Thursday, June 27, 2013

From The Dialogues Of Bobagorus: Cinema Purgatorio

Tell me, Meers, does time go backwards or forwards? Does today get folded into tomorrow or swept away with yesterday?

I sense, Bobagorus, that it goes out and something else comes in.

Goes out like a candle? Or a patron exiting a theater?

Yes, sir.

So it is, then, both extinguished and disgorged?

Extinguished, I should say, most certainly.

Time dies?

Oh, yes, time dies. I feel certain of that. Millions upon millions of small expirations every year.

But are there as well large expirations? And out and out extinctions?

Without question, Bobagorus. Time itself has shown these things to be true.

So you are saying, Meers, that time is also like a magician, or a jeweler who displays his wares?

A magician, yes, and perhaps also a bit of a jeweler.

That's all good and fine, Meers. I appreciate your answers. I am, however, going to ask you to imagine something which it is my great hope you never have to actually experience. I have reason to believe that time is, in fact, nothing less than the world's most confounding cinema. At all times in this cinema films are being projected on both the front and back walls, and on the side walls, on the floor and ceiling, and in every nook and cranny; different films projected at different speeds. One simply cannot hope to take it all in, and even more impossible is the fact that each of these films is composed of millions of films, one superimposed on top of another. For does not each of us have an utterly unique relationship with time? Do we not each have our own histories and dramas, each with its own pace, incidents, and cast of characters? Then, of course, there is the shared course of human history and life on this planet. There is the past. There is this moment. And there is the future. And every one of these broad concepts means something different --and many different things-- to each of us. In effect, then, what you have is a sprawling cosmic cinema that is constantly and simultaneously screening quiet dramas, great tragedies, news reels, crime sagas, comedies, love stories, documentaries, action adventures, and science fiction.

The projectors never stop. They run at different speeds, and some of them are ceaselessly rewinding immense rolls of film. All of these projectors are time machines, and the images on those screens represent memories and dreams and the most wretched nightmares, the horizons of the past and the future, with the one-way Autobahn of the present straddling or connecting them. We all live in this theater; it's a version of the world, but the only people who can see, or are aware of, what's transpiring on all of the screens are a special class of ingrates and squanderers.

Nobody truly wants to see or know what's happening on all of the screens. To be able to view all the layers is of course a curse. I've been provided with brief glimpses of individual screens and layers, and there is nightmare enough in that experience; to live in the layers, with the fast forward and rewind and infinite transpositions, would be torturous. I have been told that there are literally countless brief sections of these films that are more than any sane human could bear --broken dreams, embarrassing and regrettable moments, grief, atrocity, myriad surrendered futures and bland compromises, rash words, hurtful actions, unspeakable cruelty, heartbreak and hope, birth, death, suffering, unbearable tenderness and innocence, shattered illusions.

The people who can see all the layers and who cannot escape the theater --they live with the projections wherever they are-- are doomed. They spend their lives queasy and cursing their fate. There is a special loop of their own suffering, recurring episodes from their cursed lives, so they cannot even escape that misery. They are trapped not just in the history of the world or personal memory, but in the history of human consciousness and dreams. One can certainly understand how crippling this must be; these poor wretches are pure spectators, ceaselessly tormented and utterly unable to act. They are paralyzed, as it were, in a theater seat that is revolving 360 degrees --sometimes very, very slowly; at other times with wrenching speed-- just as is the theater in which they are captive; just to make things even more insufferable, the seats and the theater itself spin in opposite directions.

Many of these spectators live in a state of perpetual nausea that has characteristics of both vertigo and sea-sickness. There are, as you might imagine, instances where people gouge out their eyes, and few are able to endure long sentences as spectators in this cinema. There are, however, rare cases --mostly failed screenwriters and novelists-- who actually seem to enjoy the experience.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Soundtrack: On Listening, In A Dark Time, To Barber's Adagio For Strings

It sounds like a ship is sinking in a great storm.

It sounds like an elderly man asleep in his armchair with a shoe box full of neatly organized medical bills in his lap.

It sounds like a brokenhearted man walking through the Luxembourg Gardens in the rain as the leaves fall from the trees.

It sounds like a black hearse making the turn onto a gravel road and disappearing into the fields as the camera pulls up and away and eventually reveals a desolate stretch of countryside and a farmhouse down a long driveway.

It sounds like an old woman with a garbage bag in her arms, walking slowly, slowly, slowly out to her car in a hospital parking lot as winter darkness falls.

It sounds like a man who has just lost his job, his wife, his future, sitting out on the front steps and running his hand again and again through his hair.

It sounds like a woman in an empty classroom, slowly erasing an immense blackboard on which she had written the one great dream of her childhood.

It sounds like a man who lives alone dismantling a baby crib and hauling it down to a storage space in his apartment building.

It sounds like a dog pacing in an apartment and waiting for the arrival of someone who is never coming back.

It sounds like a young man staring at photographs of his childhood and unable to identify or remember the smiling man with whom he is time and again pictured.

It sounds like an old man alone at a kitchen table, moving photographs around with his trembling fingers as if they were chess pieces, or like another old man in his basement, sitting in the darkness and watching home movies of laughing children.

It sounds like someone startled awake in the middle of the night by the memory of a betrayal, a lie, an act of cowardice, a child who no longer remembers the sound of his voice or his laughter.

It sounds like a taxi scattering leaves as a procession of mute solitaries creep along the sidewalks beneath umbrellas.

It sounds like a man alone at the edge of a forest, watching as one after another the last fireflies of the summer disappear back into darkness.

It sounds like a shattered boy and his dog, walking along a frozen river outside a small Midwestern town.

It sounds like the last hour of the last happy day of the last happy year.

It sounds like a quiet hospital room, a cluster of silent people huddled together at a bedside.

It sounds like buildings falling down, again and again and again, in slow motion.