3 I to I [A Short-short Story]

I used to imagine Montaigne sitting in his study and saying

“I’d like it if I could sit down one day and have

an I-to-I with me and me and me.”

–Jay V. R.

Having an I-to-I

‘He’ is for persons in English, he used to say. All things are referred to singularly by the subject pronoun ‘it,’ or in the objective case, ‘it,’ he would add. Herein please find the text in transcription of a talk he had with some friends one evening over a few bottles of Vacqueyras at Jule’s on Saint Mark’s Place sometime at the close of the previous millennium. The talk was recorded as one friend had with him an old fashioned tape recorder that are making their way back among us as a nostalgia item–I saw one in Urban Outfitters in Cambridge just last month.

The bottle comes. The glasses are poured . . .

 “Who is for persons, what is for things, we know,” he said.  “This is true except in languages that have masculine and feminine gender for the things they name,” he said. “In these languages we know that tables are she, for example: la tavola in Italian, lei; and that surrealism is he, for example le surrealisme in French, il. The same analogies can be drawn for any of the other Romance languages as it can be drawn for Slavic languages, too, where speakers of Polish or Russian or Ukrainian know that things can be he or she,” he said. “There is no problem created in Italian by referring to a table as she.  My wife sometimes uses ‘everybody’ for ‘everything.’ These languages know the nature of gender in a way different from how we do in English.  Nonetheless, all things in English are it.  He and she are used only in reference to male and female beings, human or otherwise,” he said. “So then, how does this help me to understand the nature of what humanity is, my humanity, your humanity, his or her humanity? Questions, again, as a friend of mine has said time and again, yes, questions beget questions. Does it help to delineate this way? Does it hinder?  To understand the nature of he, she and it in this unique, yet fundamental way would mean what to a person trying to grapple with the significance of how we should refer to our humanity, to what that humanity should be, words are never the things in themselves they are meant to sign for . . . if humanity is an it, then what is it?” He asked. He sipped his wine.

“If the appropriate reference for humanity would be who and not what, then who is this humanity? is the question. To be human or not to be human is everyone’s most important question. Do not forget, I have ben taught, that human is a choice. We are not completely this unless we choose to be human.  Doesn’t this inquiry point to, I am sure you know, the question, who are we? And this question can be asked simply enough, Who am I?” he asked emphatically.

He paused. He sipped his wine in a larger gulp. Sometimes he likes a fuller mouthful.

“Yes,” he continued, after another yet smaller sip, “the question is who and not what, yet most of us are more concerned for what we are than who we are–who getting buried by so many layers of what, what and more whats we couldn’t find ourselves if we spent time digging and digging until the tolling of the bell at our last doom,” he said, as he had the habit of doing, using, as he used to say, hyperbole for the right effect, believing that overstatement and understatement were equally valuable in expressing what one wanted to say alongside correctly weighed words suited to action as the action was suited to the word. “Who am I? is the question; the answer is I am me, of course. I am who I am when I am wherever I am with whomever I am. I could pose this as a question, but I will not, not herein at present.”

He paused. He sipped his wine. He poured more around, filling only halfway each of the three glasses on the table. Only barbarians fill a glass to the top with wine. Beer should be virtually to the top, I remember him having said.

“What could that mean for me now, to say as I have said, that I am who I am or that I am that I am, echoing God. We do echo God, don’t we? His voice in our skulls, as it were, or as we could say.”

He ordered another bottle of Vacqueyras. he loved southern Rhone reds.

“But here, at this moment, I do not know what it means to say I am that I am unless it is to mimic God, our imaginations handle what we think is God-like very well. We have all manner of constructions to build a new God in the image of ourselves, myself is the prototype for God, no?” He asked.

The bottle came. He was shown the bottle. He nodded. It was opened. It was poured. The waitress was French, he thought, so she should not have to be told that the glasses are only filled halfway. He still raised his hand in a moderate gesture to signal that the glasses should not be filled to the brim.

