4 A Whale of a Self; or, the Vocative Mood of a Sub-Sub Librarian [A Short Story]

A whale of a ride, a whale of a good time, a whale of a man, all of them big, better, greater. A whale of a Self–the Self of many selves is Leviathan of a kind, a calling we should be able to know by any other name, how we name the things in our lives, everyone trying to be Adam. Call me Adam, the cursed. I listen to Eve and look what happens. Men blaming women for beguiling them in their choices. Man is not responsible–man is thus not free. Woman is freer than man?

Woman carries the weight of Atlas, she carries the weight of the boulder uphill in her futility. Woman is chained to every task as Prometheus is chained to his rock? Call me a woman, she says. What does that mean? I ask. I say, Call me a man–she says she hates the word man. Man is the bane of her existence, no? But not for bitchy waitresses. For that one, someone in her life should put a foot up her ass, but not me—I will not. It’s just a thought, to express frustration or not to express frustration, that might be a question, but never for anyone else, one of the two-faced who are always quick to point out rudeness when in fact they haven’t a clue except in the way they have confused docility for politeness. Anyone offended is not going to get sympathy or an apology.

Not so unlike any other man, I would and would not be–yes and no for another yes and no. Not entirely like any man you might imagine–I am like no one else. No one else who has ever been who is now or who will ever be can be like me. Nor any man you might see, might meet, might speak to and get to know differently than you have seen him. And again, I bellow, I cry, I howl, I speak to you, to whom? To you. Yes, you and you and you . . . where are you, one and more. I am many; I am we–I have said this in other essays, trials, tests–I test what I think, I put my ideas on trial, no? Montaigne, mon frere, mon semblable. What is true for me is true for you? You are they.

I am a man who is both like and unlike any other man–I am like myself and unlike myself as well. I two myself many times, I repeat after my friend Arthur; I am a plurality greater than two because of this perpetuation of doubling me. I am like and unlike any man from anywhere, not a question as to which man. In comparison I could provide a certain set of responses, a list of characteristics, what I am, what I like, what I think, what I do, what I say; to say or not say what I am to others. I usally let them figure it out for themselves. I do not like telling people who I am or what I am–I have stopped this decades ago.

It seems as if it would be an exercise in futility, a useless task to set myself to–men do not wonder about themselves as women do about themselves; women have been trying to make this a weakness in the human for decades, men not bothering to be as neurotic as women have been for the most part? Is that even true–I do not venture this either because too many generalities are too absurd for me to waste any time considering. Women wondering about themselves the way they do has been made a human weakness for centuries by men. Who am I? is a completely different question for a woman, she said–who said–let it be she said. No names now.

A man’s maleness is not derogatory the way a woman being called a female might be–what the fuck is that supposed to mean? But no, it is true, women are more offended by being called a woman than a man is by having been called a man, what that entails, his maleness that accompanies being male, what it is supposed to mean, what it has meant, what it is meaning now, to be male or not to be male in any of the many ways it has been framed, being male, this man;s maleness, is not the same thing as a woman’s femaleness, what it entails today to be female, what it has entailed, what it will, might, could if . . . I could ask, probably have said, one time or another, what is it that we mean when we say what we do about women, about any woman . . . I do understand what has been meant by the fact that my Homo-Sapien maleness is not allowed to become a detriment to me being a man, while a woman’s femaleness has only been a detriment, used against her every which way it could.

I do remember the Valentine’s we spent in the Village–I think she meant to say–what could she have meant to say? We have no idea what others are thinking, do we? We have only accurate guesses or inaccurate guesses–no certainties.

When she said what she said about men and women and what the status of women socially might be in the matter of appearances, how we act, not how we look–to ask the right question, or not to ask the right question–we all must suit word to action, action to word, but also states of being and words must meet in some measured way. We must all be very careful about how we frame our questions. Simone, Simone–I intended to be more faithful than I have wound up being.

All questions infer something of our rights to ask them, no? Our right to an answer comes with the question–but what of interrogation, a special sense of questioning, not simply the interrogative, Are you from Colombia? What do you like to have for breakfast? Recall what I have said herein about the verb ‘to ask’ in French. How do you like to fuck? Do you prefer . . . ?

Everyone wants to know, not knowing is often unbearable; inquisitors are usually intolerant about not knowing what they think they need to know. Inquisition has connotations that questioning does not–questioning is another case other than asking a question. Answers to our questions are not as frequently offered as responses to them are. Answer and response are not the same things. This question about what a man is may come to many a man’s mind, it has crossed women’s minds too by many a circuitous route.

