Taking Out My Trash

TAKING OUT TRASH PIC

TAKING OUT MY TRASH
BY
DAVID ARTHUR WALTERS

What a writer should or should not throw away, that is the question. Dedicated to Humpty Dumpty

“Writing is knowing what to throw away,” is an old cliché. But I seldom throw anything away. If I trust my initial creative instinct, I know I can somehow salvage almost anything I originally produced, no matter how awful or boring it may seem after I have fallen out of love with it, perhaps because I grew tired of it, thought I could do better, or was just in a bad mood.

Would anyone end a marriage or throw a baby away on a fleeting feeling or whim? Many fine manuscripts have been tossed into the fire on a whim much regretted thereafter. I recall rooting around in the garbage on the curb for a manuscript I had deemed worthless the day before, as if my life depended on finding it. Never again, I told myself.

On the other hand, I think a visionary artist, an artist who has a vision of what he wants to represent, should know what to keep and what to throw away. Surely he would agree that, “Sculpting is knowing what to throw away.” He would have an image in mind in the first place. We would not find him scrounging around in the rubble for his Humpty Dumpty, for, as every British school kid used to know very well, Humpty Dumpty can never be put back together again; you have to start from scratch and forge a better cannon to mount on the wall.

Yet here I am trying to patch up and paste together a few paragraphs torn out of another context and pack-ratted away to my miscellanea file because I deemed them mistaken or superfluous to that instant occasion, yet thought they might be good somewhere else. I think I should have thrown them away; the reader may judge by this result. Indeed, I believe I shall start throwing away more of my work, putting it forever out of sight if not out of mind. Maybe I have done too much pack-ratting and backtracking with my whole life, and, in the process, I have avoided that life which always wants something new, always wants the future goods and not the past mistakes.

I once told myself that I trust my creative instinct and keep everything I create. But why should I not trust my destructive instinct, instead, and burn the trash instead of saving it?

My old roomy saved all his junk mail in paper bags in his bedroom just in case; in case of what, I never knew. And now here I am, rummaging through my private garbage can of miscellanea trying to find the life I threw away. I want to salvage the mistakes, rework them, edit them, and then maybe everything will be all right. But chasing after and trying to correct past mistakes is a dangerous process and can be an even bigger mistake. Take the Bush War on Iraq II for example. The outcome may shed some light on my dilemma, and I certainly hope I live long enough to see the light.

I suppose a sculptor should have a form in mind, to begin with, and have available a way to chisel it out of the mass. He begins with the end in mind and has a technique for getting there. There is no question, then, of what to keep and what to throw away. Discipline is required for the painstaking process of reaching a certain end. But that has not been my modus operandi; perhaps that is why I have not produced a great work of art or even a life worth appreciating.

Every production is an essay for me; that is, an essai or ‘trial.’ Only a few come through with flying colors. Many starts are false and more are unfinished. My internal rebel insists on doing what he wants to do at any given moment.

Goal, you say? What goal? The rebel in me lives at random. He just says “no” to goals! I am always cleaning up after him and trying to make something of his mistakes. Take this trash, for instance.

Aurora My Love

AURORA MY LOVE by David Arthur Walters

Love, though for this you riddle me with darts, And drag me at your chariot until I die, – Oh, heavy prince! Oh, panderer of hearts! – Yet hear me tell how in their throats they lie Who shout you mighty: thick about my hair Day in, day out, your ominous arrows purr, Who still am free, unto no querulous care A fool, and in no temple worshiper! I, that have bared me to your quiver’s fire, Lifted my face into its puny rain, Do wreath you Impotent to Evoke Desire As you are Powerless to Elicit Pain! (Now will the god, for blasphemy so brave, Punish me surely, with the shaft I crave!) – Edna St. Vincent Millay

We speak of the power of love. What is love? Love is life. Whose life do we love most of all? We love our own lives most of all, and so selfishly do we love them that we might identify life with ways of living and destroy the world with us in it to save our lifestyles.

“Man knows that there is such a thing as love,” averred Emanuel Swedenborg, “but he does not know what love is. He knows there is such a thing from common discourse … when it is said that a man loves this or that. But although the term love is thus universally applied in conversation, still there is scarcely any one that knows what love is.”

