumultuous now, our sea.  That is what troubles me.  One note off and the fire flickers out of control or dies away.  
But enough about that.  In this window with the broken glass, the thick crystalline split makes a clear horizon but veers up into the high left and ends at the top of the corner.  And in that corner a spider had made a web, the web had collected all the sunlight, yellows and reds, like dewdrops and was reflected first in the top edge of the crack, reversed and then in the bottom, right side round but with a million strings of silk making a million lines and glares of refracted light buzzing over both images, everything tied together.  I saw that yesterday.
This is where I keep my fire-eyes.  I have them.  I can use them, see with them.
I use them for discerning.
Between right and wrong
Up and down
Left and right
Life from death.
I coil my fingers together in my lap and rock slightly in my chair remembering the sensation.
But recollection of sensation is not creating, is not writing...  
But it is a start, a solid start.
And imagine yet, me, in the act of creation, having to put my hands in all of that, make something of it, pull something out of it.  Into the swarming midst of it, the Jungian sub-consciousness, like diver bird and come out with a pebble, a rock.  And build on it.
That’s how it is done.  It is an exhaustive process.  An introspective one.  It is a rookie mistake to take too much, or choose the wrong things.  To make the stories too dark, the setting too tragic, the characters too complex.  Nothing is that interesting, so it won’t be real, and if it isn’t real, no one will believe it.  If it isn’t believable, it isn’t read.
So it is best to only scan the surface.  Not trouble the water too terribly, make only the slightest of ripples, observe them out the corners of your eyes, unassuming.  But don’t be boring.  It is just as easy to make a world so perfect and pure, so blue, you give in to all manners of lunacy.  Nothing ever bites back, there is nothing to fight back, everything is crystal clear.
It never ends.
I could have been in the Pampas grasses or on the Okavango or in Muscat under a hundred thousand layers of sky and atmosphere a tiny dusty mite-covered speck of life begging to reflect some light back to some unseen, unblinking eye.   Like a meteor falling out the sky, a rough collection of skin and bone thrown down to earth all alone, left to realize I was on my own.
I could have been anywhere.  I could have been anyone in all of space and time.
I can’t remember where I was when I first knew that I was it, the end, you and me, us, that’s it.  All alone.
But more than likely I was in a Laundromat.

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