"You know, two years ago, I had asked Julia if she would take care of me if I went insane. She said, of course. She would keep me beside her, feed me, put me to bed until I was well again. But when I told her about the accident, I found out that she had been living with someone then---all along. Hiding it from me. She had always seemed worried, preoccupied. I know now she didn't have the space."
"Mika, why didn't you call me?"
"Because you would not have known what to do. You still do not know what to do. In that sense, you are well meaning but useless. You did not understand the situation and still cannot. If I were to come to your house, I could not stay past a few days because I would begin to depress you. After a week, you would ask me, gently, to leave. If it comes down to it all, there is no one in the world."
"To do what---lay down their life for you?"
"If I were rushing down a river and all those that I loved were by the banks, none of them would rush in to save me unless it was a moment of impulsiveness."
"And why discredit impulsiveness ?"
"Simply because the definition incorporates within it, the concept of regret. The regret a person may feel while they are saving me nullifies the gesture. You see, it is not the physical action that I am demanding--- merely the purity of intent. The only one who wouldn't waver was someone who was dedicated to an abstract ideal or considered it to be in line of duty. Of course, that would be entirely worthless to me because they were simply looking at a duty or an abstraction. It would be entirely impersonal "
"But would you lay down your life for anyone?"
"Of course. I would lay it down for you, I would lay it down for any danger. But then you have to realize I say this because my life is a burden to me anyhow. It's not worth much to me. So, perhaps, when I say this, what I have to offer is not such a great sacrifice. Besides, it is much simpler to kill oneself or die for someone than to devote one's life to someone else. That is why there are so many suicides. They simply don't have the strength to go on living or devoting their lives to themselves or those around them."
"Well, why have you refrained from killing yourself, Mika?"
"Because I know---I am sure--- that it will not be the end of pain. I realize that the body, with its daily aches and demands dulls the intense pain of the soul---mind, whatever you call it. Imagine then, the intensity of this agony without the buffer of the body. I am afraid that I will not be able to stop this pain from spinning, that my mind will continue reeling without anything to distract it. Then where will I be? I cannot extinguish consciousness. I've tried every painkiller and sleeping pill in this establishment. When I am awake, nothing has changed."
"What will you do ?"
"I am trying to forget everything and anyone that I have known. I am trying to distract myself. I read constantly. I sleep twenty hours a day. I exercise the four hours that I am awake. Nothing helps. When I broke my wrist last month, I found it changed nothing. Even the intense pain could not hold my attention. It was simply there. It made no difference to me, brought me no relief."
"Do you think it will pass ?"
"I spent the first six months travelling across Europe, talking to a wide variety of people. It did not help. Now I am attempting strict isolation, quietude, contemplation. This seems to be working better--"
"So it is working ?"
"Yes, because I no longer have this desperate need to communicate. When I was travelling, I would be continually tempted to explain my emotions to people and, on the rare occasions I did, I would be met with a vague smile or incomprehension. I would try again. I wanted to make people feel what I felt. Do you remember when I first got my kaleidoscope? Iwas showing it to everyone. They couldn't grasp the significance that the patterns they saw would never occur again. The transiency of beauty was in front of them--immediately in front of them and they thought it was a toy. Why should I convince people of this sort of thing? People will only do things that they want to do. Nothing prevents them from making or obtaining a kaleidoscope other than their own indifference. They look at a building and it is only a functional shelter for them. What shall I do to change this? Nothing."
"You sound as though you were exasperated about people. As if you were giving up hope in them."
"No. I am trying to say that it is difficult to communicate one's own values to others. I am saying that people understand things intellectually speaking--for instance, you will 'understand' my opinions or my viewpoint upon an issue, but most people will not be able to empathize with another viewpoint. They will never be able to see with my eyes. They will always be standing at a slightly different angle. So it will never be the same sunset that we are speaking of. If I move over to show them, that moment gives way to another mood, another object. The moment of immediate recognition is over and communication becomes laborious, a task instead of the pleasure it was originally meant to be. Like explaining a joke. To explain it is to lose the brevity that is the wit, the pleasure--the moment. It dissolves in the mouth and you are left with a flat explanation that has nothing to do with the timing of the joke itself."
