"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
"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
"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
"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,
"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
" 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 what ?"
" I am only asking you to be more lenient with others and 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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