A Hope with Despair by Alexander - HTML preview
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A black blob fills the volume of my head; not formless but poorly formed, writhing as an organic infestations of gooey, plasma-like resin that I am waiting for its departure…But it will not leave, at least not upon my command, and God has no interest in my humble infection. It will likely clear on its own, I am sure—I hope. I do not even require the intervention of a doctor or mother or wife. We, the blob and I, are close friends for all time, and as much as I hate the blob, I must believe the blob’s hatred for me arose only in defense of my initial, unjustified anger directed at this poor, unaware creature.
Now the blob, black and gray and slightly shiny, mimics the shape of a mouth with its amorphous and every-changing material substance. What possibly could it be trying to tell me at this time? It sounds like growling or gurgling, but behind these muffled noises I can make out the barest formation of human-like words. They are becoming more clear, more intense and necessary, as if the blob needs to expel a secret of past crimes, a capital sin that infects the blob from the inside. Presumptuous me! I thought the blob was a disease upon me. But wrong, wrong, wrong. I am inside of it, trying to vomit myself into clean air so that I can breathe.
I am on the ground covered in mucinous, black-green slime, able to breathe but only while gurgling through the sticky substance in my mouth. I dream of rest, but the blob continues to ungulate before my eyes, shaking more and more quickly, vibrating in all directions simultaneously and I expect that it will shake itself apart and cover me further with its remains. But the blob relaxes. Why? I must understand the processes that govern its behavior, but why must I ponder even this? A new net overcomes me, this one made of rope and steel, tossed upon my body, weighing me toward the ground. I look up and the blob appears sad, even compassionate about my captivity. The blob had no wish for this outcome after discharging me from its insides. The goal was freedom.
A rainbow bursts through the ground, throwing debris that freeze in mid air. I walk around the broken ground as it hovers before me, looking underneath each piece for something but I don’t know what. Then I strike at the pieces, hoping to break them further.
While spinning in the air I look down upon the previous scene: the compassionate blob, broken ground, and I held captive. My head becomes large; my eyes larger, my mouth a cavern, and I contemplate devouring the entire picture, but instead I look away into nothing, a void with pinpoints of light that might represent a night sky, and I am pulled away and apart, my head stretching as if near the gravity of a massive black hole. I am quickly thinning.
Surprisingly, a flock of birds flutter on top of a blue sky. It has started to rain acid but nothing is burned—we are able to play in the rain regardless of its composition. And I run, laughing at nothing, thinking of nothing, feeling the slippery ionic rain on my fingers. I rub it into my face and expect my skin to peel off in response to this noxious chemical, but as I have already said, nothing here is burned. We are fireproof, acidproof, and waterproof; not invincible, but unaffected by the chemical reactions that transform the substance of our being. We remain identical under transformation. Invariant.
Mathematical relations take on solid, physical form; part symbolic expression and part material substance, filling space—they are space—like a length of colorful ribbon. The bonds of the math support me, and I hang above ground by relations that touch me ever so softly. I am frozen here.
Stagnant and comfortable. And so very unsatisfied.
The ribbon wilts in response to my lack of faith and begins to appear sad like the black blob of before. I watch as the mathematical illumination loses form, loses color and light, and coalesces into a compassionate, amorphous shape. I have always been bound by the same thing.
The room and ground appear unchanged, except now there is nothing to see. I am alone without even a body for warmth or to localize me in space and time. It feels as though I have eyes, so perhaps I was mistaken. I am two eyeballs, staggering back at forth, looking at the writer who writes these words.
These eyes can see through my lies. They beg me to continue on with a bit of friendly encouragement.
“Why don’t you continue writing?” they say. Why not indeed. Explanations are unneeded so long as you have friends.
My eyes go shooting off in opposite directions like a subatomic transformation, pair production the physicists call it. We are truly alone now, but for some reason I use the plural pronoun, assuming that others are watching or perhaps here, in this empty room without walls, with me, alone. I was going to describe the walls as they appear to disintegrate into dust, but before I commit to that picture, I have decided to reconstruct and resolidify the prison surrounding the essence of me. I seem to enjoy being trapped.
