"What is wisdom, anyway?" asked the Woman of Deepest Despair. I was taken aback. I had been using the term very loosely, and largely mockingly.
"...I think it's... knowing where ideas lead... It's... well, let me give you an example. This friend of mine, he was telling me about this book that he was reading, one of those self-help things, that encourages you to go around with all these sorts of daily affirmation-things that shape you into a totally nice, cheery person, someone who tries to understand everyone else before he tries to make himself understood, someone who doesn't let himself be shaped by immediate environmental forces. ...And, well, I went through one of those stages myself, somewhere in late high school, where I read lots of chincy 60cents books and tried out thirty different kinds of sainthood. ...And well... it's a valuable process to go through, I think, but in the end, you just can't walk around trying to control everything you do in that way; you can't fool yourself into thinking that you can control even the majority of what you feel at least, at least not in a direct sort of way... and you wouldn't want to... it just makes everything... icky. So, whatever... I was playing the wise man to him... though I don't know how useful that is, because the person being told never listens, and doesn't usually like what he hears. I guess you just have to find out stuff yourself."
"So are you wise?"
I really didn't know how to answer... "No... well, maybe... It's not really a self-ascriptive term; it's just a role you can play... And it's not a general term either. People have different experiences... if you happen to be talking to someone who's headed towards where you've been, then you're wise. So whatever... we're all specialists, which means that there's still a lot of stuff that we're totally clueless about."
...Just some old material I hadn't yet put anywhere in the book... The rest is fresh... or maybe not so fresh, as it's just a return to the primary question: Is this a Good Book? Obviously it's been good for some purposes, e.g. giving me something to do, but was it as good for you as it was for me? The aforementioned Woman o' Deepest Despair said to me that great literature occurs when the particular is made universal. Since she for one couldn't even slightly relate to my emotional reactions to these events, I s'pose I should conclude that this effort sure ain't great. But yeah well... half my point has been that people are generally pretty much totally out of touch with each other (and themselves) unless they do a hell of a lot of work to change that. But to give you a chance to do such work, to get my whole story and so be able to relate in a new and fulfilling way, I would have had to fulfill my obligations as writer... I stated this in sitting twenty-seven that this book owes you both honesty and respect, and I must say I've fallen short on both counts. I look at all the narrative detail here and I realize exactly how much stuff I made up, and how you'll never know what's true and what's not, and how much I as the main character and Tripely part of your brain and I as actual living person really have to do with each other... But such is the price of readability, and unless you're a nosy booger you probably don't care. But within the confines of the text: I did promise to finish with grace and closure, which I haven't really done, seeing that I refuse to give a detailed summary of the philosophical stuff: I frankly think I would just distort anything valid that might have been in it by squishing it into a nice edible package for you at this point. Don't expect All randomness to magically coalesce into a nice traditional literary tour de force ending. Pah. But You do deserve some closure, bein' human and all. Since the story is not actually over, I thought maybe as a special treat for you I'd grant you control over how it works out. I feel the need to do this, and to keep apologizing to you, and to take you out to eat, what? twice now? because of... well, it's that thing about respect... and trust. It has to do with what really happens every single break between sittings. You see, I have been coming out of the book, up through the pillow that you store it under, and straight into your mouth... I have been... twisting your teeth. Ya know: ruining your orthodontics so that Mine may thrive. I am so ashamed, I really can't tell you... And I know this apology doesn't excuse me, not with the damage I've done, with the way I've perfidiously betrayed you. I know what this means... you gave me plenty of chances, and I blew them. I am a bad writer and, yes, I'm worthless and... a bad person and... She laughed. So we've got to break up, you and I, because I love Her and not you, and I should spend my time conversing with real people... though, you know, I think that now I do at last respect and trust you, seeing how you were so eternally wonderfully nice enough to actually get through this voluminousness. ...But too late. Farewell, Fair Reader: I set your choice before you and the world is yours:
This is a book of tripe. If you want to know what that is I will tell you, I mean specifically tell you. Webster's New Twentieth Century Dictionary (Unabridged; second edition-- deluxe color, 1972) says, "tripe, n.... 1. the entrails generally; hence, the belly : generally used in the plural. [Obs] 2. part of the stomach of ruminating animals when dressed and prepared for food. `How say you to a fat tripe finely broiled?' --Shak. 3. anything worthless, offensive, etc.; rubbish; trash. [Slang]." I also say this, though not as often or at such great length.
...Which brings up the point of what kind of tripe this book contains, or rather is. Is it the kind that, when excreted profusely, is strong enough to bind people in such a way as to bring them together despite the odds and imperfections and complexities... or does life just suck and there's no hope?
|© 1993 Mark A. Linsenmayer||[ Contents ]|