“All the world’s a stage, for sure,” he said, sipping his wine, after, of course, the waitress had allowed him to taste the wine, which he did, which he always did. “I am with Will about the world–all of us, each one of us playing many parts, not just the parts that go on through the stages (no pun intended) of a life . . . and then, that means . . .” he fades. He pauses. He continues after a sip of his wine from the latest bottle of Vacqueyras. “Who is the same person with his wife that he is with his best friend or his mother, the same with his mother today he was with his mother when he was a boy, the same when he was a boy that he was when he became a teenager, the same with his mother he is with a stranger, the same with that stranger at that moment where that he is with another in another place at another time, or with yet other strangers he is with his son tagging along or with his best friends or with his colleagues from work, or the same with any of these persons in any of these contexts he is in a strange city alone, or in another country apart from those he travelled with, the same as he is in his mind or in the mirror–how many are you in the mirror–I am I, I know; I am he, for sure; but I am also often you–no?” He asked.

He paused. Who is for persons . . . was the topic. It was mine. I wrote that. I was pleased when it was chosen. You should understand this. I know he did; I do; therefore, so should you, as would any other . . .

“You are, I am, he is, in the mirror. Who am I in my fantasies? Who do I become when I talk to myself about my problems, or to others in my head about my problems? Who was I when I prayed? Who am I when I talk to the dead–and I do talk to the dead? The world is a stage–and my mind is the world, the universe. I am not a solipsist, though. You can handle this. You can figure this out. I do not have to spell things out for you; I do not have to draw you pictures–although you probably have some already fleshed out, images fleshed out means what to the one who shows? To the one who has been shown? Who have I been as friend, as lover, as son, as student, as colleague, as stranger–I have been many things based on many variables in an equation incalculable?” He asked. He does ask a lot of questions. He had a professor that used to say that a question the way he questioned when he would raise  questions in his essays, had no place in a philosophical essay. Without putting into words what it was he imagined, what he thought,what he believed for writing philosophy—and that was that it was okay to ask the way he would ask in fiction, short or long fiction—he believed it must also be okay for them to appear in philosophical essays, the questions he would raise, or how he would raise them, because it was a matter of understanding without having framed the idea that philosophical essays were fictions of a kind. So, if questions asked the way he would ask them were appropriate for short fiction, then they were also appropriate for philosophical essays. Philosophical essays were essays, themselves like all essays, in form, we could say some things similar or generically about them all; one thing being that they could be either fictional or non-fictional, the way we mean either of these when we say a biography is non-fiction and a novel is fiction, although either one may be told in a manner nearly identical to the other. And so every essay could be a fictional essay, that is, an essay as an essay is when it is an essay not exactly a short story as we traditionally understand the short story as part of a generically defined category of writing or telling—essays are either fictional or non-fictional. What is it that we could say? An essay is easily another form for fiction. Fiction and non-fiction–we do have non-fictional stories, no. Didn’t Gibbon learn from Fielding? He asked.

He paused. This is how it was done, but why it was done this way is interesting to note. We had decided that he was going to talk about a topic we had randomly selected–that he randomly selected by picking a piece of paper out of a hat, yes a hat; pieces of paper that each of us had written a topic for discussion on. We were going to sit at the table and he was going to extemporize on the subject, and we would record it, not shutting it off for the time of the talk which was to be concluded, with a real conclusion long before the end of the tape we were using; we had forty five minutes on one side. The interactions with the surrounding were to be recorded too, only not transcribed in the text.

“But then this what I am becomes central for so many others around me with me against me for me at me that I need to consider what it is I am in the eyes of others,” he said. “I know my wife considers this past when she should. I can’t as she does, or as others do. There is a point or a place when or where I no longer consider what others think about me. Whatever they do think about me is their problem. Not giving a fuck was a plus in the eyes of many I grew up with–it is nothing but the most central attitude for any advancement anywhere, it seems–at least advancing through the lower levels of the pettiest authority, which is why most managers and administrators are–maybe I should have said something else, but how could I have said anything else other than what I have thought having had the experiences I have had with those I have been in conflict with, those going along to get along to get their moderate advance through a system that rectumizes you.”

