Under the huge open sunny sky that lays perfectly flat against the perfectly huge open sea, he took a small boat to the shore.
He had instructed his private ship’s captain to let him off his private ship and leave him for a time totally alone on a supposedly uninhabited island known as Tavolara.
He was the King of Sardinia. He was to go hunting and exploring. When he tired, and while he waited for the ship to return to sight so he could start rowing back to it, he found an empty beach and he sat down in the sand and, squinting his eyes from the sun, he gazed out at the perfectly blue ocean.
As he sat, a shadow, a huge shadow, fell across him. He turned and looked directly into a dark figure more than seven feet tall. He introduced himself as Giuseppe and said he lived all alone on the supposedly uninhabited island known as Tavolara.
Giuseppe sat down on the sand next to the King and gazed out into the ocean. They conversed. The King found him polite and extremely intelligent and refined. This was in the days before learning was made available to most people and peasants and laborers could barely speak or read and were never able to hold educated discussion with a king.
The King was flabbergasted. He immediately proclaimed Giuseppe king of the supposedly uninhabited island known as Tavolara…
There was once a man named Baron James Harden-Hickey. He claimed an island called Trinidad as his own and proclaimed himself ruler. He wasn’t actually a Baron and the island wasn’t even actually Trinidad, but some rocky nub of wasteland much further south off the coast of Brazil.
He wasn’t even South American. He was North American, and by North American I mean American. Anyway, to the deaf ears of the world this lunatic proclaimed himself king of a barren wilderness and waited to join the family of nations…
I grow tired of human proclamations. Wild claims about ourselves, our natures, our time here, purposes, Our children, our futures. Our futures indeed. If I am to understand the science correctly, and there is a very good chance that I do not, science is largely composed of lines and plus and minus symbols and parentheses and letters and unless Neil Degrasse Tyson or Brian Greene explains it to me in an hour on public television, I am completely lost.
But if I am to understand everything right, there isn’t even anything that we know or comprehend as time. All is abstraction. We don’t have a future. We don’t have a past. We don’t even have a right now. Everything, every second, every ticking minute is just some tiny sliver of ice already frozen in a huge, anamorphic chunk of crystal. There is no point to any of us worrying about any of it, laying claim to any of it, preparing for it.
What has happened will happen, what will happen has happened. A very real and sincere form of nothingness, and there is no way to proclaim anything over the power of genuine nothingness.
Still, that doesn’t sit well with me and anytime I sit and think about it, a deep sadness overtakes me. The idea that a great deal of future exists out there that I will never be able to see or experience, no matter what I do, chills me…but that doesn’t change whether it has happened yet or not.
Or what of our place in the world? We love to make insane proclamations about our status in the world, daily. How ridiculous is that? We believe we ARE the world. We claim to BE the world.
When I was a child there was even a song…for charitable purposes but… When in reality we are a tiny part of this world, an insignificant part except for one thing, our destruction of it. We are really only a noticeable or significant part of this world and its ecosystem in how we destroy and harm it. If we just lived and existed here, we would hardly be noticed. Sure, we build pyramids, temples and roads…out of trees, out of stones we gouge out of the soil.
We build cars and phones, out of steel and dead fossilized plants we dig up off the ocean floors, and with acrid toxic fumes. Most of our advancements cause things to explode or bleed from its eyes or otherwise die. That being said, I don’t think I could live without electricity, sorry animals.
We claim to be spiritual creatures only passing through this material world, confused intergalactic seraphs, temporarily embarrassed saintly beings of some sort of light. Really? Well, there is that old mystery solved. What can be sure is that we have evolved way past were we needed to have stopped. We would have been on top of the food chain some way back; why we came this far is unclear.
A waste of energy and a quandary. If there was some outside purpose or force, I do not discount it, but I do not understand it nor do I agree with it. Fact is, what has happened to make us humans as we understand it was most likely random and completely accidental, the result of the development of a particular amino acid or protein from some strange food we ingested or a DNA-changing mutation from some virus or bug we contracted.