My beloved blue-eyed and blonde Aurora abandoned me, wrecking my lifestyle. She drove away one snowy morning in her red pickup truck, never to return. The last I saw of her presence was the cloud of white exhaust behind her truck. I sent her a birthday gift, a handmade knife with handle elegantly carved from walrus penis and inscribed, “Love Forever”, but it was too late to pierce her heart. She had married the wealthiest man in town, her lawyer, a prominent neoconservative Republican, on her birthday. No doubt she was happy with him until he started beating her. The nurse I am presently dating attended to her in Intensive Care. No charges were brought against him. I recalled how she had once turned to me and said, ever so sweetly, “Honey, do you love me? Wouldn’t you like to hit me?”

I wanted Aurora to miss me as much as I missed her, to be as miserable over our parting as I was. So whom did I really love? I loved myself mostly. Well, sometimes I loved Aurora almost as much as myself, because somehow she was just like me, albeit a foot shorter and female. But what is love? Love is my life, or yours, if you so please.

“Love is his very life, not only the common life of his whole body and of all his thoughts, but also the life of all their particulars. A wise man may perceive this from the consideration, that if the affection of love be removed, he is incapable of thinking and acting.”

I boiled in my own blood after Aurora was spotted landing the lawyer’s Cessna and necking with him at the airstrip. I thought of nothing else for quite awhile. I most certainly loved her – I could not deny that intense longing of mine. I loved her so much that I thought I could not live without her. I suffered unbearably from her absence, as if I had just been run through with a red-hot iron. If it were not for my suffering self, she would have been my worst enemy.

“Love therefore is the heat of the life of man, or his vital heat. The heat of the blood, and also its redness, are from this source alone. The fire of the angelic sun, which is pure love, produces this effect.”

In fact, my fervid poems, consigned to the fireplace long ago, demonstrated that she was my whole kit and caboodle. I admired her gumption, but was afraid of it too. Her first abusive husband had pistol whipped her in Fairbanks one night. After he fell asleep, she blew his head half off with two shot gun blasts at close range. I met her at the courthouse cafeteria in Anchorage; it was love at first sight, so I asked her to go bowling with me, and she accepted. The lawyer she married after she left me got her off the murder charge. She became my anchorage in Anchorage, and I believed I was hers when I embraced her time and again. But something else was going on, and she forsook me.

Should I have stalked her down and recovered my world by destroying it with me in it, that no one else might have had what I loved to hate, the very pain of our separation? No, for after due consideration of whom I loved most of all, I knew she was not everything, not at all, nor did she feel my pain. I could not, in all honesty, be so absurd as to forever ruin the world, for I am the world, as far as I know, and the world, before all, must persist, must survive all who walk upon it, for that is its nature. And now my world has many potential lovers, which makes my love all the more interesting.

She was not my life, really, nor, as it turned out, was she its best friend. If it had not been for my true love, my saving grace, namely my life, the memory of her might have been my worst enemy unto death, and I might have gotten my friend’s assault rifle and the dynamite from the quarry and visited the lawyer’s estate.

O, how the cosmos defined her countenance when she ventured forth from the cave by the moon! And I bore witness to same. She animated my existence with her powdered face, her dark eye shadow, twinkling earrings and starry crown. I was the main attraction, or so I thought, about whom she would forever orbit.

Somehow the world got in the way. I could not see myself in my shadow. She spun out of control behind my back. I am no longer the man in the moon. I had only myself to blame for the consequences, for my regrets. I made myself miserable and I called my misery love. Why did I make myself miserable?

I don’t blame her at all, not anymore, for I have come back around again, to love the world that I am, the world that is my life. And now I can no longer remember her face, although I recall the cosmetics.

Again, lest I forget myself and play the fool again: What did I actually love the most? An honest answer is called for, if I would be true to my self. My true love was my very life. I thought I needed another life, part friend, part foe, hopefully the former more than the latter, to love my life, but I loved it all along, therefore I did not have to go downtown to destroy the world to save it.

Now I am glad she left, for her departure proves our differences and reveals the nature of my love. I loved her because our differences defined me, my true love, and that is why I shall love another as well as her or even the more so. If I were identical to the contingent object of my love, if I had been at one with her, I would have had no identity of my own – I surely would not have been as I was without her resistance, and there would have been nothing left to love. Seeking omnipotence in the bliss of irresponsible ignorance, we might have died in fatal embrace, we might have taken each other with us, and nothing would have remained of our existence for us to love.

At last I mentally bade her well: “Fare thee well, Northern belle.” I had loved her well in the pain of our parting, for I loved my own misery, the misery of the self that dared to extend its love to another. There may or may not be others for me, but all shall be well as long as the difference between us remains, for the individual would persist forever, if only it could, even beyond the grave, for love is its life.

