Monday, February 03, 2014

A scene

I found Martin down near the duck pond by the ampitheatre. He was sitting at one of the tables, absently picking at dried paint chips on the table's top. He wasn't looking at any thing in particular; he seemed to be just staring off into space. I knew with his condition you shouldn't catch his attention too quickly, because then it will take too long for him to try and figure out what you were interrupting. So I sat down next to him, at a distance, with my back to the table and my knees pointing to the pond.

"Oh, hello, Charles."

"Hello, Martin."

"Do you think it will snow?"

"Not in this weather."

"I'd like it to snow. We live in just the right area for snow to be precious. Fragile. We appreciate its beauty. We appreciate its terror."

"..."

"So, what brings you down to the pond, today? Working another case?"

"You might say that, although these days I am not sure. Sometimes I feel it working me."

"Sounds exciting. Do tell, Charles."

"The gist of it is, what started out as a bad gamble gone wrong has led me into an entire conspiracy at the heart of love. It sounds outrageous, but it's a disturbing enough sort of truth that if I don't do my damnedest to give it enough rope, I wouldn't be able to live with myself for letting it all go."

"Now, that sounds very exciting. Love, love, I do love love. And conspiracies, and truths, and, did you say, rope? It's enough to lend one all the devices needed for your imagination."

"Conspiracy might be too strong a word. It's more like a collective forgetting. It has to be something so powerful to wipe the minds of so many people, severing link after link of ties binding one person to another person. What can erase a history? What can erase an entire culture's secret? What can erase even the longing for return, replacing it with an abhorrent fear of the void?"

"Let me guess. Love."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean, think about it. If you were to learn your children had taken up all your own instructions, all the things you raised them to embrace and cherish, and just tossed those things aside, what will you do for them?"

"Sounds to me you're saying I already failed."

"No, no, hardly. You hadn't failed at all. Don't misunderstand. You taught them well, told them where to find joy, showed them how to be good and responsible, decent folk. And, yet, they being children make the kinds of mistakes children, uneducated and incompetent, make all the time. No matter what age it is, they are always trailing, a bit of a delay in grasping what's important and what's tempermental."

"But if I raised them correctly to be perfect, shouldn't they be perfect?"

"Based on our assumption?"

"Right."

"No. Perfect only really makes sense with God. For anything else that has some of the trace of nothing in them, there is always a little bit of nothing to them. That's all it takes, you know, and enough to be imperfect."

"Then it's a contradiction, isn't it? I couldn't have raised them to be perfect even if I was perfect in how I taught them; there's always some nothing to me. But anything not God by virtue of not being God is caught between the nothingness and God. It could not remain perfect and whole; it must turn at some point away, towards nothing in particular, nothing particularly why. Thus begins the fall away from perfection, but it can happen at any moment, since the moment is exactly arbitrary. So we can't sustain our assumption."

"Precisely. We think we can imagine a paradise of the whole lot of us doing wholesome things with a respectable manner. We try to remember, maybe, what that was like. But it's not really a carefully imagined idea, since the whole thing is cardboard and angles. We never really knew what it's supposed to be, so how could we know whether the cardboard was accurate or not? We're going off an idea that's so confused and so open to misinterpretation and false hope, there isn't any reason to trust our memories are even accurately deceiving us. We just have no way of knowing what it was to have paradise. But we'll definitely listen to a story, or a play, or a presentation, or a film, where we can project onto a stage just enough supplemental reality for the imagination.

"Once you see that's it's just a whole order of reality flattened onto a lower one, you really start questioning how anyone could ever think a paradise will work. No, I'll tell you a secret."

"What's that?"

"The next time, listen to it, listen carefully."

"It? What is it?"

"The siren song, the tempting miracle, the proof within the flesh and the story. When the religious impulse strikes you, it will tell you to rest. It will tell you to be still. It will tell you to stare at nothing, and then you'll see the scene exactly the way you need to find the illusion of depth in the flattened projection."

"You're not implying..."