What is a man and who fits the profile? What do I need to be to be a man? I could ask, What should I do? I could also ask, Are there shoulds? I listen to conventional opinions and want to puke. This leaves me a pariah;his leaves continually searching for someone who understands what I think–no, how I think. There used to be shoulds; are there any now? The shoulds now are bound by the dogmas of a hyper-politeness that verges on the psychopathic, if you understand what I mean here by psychopathic; yes, a psychopathic politeness. The parameters have been redrawn? We use both ends of the pencils more often than ever. We no longer have a universal answer; the world never had one answer, did it? I do not buy that aggression is a male trait–it is a trait of our species. it is not as if female chimpanzees are entirely docile. And we have yet to address Bonobos.

There were a multiplicity of answers, even more of responses to the question, depending on the time, the place, the class, the family the position in the social order, no? Have been asked by a close friend, Who are you? What do you have? You have no money. You have no significant social position. Who are you to get indignant as you do? That’s exactly what the power elite and the monied elite have always said to the poor even without using the words. I have my own responses, a string of points made, one or another divergent from the rest. I am not, though, asking this question to receive an answer from you. What is a man? A man is, we might say, but then that would be man playing God. It was man who created God, a woman I once knew said. She said, without man, there would be no punishing God. She obviously never examined females in nature.

God–can God be He, She and It?

I am looking for other questions that will provide other answers than the ones I have received. Most of us cannot think outside the box of our contemporaneity. Tempo-centric, contempo-centric? We are horribly contempo-centric. That’s all there is, I’ve been told. But what of someone who has his eyes opened to more than contempo-centricity? The world is hard and cruel on him, I think.

Responding to questions is not in itself answering them. I must repeat this. I have said this elsewhere, another essay or two, within the confines of a Review I publish. Who do I have to be? A waitress is a person is like a cop on duty is a person; that is, the cop and the waitress on duty are their respective establishments; they are representatives. Saying what I say with sarcasm is appropriate–

We know this, though, don’t we? I have drawn one or another conclusion to how we often respond without answering the question asked. Avoidance is key. It is a sophisticated form of irresponsibility, the latter about not responding to questions about behavior, about choices, an effort to elude consequences, always an act of futility. Everyone is quite willing to make something else out what a person says, as if any of us have been educated enough–trained adequately enough–to listen carefully and critically, acutely.

To respond comes from the French reponser, or, to put again. What is it that is put again? The question replaced is not answered, it is posed once more how? We do love to respond in America, always having some nothing to say, sound bites everyone can chew like morsels at a cocktail party, the great anti-intellectual soiree. Answers escape us, though; they take more time, more effort, more thought. We have neither the endurance nor the tenacity to persist in forming them. We would have to know something and we are convinced we cannot, so why even pretend an answer can be had. We do so love to play ping pong. The person who never says anything offensive is probably an idiot; a person who only says offensive things, might also be an idiot. Is that what I do, really, say offensive things all the time? Do you have any idea how many times I avoid saying something offensive because it would not be appropriately offensive; it would be inorganic. And I am talking about how the offensiveness is in the eye of the beholder because if what is construed as offensive were examined for its content and context, it could be seen as appropriate as there are appropriate ways to offend, organic; except of course by the target, the person aimed atI said in these and other words at other times to others about my penchant. Just as others feel it appropriate to gang up on a man who has made some off-handed sarcastic remark, adding after the fact, some other rather vulgar reference, not for the ears of the previously offending party who received the sarcasm, but only for himself and mistakenly the parties privy to the remarks after the fact among the group he was with, which then became offensive to some of the others present, but in a manner, under the influence of several drinks, or in the case of one, a singularly yet rather strongly made sidecar cocktail, intoxicating enough; and another, with a mint-julip drunk in one short string through a straw, after a few other drinks previously, nerves were certainly frazzled, so high horses were mounted and pontifications were made? All to the distress of one simple separate man who did not appreciate being strung along or made responsible for another person’s inability to handle his job, the performance of which at the time allowed for the appropriateness of the sarcasm.

What then can I say, do I say, will I . . . what? About this thing, man–and man, what he is, is a thing, no? A man, a chair, a tree . . . I am a man; I am a thing called a man; I am a person called Job? Is man a thing? yes, no, perhaps. But man is a person; a person is not a thing. So then what is this about a man; it. We do ask, what is it that he is? Man’s it, his Id, as we would say if we wanted to take cues from Freud about identity, what it means to be a man. But this idea of what it means to be a man must be cultural, which speaks to mentality and not specifically to psychology, except in how individual psychology adapts to or adopts the guiding mentality of a culture. Who is this man named Job? Who is this man, me? Who, not what . . .