"You wish people could speak without words, in short"
"That too. But really, what I mean, is that I wish people would be defenseless. "
"What do mean--defenseless ?"
" I wish people would be without fear---that is different from being naive or innocent. I want them to be thoroughly aware of the possibility of the pain they will undergo through opening their defenses. But I want them to be braver about it. I would want someone to open up even though they know that they might be rebuffed. Certainly, the world is frightening, people are frightening. If they are not outright cruel, they are blundering and tearing down the threads that one has set up to catch light "
"Well, why don't you be brave and leave this place?"
"I can't. I want to be without fear but I can't. My entire house has been burned down. It's not merely a matter of picking up pieces but even recognizing faces. I don't understand people anymore. I have utterly ceased seeing people as having single unified personalities. A person is a card of decks being shuffled. Their reaction to you is simply the random card that you pull out of the whirring pack. They can't remember what they've said before and it doesn't have any bearing on what they'll do next. Their lives, lived backwards, would make as much sense and give as much purpose as their lives lived forwards or left at a standstill. There is a nonsensicality that is inherent within human beings. The more adamantly they dam their moral codes and philosophy against this flood of nonsense, the more likely that they will be utterly washed away by the pent up waters. Hypocrisy is a way of channelling the waters. Perhaps it is the only way that one can continue living without succumbing entirely to the nonsense or to the absolute denial of thought. At least hypocrites are acknowledging the existence both of moral codes and of the nonsense that surrounds them."
"Don't tell me that I am simply being mad or simple. I'm not. I've given it a lot of thought. The only thing that gives a person the semblance of coherency is habit. Without habit, they would have to face their own lack of coherency. Language itself is a habit. We call certain objects yellow and we call them yellow consistently. We never pause to consider the incremental amount of green or black that resides within it. We call a door a door simply because we must go on with life. We cannot stand there forever considering all the possibilities and uses of a long rectangular piece of wood. That it could be a chair or a table cover or a barricade is simply an element that invites unneccessary thought--- in short, confusion. I am filled with confusion. I can't stop thinking of how utterly constricted and didactic language is. It preserves us from seeing the world in its actual rawness. I can't deny something that I cannot pinpoint. The world is pressing in on me, Jonathan, and I cannot sort it out in any satisfactory way. The grain of a chair has the pattern of waves, of a woman's hair, the flow and ebb of sleep, raindrops flooding the air from a northwesternly direction, the lines of musical notation. It smells of pine, ripples, shellac. Shellac like the clear shell of a newborn snail. All these connections are threads we sever when we dictate language. Language is nine parts severing, one part definition. In the end, what we actually convey is misunderstood, translated beyond the sons and daughters of men. They take this, impose their own ideas upon it and nod to you. And you misinterpret this nod as one of acknowledgement, success, comprehension."
"But you are speaking quite clearly now, Mika. And I think I am understanding what you are trying to say to me."
"But what I am telling you is a very crude and intellectual concept. What I wish to express to you is quite beyond this. Just as you cannot make me feel the yellow, I cannot make you feel the passion that I desire. It is not some silly linguistic trick like explaining yellow without referents. It is more, much more. But all I can speak is explanation. I can never tell you the joke itself. There is a poverty here that I can't express. What I am telling you is simply addition. What I would like to express is exponential. But I am simply too stupid to teach you. I have not the faintest idea how to fill the gap. So I am functionally useless, arrogant and frustrated. Jonathan, there's no point in me ever talking to people again. It only upsets me immensely. I'm cold now and I want to go to sleep."
"Mika, do you think this sense of alienation has anything to do with the fact that you were constantly moving when you were younger?"
"Of course it does. I was always surrounded by people I didn't know or trust, new children, new languages. Children are so cruel, don't you think? Such herd instincts. I am sure our societal patterns mimic a pack of children brutalizing a youngster or torturing a cat. Solidarity and stupidity are complementary don't you think, Jonathan?"