Have faith in yourself, for you can live better without the lover who takes flight, or the lover from whom you might fly. If you understand and accept whom you really love, and fly from love to love for love’s sake, you will have as many lovers as you please, and one might unexpectedly stay, much to your delight. Even when you happen to be home alone, you may love the one whom you love most of all, and rejoice in your life.

Quoted:

Emanuel Swedenborg, Delitiae Sapientiae de Amore Conjugiali post quas sequutur Voluptates Insaniae de Amore Scortatorio – ‘The Delights of Wisdom of Conjugal Love; to which is added the Pleasures of Insanity of Scortatory Love’ (1768)

Anonymous Writer Sponsored by U.S. Government

ANONYMOUSE ANNIE by David Arthur Walters

Many writers are possessed by the writing urge at a very young age. While some children, secure in their cocoons, fear flying, others, perhaps bored or appalled by present circumstance, spread their wings when imagination buds and seek refuge in the glories of thin air.

An anonymous playwright. whom I shall call Annie, confessed in an article entitled ‘What the WPA Did to Me’  in The Forum (Feb. 1938), that she desired to become a creative writer when she was a young girl. After she left school, she occupied herself with commercial writing jobs. The imposed work dulled her desire to do her own, creative work. Nevertheless, she felt sure she would have been a commercial writer to the end were it not for unforeseen circumstances.

“With whatever lack of interest I regarded my work,” said Annie, “I was steadily employed and did little writing for myself. Then came 1933, the bottom of the depression, and no more jobs were to be had.”

Annie had some money saved, so she wrote a novel. She agreed with the publishers that her novel was “a poor one.” She felt she was not cut out for being a novelist, “But my creative urge, long stifled and defrauded, had been given a chance to breath; now stronger than ever, it moved me to try my hand at a play. I finished it and saw that it, too, was poor.”

However, an experienced playwright encouraged her, giving her a few pointers. She decided not to waste her time and precious money looking for unavailable jobs, but to apply for relief:

“There followed three blissful months when, installed in a cold-water flat, the bare necessities of life assured me, I had nothing to do but work on my play. When it was completed, I took it to an agent, who accepted it with enthusiasm.”

Annie applied for a job with a playwriting project under the newly organized federal arts projects, submitting her play as proof that she was in fact a playwright. Her application was accepted; she was given an assignment to write a play about American history at a weekly salary of $23.86.

“I went about with a beatific expression. What a wonderful government was ours, which subsidized us to do the work we loved and then let us keep the fruits of that labor for our own!” she exclaimed.

The government lawyers, however, said plays produced on government time must be government property. The Dramatists Guild put the lid on the coffin, insisting that the artists must retain rights to their produce. Wherefore Annie’s blissful project was abolished. But not to worry, she said, for, “the government nevertheless was in agreement with the opinion that the only way to rehabilitate a man is to allow him to work at his own craft, thus to retain or recover his skill and accomplish something that may help him to be reaccepted by private employers.” Annie the play writer became a play reader for the Play Bureau of the Federal Theatre.

Annie was not very interested in being rehabilitated in order to work for private employers. However, for she managed to do her federal work in a couple hours a day instead of the usual five, and devoted the rest of her time to working on her historical drama, to which she would now have all rights. The managers wanted options on her first play, but it was too expensive to produce. Broadway took an interest in her second play, but, alas, it was not commercially oriented.

“I am not commercial-minded. I know very well what the producers want but cannot bring myself to do it. My commodity has no market. I have the will to fail,” our independent-minded WPA playwright honestly stated, knowing full well that no external economic obligations should be imposed on free artistry. After all, economy is of this grave world, the very tomb from which the butterfly takes flight to ride the wind for thousands of miles to unite with her true love. Mediocrity is painfully plain to see in some sorry art interested only in a career instead of the beloved Work painstakingly produced yet joyfully created.

Annie proceeded with her third play and finished it. Her agents said it was a fine play, but they refused to handle it because it was difficult to sell. Since she remains anonymous and her work is unknown to us, we have no way of assessing its merits. Perhaps the agents were at fault, or the public was not quite ready to make the investment.

“With three plays written and no production in sight, I have not the heart immediately to start on play number four. I am taking a breathing spell to write this article and to think.”

As for the WPA, “It has been driven home to me that mine is a talent which, had there been no WPA and no arts projects, would never have had a chance to develop. Only a person of independent means can afford to cultivate a marketless talent…But there was a WPA…that talent…was nurtured to maturity by emergency home and work relief.”