I ask again, wait again, look at when and where and how, what is a big part of who. To ask or not to ask–to ask in French is demander–all questions in French forms of demands. We have to answer when questioned. It is our human responsibility to another human being who asks us a question. The word question is the state of being on a quest. All who confront the quester hero, who meet him must aid him on his quest. This is why Don Quijote is often so bewildered by the reluctance or the refusal of others to help him on his quest. To question is then to seek, to search, to quest. But then what of inquests; they are inquisitions of a kind. All inquisitors ask qustions you certainly are not supposed to avoid, not allowed to avoid. Responses are not answers–interesting that in the French, to answer is to respond, responser, or to put again, that might mean, to repose the question, lets respond to the demands with other demands–a space to avoid answering. I am Don Quixote.

The ‘who’ in the former relative clause speaks to my personhood and not my itness; who is it, a question; it’s me, I say how many times a day? It’s Job. Job is it, what is it, the name ‘Job” is it. I am a grammatical reference? This then is my it. Who I am–identity spells Id Entity, I recall, as you might as well, how this was framed in another essay on identity. Identity is Id Entity. It is spelled right there in the word. Which one where, the man, a response, an answer, this person–yes, person means mask, personality is then maskality. From many closest to me I endure a persistent disrespect, a persistent lack of appreciation for what I think and how I think and how I frame it in words; a deteriorated appreciation day in day in again for my being, I used to think say try to mean in words gathered in futility.

The masks I wear; identity cannot be exterior to one’s Self? When is another determination, all the world we recall, stage after stage, when I enter and exit. Time and place are the complete boundaries of my being. This man or that man another man who is who he is; I am that I am; of course, a man like and unlike every other man. I am we; I am many. Doesn’t Satan say something like that? Satan has been a mask we use to cover up our complicity in evil. But religion gives us free-will. We must choose good or evil–that’s why traditionally the Devil possesses those who would never choose him.

I was exactly like my father in all the ways we were different. Each of us is like everyone else and nothing like anyone else simultaneously. I am speaking as a fellow person when I say man, the male counterpart to a female person, in anglo-saxon, the origin of the word ‘woman,’ wif man, or, literally, female person. It is interesting again, as I have said before in other essays, that the word ‘wife’ comes from the anglo-saxon for ‘female.’ If we recall theses other essays of mine, I not only delineate that female person is exactly what the word woman means–but just what this naming does to woman and how it changes in the marriage ceremony. We need God and ritual initiation to change woman’s already modified nature, as our language testifies, and thus our psychology unifies and universalizes, to be wholly other than person sex/gender distinction, female. She goes from wif man to wif: what they are to men, have been to men, where and when, cultures and epochs, all of them theme in variation, but the English is stark and interesting in how it manages woman’s nature in words.

Okay, I am a person, I am a man–man meant person in anglo-saxon, at least what we mean by the word person because, as we have noted in other essays of mine, ‘person’ comes from the Latin, persona, which meant mask. A person is always one of the people, the people in the small case variation is a collection of all the persons anywhere in the simplest possible reference, look at those people over there; look at that person. But politically again–the People are not just people in their simplest reference; moreover, this People, this We the People, is an important political reality for democratic politics. In as much as I am one of the people, and it is initially this people from which we form the idea of The People, I am a part of The People, the energy of The People resides with me, in me, for me, but also by me. In this democratic referencing, each and every simple separate person in a democracy is We the People; but we do not see it as such. The People receive their valency and validation by my being The People.

I am We the People as you are the People as I am also apolitically one of the people as you are one of any people anywhere we are together with others. What we have here is a distinction indicated by upper and lower case values of the letter ‘p,’ People and people.If I cannot be We the People, then We the People means less than it intends, and there are no People, just mangy groups of people, peopling places like motes do sunlight. There is only democracy for each and every one of us, not this all of us, a sum total of everyone added to everyone else in a never ending sub-totaling that signals democracy is for the future and not now. This is unacceptable–I am We the People; you are We the People; he is, she is, they are and lastly we are We the People. Alaways capital ‘P,’ always manifest in every single person. I am macrocosm as you are and she is and he is and so on and so on.

This idea mentioned above, of person as mask, is linked with what we mean by personality, or as I have asserted before, maskality. Yes, person from persona meaning mask. Person means mask, so every person is a mask, the many masks we wear in the world, yes, everywhere a stage. There are also the many masks we wear inside, as O’Neil had said: we have to get behind the masks we wear inside, or something to this effect. The person I am depends on the mask I wear on the stages I enter and exit in the world. The same is true for you and for him and for her and for everyone everywhere. There are many stages within me too.

Who, in the many attributes we might call human, is, as aforementioned, like me and nothing like me, everyone, no one, anyone? I am like you in all the ways we are similar, more than similar in the ways we are the same, if sameness can ever be achieved by any two human beings, with as many variables, if I am permitted to make metaphors from the material of mathematics–yes, with as many variables in the equation that sums each of us, if that too is possible, this kind of summation, no human-being can be sum-totaled I had been taught. I am we, and in this we, there are many more than can be discovered by me at any one time, a nearly inexhaustible number of selves. I know many, I have the experience of them.

