“I am not the type of dog that could keep you waiting… for no good reason.” – R.E.M.
I told that anecdote from The Night Of a couple weeks ago. Don’t worry; no spoilers coming. If you’ve seen it, you know the one I mean — about the care package. If you haven’t seen it, just imagine that it’s a great story, but one that a person like me really should never attempt to use in a regular old conversation; especially not when the other person doesn’t already know the story. It’s one thing to reference a shared idea; another thing entirely to try to conjure it up out of thin air and make it work. In this case, it’s just too convoluted a setup, and requires details that have to get worked in somehow, and if, after all that, the payoff at the end misses — well, ugh. That would suck.
But it was late in the day, on a really crazytown day — I mean, probably the craziest in a long time. And so I’d been firing on all cylinders for so long they were starting to melt the engine block. So while some little, faraway part of my brain was screaming, “Don’t do it!”, I just couldn’t hold it back. Like so many things I’ve written here, when I’m over-tired, I tend to tell too much of the truth; my filters are the first thing to fail. And, really, maybe that’s not so bad.
Because I’m pretty sure I’d rather be a storyteller than a technician.
So, amazingly, considering those circumstances, that story seemed to land just right. And it needed to, and I was somewhat in the right to attempt it, because it conveys one of those ideas that almost can’t be had via simple, rational explanation. It’s an idea that needs a story as the medium to express it. Sometimes metaphors aren’t stand-ins for the thing; they are the thing.
And this particular story, the one from that show that I’m still not spoiling, just matched up perfectly with the idea I had; with the overwhelming way I felt that afternoon. In fact, I’d even thought of it in advance, like learning lines for a play that may or may not go on. I’d talked myself in and out of trying to land it several times before the curtain went up.
I do tend to think about words a lot, don’t I? About them, in them, for them, by them. They’re like a care package. If you’ve seen the show, you know what I mean. If not, you should go watch it.
Circling back up a level, with this blog (aka. an exercise in text and solipsism), it’s like I’m trying to build a fractal palace in my imagination. Sort of like one of my Minecraft monuments, but made out of virtual words, instead of virtual blocks of wood and stone. A fantastical place where you can come play with me — a place that, through writing and reading, we start to expand and revise together, just like that rare bubble of a conversation in a rainswept car at night.
I think it can be like this third thing, between my mind and yours. Something that is neither you or me, but can’t exist without both of us being engaged (and, hopefully, a little transfixed with the focused attention and enjoyment of these shared moments going snap snap snap).
We instantiate this thing together; it’s not mine or yours alone. Then we can use it like a screen, to project our wilder ideas upon; an echo chamber, to test the sonic resonance of impulse control and surrender; a malleable ball of universal clay, that maybe neither of us knows how to work well, at least, not yet, but which shows signs of being amenable to all the traditional tricks of craft and hope.
Like spawning a new server as the admin, I breathe that first spark of life into it (if for no other reason than because I’ve got the top level privileges here). But the very next thing, before the spark goes out, I invite you to join, and if you say yes, we’re off. Who knows what could happen in that wavering bubble of thought and time? Sometimes, so rarely it makes me cry, wonderful things happen.
When they do, we try to sustain it as long as we can. So hard getting started, so sad having to stop. I hate every alarm that rings, every known limitation on that flow, every regretful pass at another idea that could have lived, another feeling expressed, another moment captured into two twinned memories. Hate them. Everything in the known universe tries to tear that bubble apart. Clocks, “priorities”, to do lists, other appointments, drying pots, on rushing deadlines, the need to keep bringing in cash at a steady pace.
Nature abhors a vacuum; our civilized, modern minds abhor anything that deprioritizes our avaricious, atomic selves in favor of some shared understanding or identity. It’s a shame, really. I think our not so distant ancestors would watch us running away from each other all the time and wonder where it all went wrong.
“I can swing my megaphone, and longarm the rest. (It’s easier and better to dispute it from the chest. Of desire.)”