We do know what happened to anonymous Annie, whether she went on to become a successful playwright or writing teacher, or whether she failed miserably and took to drugs or drinking heavy, winding up in a institution, or whether she became a housewife or secretary or five-and-dime clerk, and so on.

“Well, can I be content again with ANY commercial job,” she said, “of whatever nature, that lasts for eight hours a day? No, by God, I can’t and I won’t. I am a playwright. The government recognizes me as such, and producers have assured me that I have an authentic dramatic talent. I have long ceased to be a hack writer…”

Doctor Sagwell by World’s Greatest Unknown Author

DOCTOR SAGWELL

BY

DAVID ARTHUR WALTERS

 

Paul Bowman, the greatest author the world will ever or never know, nearly fainted when the ‘Lady in Black’ came into Wilson’s Bar & Grill on West 79th Street and told him his old friend Robert Sagwell, an analyst whose mentor had been Anna Freud, had died of a brain tumor a few days before, and that he had already been cremated.

This was the second death the Lady in Black had announced to Paul this month, the first one being that of Robert’s friend, ‘Dave the Accountant.’ At that Paul called ‘Robert the Analyst’ to tell him of Dave’s demise, as well as the time and place of the memorial. Robert thanked him for the information.

“So how have you been?” Paul asked.

Robert had undergone bypass surgery a few months before. After considering the dietary approach to his condition, he had opted for the surgery, a decision made easier after a cooperative clerk at Blue Cross altered his plan records to cover the costs. He went into the hospital a few days later. Robert was a “mind over matter” man, and was proud he had insisted on going home two days after his chest had been ripped open.

“I’m not feeling so well at the moment,” Robert replied, coughing.

“A cold?”

“Yes.”

“Me too.”

“Paul, we should get together soon.”

“I’ll give you a call.”

But now this, at Wilsons, from the lady in black:

“I’m sorry your friend Robert is dead.”

“Oh, no!”

“You didn’t know?”

“No,” Paul felt faint.

“I saw him at Dave’s memorial. He didn’t look good. He had a patch over his right eye. He had a brain tumor. He was buried on Saturday. My friend at the mortuary said only his family was at the funeral. He was cremated.”

That made sense, thought Paul, struggling to get a grip on himself, for Robert, although from a Jewish family, was fond of fundamental Buddhism and had often expressed his belief in the annihilation of the soul.

At first saddened by the tragic news, Paul then became angry he had not been told. But Robert’s silence as to his impending death made sense too, for he liked to be perceived as a strong authority, not the sort of man who would ring up his friends to tell them he was dying.

Robert was well-off, did not get along with his family, and had known very well that Paul was hurting financially. Robert recently asked him “a hypothetical question.” How could a large sum of money be transferred to a friend if he died? One might put it into a joint account with that friend, he suggested. The very next day they quarreled over a trivial matter, the pronunciation of the word ‘oxymoron.’

Paul was insistent, and his pronunciation was correct. Robert, a Yale graduate proud of his literacy, was deeply offended by the diminishment of his authority. That was the last Paul had seen him.

“What a moron I was,” Paul chastised himself. “I should have let been nice, and just let him think ox’ymoron is correct!” He added, only to feel guilty for thinking he could  have had the money.

Paul knew he would miss his old friend. He loved to visit Robert at his lofty and spacious rent-controlled apartment on Riverside Drive overlooking the park and the Hudson River. Robert was paying six-hundred a month for the grand old flat, much to the chagrin of the condominium convertors who valued it at nearly a million, if only they could put it on the market. He had refused to buy the unit. He believed a collapse of the real estate market was imminent, soon to be followed by the fall of the civilization he felt was rapidly declining with his advancing age. Besides, at sixty-something, he had no heirs he wanted to speak of, least of all in a will: he had been born into a wealthy family and was well-taken of, but he was unloved or loved coldly, hence his familial relations where chilly at best.

Despite his frigid familial relations, Dr. Robert Sagwell was a sociable bachelor who did not neglect his own life or the lives of the many friends whom he loved. He was a wealthy man who appreciated wealth well enough to pinch pennies. He went to considerable current expense to remodel his Riverside Drive apartment and to generously entertain his guests therein. Those expenditures were offset by the savings he realized after he vacated his rented office next to the school playground a few blocks away on West End to take up practicing his profession at home.

