I talk to a friend about love. He’s a sensitive man, very articulate, and so am I. Yet all our talk about happiness makes me sad. I’m reminded of those photographs of concerts that show everything but the music.
Yet we need to talk, even about what’s inexpressible. What’s a friend for? Joined by what we can’t fathom, we’re two minds taking an icy plunge into the river that carries away all meanings, our laughter and our tears — singing, exuberant waters rushing toward the ocean only fools name.
Bless our foolishness: the words are anchor or sail, and most of the time we take one for the other. Lovers quarrel, nations war, while the silence gathers around us like a storm. Who sets course for that silence, leaving behind the radio clamor — broadcasts from the safe shore, the mind advertising itself with clever little jingles about truth and love, or vexing itself with “problems.”
I get a call from a political science student doing a survey. “What,” she wants to know, “is the biggest problem facing America?”
“Look,” I say, “I don’t want to make life hard for you. I know this answer needs to fit into a category and it won’t: the biggest problem facing America is the idea that there’s a big problem.”
Now, what kind of answer is that? Am I oblivious to nuclear proliferation, world hunger, environmental de-spoilation? The broken backs of the poor? The twisted limbs of the cities? The coughing we call politics as we turn restlessly in the splintered night of the Dream?
Well, obviously not — I say it so well. As do most people who like to talk about these things, imagining that they’re talking about something “out there”; that they, and the problems they see, are somehow separate; that the greed and ambition in the capitals of power are different from the murky energies riding our spines, bending us to hatred of those who hate, making us cripples who’ll never climb the stairs of the world until we cry out in our agony of separateness to be freed from the burden of being “better” (substitute “enlightened,” “progressive,” “New Age,” “sensitive.”)
“We don’t see things as they are,” Anais Nin said, “we see them as we are.” To me, this isn’t a limitation to be overcome; it’s a truth about the nature of reality that leaves the door open just enough for love to slip in. Or do we leave Ronald Reagan out in the cold, with the other schmucks. The late Lenny Bruce, freedom’s lowly pimp, said it best: “We’re all the same schmuck.”
Meanwhile, Overthrow, a Yipster Times publication, arrives with a drawing of Ronald Reagan peeing blood and the headline, “Our President Demonstrates His Trickle-Down Economic Philosophy.” Very funny. What do the yipsters at Overthrow imagine Ronald Reagan thinks about when he gets in bed at night — how to piss on us? Maybe. And maybe he thinks about the idiotic thing he said to his son on the phone, or how his mouth tastes and his feet hurt, and how close death is, and whether again tonight he’ll dream that strange dream.