Let us place more people in the scene. Well-dressed men and women, cutout figures of actual human beings actually, chat with each other, hold alcoholic drinks in contemporary glassware—stylish martini glasses and the like. Everyone is talking, but like Pink Floyd, I can’t hear what they are saying, nor do I believe that they are saying anything at all. The cutouts move about from side to side, smiling; they seem happy, unaware, and then suddenly develop fangs. One gentleman, expectedly, must be a type of vampire, drinking bloody margaritas, talking louder and louder, always trying to get me to listen. Stop, it says. Then louder, stop!
The cardboard cutouts of actual people slowly fall to the floor, spin for a second, and then disappear.
Plants, trees, and animals take their place, but these organic objects are animate, almost real, lively, joyous. I am in the treetops sitting on the solitary leaf of a fragile branch, aware that this is all like a dream, enjoying the creatures as they move through the foliage. The animals, smiling, ask me to come on down. “Of course,” I reply, and I slide off the leaf and fall hard onto hard and then muddy, mushy earth. I almost sink down but not this time—I’m too careful, too propelled. I’m not even covered in mud this time. It just appears that I am. Mud and flesh flash back and forth on my body, lighting a small patch of jungle like a mud-flesh lamp. Animals hide just beyond the edge of my illumination, curiously waiting for something more to happen, or trying to make sense of this alien spectacle. Am I unwelcome? The animals are neither angry nor frightened, yet nor do they know what to do with me. And why should it be their job anyway?
Spinning, I’m often spinning with vortex lines swirling around me. I am a spinning zebra, whatever that means. I am also tilted.
A square of space expands from the void. In this world, space is composed of only two dimensions; the third is the home of Gargoyles who watch the expansion unfold, but even these creatures cannot see the edge of the wave. I am on the edge of an expanding x-y plane pushing space into itself, trying hopelessly to contain its growth and preserve the void. Space pushes back against my stomach, causing my body to warp under pressure. There are no colors here, and the edge I speak of is only identified by the pathetic mass of mostly water that curls against space’s invisible presence. Still, I have hope. I would not have told you about water otherwise.
A lion mauls my head, but he seems friendly. He is choking on me, trying to wrestle his white fangs free from my skull, so I reach up and try to pull off his mouth. Why does this friendly appearing lion bite me at all? I must have purposely rammed my head into the lion’s mouth, but this action too requires an explanation, and I have little time. I am stuck and in pain while the lion requires food and water—my head is not a suitable meal. We struggle together for hours then days without making progress. I have an idea, “Go forward,” I say to the lion, and he swallows me whole. This is what I wanted anyway.
Inside the lion’s stomach I smell that he is not satisfied—or is he simply upset? I crouch to conserve space and then decide to stand, stretching the lion’s abdominal walls from within, seeing the expression of pain on the lion from without. I am full height and walking, unrestricted, but covered in the lion’s skin from the inside and prevented from interacting with the world. We are together, the lion and I.
I no longer wish to write like this. In the morning I had a vision of being melted except for my resilient eyes, but that was a forced thought undeserving of a place here. And then I thought of the initial blob and where it came from. That part was personal, but now there is more: these words, the thoughts of others, and my boredom of the process. I am hoping for a change.
Writing for me necessarily evokes the constipation of writing. I have nothing in common with words. I am a physical being wanting to thrust itself upon the universe, needing to become part of the manifold, and words, these impotent little creatures, are the lifeless carriers of meaning that should be trashed as soon as the meaning is witnessed. (I have since discovered that words are useful, too, you nasty little creatures).
I am waiting for the next vision. Multiple pictures flashed before me, none holding fast except for a field of white noise that I confuse for energy. How do you interpret my meaning? I wonder. Are you a curious face or someone who uses the word ‘weird’
as if that word meant something other than a lack of personal understanding—‘beyond one’s world-theory-experience’ is a fair synonymic phrase.
