Thursday, June 19, 2014

Invaded by the Marvelous

I could watch Emily Blunt peel potatoes. Last night I got pulled in to "Salmon Fishing in the Yemen." Maybe it's a chick flick. Or maybe it's a fishing movie that also has Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) in it. I'll go with the latter to try to hold on to my man card, loosely.

But something, a line, a thought, struck me. I had been thinking about it earlier in the day, the week, the month, a lifetime.

"She thinks I am genetically programmed to return to dull, pedestrian life," Dr. Alfred Jones (Obi-Wan McGregor) says. The movie is set up with Blunt, McGregor and a sheik trying to do something theoretically possible, likely impossible, possibly making no difference. An act of hubris? Maybe. But an act, of difference, of passion, of eccentricity. An act of faith. An act in the face of dull, pedestrian life.

Rewind a bit. I was thinking of the novels of Charles Williams. His "Greater Trumps" is one of the few academic things I remember from N.C. State. He was tight with Tolkien, T.S. Eliot, and C.S. Lewis. Of Williams' novels, Lewis remarked, "He is writing that sort of book in which we begin by saying, let us suppose that this everyday world were at some point invaded by the marvelous."

Invaded by the marvelous. Boom. There it is. One, a word (marvelous) we should use more often, with or without a Billy Crystal accent. Two, what life lacks unless we look for it. The marvelous.

Rewind a bit further. I am sitting on the back porch Saturday morning, reading Virginia Woolf's "The Waves." The thoughts of one of her characters, Rhoda, go into a sort of ecstatic reverie. It's sustained over two pages, gaining speed with something like, "I see the side of a cup like a mountain... and the brightness on the side of that jug like a crack in darkness with wonder and terror." And then she cranks it up into this:

Yet there are moments when the walls of the mind grow thin; when nothing is unabsorbed, and I could fancy that we might blow so vast a bubble that the sun might set and rise in it and we might take the blue of midday and the black of midnight and be cast off and escape from here and now.

The marvelous. It's what McGregor and Blunt need. It's what Williams dreams up. It is what Rhoda, and maybe Woolf, saw in the everyday. The marvelous can stomp out the dull and pedestrian. Instead of staring sullenly ahead, we might marvel. We might marvel.

Where I want to part ways with Williams and Lewis is the "invaded" part. If we wait to be invaded by the marvelous, we might wind up waiting for Godot. We might spend too much time looking at our watches. We might not seek out the marvelous. We might not look for it, we might miss it standing right in front of us, trying to pull us out of our fu**ing pedestrian ruts.

If you're lucky, maybe you will be invaded by the marvelous. Or maybe you can set out. Instead of marvelous, go active, make it a verb. Marvel.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Pissing in a Slow-Draining Shower: A Monologue As if Told by Sam Elliott

Karma gathers. It hangs around. It's like pissing in a slow-draining shower: it feels good at first, but you just end up standing in your own mess.

It's a lot smarter to piss outside under the stars. That puts your mess in perspective. Head cocked back, steam rising off the ground, measuring yourself with the cosmos. Your piss is soaked into the dirt, no worse for wear.

Karma doesn't care about your morals. Morals come in and out of fashion like bell-bottomed slacks. Karma cares about your soul; your core and what you know there.

I blame jazz music. Songs used to have beginnings, endings, choruses and words. They were clear. Then you take the best musicians and they start improvising. No plan to speak of; they don't know where they're going. Form gets ambiguous, goes out the door. People listen and lose their bearings.

But karma has Santa Claus eyes. It knows your dark secrets, standing over top of you while you sleep, with its big, black boot on your sternum and a bag full of retribution.

That boot can feel heavy if you've filled Karma Claus's bag full for him.

You wanna breath again? Get right with your soul. Don't ask permission or forgiveness. You can't know another's soul, so trying to do what's right for them is like hiking in high heel shoes that aren't your size.

You want that boot off your chest? Don't fill the bag. Know your soul and do right by it.

And next time, piss under the stars.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Making Waves

Virginia Woolf loaded the pockets of her overcoat with stones and walked into the river. That didn't go so well for her. Or maybe it did, since she did what she set out to do. I remember reading "To the Lighthouse" in college and being swept up in her language, her ideas, how it all hung together. And then was done with Virginia.

But a book kept coming up on my radar screen. It would surface, burn hot, have me curious and then subside as some other new shiny object grabbed my attention. But it would always come back. That book is Woolf's "The Waves." I'm a little more than halfway through it.

At base I am a word whore. I love language. Ideas. Stringing them together, they rush over me and take me with them; sometimes to where they intended to take me, sometimes to somewhere completely different, off the map. "The Waves" is a book for word whores. Ideas swim through it.

Now passions that lay in wait down there in the dark weeds which grow at the bottom rise and pound us with their waves. Pain and jealousy, envy and desire, and something deeper than they are, stronger than love and more subterranean. The voice of action speaks.

Let that rush over you. I'll give you a minute. Pain, jealousy, envy and desire, stronger than love. If you don't believe that, try it out, think back. Pain and jealousy, those subterranean, base feelings, will fu**ing override love every time. They will sweep you up and burn you. They can undo almost anything that love can do, in a fraction of the time. They sweep us up in a frenzy. Or they can.

And then there is love. In the background. It's maybe kicked back at a corner table, watching all the base feeling and emotions duke it out in a bar brawl. And once they have exhausted themselves, Love gets up, leaves the waitress a fat tip, and steps over jealousy, envy, pain, over the broken bottles and bloodied knuckles, and walks out. Let's hope Love is the last standing.

I wonder if our capacity for love is constant. If we are born with it, like energy in the Universe, that it just changes form, changes its object, grows and shifts and swirls, reveals itself more and more, if we're lucky, but it's always there in us. I wonder if we can see it reflected back at us in or by certain people. We recognize it. We just know. That someone else's energy or love feels like ours. And we know when we feel it. Maybe that is the big Love.

Or maybe love, like energy, like waves, sweeps us all up in it and throws us around, onto shore, back out to sea. We are at its mercy. Maybe it just throws us into people, randomly, by chance, and our best option is to figure out how to swim, how to surf, to try to go with the waves.

I don't have a clue. Woolf and her waves. That's one small stretch, less than a paragraph, that I read sitting on the back deck, in and out of cutting the grass, drinking a Stone Saison. And I have to stop. And let her words, her waves, rush over me.