Life in Hypertext
This is the night
song, a dream-show,
an interior monologue overheard to remind us all of what there is usually
hidden or what we don't have time for, in the business of daily life.
Oh, sure, I could go on to describe the day-lillies, waving soft weightless
petals in the empty sunlight, streaming even now around my ears in inverse
black backlight of my computer sun...and as you insist, now the reality
appears: the miso tea with honey and ginger, in a bone pottery mug signed
Bess, '60, hand-formed earthenware glazed in brown with vertical sky-striping;
beside a bowl half eaten of walnut meats; under a circular cameo in
shades of blue of full-mooned lake from
the lookout, sky water and flats, tall firs in the foreground, hastening
down the slope. On the windowsill: a greeting card print of a carved-wood
Dainichi Nyorai, wood with remains of color, lacquer, gilding, height
86 inches, Japanese, 12th century, Fujiwara period. A book on How to
Make Drums, Tomtoms and Rattles--not to mention, in the process, the
resulting or is it rather the causative concept of intertribal
fusion--but to proceed: a catalogue of quality
paperback books; a stringed pair of bears' gall-bladders: mother
and cub, illegal but that's beside the point, who knows when I might
get an offer? an unemployment check, paying me eight dollars an hour
even as I speak; a receipt for a Chinese bamboo rolling shade; an unopened
packet of electrical tape; an Inuit carved hawk, staring out over a
cliff in backdrop overlooking lake again in silver full moonlight, a
line fir scraggly on cliffedge,
its dark brethren waiting below, half-submerged. Four assorted small
stones. And, beside them all, waving to the crowd, tongue out in playful
tease, sporting embroidered vest and guitar-strap,
god Jimi. On other side, a three-foot frond of maple leaves, worked
in metal, shining gold with silver edges. On the opposite side again,
two photos and a stick-on magnet. The black and white shot, a full-moon
tribal scene by firelight, savages athwart lines of loinclothed
zealots with limbs outstretched, a head dancer thrusting loins to
the fire, a drummer
rapt with stick in hand, the women beside him watching gracefully,
at languorous ease. Below that, in color, by sunset pastels, The Ainsworth
hotsprings resort hotel, lighted heated pool in the foreground, half-naked
swimmers smiling in the underwater light. And finally, a word in the
shape of a telephone heralding toll-free service to Bronson Pharmaceuticals.
That said, does this
scene somehow purport to represent the heralded "inward movement
of our time"? Only, perhaps, insofar as "inward" can be
taken to mean into the self, the subjective and personal world of one
person unconnected to the mass. Is this evil, boring, self-indulgent?
critic. Let me get on with my work.
You call this work?
Everyone, you see, needs a boss, even if it gets confused with the inner
Is there no such
thing, then, as that chimera that the working stiff dreams of, to be
his own boss?
Ah, it is possible;
but still, the Boss speaks in his own voice somewhat different from
the playful child, the struggling adolescent, the confident but misdirected
young man, the miserable middle-aged neurotic, the rambling old fool.
I am the critic,
too, you see: you swallow me and you get it all. But, you the reader,
you with the authentically other and therefore reliable voice ask, isn't
that like having to eat the peel with the orange, the seed with the
peach? Perhaps, perhaps. But this is new art, understand, going beyond:
gate gate para gate para sam gate. If you want
something that I can give different from the rest, this is part of the
package. A circumspection. My daughter sez, that's not what it says,
just read what it says, and I say, I can't help myself. Oh, I could,
but its more fun this way, and don't you want to share my cosmic
Now, granted, a
constant stream of self-reflection would get boring after a while, an
endless monologue from one of the list of bores above, the child to
the fool, but here I am now, standing before you as I did embarrassed
before the co-counseling class the other night, saying they want to
be entertained, and I have nothing to say. Yet, here I am some several
pages later--faking it, eating up space, churning up priceless trees
or dirt-cheap pixels, wasting everyone's time and psychic bandwidth
saying the same thing over and over and over and over/
--Cut, sez the
New chapter: the
promise of something new. What do I do best, but ramble on endlessly
about rambling on endlessly about....hold on, there is a concept there...the
concentric symphoney or somesuch...
