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Monday, February 13, 2012


andromeda galaxy

A theme that has been staying with me the last week and even longer, is familiarity with a zillion things, from words learned all along the way in school, information from reading and seeing stories, a lifetime of experience. I have a difficult time now drawing a line between fact and fiction. The moment stays in my mind at the Ralph Stanley show, when the band before Stanley was playing, and pumping up Jesus, a guy jumped up a few rows in front of me, arms in the air for Jesus. He was wearing a tshirt that said Lethal Weapon. Had I not been so stunned, I might have thought to take a picture of that billboard on his back and him up in the air for Jesus. All I could think was: there it is, spontaneous as a bird. I know I'm making much of words that are no more than the title of a movie the guy likes, a men-with-guns comedy, popism. It's absurd in pop culture to make associations according to irony in a culture where the obvious is a mystery.

My inclination is to see the symbolism in the moment, at the same time knowing the symbolism is not inside the moment. It's inside my head only. I impose it on the moment, same as I would reading. The closest I can come to the "reality" of what happens is the guy wore his favorite tshirt to the Ralph Stanley concert, not because he labels himself a lethal weapon, but because it's his favorite movie. Asked about it, he would likely say he's a lethal weapon for the Lord, the devil better look out. I could even go on a bit about the movie having been around perhaps as long as he's been living, and he's advertising it like it's the latest new thing. I don't mean to be nit-picking as much as momentarily blown away by a moment that has relevance to an English major in a way it has with few others. A contemporary American moment, the neutral symbols of pop culture that give the appearance of meaning without meaning a thing, like talk at a cocktail party.

Though it seems a bit awkward to jump for Jesus wearing a Lethal Weapon billboard front and back, from the point of view of the guy in the shirt, he was wearing his favorite tshirt to the concert, the one he saves for special events. Maybe he found it at Roses, which cannot possibly be where he bought it, because it's from his own story, not mine, and I don't know him. This is what has been with me recently, that my immediate perception of a moment is entirely my own, from inside me. In fact, it is only inside me, a thought unspoken. I can follow one little thing like that as a way of looking at the person wearing the shirt, why he wore it, why he bought it, maybe his sister found it in Myrtle Beach and bought it for him. Whatever I might imagine, the first thing I know is that's not how it is. It's the same as taking the test without reading the book. He loves Jesus and he loves that wacky slapstick comedy of a movie. He's a happy guy at a Ralph Stanley concert. That's more how it is than a measure of Western Civ and pop culture in a blender.

Where the confusion of fact and fiction is concerned, I'd say the fact is the guy was wearing a tshirt that said Lethal Weapon. That's it. Right there. Anything I might add to that is fiction. Like I could weave a character in the shirt, make up a life and location to say he's from and evolve it into a story. The story would be fiction. By fact, I think I mean in regard to this dimension of reality we inhabit here on earth subject to natural laws. It looks like, too, that even if I were to write this person's biography, get all the information about his life that can be got from him, family, friends, etc, and write the story, it would be fiction. It would be called fact, but it would be fiction. All I did writing the biography was something like suggest a city by points of light seen from a plane at night. Much would be filtered through my own interpretations. Automatic fiction. Information about the man will be in the biography, but not the man himself. If he seems to come to life, that's a trick in the writing, the fiction.

I've come to a place where I see any telling of any event or moment is fiction, because it is filtered through a human consciousness. A dog wouldn't be telling about it. The dog saw it go by and that was all that mattered to the dog. I've noticed about cats and dogs that once they've seen something, they've seen it. They don't dwell on it. I'm wondering where the line is drawn between doing something, like throwing a rock into a pond, the act itself being a fact, and everything after that, the telling of it, is fiction by way of being held in a memory and told in words to make a picture. Even a minutely detailed picture told in words by Annie Dillard or Robbe-Grillet is not the thing itself. There are ways of telling it, like poetry, prose, visual painting, film, and interpretations for every house of the zodiac and beyond. Interpretations are like snowflakes and rocks, no two alike.

It becomes more intriguing that in the genetic setup at the beginningless beginning is for no two anything to be alike, possibly even to electrons. We have a sky with an infinite number of stars, and the advances in astronomy that reach way out into the universe find no two of those dots in the sky is exactly alike. Sand on the beaches; no two grains of sand the same. I've imagined a room full of Maine Coone cats and one of them Caterpillar; I don't believe I could pick her out on my own without speaking her name to see which one responds. And while they all look the same to me, down in there among them, they are very different from each other. The now is fleeting to the point that the word fleeting puts chains around its meaning and slows it way down, just by the nature of being after the fact, after that nanosecond of now that becomes so narrow a line as to become a mist then nothing.


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