He pauses. He sips. He pauses. He looks about. He turns to consider the bistro as it is laid out behind him. “You do have to learn how to get along with something shoved up your ass it seems everyone has been telling me for a very long time–no one lives without someone shoving something up your ass; and most of what you have to say or do to achieve this success you desire has nothing to do with your true self or your original self or your integrity, not really.”

He does not have faith in a government of the people by the people and for the people so long as the people abdicate their responsibility to freedom and remain a docile and State-serving Public in place of Populus, in place of We the People.

Yet, there is enough of it that does and that is where many lose sight of who they are for what they are,” he continues from where he left off above, here. “Who I am is a tree in a forrest of what I am, of what I have become,” he said. “Acting is imperative–knowing how and when and with whom for whom is important to learn,” he said.

He paused. He sipped. He looked around again. He caught the waitresses eye and asked for menus. he wanted to start ordering food.

“I am we is something I have already concluded. I am many; we are legion in the world and within. Inside me is a world of many selves. I wear masks in the world and I wear them on the selves inside. To know who I am, I have to get behind the masks, but most importantly, the mask inside me. There is no singular person who reveals itself himself to me. I don’t know who I am or even what I am, ultimately–the what I am is also anything but singular,” he said. He gazed at the menu as he talked. “I guess I must come to say that I am who I am which says that I am me,” he said. “I am me whoever I am at anytime I am anything I am with whomever I change what I am or become at any time anywhere for whatever reason or unreason,” he said. “If I were to wake up with amnesia tomorrow, I would still be me, whatever that is at the time it is,” he said. :There is really no such thing as not being one’s self,” he said. “There are exceptions to this–but even in how I am legitimately not myself I am not myself in only the way I could not be me,” he said. “Do I have to describe me for you to know I have remained the same?” He asked.  “I can’t just tell you,” he said. “Do have to show you?” He asked.

He wanted duck. He was going to get the Magret.

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Mega Millions Update

It appears that the State has fixed its website. I can only hope that the previous post had something to do with it. Perhaps not. Perhaps so. I will flip a coin to find out; I will collect my five wining dollars today from yesterday’s Mega Millions.

Mega Madness, New York State and Other Malevolent Designs Imagined in the Mind of One of Its Residents [Flash Fiction]

If you type Mega Millions into your address bar and click the Mega Millions link that pops up, you will be directed to a Mega Millions official page, only one that’s been frozen at 11/4/14 for two weeks–two weeks. Why, you might ask, would the home page of the State of New York’s official Mega Milliions’s page be stuck like that? I might be able to find what many of you would consider a rational explanation if I did not, in my assumption, believe that it has been planned for the website to respond this way, responding this way is meant to confuse potential winners into tearing up their winning tickets after seeing the numbers from another day. You know how most people look, and I am not trying to take away from them their responsibility to examine more carefully, although not their ticket, but an implicitly trustworthy State website. This is the principal point: it’s not that the individual is made less responsible as much as it is the State that should be recognized as complicit in this subterfuge.

Of course, everyone should check his ticket carefully, and I do, as I did, which is why I noticed that the site has been frozen for more than two weeks. There is, though, no warning from the state. The State might be assuming the people of the State trust the State and thus the State could get away with not having to pay winning tickets, that is, if the lottery tickets have been torn into pieces or irretrievably thrown away as some people do with losing tickets, the state, then, is evil, of course. Yes, the State of New York is evil if this is what they are doing, hoping that winners become losers. Any state in the union has this potential, established, we might assume, to serve the people, the common good, but actually only itself, everything it does toward its own ends and no longer the ends of the People. Any state anywhere on any continent, as every government, is in this way evil; that is, if we understand evil as not something supernatural, not exactly what we mean by the Devi, but devilish, profoundly malevolent. Are states satanic–not exactly. Evil is immoral and depraved, and in this way states can be evil in as much as depravity can come from the state, its administrators and bureaucrats, and I am not talking about individual actions where politicians are caught smoking crack or visiting houses of prostitution. I am not sure that a politician using the services of a prostitute is as depraved as the President handing out tax supported welfare to Wall Street. Specifically when organizations established to serve the People do not and in turn only serve the interests of elites or itself ahead of those of the People, or instead of the People–this is depravity. You do not still believe in Good and Evil; have we gone beyond good and evil?

