Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The sound is an obscene popping created with the mouth and intended, I believe, to imitate that made when certain parts of the body are inserted into the mouth and then removed quickly. This is, of course, a process designed to repeat itself, to go on for an indefinite period of time. However long, in fact, it takes to accomplish the unsubtle biological goal. The young man making the sound is of sub-par stature and possessed of the barest traces of a goatee like just about every young man in the building. And indeed, on the street outside. And everywhere in between. I am in the midst of discussing Heraclitus’ odd and fastidious praise of Bias, son of Teutames, but the sound is causing the others to squirm, to release themselves from the grip of whatever reverie had preceded the intrusion of that sound, whatever reverie had taken them safely far away from ancient Priene. They look around as if just up from a two-month coma. Is it possible we are aware of only one thing at a time and that one thing is inevitably, when boiled down to its essence, to the center and place where it is most truly itself and so entirely free of contamination by dust and participles, the workings of our own conscious mind? Sure, that mind is not a vault; it hums in constant call and response to the symphony and filmstrip it receives through the senses, information having its origin, ostensibly, in the world but in all likelihood having very little to do with that world. Where then is it generated? How are we to separate the inside from the outside or even to make sense of such distinctions? Wouldn’t it be better to just start fresh, to turn our backs once and for all on the ideas that have been passed down for just over two hundred generations now and affixed with the rather insulting label “esoteric wisdom”, or, if wisdom won’t do, then at least that which sits on the shelf next to wisdom and keeps it company during the dreariest parts of the winter? My mind fills slowly (like a swimming pool) with visions of my jumping on the perpetrator’s back, of ripping at his ears with my teeth, of beating him to death with a cane that somehow introduces itself into the proceedings for no reason I can gather other than perhaps to give me something solid to enact my rage with, without having to resort to the use of my hands, which are thin and fragile and covered recently with patches of discoloration. That these visions are more than just visions and that I have apparently, in the process of nurturing them and encouraging their maturation (the way you encourage a continuous increase in the local turtle population by tossing the occasional chicken carcass into the river) turned them into something resembling an actual assault -- is attested to by several sudden high-pitched and not altogether female screams and the sound of shuffling about the room, of shoes squeaking meekly against the linoleum and the metal tips of the chair legs penduluming as those in my vicinity realize they may wish to head for the exits (of which there are precisely two at either end of the typically yellow room) before they too risk becoming the target of my Heraclitian, if irrational, ire.  I see immediately that no flesh has been torn, no blood spilled as a result of my attempted murder of the table behind which the mouth-popper sat. Fortunately, this table, though overturned -- its legs sticking awkwardly into the air between us like those of a deceased and bloated horse -- is still in one piece. I can’t afford to purchase the institution another.