But wait! sed critic
sez. Nevertheless, there has to be some matter somewhere, some substance,
not just hot air. Who's this hokey honky tryin to hooey? Look at Pynchon
fr'instance, same rhetoric but characterized, set and described within
a context, a history even, story maybe, but anyway not T.P. himself
for godssake in some miserable London flat tapping away at some drudge
of an illuminated typewriter...
And if the character
is me, it should then be okay; I buy the convention FICTIONALIZED,
so as to ascend my paltry self and give you the me-not-me the sturggling
would-be author sturggling with his sturggling would-be self, sturggling...agggghhh!
Said self having
an imperturbable time of it, babbling on like the babbling stream in
Running Wolf Canyon, refuses to die...
So okay I say in
a more benevolent mood, this is his vacation. He doesn't have to listen
to his boss. Maybe this could be a chapter in his book, just for a little
diversionary perspective. Maybe, say, the prelude...
day is a new beginning in this project called Life, my life. Every moment
as good as another in which to begin it. Because if I wait for the perfect
moment, that moment never arrives. But at some point, at the present
moment, I realize that in the beginning, just as the life itself takes
its cue to grow, and gestates
through its first definable stage of preparation, so the life story
must be conceived, and from its seed arrangement of genetic propensities,
allowed to develop as it will.
I begin. In this case, however, I gather backward the story to me,
my pictures and archives and memorabilia, my
collected tales. If they are fictional,
if some are fictional, if they only seem
fictional, if they are confused with dreams or confused as dreams, daydreams
or nightdreams, does it matter? I seek to achieve the distance from
my past equivalent to my distance from any other human being--and in
so doing to reclaim my intimacy with everyone.
"So much for
--A fond pronouncement,
often to be repeated if only implicitly.
Hark back to the
opening line, however, and be forewarned that the plot is spiral,
It's a new day.
And that I may
not mislead, realize that the presumed linearity of the procession of
one's days is so only in the most superficial accounting of the years.
Even there, in a calendular sense, the linearity is not strictly linear,
but of a spiral shape. The nature of the numbering of years decade by
decade, the repeating of months or holidays, or days of the week, or
hours of the day, puts life-time into a matrix which allows movement
in any direction, not just forward with the so-called inexorable march
of time. It's no railroad track we're on, but a star
track emptying into space.
As we end, so we
was born, etc.
thought will do.
I'm in a hurry,
you see, like the white rabbit going off to meet the Queen or engage
in a mad tea party, and I haven't the patience, just now, to dally with
specific plots or descriptions.
I insist on rambling all day long, making polemic pudding out of empty
might have been advisedly excised," sez critic-self, before the
coming onslaught of more deliberate narration,
as I attempt in other venues to climb
the mountain stone by daily stone. But for now, I want to climb
it immediately, and so simply settle for the touristic: the "grand,
spectacular, sweeping vistas," etc. Enticing the reader to visit
and attempting to sell the ticket, but really, intervening critic interjects,
putting on a flim flam show and having no airlines to back it up, nothing
hooked to the other end of this dummy computer. "All this is, perhaps
at best, very engaging--but where does it lead?"
"Oh, but I
have every intention . . ."
of intentions," so the saying goes, but "no carry through."
Just starting cold is all very fine provided one doesn't get cold feet
the first half hour out from shore or camp or home. We need either a
sustaining adventurous spirit to keep us going
all night, or at least a couple of days running in the same direction...or
a better route map to follow, some overall conception
of our itinerary. One or the other.
--sez the critic.
Me, I just work
here. Want directions? You can try the next stop down the line--even
if it is yet another preface...
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