Monday, April 22, 2013

A Funny Thing Happened on My Way to the Market

As you made your way through a mini-shopping center this afternoon, you crossed paths with a man engaged with what you at first supposed to be a civilized conversation with himself.  The man appeared in his mid fifties, not notably over weight, grayish hair a bit scraggly but his face seemed recently shaved.  He wore khakis, a work shirt with sleeves rolled, all appearances seeming to indicate the civilized conversation he was having with himself was similar to the kinds you frequently bring to the podium in your own diverse elements of psyche.

As you drew abreast of him, his conversation grew more agitated, his gestures more frenetic, waving with some emphasis.  You could not tell what thing or things or, were they merely abstract ideas, he was waving at.  You were close enough to make out his inclusive dissatisfaction with large segments of humanity, his conversation growing louder, his vituperation at "them all," and "all of them."  His dismissals began with the relative mildness of "To hell with all of them," building in crescendo to "Fuck every last one of them."

You were not only close enough to hear, you were close enough to recognize this individual's compelling need for a shower.

The moment in which you felt some community with the man came and went.  At one state of his presence, he could have been someone you'd have an agreement with in principal, a sense of mutual outrage at a Reality you sometimes find not at all interested in hearing your opinion, however urgent your opinion might be.

You reached your destination, the market of your preference, wherein you had a list of things you mustn't leave without selecting.  But the presence of a coffee and pastry bar arrested you.  To put it with greater accuracy, the associations with the man on a rant, the similarities you saw between him and you drove you to seek solace in coffee and a sticky bun.

No telling where the point arrived where you saw through and beyond the trope of the universe being balanced, orderly, and fair.  Too many of us humans milling and dithering about for fairness, orderliness, and balance.  Too many agendas seeking some form of recognition, perhaps a willingness to settle for balance, with equal likelihood to wish for some form of revenge.

You have not found your preferences in noir literature and its close cousins, the hardboiled detective story, and the shrewd visions of the novels of distopic theme by mere accident.  You read with pleasure and interest in other genera, listening to them, learning from them.  But in a manner similar to the coffee and pastry bar luring you this morning, noir beckons to you, sends you comforting signals that here, in these pages, you may find agitation but you will also find some sense of community.

An other of your appetites is for the fun and humor of the whimsical, which seems always to manifest itself in the midst of your own noir compositions and thoughts.  A few days ago, writing with some specificity about the loss of your latest friend to depart from your company because of a prior arrangement with death, you observed how you were at a stage in your life where you have experienced many of the available losses.  You did not come right out to observe how, regardless of one's age, loss hovers at close hand, much like the ubiquitous scavenging seagulls on the UCSB campus.

In spite of these losses, you do not consider yourself a morose or depressed person, a consideration that is leading you somewhere.  Losses of the sort you've experienced have not left you feeling bitter or with more than a slight touch of self-pity.  You've seen--in reality and fiction--individuals who were left in a state of perpetual fear or perpetual gloom or self-doubt or burdened with a vision no humor can trespass.

You still have that, hope to retain it, hope not to experience the traumas that would cost you the ability to see Reality in ways where, on occasion, you do rail at it, but where you are more apt to laugh at it because it is a Reality as redolent of absurdity as your ranting man was of body odor.

Laughter, whether at self or the cavalcade of events involving humanity, is for you the desert served to the meal of life.

Sometimes, the humor is bittersweet, in which case it frequently presents itself with laughter first, then the pang of connection to the loss part.

That, of course, is the nature of humor.

You've quoted perhaps your dearest of all friends, Barnaby Conrad, in these blog essays of yours, noting his acute observation that all stories about animals have an eventual sad ending.  You can add to that with your own observation about humor, which more often than not is a sad truth being revealed before your eyes.  Your laughter is you awareness of the sad truth and your mechanism for dealing with truths, be they sad or happy.

Yet there is another part of the connective tissue.  Individuals who have lost human friends often seek other friendships.  They do so by offering friendship in all their deeds and gestures, a strategy learned from having friends one loves.  Humans who have lost animal friends frequently set out to adopt once again, knowing a broken heart awaits in much the same way they know the bittersweet truths of humor.

Human friends.  Animal friends.  Laughter.

Imagine the awfulness of having none of these, merely to protect yourself from a broken heart.

Now that is funny.

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