I am running in the park. I want to say at night, but that is cliché; in truth there is neither sunshine nor darkness. I am sweating and fearful, trying to look behind for signs of pursuit but I can’t manage to turn my head completely around. If something follows, I will never see it, so I decide to stop. The scene zooms out. I remain in focus as a white outline, panting in the park while the camera moves in and out tracing an invisible quarter spiral rotation. There are large, gloved hands holding the camera, and it becomes obvious that I am part of a diorama. A childhood memory of a morning nightmare returns to me. In the dream it is morning as well. I am in bed, awake, listening to deep thuds patterned as footsteps, convinced that a planet-sized creature is lumbering toward me. From bed, looking outside two windows, I see trees and rooftops against the gray sky but no monster. The thumping continues, becoming louder and deeper and I assume closer. I am frightened, but not of death. I fear truth.
I feel guilty about using the word ‘I.’ I desire my experiences to be yours, but fear my self-indulgence and lack of grace will in part prevent our connection. Whoever you think I am, I will not be.
I am a creation in your mind, and whatever attributes you bestow upon this person, they include aspects of my experiences necessarily coupled to and interpreted in within your uniqueness. Your creation will be both greater and lesser than me. We will be similar as well.
A fire burns in the middle of this page; hands reach into the flame for warmth. Others gather near, drawn by the light of many human beings.
Everyone wears earthy colored trench coats, heavy leather gloves, and cotton scarves. These are the homeless men and women that we ignore each day, but they could care less. They have urgent matters to discuss, and as they talk, the fire grows hotter and higher, making music like a choir. A witch briefly shows her face and then disappears—no one notices. People begin to take off their gloves as the warmth of the flame pushes back the cold. We turn around and away from the fire. The talking ceases.
Isolation sets in. Could it be that too much heat prevents connections within electronic circuits and networks of people identically? Cold and hunger at first brought us together. Now we are most attracted to each other by the magnetic force of confusion.
Before, it was a bright streak in the night, although now it appears as an eager, dynamic ribbon, gesturing me to come along for a trip. “Why are you so playful?” I think. I hesitate, and the ribbon becomes angry…no, confused. It grows spikes that twist into ram-like spirals; these must be children of the ribbon. They elongate then dart away. The process repeats again and again, faster after each generation of offspring. I think of a lizard-like dinosaur that must have formed out of the math. It runs away to go play in the jungle.
I am a comet’s head in the cold Alps. Snowflakes fall on and through me—they were supposed to melt, I think. Am I zigzagging through the night sky on a hopeless mission to find another soul? An animal? A village? And I see them all below me, a composite of the creations of the world thrown together in an angry mix, disjoint, disinterested; a collection of objects with nothing in common other than elemental atoms. The atoms alone deserve our praise, clever creatures, for they know how to live in harmony, forming covalent bonds, offering their individual gifts to the universe. I see two tiny atoms, at first unstable yet full of possibility, that upon meeting sacrifice the essence of each other to create a fused organism of greater potential than either atom taken in isolation. Intelligence does not understand—from a moral perspective—what the tiny atom has accomplished. It, intelligence, greedily hoards personal possibility and experience.
Oh miserly mind.
I see two arms shaking hands through a periscope perspective. My immediate interpretation of this scene relates to the bonding of atoms, and I suspect that cultural, physical greetings are intended to mimic the moral perfection of molecules. The periscope moves to the right on a clockwise rotation, revealing a group of living limbs, a mix of arms and legs that perhaps have bodily owners outside of my line of vision. A single head pops up from below.
He has rough blond hair, large round eyes—too large to be human, more likely a cartoon—and a maniacal smile. It is a child’s toy rotating on a stick.
