News, Updates, Musings
Chris Pettit CC
There comes a time when more body than thought is required to think of our lives. The thought begins and almost immediately the body intervenes, blushes, aches, flutters, quickens. How can one even continue the thought?
Body registering a memory, an emotional coma-curve, the great rounding bend of body unwording thought. I thought I knew where I was a moment ago, now so far from myself, a sister shadow on foot, the door, elsewhere ajar, a body as invisible as wind expect for what it touches of thought. Who do I think I am?
I almost knew once. Thank God that didn't work out. Now the question seems important again. Alive. I tease myself open, I think, too much, now the body shivers, I take notice. I take note. Why can't I stay with the thought? Your mind is your mother. And your body?
Unyielding, a muscular convulsion, microscopic earthquake, in, out. Body demanding thought stutter when the word is on the threshold.
In sleep the body surrenders herself at last. Thought quirks in darkness. Thickens. The world unworldly. Minor figures loom large and speak tall. The dead do rise, we are touched, in the center of our hearts. And we are ripped away from them. Returned to body in mourning/morning.
I think to heal is to perpetually be at the mercy of the world. Solitary mind is a little boy in banter with the slant of light on a lake. I stole duck eggs from frantic nest-mothers. Wanted to birth them under a warm light. To be followed, mother-boy to her ducklings, up and down the trailer park. A still birth instead. I was no god. There was a darkness on the face of my deep. Reflecting pool of home life. I was terrified. And brutish. And gentle. And then I was somewhere else.
Deep breaths. I read another sentence of THE BOOK and am interrupted by the unstoppable collage of memory. Psych ward nurse with angel wing tattoos who brought me books about government conspiracies, strange hotels, a talking dog, dream factories. A prom in the nut house. A riot in the men's room. Deep breaths. I read another sentence, then my body pains me pause. Arrogant mind. No island. I listen to the root of me unravel. I begin to understand the need for faith. I don't want to die. A book on death says that our greatest suffering is our denial that we will one day die. Tend to that in your life, prepare for your ending by being present and equally afterwards. Look ahead but ground to this place, body, thought. There needn't be such separation between word and flesh.
I thought I knew once what had happened to me. It was MY STORY. It explained the discrepancy between the life I wanted and the life I had. In truth it is what gets evoked in what happens to us that becomes the template for our everything. Pain is sensed-in, sensorium, blue and red and gold are all we have. Others have yellow and pink and green. Maps get made, we get lost in them. A story of a woman who goes off looking for her long lost brother (we get to know so vividly everything about her) and by the story's end she is brutally murdered by the man who turns out not to be her brother. It's so unfair. Why does life do such terrible things to us? Why can't we write the perfect ending? Reunion, tears of joy, hands held, sun goes down on golden towns. 20 years ago, the story I read. Why, out of the infinite number of other possibilities, do the things that stay with us, stay with us?
The mind won't sit still. Nor body let up its insistent knocking at every single thought we have. I open the window an inch. No mere metaphor. I light some candles. A gentle wind nestles through the mesh screen into THE HOUSE. My uncle hung himself in this room. My grandmother found him, my grandfather cut him down, the second of three sons to die. My grandmother died in this room. My teenage mother wailed in this room. I was a boy in this room. I have no room for this room.
My cat, Eve, brushes against me. She has curious, not entirely unkind eyes. I smile uneasily. I am uneasy. My body, perhaps, signaling alarms: tend to this room, this life, this now. Put down THE BOOK. Pick up YOUR LIFE. There is only so much of it left. With what, of your days, are remaining, make of them the most that you can. Bring new colors to bear, there, there.
It feels dishonest to end on such an untarnished note of hope. Hope is hopeless. It's why we hope. And why shouldn't we?
After all my years of soul sundering/searching I have found even less answers to my why than I started with. But the questions bear fruit. I am humbled by my stupidity, rigidity, and my soul's desire for jazz. I hate dancing. Even the word. Unhappy people do not dance. People who have been deeply wounded by life do not dance. It's preposterous, I know. Some of the most devastated bodies in this life have danced so joyously the vaulted skies of heaven dropped loose through them. My dystonic mother, to Waylon Jennings, by the fireplace. There is no more pained a body than hers. And I hate dancing. Because if my mother can dance than what the fuck has taken me so long to.
Jean Luc Nancy, a philosopher I greatly love, passed without my knowing. I stopped reading him some years ago. Today I picked up Corpus, and thought of him, and learned that he has left the world. That in the end he wrote he no longer believed in progress and the possibility of “living in the world in a humane way”. And I thought of the fraught relationship I have to this body of mine, whose possibilities in life are limited and changing. I missed the turn for most of the roads I would have rather taken in my life. I regret that I spent so much time with THE BOOK that I missed so much of MY LIFE. And it feels the world is ending while my life hasn't even started. Pessimism is preferable to pain. I'd rather the pain which is an indication of a body in life. To be hopelessly hopeful. Perhaps only the truly hopeless dance convincingly. I saw joy where there was pain in motion. Pain moves us. Orients us. It is river and we are riven.
The world may be slowly ending. It has always been slowly ending. We are a little further along than those before us in this. Is there truly no way to live humanely the end of the world? I prefer the questions these days to whatever poor answer I might proffer. I once asked a pastor how one would know if one was truly beyond redemption. "I think," he replied, "that if you're still asking that question, you're probably not."
Is there truly no way to live, humanely, the end of the world? Of all the turns I missed to those other longed for roads, my life has taken turns nonetheless. Who am I fooling? I have a long way to go, and many ways yet to get there. There there. That book on death was only half right: most pain too is caused by thinking we can know what will happen to us based on what has happened to us so far. Change is an unpredictable muse: sometimes word is already flesh and body only begging you to pull your head up out of the lake of the past to take notice of how far you've come.
You can even dance if you want to.