To Be Afraid or not to Be Afraid [Flash Fiction]

A man asks a question, Is there a market in America for the literary essay? The man answers his own question with an I doubt it; he then pauses. He thinks about what he has asked, asking himself questions the way he has, the way he has grown accustomed doing while writing essays as he has for several literary magazines over the last ten years or so, having written before that for one or another on-line literary blog . . . what has he said in response . . . what he then proceeds to say about how he suspects that reading is not performed very often at the level necessary in America for any of us to be  engaged with freedom, let alone able to successfully read what we call the literary essay, a form he traces, as many before him have, to Montaigne’s Les Essais . . . he pauses a moment and imagines having said this could be perceived by his readers as pretentious, they having become as degraded as they have in their ability to read, what passes for literacy not nearly literate enough, playing hopscotch with letters might be too much in exaggeration, if it is actually an exaggeration . . . the doubt that pervades our thinking, he said . . . and he has said so in general, too broadly, some might think–he pauses abruptly and turns to look out the window in the direction of the flood light opposite the courtyard that used to house a tree that used to give shade in the summers to the benches below it, but now that it has been cut down, there is no shade and only sun at some times of the day more especially . . .  doubt, he says . . . and our thinking about what reading and writing are–the flood light blaring this night as he thinks to himself, speaks to himself, wonders to himself . . . yes, to think about these effects of the literary process . . . to write or not to write; to read . . . especially in the ways we separate them as if they were not mutual and reciprocal endeavors, he said, reading and writing. How is it one can be done at a level distinctly higher than the other . . . what has left us intellectually and cognitively weakened, he asserts. These mental weaknesses are as debilitating as one or another form of muscular atrophy are to the body, he said . . .  he takes a long pause, he took one, to take or to have taken. Ours is a crisis in epistemology, he said, one where we are left to believe that knowledge is impossible. Where knowledge is impossible, he said, the man or woman who knows something is held in suspicion . . . how is it that they have not always been taken into suspicion? I am suspect, I know . . . there are many waiting to hang or burn the man who knows or has knowledge; any conception of knowledge that is not couched in doubt, doubt and more doubt, perhaps why science, real science scares the hell out of us, or keeps the hell within us, through our clutching, grabbing, grasping fear. To be afraid or not to be afraid has become our prime philosophical question, our first and last question of being. The only thing we have left is the will to power. 

 

 

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