"Yeah, it's really kind of like a magic eye poster, or even a holographic image. Pick the analogy you prefer. The point is, it's an illusion, a clever one, and just enough believability that an active imagination or a zeal can accept it. The truly amazing aspect of it, really it is amazing. The truly amazing thing is that it's not about gods or sky daddies or Oberon or wormhole aliens. It's the habit of holding one's eyes relaxed that's in the siren song, in every temptation, and especially all the intellectual ones."

"A bit of a distraction, all that. This isn't getting me any closer to understanding why the children don't follow the rules. And that isn't getting me any closer to understanding how God can just wipe itself out of existence."

"Well, like I said, just assuming the kids go all astray, so for no particular reason, and for no particular thing, they all go. Assume you love them. Not the hard love that spanks the children and cries. Not the hard love that spanks itself and laughs afterwards. This is the hard love that lets each of the children go."

"Sounds like abandonment. It doesn't take love to abandon something. It takes occasionally selfishness."

"It is also love that no longer seeks control of the love. It gives full consent to the beloved."

"Now that's something. From just the scene alone, how can you know if the hard love is abandonment or radical consent? We will have to ask what the beloved wants."

"Does it really matter, though? Any want the beloved has is already caught up and mired in whole chains and networks of relationships, things are all connected and tied together, binding and forming bonds, strong bonds, that resist any attempts to undo the knots. An entire universe criss-crossed over by bonds connecting it all together. How can you really say what the beloved wants is free, if you look at the histories of all the pieces and moments and encounters?"

"Maybe freedom is something else entirely, if it can't be found in all that."

"Maybe, but if you love at all, will you really abandon someone to such torture? Can you rest at all knowing the one whom you love is just going to be torn apart by all those wires and ropes and knots? And, not at all in the good ways?"

"shakes head It's not a choice I'd ever want to make, but when you find yourself in a situation like that, the only real thing you can do is let go of everything about it."

"But it doesn't work, not for everyone. Some people can't stomach to watch suffering. Some people look away. But what if you can't look away? Not because you're restricted, but because no matter where you look you always see the suffering?"

"And shutting the eyes doesn't work?"

"Does it? Has it? So there you have your answer. Let me propose a new answer."

"Go ahead."

"You change how they see the world just enough so that they never truly remember it all."

"What?"

"You can't interfere with them, since that violates their consent if you do it first. You can't completely ignore them, because you cannot unsee what you are, seeing. You have to situate them in as perfect a place as you can get out of the great knot of loose ends and horrid kinks. You have to make it so that they are always on the fragile edge of belief, so that it's entirely consensual if they embrace you and entirely justified if they don't."

"The hidden God."

"Exactly. But better: you wipe the memory every time, make them each forget how they were there in the very first act of turning away, the first little veering off course and going a little wide of the mark. This entire world is the result of all those minor course incorrections, so to speak, but they will never see that so long as you keep making each one come into the world oblivious but capable of figuring things out."

"Why? How is that right?"

"It's not about right. It's about love. Love that acknowledges fear and respects consent violates all of our commitments to right and wrong. Compassion to someone truly frightened and incapable of accepting reality will look like never exposing them to the horror. If someone truly did not wish to see me, ever, I show my respect for their dignity by not making any more of a nuisance than I already have been. So even though love longs for like in like, it walks if it isn't right. If there's compromised consent, you walk."

"And wipe their memories."

"But not for that. It's for helping them cope with the infinitely exhausting world of so many ways to ruin things worse. If they stopped, had any moment to unfocus, they'd feel the huge weight of the absence. They'd feel the world pressing in all over them, with great fury to smash them inward and break them, because inside them is a vacuum, a nothingness, a space where God used to be. When the breath of God, the wind that moves all through the world, is no longer in someone, the void doesn't need to rush in. It was always there. Absent reality, the hole within collapses."

"Jesus."

"You said it. This is happening to each person, all over the world, at every moment. To erase the pain of the crushing, you simply encourage forgetfulness."

"It's a crazy story."

"It's part of a crazy story, but it's what I've been told."

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