Essay

The Question [A Short Story]

for Hamlet, My Brother, My Likeness;

and for my special friend Oscar

[and I leave it to you to figure out who Oscar is]

 

A man would certainly have to have a heart of stone, as Oscar had said, not to laugh at the Devil Himself in Hell. The fault of my fate–our fate? What fate? Whose? This fate, socially and politically, of course, is not in our star politicians, but in our need to dwell in our caves. And I do need to live in shadows, my shadows, our shadows, I walk with my shadows, absent from myself as I find me sometimes. Can you walk beside yourself, in search of you, I might want to mean, to be mean? To be me? What does it mean to be mean being me, or to be me being mean? How are they different? I ask, you could, perhaps should, even might, if . . .

I love my shadows, to be surrounded by them. I do not prefer the light of day; I prefer the dim world of my social caves. Ah! the personal caves are the most–Tiresias is blind, I remember. I know. I have met this blind prophet before. I do not pity Tiresias his blindness. Blindness is different in antiquity than today. I am not though going to pluck out my eyes as did Oedipus, but then I did not murder my father as did he, kill him, really, it wasn’t murder. I don’t have the courage of Oedipus. I still imagine courage in youthful ways. I imagine I am more like Odysseus than Oedipus. It makes sense that someone like me would imagine thus. Imagination not yet gone, is it; I still have the power to imagine, don’t I? Imagination is eternity?

Odysseus seeks Tiresias in the underworld. Oedipus in the horror of his enlightenment makes himself blind like Tiresias, but as a self-inflicted punishment for how he did not see the truth when he had his eyes. Oedipus was paying retribution. I am not sure what Lear’s blindness paid for–and Cordelia’s death is horrifying, although, like the Greeks, Shakespeare keeps it ob skena. No greater obscenity, is there, in all of Western theater, Lear carrying dead Cordelia. I am re-reading The Odyssey; I wanted to re-read Ullyses. It still stands on my shelf; another comic masterpiece–do we believe in such things, or have we succumbed to the determinism of social forces affecting literature, usually politically tyrannical, mostly white people keeping people of color down, or some such mantra you will hear from one or another idiot undergraduate at America’s most prestigious universities, almost invariably some white totalitarian bourgeois capitalist liberal apologist speaking in the pseudo-third-hand Marxist drivel of some Post-post Structuralist Professor who has made a career out of critiquing the white bourgeois capitalist establishment while supporting it, helping to maintain it so to become an entrenched member of it, no less full of shit than any of them have been for as long as they have been full of shit . . . and I am not bitter; if I were, I’d join the American Jacobins and guillotine some of these fuckers in a remote forrest after kidnapping them, video recording it, and uploading it onto the internet with polemical voice-over manifesto.

Odysseus seeks Tiresias in the underworld because he wants to know, he needs answers. Oedipus has his answer, the solution is retribution, would any I have his courage, any of us in another convention? And it is courage, I think I believe, say so, at least, that anyone needs to see the truth, to find Truth, and yes I do try to hold this idea, however insecurely, that there is a capital ‘T’ Truth. What are these eyes for? Questions breed questions I used to say in other words. It is next to me in a transcendent reality. There will never come a time in the future when I will be closer to transcendence. I would like to know–or so I assume–but then I have grown accustomed to saying this, posturing myself as if it were true without any of the organic actions or reflexes I might associate with humane living–humane action–what the hell am I saying? To say something or not to say something, this cannot be the crux of seeing, can it? There is no human without the humane. Is this not clear? Clarity of prose has always been an issue for most critics writing over the last thirty years or so, mostly less, but not by much.

I imagine myself dedicated to knowing–what to know, how to know it, when and where might be equally relevant. Even if at the same time I am convinced that knowledge is impossible–and I do think this most of the time–that knowledge is impossible. Yes, doubt now having become the highest wisdom, a doubt not at the beginning of my inquiry into what I know or what I can know, but one placed at the end, where I am then self satisfied in my ignorance because I have determined that there is no ultimate Knowledge, no Truth, no absolutes anywhere for anything or anyone, any me. What then must I do? I mean, what’s it going to be then, eh? As you will see again, hear again, repetition becomes motif. You do now that Absolutes are compass headings. You also know that having discovered that all metaphysical categories are constructs does not invalidate the categories anymore than proving that God does not exist invalidates the Gospels of Jesus Christ.

So, what is it that anyone means by fate, by anything deterministic? There is no ultimate determinism except for idiots, and I am not trying to be cruel, or mean, or rude, or condescending, or arrogant, or belittling in any way you might imagine because it is imagination that you must use, should be using, could have understood was where you had to be situated when making the observations you made leading to the conclusions or interpretations you then built. To make or unmake, undo, redo, remake, retake, what then am I saying? L:et’s shoot this shot–this scene again. I am that I am herein as I have been might be will be could have been otherwise.

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