"You're trying to avoid the subject, Mika"
" Ask me again."
"Well, don't you think that the alienation you feel is because you've never had a stable background within which to place and define yourself ?"
"It only means that I have less to shake off. I am sure the illusion of stability is stronger for those who have lived in a small town all their lives. But it is not anymore solid or real. Things merely have a second coating of white paint. Things are merely placed more carefully, less circumspect. But it is not anymore true or real than my life."
" Travelling doesn't necessarily mean you have the wider perspective, perhaps it is a loss of perspective. The frame of reference is lost with you."
" I have met and known more people than you ever will, Jonathan. You may know a person for several years and still not have them bare their soul to you. I can strip the reservation off a person with the ease of a butcher. Do not give me the easy comparison of variety vs. depth. It doesn't work."
"And the frame of reference. Don't you feel a loss there?"
" A frame is merely used to hide the edges of the canvas and to complement or focus upon the painting itself. It is as about as constricting as language in that way. It is a crutch. Certainly, the painter never painted the picture with the frame intact. Why then should I be forced to view the world in such a manner? And why would I impose my inferior frame upon it? There's little loss there."
" And yet you are the most intolerant person I know, Mika."
" I don't like most of what I see. That is a very simple concept that has nothing to do with frames."
"But it does. You are the opposite of Procrustes in that you refuse to accomodate anything. You put your own frame against everyone and everything you come up against. And nothing has ever fit your frame."
"Well, what shall I do now? Shall I drop all standards and embrace the world for what it is? What will I gain through bargain hunting? What will I do with what I find? I'm not looking for anything, I wouldn't know what to do with it if I did come up against it. "
"Stop it--"
"Stop what ?"
" I am only asking you to be more lenient with others and yourself. Forgive yourself."
"What will I gain?"
"Peace of mind."
"It isn't a matter of leniency, it is something that is a part of my basic nature. Try as I may, I will never like certain things. I am not overly fond of this era. I cannot grow a finger simply because I will it. Neither can I cultivate a sympathy for human beings. It will not happen. I am not trying to be stubborn, I am simply aware of certain limitations. What I am trying to do now is adjust to my limitations. That I am still upon this earth, have only four limbs, one heart, two eyes and two ears, can only see and hear a limited spectrum--can only sense five of the x number of senses, can only calculate and comprehend to a certain point--these are things I must reconcile myself to. Do not tell me that I should feel fortunate that I am not blind, deaf or castrated. These are merely a different set of variables. It changes nothing in the basic structure of things--that basic structure being one of limitations that cannot be altered. I am not a whole being. I will never be a whole being although that is what I desire. That desire is my primitive happiness. What I must now comprehend is the impossibility of that and now I must embrace the happiness of limitations. I don't know where to look for, what to look for. What, in fact, is the happiness of limitations? I have to pass resignation and failure before I comprehend it. I continue to lapse into my pursuit of primitive happiness, my usual dissatisfaction. Sometimes I feel that the only answer is sleep. I can only remember fragments of my dreams but they give me a satisfaction that nothing else does. At times, they mimic my reality and I dream that I burst into tears. I realize, somewhere, that there is a message, a logic, a musical note held indefinitely. Parts of me are attempting to communicate with my sleeping self. You realize that I am a neighborhood, filled with angels and demons and children and dying animals. Everything within me. I tolerate all this. How do you expect me to negotiate the desires of all these within me with those of the outside world? Each consensus is broken by five cries of dissent, each refusal is echoed by demands of acceptance. The memory begins to wail in the back of throat like--how do I shut them up? You demand, they demand everything. All I want is quiet in my head. I don't want to think. Let's not argue like this--just go."
"We weren't arguing."
"Just go. I'm exhausted."
"I'm curious --"
"I'm not here to entertain you, Jonathan."
"That wasn't what I meant at all--"
"I'll see you next Saturday."
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