The shouts of children playing at the West End office had disturbed his sessions with patients, but the deciding factor was the fecal matter burglars had left behind in the toilet while he was in the Bahamas for a two-week vacation one hot summer. He was shocked by the anal development when he entered his office upon his return and was confronted by the odorous ordure, as he called it. Manhattan’s stifling, humid weather, unfavorably compared that year to the Amazon jungle’s climate, had done its work. Crime scene investigators ascertained from the colors of the unflushed evidence that at least two burglars had violated his rented domain. He said he would never forget the unbearable stench polluting his desecrated office as he packed his things for his exodus. His forfeited rent deposit took care of the subsequent fumigation of the demised premises, which is now a chiropractor’s office.

After Dr. Sagwell evacuated his West End quarters, one room of his expansive flat on Riverside Drive served as his professional office. Upon one wall there he mounted a self-portrait he had painted while dabbling in art therapeutics. A young woman was depicted sitting in a chair, behind which the good doctor towered, gazing down on her, with his hands on her shoulders. He said she was an old flame of his, yet she appeared by virtue of her features to be closely related to him, perhaps his double. The “experimental painting” would become an embarrassment after several patients said the woman in the painting looked like him, so he eventually removed it from the wall.

The good doctor had otherwise equipped the office with a firm but comfortable couch for the analysand to recline or sit on during forty-five minute sessions. He was fond of sitting on it himself during leisurely hours, rubbing shoulders and legs with a friend, casting off his official authoritarian role to chat freely and munch snacks as an equal to all.

Nearby the couch was a small desk and typewriter, an unabridged dictionary looking quite formidable on its own slender pedestal, and a peculiar chair upon which he perched during his psychoanalytic sessions. This “Ortho Analysis Chair” had no back. The analyst must wrap his legs around two of the three legs of the chair, which, of course, comes with postural instructions to the effect that, if the instructions are followed to a ‘T’, then mind and body will be in the harmony best suited for psycho-analysis and -therapy.

Now the reader might not be surprised to hear that Doctor Sagwell was into the Alexander Technique, yet the same reader might deem the doctor’s occasional interest in crystal therapy rather odd. Indeed, his Freudianism was unorthodox, extending beyond the Jungian heresy, transcending the frontiers of the unconscious in order to know to the Unknown. His practice was nevertheless in accord with the demand of his patients, all bourgeois neurotics. He referred the few seriously mentally ill people who came his way to competent specialists.

Although his fortune was already assured by the inheritance of a goodly fortune, with even more to come after the impending death of his mother, he did not mind if his clients added to it. Still, he charitably provided accelerated therapy pro bono to humble members of the homosexual community whom he occasionally met behind the boarded windows of the Black Saddle Club on Amsterdam Avenue. He said he believed homosexuality to be perverse but not immoral. He had developed a therapeutic technique designed to help anxious gay men “adjust.” Paul became suspicious of his friend’s true orientation one evening after the doctor’s hand had “accidentally” alighted on his thigh during a conversation.

Paul Bowman had known Doctor Sagwell for many years, commencing some time before the doctor was a doctor, when he was just “Bob,” in the Sixties. Bob smoked pot back then, became confused, went into analysis, and was so impressed by it that he decided to become an analyst himself. Paul looked up to Robert as an authority on mental matters, and allowed him to practice hypnotism on him.

Now, in the Nineties, we find Paul nearly homeless after committing the usual economic suicide, visiting Robert in his flat. They sat in the living room for awhile admiring the Sun setting over New Jersey – it was a marvelous spectacle – then they retired into Robert’s home office to sit on the couch, munch snacks and chat freely.

“Paul,” said Robert in a deep voice, “you are a very talented and flexible man. You can play whatever role you set your mind to, and you will be successful if you stick with one role for ten years.”

“I believe I shall become the greatest author the world will ever or never know.”

“Every frustrated author is one or the other. You may be far from the greatest, but if you keep writing for ten years at one stretch you will vastly improve your mental powers, be much happier, and die a millionaire if you want the money.”

“My freedom is in not wanting it.”

“That will help make you great, and in the end you will have it, like it or not.”

“Then I could better serve my readers.”

“There is one thing you must remember.”

“What?”

“Remember that you ran away from home for good reason, and that you owe your father absolutely nothing. Only then will you stop throwing everything away on the verge of success.”

-To Be Continued-

Boredom Can Kill – War Breaks the Monotony

BOREDOM PIC

BOREDOM CAN KILL
BY
DAVID ARTHUR WALTERS

I agree with Kierkegaard: boring kings should abdicate, and boring prime ministers and boring journalists should be executed forthwith. Boredom, quoth Kierkegaard, and not indolence, is the root of all evil.

