Hard at work in a closet on the top floor, hammering out my treatise on Solitude, or at least that portion of it that believes its subject something worthy of genuine consideration and not the ridicule normally heaped upon it by deans, by district managers and their protégés, I am overcome by the sense that my every move has been monitored and suddenly is not. That whoever kept a close eye on me from the moment of my birth to the present has simply thrown up his hands in disgust, switched off the undoubtedly expensive equipment used for this purpose, and gone off to pursue his other myriad interests. Like capturing color photographs of waterfalls and high speed rail lines, and selling them to publications that will cease to exist within a decade. The feeling is tinged with a certain terror but I recognize it almost immediately as that which accompanies true freedom, and I am tempted to break out into song, but I don’t know any songs. Not the words, at any rate, because the words never seem to me to add up to anything coherent when I do manage to pull them out of the air and away from the sounds of the instruments that surround them. Perhaps this is why I am no longer welcome up the road where groups of five and ten and sometimes a hundred or more will gather together even in the high winds of the monsoon and recount their memories of earlier groups that got together to do basically the same thing. They rely on the structure of local ballads, and the tropes typically contained within them, those ballads recounting the deeds of people who were not in the least like those who listen to them but who represent nevertheless the sort of people they would one day like to become. People capable of riding about gracefully on the backs of domesticated animals, people known for both their enormous cruelty and their ability to love deeply other people who, arguably, don’t deserve that love. My treatise attempts to grapple with these same issues openly, though it never seems to gain any advantage. Sometimes it snakes its way onto completely unrelated topics because it gets bored of the original, and you can’t fault it for that because we all get bored sometimes. Every one of us, without exception. It is as natural a condition as respiration and maybe even as necessary. Why do you think we endeavor to compose treatises in the first place? As opposed to disappearing into the wilds of Borneo for a while, making contact with those who had heard rumors of our existence before we showed up and so spared our lives because those rumors were filled with promises of great prosperity, of the elimination of most forms of suffering and all forms of death. They were generated originally who knows where by who knows what onerous party, but they were generated nonetheless and served their purposes well. When they were retired, or replaced by still other rumors even more outlandish and inaccurate, those who had been spreading them initially tried to distance themselves, to wash their hands of the whole business. They appeared less and less frequently in the village square and some of them even sought to change their names through legal channels. They said they would no longer share in festivities that required them to recall the past, to celebrate it simply because it was past. Because it could no longer be trusted to pave anyone’s way forward, least of all those of us who got stuck in it the way the local tapirs sometimes got stuck in the mud by the streams and the rivers they had otherwise been navigating successfully for their entire lives.