He blinks at me while his mouth remains fixed and frozen. The head morphs into a biological human without hair and barely a head who begins walking away from me through the mass of moving limbs. I am not horrified, but rather pleased at my growing ability to perceive fully formed people.
As I struggle and have struggled, the black blob has grown hairy spider legs and a large circular mouth full of spiky, steel teeth. The teeth chatter up and down as quickly as a chainsaw turns. I am moving slowly toward the open mouth, but it is not me that it wants—my mind is the prize. None of this makes sense because the spider blob already lives in my head; to eat my mind would be to eat its home, but the creature is not deterred and begins munching on my web-like beliefs. It buzzes with a desire for its own destruction. My beliefs are dismantled and swallowed within themselves, passing through the spider’s empty enteric cavity and expelled undigested. Nothing has been accomplished, like eating plastic. Upon reflection, this last phrase refers to all I have written thus far.
Upon further reflection, a day later, I disagree with my former self and stomp on the spider blob which at first resists then pops under pressure. Had I known I had feet I would have done this a bit sooner, but as you know, sometimes I question whether I have limbs or not. It makes sense that an honest mind would be skeptical about limbs; scientifically speaking, the only connection I have to arms and legs are the electromagnetic impulses that migrate through spacetime along linear, subway-like routes. You see, we are not tissue; we are relations between matter, and these wires and levers and pulleys that move when we move are no more than helpful, simple machines that increase our relevance to the universe. The stomach is a different creature entirely. My advice to you: do not bully your stomach—it probably has more consciousness than a chicken, experiences joy, sadness, and loss to a limited extent; and can perform simple arithmetic calculations.
I am again a set of numbers written on a white sheet of paper ‘2 3 8 7 6 3…’ The numbers are different sizes, and rhythmically move in harmonic patterns on the page. They appear to levitate off the page, but remain connected through nearly invisible bonds that prevent full separation. Nor will the numbers ever leave the page; the white sheet allows the numbers to be what they are. The sheet folds on itself, around itself as a mobius strip connected 10,000 times to itself, and the numbers from opposite corners of the page are gently attracted to each other, recursively multiplying, dividing, and subtracting. Functions are a community of numbers that share common cultures, customs, and locations.
But what attracts numbers to each other at all?
Where is the tension that gives rise to change? Page and number must be fundamentally tense, and although numbers are quite stable, there is a law that the more stable a structure, the greater the perturbation of everything outside of that structure. I am drawn into dialectic anxiety.
When will it ever end? And I am not sure what I am talking about. Several options present themselves: these paragraphs, my life, the universe. A shadow crawls on the ground behind you, rises up slowly, silently, and then reaches over to shake your hand.
You refuse and the shadow pleads; it makes dark gestures with its hands and mouth, trying to inaudibly explain the situation from the perspective of a shadow, but you cannot understand the message. One must be educated in the school of darkness in order to communicate with one’s shadow. Only then may you both talk nostalgically as childhood friends about the sun and other sources of light.
I worry too much about what has been written and where this is going, and I know too well that such worries convert interesting thoughts into non-recyclable plastic, yet I have not figured out a robust way to suppress my expectations except to include them in the story itself—not as a confession of my flaws but as a technique to overcome them. Even now, I worry that this method too will fail.
I am reminded that nothing really matters, but at least today, this moment, I see that nihilism is merely a psychological coping strategy for a world that matters too much. In our universe, an exquisitely sensitive organism will be overwhelmed by the onslaught of meaning to the point of meltdown. Nihilism is a useful device that, in times of crisis, constrains and prevents a total systems failure. I believe in both God and Nothing simultaneously, but I must confess; this simultaneity of belief begins to feel like a dynamic God who furiously oscillates between Nothingness and Something, both bound together by a force I cannot yet describe or name.