Please mind you that I am speaking figuratively, not literally. Such a precaution was once unnecessary, but in this day and age when the difference between the actual and the imagined often goes unnoticed, our metaphors might in fact result in the assassination of a few journalists if not a prime minister and president – the war-mongering leaders are often most popular.

Indeed, bored intellectuals often use figures of speech to incite people to riot and revolution. For instance, if your taxes exceed twenty-five percent of your income, you are in ‘shackles’ and are no doubt being “whipped” by tyrants, no matter what you are getting in return for your percentage, so a tax revolution is in order.

By the way, the prisons you see simply exist to deceive you into thinking that you are free so you will not mind your boredom on the job; or off the job, as you hurriedly consume leisure as advertised.

Yes, ma’am, you really are in prison, you know, but you cannot see the walls, therefore revolt.

But humans do not need radical revolutionaries to persuade them to mayhem and murder: they already have leaders who will capitalize on massive boredom. Indeed, many people are bored with formal life and they would fain freak out, cast off the social mold and kill one another in the name of something or the other if not for nothing. That is nothing new, and war is not really unique to our race: apolitical students of animal behavior have noticed wars between such creatures as hyenas, for no apparent or known reason such as territory or mates. If hyenas could talk, they might say they were just bored to death with life.

Of course we humans make an art out of war and write books about it. It used to be a sort of invigorating tonic to bleed tribes and nations that they might rise to manly virtue. Today we hear widespread complaints about the feminization of civilization again; perhaps another world war is imminent.

Now that technology has made total annihilation feasible, we think we want world peace; but if we had it we might get so bored we would not know what to do with it, then all hell might break loose again so that the fittest among us, the young and strong, might be decimated so that the old weaklings in high places may remain there and hand down wealth to their families so they will not have to struggle for survival of the fittest. We cannot blame them for sending other people’s kids to death to alleviate their boredom.

Boredom does have a certain negative motive power which can in extreme cases lead to war, just for the hell of it if not for some relative moral cause. Universal love will not do for long when violence is wanted: hate-others-based group-love will suffice for bloody conflicts with enemies. That is not to say that war is natural, necessary, inevitable, although maybe it is.

Please do not start a war on my say so. I do not want my words to harm anyone. I was recently alarmed to hear that my “(expletive deleted) opinions have already killed people inside.” I recalled that many suicides were attributed to Goethe’s Werther. My investigation revealed that my words were not as lethal as I had imagined, and the complaint had been a figurative phrase, referring to the hurt feelings of the identities of a single person, and not to the death of members of the external association.

Good. I detest bloody warfare. I prefer virtual warfare. I do not mean football games or video-game battles. You see, my thing is the angelic struggle against the beast-in-me – beast and angel are formalities of which I am equally fond, yet I rise above them, as the spirit of their relationship.

Thinking is my thing lately. I say it is my thing but I know it is not mine, not my sole possession: my thinking is borrowed from the encyclopedia of civilization. I am just another reader and writer, an open processing system.

The more I think, the more I know I am really nobody. Oh, how ironically alienating it is to become fully individualized to the point where one realizes he is in principle an Everyman. Being a literate Everyman can be exceedingly boring nowadays. At least I am bored almost to tears and death, to the very verge of screaming bloody murder, by the functional and objective, third-person, hyphenated-style of writing today, a style that is suitable for a scientific or newspaper report, a technical manual or an honest advertisement yet has become so widespread that it has almost made objective nobodies out of everybody.

I must confess that I am awfully bored with being a nobody. Many of my fellow ostriches prefer to bury their heads in the sand of facts and do not want to know how those facts are related. That must be left to the authorities to say, and they had better say it in the third person: a man complained, “He is no authority! He kept saying ‘I’ and ‘my’, meaning his personal opinion, so what can he know?”

I kid you not. Many of us are not even aware that facts are in fact related events, actions. Thus is the independent thinking of the threatened self deactivated, that it be of little or no threat to the power elite who flip the switches to run the current their way.

Cultural anthropologists admit the psychic unity of humankind again, but not as a world spirit or personal soul: all we have in common now is our on-off switches. Even post-modern intellectuals who love to talk about talk as if talk is identical to god instead of god’s words – even they resort to a linguistic objectivism that diminishes the subjective speaker to blank membership in a multi-cultural diversity that is merely the superficial diversity of shoppers in a gigantic shopping mall.

Everything boils down to: Buy this or that. Never Stop Buying.