The many selves Self, Milton had imagined; each Self a totality of other selves . . . a totality? A a non-totalizable number of selves . . . fluctuating mutually reciprocally macrocosmic/microcosmic selves? I am a part of humanity; I am larger than humanity, or I am also a Self inclusive of humanity. I am each of these mutually as everybody is each of these mutually. There are a perpetually increasing number of centers to this individual macrocosmic relationship each person has with the humanity he is a part of and greater than simultaneously, only in his inclusiveness of everybody in his Self as he also houses many microcosms of himself.

Each human being is a macrocosm set against the microcosm of humanity, as he is also a microcosm of the macrocosm of humanity. Both are true. Now this macrocosmic relationship that each person has to humanity is true for all people; every person is an amalgamated cosmos larger than that of all the people considered together, humanity. I am macrocosm to humanity as you are macrocosm to humanity, as each individual human being is macrocosm to all others together. There are enough questions aimed at what it means to be human, to have humanity, to posses the latter as one is also possessed by it. The questions of what it means for a person to be singular, to be plural, to be part of a collective and to be that collective in a larger more singularly aggrandizing inclusion.

What does it mean to be general and to be specific, to be unique, to be exceptional, or whatever else we have in words that expresses what human is when human is I; or, what humanity is when humanity is I; to have humanity when humanity is a quality and not a quantity as all collective nouns are, quantities. What can I say, and what can I not say that leads us to discuss or determine, within the context of defining, the limits of our knowledge of the human, of humanity, of having this thing humanity, or on being Homo-Sapiens. You know I have established in other inquiries the idea that to be human is something different from being Homo-Sapiens. I am born Homo-sapiens; I must choose to be human. And the choices are not infinite, you know. Infinity is the greatest irrelevancy in our lives. It is unreachable. It is uncountable. It never comes, never arrives. Eternity is of greater possibility than infinity, even if eternity is only reached by transcending here and now.

I am just like you. I am nothing like you. I am; and I am not. I become and I am not becoming. I am similar as I am plural; or I am the same as you in all the ways you and I are different or appear different, just as I was exactly like my father in every way we were not alike, as I have said above and repeat by necessity here–the many necessities I endure, I engage. Everywhere I go is here, each step is here, here and here, over and again how I am and am not; what I am, who I am, where I am, how I am, why I am, when I am what who how . . . et cetera, et cetera.

I am different from you–I have said above–of course. How could I not be different, distinct? Do I need to ask this question? I am completely other than you–absolutely, in every thing we share, all categories of likeness, of course, whether it be race, religion, nationality, ethnicity, gender, level of education, job status, money, whatever have you in forms to compare and contrast one human being with another. In the manner of defining our species, we are alike as Homo Sapiens, the way one chimpanzee is like another chimpanzee and is in ways like all chimpanzees. Nonetheless, at my position in space-time, my place in the world, the world of phenomena, I see the world of things and objects, hear sounds, taste tastes, smell smells uniquely, unlike any other person, human, body. There is no one who has ever lived, who is alive now or who will ever live in the entirety of the future who occupies my position in space-time, thus this location here where I sit or stand or lie down, from where I look at the world of objects, of persons, of places of other things as impositions on the world, world after world of perception, of seeing the way I do when I do how I do where I do . . . I look for–to search or not to search–I gaze at what I see; I see what I have gazed at, how? Anew? The same? Differently? Unexpectedly? Everything around me . . . coordinate point by coordinate point; X and Y axes. What we colloquially call time and space–these are apart form all references to the physics of space-time–I am no one but myself who sees what I see as I see when and where I see. Is there a why I see?

No one imagines what I imagine, passes images in the mind as I pass images in the mind, or thinks as I think. No one is in my head–my skull; this skull; I am Yorick’s skull and Hamlet and the grave digger and Horatio in that graveyard of my life. My brain thus my mind, and yes I have held onto the viability of the thing called mind in spite of our inability at locating it. I have not given up on soul either. I wish there were a way that this was understandable for more than those I have already assumed will understand–I have no way of knowing–what are the limits of knowing; how is it that we know anything? When is knowledge knowledge and when is it false knowledge. My estimates are or are not accurate, to whichever degree they may or may not be–what is knowable? What are the limits of knowing? is knowledge possible? To think that this says what I have thought about this would be presumptuous; to imagine you think this says everything on what I have thought about this would be equally presumptuous. A whale of a self–I might as well summon Leviathan to come upon the shore.


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