The screen fills with the white, static noise of a television of old. I have seen this picture before in my thoughts, and many times in waking vision. A bulging circular deformation evolves in the center of the screen, trying to give organization to the unstructured noise. I hear in the static the voices of 10,000 souls talking at once. There are moments when a small voice stands out from the others, and I can almost discern words, or moans, or music in the unpatterned hiss. It becomes an orchestra of percussion, brass, and string; the instruments transiently take shape within an ocean of all frequencies, almost as if the instruments were breaking through the surface of a pool just to play a brief tune for the world before melting away. I am enjoying sound.
There is a short story I must tell you. Why? Because it keeps telling itself to me. A girl without a name walks through life imagining the destruction of the people she meets. The destruction is not abstract in anyway—she sees a man on a plane decapitated by a circular steel blade, and a classroom of fellow students hit by a rocket launcher and then burned.
The images of death are only in her mind, but the people are in fact quite real, for she overlays these mental images of accidental murder, like transparencies, on top of actual people. Some are strangers while others are family or friends. For many years she has played out these scenes with innocent subjects, unaware of committing any crime. Nor did anyone ever suspect that she possessed unacceptable thoughts; her dresses were too clean. Apart from violent images, she is compassionate down to the molecular level. She cannot watch, without crying, the struggle of a worm as it crawls on dry gravel searching for moist, rich earth. She of course has these same feelings of love for all human beings, but the magnitude of suffering and hopeless movement of men and women overwhelmed her empathic organ early on, converting her compassion into a desire for 31
murderous relief. One day she told me that her rage was always directed toward suffering itself and never at the people who speckled her life. I only believed her in part.
A clear sheet of plastic begs for attention. It is partly curled on one end like a rug, and as I look, it begins to roll up more fully. You might think that I was standing on the plastic, but I was not. I am not in the scene at all.
The plastic sheet was the only object in the universe—the void is more apparent now that the sheet is rolled up. I see scattered, small, white, oozing pockets that squeeze out of the void and then rhythmically retract. Is the black blob now white?
Is it trying to get to me, even though I am not there?
The rainbow, it has returned at the mention of truth.
Then it melts. So close.
If the cycle cannot return, then it will choose to stop entirely, extracting perfect revenge upon the parts that attempt to quell it. We must strike a deal, cycle and not-cycle parts. I say, let us work together as one, making fun of the land we are in. But my acceptance of you is not enough, for it presumes our separateness and perpetuates the divide. What is left? I will listen to you, please, give the orders again, but do not mistake my submission for an invitation of infinite abuse.
How shall I insult you, dear observer? Where do your weaknesses begin? Let me see, let me search around these parts, under the table, in the car, under a box. Yes, under a box I found you hiding in a dark closest, listening to those people downstairs. Why did you want to hide from family? It is silly to think it would cause you that much pain, but it would have. Who were you taking bullets for? Who shoots you now?
That girl in the garage…she was yelling at you for something, and you were crying. Who struck first?
And why do you still bleed?
When surrounded by hyenas, one cannot help but develop a taste for rotting meat.
I was on a merry-go-round…by myself?
I was lost, and then found.
I touched the pitchfork of the devil…and grabbed it for myself. I could have taken hell if I wanted it.
I have never rejected what I have done in pursuit of fear. What kind of bias is that? Should not some things done for fear be denied, just as things done for desire? Why do I trust fear so much more than its opposite? In the past, perhaps fear always guided me along the most interesting path. And it is still a good rule of thumb, but the problem, as it has always been, is the avoidance of desire—a logical error on my part. But is not my denial of desire a fear of desire, so to speak? And if I fear desire, then perhaps desire is what I should now approach, but not out of a fear for desire; rather, out of desire’s affirmation.
The wind of the moment lashes between the sheets, without hubris, it denies the solitude of a safe flight.
But no less, I cannot become the multitudes of what I wish I were not, so I languish in despair, reaching for nothing but the wisp of dark threads that surround my room. In contrast to the night, I am what I wish I were—to be an innocent speck on the background of the earth’s crust, deeper, below the core of hot magma lies the sleeping dragon of children, blowing cold smoke in the inferno.