Thursday, May 5, 2016

A Window of Illusion

Early in your life, your father announced he was going to demonstrate to you the illusive quality of appearance, promising you first frustration, then ice cream. 

"The ice cream," he said, "is to keep in your mind forever that I am not a bad guy for showing you how deceptive reality can be."

With that announcement and your mother's growing objections, he drove to a jewelry shop on Wilshire Boulevard, parked the car, then led you to the front window, which, because of its concavity, did not seem at all like a window. You in fact seemed to be able to reach into the display of watches that lay before you, ticking away.  "Go ahead," your father said. "Help yourself."

Of course you were headed off at the pass, or surface as it were, a shiver of frustration running through you. You reached several times, thinking there was surely some way he would show you to make contact with a wrist watch for which you had absolutely no use but, nevertheless, an aching desire to possess.  

"Forgetting the moral issues involved here," your father said, "nothing anywhere is what it appears to be. Things are often better, sometimes worse, but nothing is exactly as advertised."

You were thinking things over while being driven, as promised, to a then popular ice cream store called Curry's, home of the mile-high cone. "I don't have to remind you," your father said, "that your ice cream cone is not a mile high,  Big, yes, but not a mile high."

Memory does not provide you a record of what you thought while claiming and demolishing your mile-high cone. Of course you knew mile-high was a metaphor. In probability, the cone was strawberry, a favored choice of yours at the time, but to say the incident was of a tangible force in your interest in storytelling and your decision to make it your life's work would be a mountain-goat leap of logic and, in many ways, an illusion even greater than the concave window or your experience of frustration.

And yet, the temptation is there. After all these years, you still remember the incident, and you do understand that story is about a protagonist who reaches for a goal in the belief that it is within grasp, only to be frustrated at first by the concave window or illusion or accessibility, which transforms itself into the energy required to propel the protagonist to effect an outcome whereby, even though he does not get the watch, is nevertheless taken to Curry's and a mile-high cone. 

The leap of credibility would be yet greater to mention having a friend, later on, who was tall for his age, whose name was Paul Cohen, and whom you began calling Mile-high Cohen, a nick name that seemed to have taken.

Story is all about--but not limited to--an individual who is confronted with an illusion, is transformed from neutrality toward that illusion to an obsession with it, exemplified, say, by a certain gentleman from La Mancha.  Such stories can be made effective because many of us, yourself among them, have illusory goals they strive to achieve, discovering somewhere in the process that the illusion was even greater than supposed.

Somewhere along the way, you also learned from your father that the moral aspects of possessing something you'd not earned or been given had a different kind of barrier than a mere concave window, and you were given enough collateral information to work out for yourself the awareness that your acceptance of this awareness did not mean you were going to be taken out for ice cream.

Later still, you understood that those who thought their moral superiority entitled them to ice cream or some kind of compensation, were targets to be picked off with humorous barbs and satires.

Here you are then, rejoicing in those memories of years past, when you had a father who left you with a menu of memories, and the beginnings of awareness of how the thing you wished to deal with most in your life--story--was the kind of convex window you could work at duplicating for your own use.

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