Wednesday, June 19, 2013

hard apples

 The always thought-provoking Mara Collins wrote a post inspired by this essay, which in turn led me to Barthelme.

And still my brain will lay charges at my feet: accuses me of thinking I’m funny when I’m not, of being hopelessly self-absorbed, too judgmental, too needy, too aloof. I want to be perfect so everyone loves me. So I must have a comprehensive list of the ways I’m not perfect, things I can eliminate one by one . The want-to-be-perfect-so-everyone-loves-me is so distorting it starts to underlie everything I do, disrupt my reasons for doing anything–things that I have legitimate reasons for doing, self-care and interests I pursue: all corrupted. What’s more, it disregards all evidence that I am, in fact, loved. How discourteous is that, to think that people who love me are the ones I have fooled? 


I’ve often thought that the single most devastating cyberattack a diabolical and anarchic mind could design would not be on the military or financial sector but simply to simultaneously make every e-mail and text ever sent universally public. It would be like suddenly subtracting the strong nuclear force from the universe; the fabric of society would instantly evaporate, every marriage, friendship and business partnership dissolved. Civilization, which is held together by a fragile web of tactful phrasing, polite omissions and white lies, would collapse in an apocalypse of bitter recriminations and weeping, breakups and fistfights, divorces and bankruptcies, scandals and resignations, blood feuds, litigation, wholesale slaughter in the streets and lingering ill will. 


"Get up," Hilda said. "I'm sorry I said that." 
"You told the truth," said Rebecca. 
"Yes, it was the truth," Hilda admitted. 
"You didn't tell me the truth in the beginning. In the beginning, you said it was beautiful." 
"I was telling you the truth, in the beginning. I did think it was beautiful. Then." 
This "then," the ultimate word in Hilda's series of three brief sentences, is one of the most pain-inducing words in the human vocabulary, when used in this sense. Departed time! And the former conditions that went with it! How is human pain to be measured? But remember that Hilda, too... It is correct to feel for Rebecca in this situation, but, reader, neither can Hilda's position be considered an enviable one, for truth, as Bergson knew, is a hard apple, whether one is throwing it or catching it. 
"What remains?" Rebecca said stonily. 
"I can love you in spite of--" 
Do I want to be loved in spite of? Do you? Does anyone? But aren't we all, to some degree? Aren't there important parts of all of us which must be, so to say, gazed past? I turn a blind eye to that aspect of you, and you turn a blind eye to that aspect of me, and with these blind eyes eyeball-to-eyeball, to use an expression from the early 1960s, we continue our starched and fragrant lives.