Ah, here is yet another “let the reader decide” essay on some pressing issue, written by a highly credentialed author. It is a polished piece. It says nothing new, really. It is biased towards the authorities who own company and country. The ideology is so common it is barely noticeable. The piece is yet another inoffensive rehash of the news that is as boring as the pancake of the brazen hussies and the cardboard suits of the callous men who serve as professional pundits on cable television – to call them ‘philistines’ would insult a superior culture. But do not get me started; as you can see, I am beyond bored, and I do not want someone to get the wrong idea and start hanging journalists and pundits.

Before I finish I must say something about plain language. Although magnificent ideas can be wonderfully expressed in plain language, I cannot stand the universal cultivation of the sort of plain language that passes off inanity as a ‘good read’ or ‘good write’ nowadays simply because someone with the attention span of a gnat does not have the gumption or the wherewithal to think for himself, preferring his switches to be flip-flopped according to the usual program.

How I abhor the boring hackneyed phrases. Nobody seems to notice how boring the phrases are except this nobody who would be the Nobody who put out the Cyclops eye and stole his sheep. Of course culture is founded on a few platitudes, but for heaven’s sake, cannot they pronounce them in a different ways? The higher culture has its exciting intrigues, it mysteries, its enticing ornaments and jewels to break the sheer monotony of plain vanilla. I’m tired of mealy-mouthed oatmeal. On each side of the depressing valleys are peak experiences all readers may aspire too. I love the plains too, flyover countries like Kansas where I grew up on corn, smoked hemp and drank 3.2 beer.

Watchers of television, readers of newspapers and magazines, employees of companies, citizens of countries should aspire to the peaks from time to time, and they probably would aspire to them if boring editors were executed along with the boring writers they assume the bored public wants to read. By the way, please do not take the suggestion seriously. I do not want anyone to get hurt.

Excuse me, I must take another nap.

-XYX-

Alice Packer’s Shadow

Alice Packer’s Shadow

Location: S&M Art Studios, Ltd.

Cast:

Alice Packer: Art Director
Walter Davidson: Senior Vice President
Harry Heckler: Computer Graphics Designer
Sheri Sands: Head Photographer
Susan Sockwith: Fashion Director
Angela Songerson: Human Resources Director

[It was time for lunch. Walter Davidson is about to adjourn the regular Monday staff meeting. Alice Packer had seemed distracted throughout the meeting. She suddenly proceeds to laugh hysterically]

ANGELA SONGERSON: Good heavens! Alice, get a grip. What’s so funny? What are you laughing about?

ALICE PACKER: I’m laughing because I saw my shadow this morning at Raven’s Nest. [She bursts into tears. Angela, stupefied, blinking characteristically, leans over and hugs Alice.]

ANGELA SONGERSON: Holy Moses, Alice, I’m sorry. What are you talking about? [ She continues to bat her eyelashes.]

ALICE PACKER: My shadow is dying to be me and she’s been shadowing me for weeks now. So I go into Raven’s Nest Cafe this morning for coffee and a bagel, and there she is, standing in line right in front of me, chit chatting with people, pretending to be me…”

ANGELA SONGERSON: Pretending to be you?”

ALICE PACKER [angrily brushing away her tears]: Yes, trying to look like a professional art director without even giving me credit. Professional liar, that’s what that hussy really is.

HARRY HECKLER [snickering]: Now, now, sweetheart, you’re just imagining…

ANGELA SONGERSON: Lay off, Harry, and if you say sweetheart one more time I’ll file a harassment complaint. Go on, Alice.

WALTER DAVIDSON: This staff meeting is adjourned. [to Alice, jokingly.] When you said you saw your shadow, I thought you meant you needed a shave. I saw my beard this morning…[Nobody pays attention to him – everyone is gathered around Alice Packer]

ALICE PACKER: I was livid. I tapped her on the back and asked her for her name. “Moana,” she said. I looked the lying hussy up and down, and said, “I don’t know how long you’ve been lurking around the art business, Moana, but you should get a real life. The only person you’re fooling is yourself. You don’t even know what an art director is. Quit being such a wannabe.” Well, she doesn’t say a word, reaches into her fake leather briefcase, takes out and hands me a copy of her portfolio, picks up her coffee and struts out as if her tail doesn’t stink just because men stare at it. So I look at the trash she gave me – it’s a cheap knock-off of my own portfolio, she copied all my ideas!

ANGELA SONGERSON: Even your bio’s are alike?

ALICE PACKER: Absolutely. And my logo too!

ANGELA SONGERSON [blinking furiously]: I feel for you, Angela, that’s really scary. There’s gotta be something you can do? That is outrageous. Oh, let me give you another hug… [Alice backs away.]

