Craftspeople need studios, workspaces, benches, tabletops, tools. When I look at my desktop, I see wires, devices, stacks of books. Time to invest in bookends. Make ’em or buy ’em. I struggle, though, with guilt, shame, fatigue. A deer lies dead on the side of the road — struck by an automobile last night, I suppose — crows munching its corpse as it festers in the sun. The sight unsettles me — and the feeling lingers even after a truck comes and removes the deer’s remains. Let us assign in the creature’s honor Gary Snyder’s poem from Turtle Island, “The Dead By The Side of the Road.” (Re-reading the poem again at dusk, I mourn the fact that I failed to offer the creature cornmeal by the mouth. I pray to its spirit and try to make amends.)
Utopias are dreamt by those without a home. I must dig deeper. The bad ones have taken us from home. Find that anger. Thus begins the story of the dead-end kid. NO THRU TRAFFIC. Most of reality exists elsewhere, available only via special attention. Beings caught halfway between realms. Would you believe it if I said we’ve been robbed of our personhood? Robbed blind. We see nothing but darkness as we climb from bed each day. But indulge me as I imagine it differently: A beautiful sunrise soundtracked by Locrian on my commute to work.
And when I return home, I slurp food truck ramen in the cool autumn air at a picnic table at a local brewery, the sky a welcome canvas above my head. A time to laugh, a time to weep. Hat tip to King Solomon, Pete Seeger, and Roger McGuinn, I mutter in the awed, half-befuddled voice of hero Ted “Theodore” Logan. He of the band Wyld Stallyns. But my thoughts always drift back to Daphne, to whom I dedicate Alan Vega’s “Lonely.”
Death, man — what a fucking bummer. I close my eyes and picture a contraption on a wall — a hand soap dispenser. I rub my hands together in imitation of a cleansing. We’re coming now upon the verge of the superhuman. The West persists as a place I seek in my skull. Skunk smoke revives my starry eyes. “Where else except in the direction of the setting sun,” asks Fiedler, “can one look for the Great Good Place beyond death, the region where what survives of the human spirit bides forever or awaits resurrection?” (The Return of the Vanishing American, p. 30). The yesterday where we cut down the apple tree. “The world was so big,” sang Miracle Legion,” and I was so small.”
Emo of that sort really appealed to me when I was a young man. Multiples appear and degrade, and then it’s as if multiple TV screens turn off at once. I need to learn to speak BASIC.
Weed helps turn profound emptiness and sadness into lovers lying in bed reminiscing about old apartments, old friends and neighbors, in honor of one of the common threads running throughout the couple’s life together, their dearly departed four-legged companion. Daphne was our greatest collaboration. The one constant. The supreme embodiment of the life Sarah and I built together. The two of us never had the money to own a home or raise kids. But Daphne made up for those. Her bunny hop. Her reverse sneezes. The way she used to urge us to play with her by pushing tennis balls at us with her snout. She was a weird, wild, autonomous little being who nevertheless loved us unconditionally and, through her evolving behavior and personality, reflected back to us traces of our own. “Death is so fucked up, though,” as Sarah said on our way to a park yesterday. There’s no way of relating to death that feels appropriate. I can certainly understand how one could find comfort in the belief that consciousness persists beyond death — some part of Daphne, for instance, watching over us from above, audience to our existence. When I entertain this thought, Sarah sternly interjects, “But she’s not! She’s just dead.” But why are we Marxists so quick to condemn delusion? Since when has truth ever set us free? I’ll admit: when a copy of Alice Coltrane’s Journey in Satchidananda turned up on vinyl in the bins at Goodwill yesterday, part of me was convinced that Daphne had gifted it to me to cheer me up.
I don’t see any harm in temporary alleviation of suffering, even if it comes via dream. For the latter open up vistas, abstractions of geometric space, into which minds may wander. The private language of the autopilot black hole. Sarah and I arrived at a realization along our walk. A new sense of the potential life we might live, were it not for debt. A new sense of the stakes of what might be. The challenge now will be to find a way to demand from reality the future we want, and to do so quickly, as clocks are ticking.
We’re struggling, we’re grieving. Shit’s rough, y’all. This is what some call a “limit-experience,” an experience that, for theorists like Bataille, Blanchot, and Foucault, breaks the subject off from itself, exposing it to that which consciousness refuses or excludes. We can think of it as a testing of the limits of ordered reality. The latter is abolished and, as Peter Berger would say, “something terrifyingly other shines through.” Imagine it as the parting of a previously invisible set of curtains where once there was a wall. Relinquishing the words we have, we rediscover words we’ve lost. Sarah and I ended up having to put down our dog Daphne yesterday. Kidney failure, liver failure. Euthanizing her was the only way to ease her pain. Our final night together was excruciating, every few moments punctuated by a sigh or the peristaltic rumbling of an upset stomach. I would lie with my eyes closed watching a comet cross an inner night sky, when suddenly the dream’s plug would pull loose from me, and I’d be lying awake in the dead of night, listening to her whimpering, her labored breathing. How is she but a pile of ashes now, this companion of mine who loved and was loved?