Saturday, August 2, 2014

The Writer's Lament: A Mouse! A Mouse! My Kingdom for a Mouse!

"I wish I could get a screen shot of this or find some way to show it to you,"  Dr. Mayhew said, peering into the device that allowed her to peer into your eyes.  She is an optometrist, who had been on your case for some time to have the necessary, painless, and easy-to-perform surgery that would repair your growing condition of cataract in both eyes.

"It's as though you're resisting the opportunity to see better,"  she urged.

You reminded her that only weeks earlier, you'd passed the vision part of your drivers' license examination.

"Not the same thing,  Would you like me to make the appointment for you?"

That was then.  Less than a year later, you are in the same examination room, your chin comfortably at rest in a chin-shaped plastic guide, allowing Dr. Mayhew's associate, Dr. Schwartz, to look into the same measuring device.  The difference is that you have indeed had the surgery, can in fact see even better than Dr. Mayhew supposed you might, and are now investigating the potential for reading glasses.  

"What do you see?"  Dr. Schwartz, who is a practicing Buddhist, asks you.

"Nothing,"  you say, because in fact, the lens covers of the device have not been lifted.

"This could be a very good thing for you,"  Dr. Schwartz says, well aware of your own interest in Buddhistic ways of looking at things.  

In some ways, seeing nothing is a step toward the stripping away of illusion, what some philosophical approaches call maya.  You are laughing once again because it had not been long since you, in the act of shaving, saw a line of fleas, moving with a determined synchronized march across the platform adjacent the bathroom sink.

You'd also laughed at about one minute post op on the left eye, because the new lens afforded you a dramatic change in vision paradigm.

Your own encounter with cataract-correction surgery came at about the time a number of friends and students had dealt with the removal of the lens issued at birth and its replacement with a new one of significant capabilities.  Your friends and the opthamologist who performed the surgery spoke freely of potential post op phenomena, which included seeing bugs, spiders, lines, and flashes of light that were for the most part illusory.

Until the moment where you saw the fleas, you'd had no such encounters.  Nearly everyone you knew who'd had the procedure  had seen at least one non-existent spider.  To this day, your literary agent will bat at insects which you do not see.

Small wonder then your pleasure at the line of fleas in your bathroom; you'd seen an optical illusion and, earlier, you'd been given a view of nothing.  You were on your way to a world that would, with help from you, reveal itself and its mysteries as such things should be revealed, which is to say as a result of personal search,investigation, and the accumulation of subjective experiences which would in effect remove the cloudy, yellowish filter over your sight.

This business of personal search, investigation, and experimentation has extensive implications for you.  Embarked as you are now on a book comparing the personal searches, investigations, and experiments of writers and actors, you've become drawn to the possibilities about you.  When you watch plays or films, you're most likely to focus on the actor's projected sense of concentration.

Had you some of the developed traits of an actor, you'd have been able to imagine your own fleas without needing the optical illusion of fleas.  You'd be able to see fleas on demand, where there in fact were no fleas.  The best you can do now, so far as fleas are concerned, is recall your memory of the optical illusion of fleas.  This is a start, but it is not yet enough.

Then you come across a book by the actor/director Richard Boleslavsky, Acting:  The First Six Lessons, in which an aspiring actor is asked to visualize a mouse at a particular spot on the floor.  You are once again replying on your memory of mice to provide you an entry way into the suggested act of imagination.

You think nothing about imagining a character, a full-fledged individual, yet you cannot imagine a mouse.  This is at once a facetious matter, wrestling with a serious one.  Actors provide a control group against which writers may judge themselves and their own ability to imagine a situation to the point where, however contrived, the situation emerges with the patina of plausibility.

What is the point of imagining all these varied scenarios if you cannot bring them outside, where others might see them, then become caught in their imaginary worlds?

At this point in your life, you have any number of individuals living in time-share conditions within that great, shamble of a rooming house within you.  Dogs and cats frolic and fret, babies cry to be held, fed, and jiggled.  Mice scurry.  Relatives come to visit, and you are out in your car, rushing to the nearest market that remains open until midnight to get some item of whim--the last time, it was liverwurst and pickles--for the sudden yen they have confessed to you. 

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