In the least, I could say the State of New York is less than on the up-and-up in the measure of its alleged oversight and therefore criminal. The state is, by design or in effect, complicit in tricking the people when its website has been frozen on a past date  for a couple of weeks. But let me return to my point. It is not an exaggeration to say this complicity on the part of the state is evil. It is not more so and is quite in line with how we used to say McDonald’s was evil when the news had come out nearly thirty years ago that if you lived on nothing but McDonald’s food you would suffer from malnutrition.

Corporations are not your friends–the state is not your friend; the state only another corporation meant to serve the monied elite.  The state at no time is our friend; it is not your family; it can only at best be less the enemy of the people than many states have been. I wish it were different, but then we only get the government we deserve as systematically under-educated as we are and as semi-literate as our prizes of literacy are–everyone is special, though, a thought which keeps us buying lottery tickets, lottery tickets New York State seems not to want to pay.

I don’t expect any better than this assumed subterfuge from Cuomo’s New York; how can I think otherwise, thinking of the state as I do, seeing the state act or not act in this matter. I would, or I should, expect nothing from any fast-food empire, and by expecting nothing, its attempts to con the people do not surprise me. I should not expect different from anyone’s New York hereafter. I have stopped asking the government what it can do for me a long time ago because it has abandoned most of the sense it used to have concerning how to serve the People.

Hyperbole is as it has been intended. This need not be said, although, restatement is a sound rhetorical strategy, so, for as long as the repetitions are not too many, let me continue to make them. The exact number would be absurd not only to calculate, but to think that you could calculate, or that you should.

Mediocrity and Success

This is not an argument against quotas; I understand the use of them, not the necessity of them. I accept the function of them, but only when appropriately handled. I will address this appropriateness latter in the essay. My argument herein is not a tacit defense of eliminating quotas. It is an attempt to cite the problems and inadequacies of quota systems, as it is also a means of addressing the unavoidable social impact of any privilege system.

Quotas can function within a meritocracy; this is not impossible.  I do understand that meritocracies can also suffer as many problems as any system of hiring based on quotas and privileging. We have to understand that privileges in a society are given to the oppressed, not the elite. That is, societal privileges are doled out by the monied and power elite in America to one or another repressed or oppressed group identified by gender, sexual orientation, or ethnicity (African-American is a distinction of ethnicity, although we still prefer to identify this grouping as one of race). Privileges are licenses not liberties; they are set in place for those in a society who do not enjoy equality before the law or in the socio-econoomic practices of the society. Affirmative Action is another way of identifying this form of privileging. Privileges can only exist within systems of inequality; but where inequalities are not tangible, they must be fabricated, or at least exaggerated, or produced in the imagery manipulated by the media.

Let me say it again, quotas in hiring are privileges. This privilege is offered by the power and monied elite to any covered oppressed or repressed group in our society. This privilege to the oppressed is established to address actual or perceived or media received inequalities, or so we have been lead to think. What the privilege is supposed to do is allow members of the repressed group receiving the privilege to turn their heads to their oppression or repression the larger group experiences. For others, quotas are supposed relieve the stress of repression; but it often has an opposite effect.

Quotas as privileges only add to the stress of inequality; they do not eradicate the inequality; they cannot. A privilege is never intended to do so. Quotas do not address the inequality appropriately; they act on the inequality topically, superficially. In fact, quotas help reinforce the inequality they are meant to help eradicate. They do oftentimes cause us to look for or create the illusion of inequality if it an inequality does not persist. Yet inequalities do often persist; they have persisted. There are tangible inequalities and examples of injustice. Yet, the media often creates inequalities as it might create opinions or foster perceptions it needs to garner more viewers or readers, thus more in sponsorship. But it also exaggerates or blows up out of proportion the image of inequality where that inequality is not a media fabrication.

