Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Playing at a Theater NearYou

I was going to argue that I was born into the absurdist tradition by virtue of being born into the culture I was born into, but that is the patently absurd position of assuming that a mere accident of birth gave me a front row center seat at the theater of the absurd.  The fact is that there are few if any cultures I could have been born into and, accordingly that anyone could have been born into that would need a ticket purchased from a scalper to get into the big rock concert-sized Absurdity Show.  

I just happened by chance to have been born into a culture that allowed a kind of generational squabble to be waged in the margins of the laws, ethics, history, and customs of its people, The Talmud.  It is also a culture in which the argument goes well beyond the lawyerly, rabbinic position taking of the clergy and into arguments as personal as, You're going to marry him? or, Writing's nice, but what are you going to do for a living?  or the more direct, what's the difference between a freelance writer and a large pizza?  The answer, of course, is that a pizza can feed a family of four.

Just as absurd, I reckon, is the fact pointed out to me in all seriousness that I more likely know more about Hinduism than Judiasm and have a larger vocabulary in Sanskrit than Hebrew.  
The one word most of my white, Asian, and Latino friends are culturally enjoined from using is the famed n-word.  

My own word of choice, which I resort to all number of circumlocutions to avoid using, is the a-word, not asshole, which you may have been supposing, but artist.  I hesitate because the word so represents to me the self-anointed designation of preciousness and moral certainty and elitism.  I still remember twenty years ago when a student complained about my comments on his work and maintained, That doesn't apply to me; I'm an artist.  Reptillian-brained that I am, I replied, I wish I'd known.  

You should have told me sooner.  I'd never have dared to mention a comma splice to you had I but known.


I mention this because of my belief that one sets out to acquire a-word visions and technique, to forge a language and culture that allows the follower to move from culture to culture without being bogged by the mire and thickness of it, appreciating and understanding along the way.  

To arrive at the craftsperson's point of view, one must see through the absurdities of life to the point of embracing them and thus gaining some understanding of the human condition. Attempts to provide exclusionary rationale invariably produce the foundations of absurdity upon which we seem willing to erect platforms.  From these platforms, more absurdity is broadcast, some falling on deaf ears but much of it finding ready audience.  
For a thesis to be developed, a trend to be followed, a subject to be investigated, there is little to stand with absurdity.  

Stephen King has already pulled fear and terror out of our grasp.  Ursula K. Le Guinn has taken anthropology off the table.  Dian Fossey is gone but Stephen Sopolsky does wonders with primatology, not to forget Frans De Waal for his work on our near relatives and his current work on the evolution of empathy. Sarah Palin has retired irrelevance. Dan Brown has been awarded a patent on medocrity. Absurdity waits in the wings as one person after another steps forward to take the crown.  
There is a Zen-like comfort and tranquility to absurdity, drawing you further down its absurd corridors and into absurd chambers where other aspirants seek explanations and paths to follow.  Always room for one more at the table.

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