SUSAN SOCKWITH [nodding her head sagely]: I know her. She used to shadow me when I was shopping on Fifth Avenue. I’d see her reflected in the window, wearing the same dress as me. Moana is the worst nightmare a woman can have. She will copy your every gesture for years. Just keep in mind that everything this person says is a lie. Would you believe she started taking Qi Gong classes when I did? – there she was, trying to mirror my every move.

SHERI SANDS: I’ve seen her too. She is a pretty but pathetic young woman.

WALTER DAVIDSON:  I think I know your shadow too. Some forger was using my name and style at several studios. I filed suit and got an injunction.

SHERI SANDS: Well done! That’ll teach them!

HARRY HECKLER: C’mon, Walter, we know what was up with that. You signed your name to blank sheets, gave them to your students and forgot about it, for crying out loud!

ANGELA SONGERSON:[grasping Alice’s hand.] She’s not worth thinking about any more, Alice. Frankly, she’s a human leech. The best thing one can do with her is ignore her and smack her down when she comes around. There’s nothing she can do, really. She’s just your shadow and can never be an true art director like you. Come now, let’s have a long lunch together – Walter won’t mind – it’s on me. [all file out of the meeting room except Walter, who stays behind to write up the Minutes.]

-Curtain-

High Misdemeanors

HIGH MISD PICTURE

The Author at Manoa Campus

HIGH MISDEMEANORS

18 December 1998

by David Arthur Walters HAWAII CORRESPONDENTS

Honolulu—I feel the profound faith, yet when I hear the word “God” being vehemently hurled from the preacher’s throne like a punitive thunderbolt, so emphatically pronounced with its vowel extended in a U-shaped lilt by a frantic minister jabbing at some moral point in empty space with his stiffened right index finger while waving his clenched left fist, I feel that a misdemeanor is being committed, a crime that could, unless the case in point is adjudicated by the justice of the peace in accordance with good reason and common sense, lead to felonious misdeeds under the dubious cloak of spurious religion.

Too much blood has already been shed under that baleful disguise, and it continues to abundantly flow at some distance east of here almost on a daily basis. It is as if the earth has an unquenchable thirst for blood in that exotic realm where fine moral distinctions, invisible to us, are to them matters worth killing for. We can see the masks covering the nostrils of those who search the carnage for their relatives, but the ghastly smell of that death is thoroughly masked for us by our antiseptic media. We feel immune to the artificial causes of that premature decay even when our own self-elected moral authorities come out of the shadows where they lurk in bitter resentment and insidious envy, and proceed to seize the opportunity to drag us ever so hatefully, yet with beatific smiles on their faces, through the dirt of those interpretations that they attribute by projection to their manufactured idol in order to save themselves from personal responsibility. Such is the path to the graveyard of desire.

It is ironic how many fighting men have died for quiddities with promises of resurrections to Paradise made to them under solemn oath still ringing in their ears, an oath fervently sworn to as an absolute truth by the very same men who are quick to condemn perjury as a sure route to Hell!

In view of that blood-drenched, exotic ground where men murder each other over obscure niceties, it would be apt for us to elevate the aforementioned misdemeanor to the status of a high misdemeanor; that is: an act expressing criminal contempt for supreme authority, committed by a person who claims high office. May we join in impeaching the sanctimonious man who, with reference to the word “God”, proudly elevates himself above the law of the land, and upon survey of the dirty details necessarily beneath any universal ideal, self-righteously pronounces and denounces the sins and prescribes retributions? Fortunately he, whether he be a fraud or merely negligent, cannot fill his pious prescriptions; however, his influence, in the absence of reason and the virtues of the very religion he unwittingly defames, can be most pernicious, as I have indicated without reliance on or reference to any authority superior to my naked personal opinion.

And that is the point, that honest and informed opinions must be our guide, and not some hateful neurotic ideology erected as a wretched defense against the anxiety of our contradictory existence. The more freely those opinions are expressed, the more informed they shall become under the influence of our self-critical modifications of the public criticism. Only when we have been disillusioned of the fraudulent appeals to a contrived ultimate authority shall we be free to live in the most satisfactory ways and look to the future with hopes not poisoned by the ill-conceived and truly blasphemous condemnations in the name of “God.”

Finally, for any one of us to name the ineffable, and to place the ineffable into a nominative case with nouns, is merely absurd, but to profess to judge others with the authority of the ineffable is certainly an impeachable offense, and those who fail to make the charge may themselves be impeached for the imprision of a high misdemeanor.

David Arthur Walters