This kind of privileging present in quotas in hiring does not demand quality of the kind we might want, and therefore, it lessens the need to acquire quality in skills or talents. People just do not need to be as good as we now frame in an ideal both unrealistic and unnecessary.  In fact, there is an assumed and conformed to mediocrity that passes for qualified in our culture. Furthermore, quality–actual quality–is ignored, and is rarely hired, except in elite structures, and only from the who-is-known-by-whom network of job marketing.

The preference in hiring is for the less qualified man or woman from among the established quotas because  the man or woman of quality from among the group designated by a quota is only going to think of his job as a right and not a privilege. Hiring practices within a quota structure do not insure that the best and brightest from among the groups covered by hiring quotas will be promoted, but that the middling talented, the middling skilled, the middling qualified will progress. This reinforces the need for the quota in a two-fold way: one, less talented or skilled reinforce the rationalization for a kind of affirmative action; two, if less talentend and skilled from among the group covered by a quota, the likelihood of having employees hired under the quota that are equal in talent and skill from among employees not covered by quota will ensure the image of the covered group needing the quota. If all hired under a quota umbrella were of equal or greater talent and kill than those not hired under such an umbrella might reinforce an argument for meritocracy to prevail over a quota system.

People hired under a quota system have to be conditioned to think of their jobs as a privilege, and quotas reinforce this idea brilliantly. It is the triumph of the democratic averages advancing and entrenching themselves. Yes, mediocrity progressing to the forestalling of Progress.

Poet, Maker, Wrighter, Builder

To be a poet or not to be a poet, I’ve been stealing from Hamlet for a generation in time. I am a poet. I am in the middle of designing the cover of my upcoming collection of poems  . . . poet, poeta, Greek for maker. Aristotle’s poetics relevant for all forms of fiction, itself from the Latin for a “thing made.”

[see the essay in the pages herein, “Fee, Fie, Fictio, Historum.”]

Vox Populi (The Commentary of Blogger [a short-short story])

. . . and then she says:

Now that street thugs have cell phones they are not going to destroy the new terminals for charging cell phones–what, they did not have quarters when the cost of a pay phone was twenty-five cents? Of course any fear of the dregs of our city destroying community property is not to deter the city from offering this service to the community. Yet, does anyone remember trying to find a pay phone, especially in poorer neighborhoods? It was nearly impossible with how many were broken or trashed.

I am not maligning poor people, but saying simply that community property suffers greater damage from the public in poor neighborhoods than community property does  in more affluent neighborhoods anywhere and everywhere in America. People with greater livelihoods feel more invested in their community, it seems; but then this is not news, is it? Are we really only about money? It might seem this way. This is one way to understand this conundrum in our society. Do poor people in poor neighborhoods have less respect for what is communal? It does seem so, doesn’t it? They do, though, have a savage, nearly reptilian response to any affront to their own property, personal belongings. Step on some poor city kids sneakers and apologize and see what happens.

I just do not get poor people in city neighborhoods trashing their neighborhoods the way some of them do–and it’s true. They do trash their neighborhoods. They do shit where they eat and sleep. They are jackals, some of them. If you were to examine the amount of waste and refuse left in the gutter, on the sidewalks, in the halls and vestibules of their apartment buildings–what? You do not see that poor people litter their neighborhoods not only with paper but refuse that leads to more rats and roaches. Look at the buses and the trains that mover though these neighborhoods. What gives with poor people taking privilege with what they can do to community property and public spaces? And it is a sense of privilege–unless they feel so inferior to rich people that this is the only license they can come up with indulging in the matter of their liberty.

It is a privilege they take when they think they can leave their food refuse on the busses and the trains and in the hallways of their buildings. I have members of the poorer communities moving into my rent stabilized building and I am seeing chicken bones in the vestibule, sneaker boxes in front of the door, coffee cups half full on the stairs . . . the front door lock being repeatedly broken. There isn’t even the good sense enough to understand that they make themselves and their loved ones less secure by breaking the door lock when they insist on remaining too stupid to remember to take their key or too cheap to spend the dollar to make a copy ozone to take along–no! Let’s break the lock so I can spend my dollar on what I would like to know. You can’t imagine I would not want to beat any one of these dregs of humanity with a stick.