Life kills us. And apparently it changes us. And more curious still is the many who make the odd proclamation that it is getting ever better and always has been. I equally doubt this, as we have not been able to adequately beat, bribe or generally cajole the stupid and evil out of the human race over these last one million-seven or seven thousand years (or however long it has been). The future isn’t looking good. If there even is a future.
But I digress. Baron Harden-Hickey, King James I of Trinidad…A Trinidad…besides for proclaiming himself lord and Emperor of barren sea rock, printing beautiful paper money, designing his own flag and otherwise being a well-rounded loony of some prominence, also earlier in his life, wrote and published a how-to book on suicide. And when he was forty-four, in 1898, he offed himself. He wasn’t on the island. He was in Houston, TX…likely on state business.
I am not really sure what happened to Giuseppe, king of the supposedly uninhabited island known as Tavolara but most sources agree he went on to father several children on the surrounding islands.
It is almost a biological requirement for human classification in the western hemisphere at this point.
But do you believe it exists, that is still exists, that it ever did it exist?
This is where our answers will likely diverge.
Because I do not.
I do not imagine we live in a necessarily democratic time or a remarkably representative one either.
Democracy takes work.
Hard work. Difficult work.
It means before any action can take place, thoughts must be composed, words uttered (sometimes words in languages we do not want to hear or accept) and understandings reached.
Our hot blood must be allowed temporarily to cool.
This is problematic for our animal natures and it smacks of weakness and flaccidness to us.
But it is more than that; democracy and democratic action also carries with it the unpleasant nature of tolerance and requires at its base, to work properly, an acceptance and lenience towards attitudes and behaviors we find suspect and unnerving.
You know, rule by the most, rights for the rest. Even the most ugly and desperate of us. It is a hard nut.
But still, I believe in democracy and I do think it is a real possibility, and that the promise of this country was not a pre-made republic but one in the offing…after long and arduous work. Towards this future we should be working.
I write a lot about forward movement and momentum, and the line from the movie ‘Annie Hall’ about sharks enters my mind.
A relationship is like a shark: it must keep moving forward or it dies.
I accept that and my marriage is a happy one, so I assume our shark is healthy and properly ambulatory .
I think the sentiment works for society on a whole as well. We must continue to move forward or we will die. America will pass away as the America we believe it is or hope it will be. And this is how I believe in democracy, as the future of things.
I get a lot of rejection letters. (The shark lines didn’t convince you?) I have been thinking about this fact quite a bit lately.
They used to bother me but now, they just seem to be a strange kind of benchmark, a landmark.
They let me know where I am and what it is am doing. A compass to point out my direction and my skewed intentions.
Mainly because no matter how hard I try to research magazines and presses, I always seem to end up submitting my work to the worst possible ones for me and my ‘sort of thing’.
I accidentally send out a great deal of my material to journals devoted to the beauty of birds and their feathers and wild rushing rivers and autumnal splendor. No good.
Ultimately, they respond in a few short weeks with a hearty ‘thank you for giving us a chance to read your work “Panache the Skin-tag”, and while we enjoyed the vast use of vocabulary, Laudanum and soap made from dried eel bones is too esoteric for us…also we are unaware of who this Gigi Allin is and why he should be mentioned with Colette so intimately together (Together? Mentioned together? In flagrante delicto is what I said. I don‘t know why I try.)
Or I manage to find a journal with a semi-interesting, almost-gone name, like ‘Retired Bus Driver Quarterly’ and I think, hey, now this may be just surreal enough to publish some of my stuff, only to wait patiently to find that ‘Retired Bus Driver Quarterly’ is just that, a trade journal for retired bus drivers and they didn’t understand a word of my e-mail and simply gave me the address for subscription complaints.
Why do these two streams of thought so closely inhabit my mind today? Well, because it becomes clearer and clearer to me everyday, that I am in the minority on most things and in most things.
Even within the arts community, I operate pretty much on the very edges.
In society, politically, culturally, spiritually…and because of that I must deal with a great deal of sociological rejection as it were…I know that I will never be the face of middle America, my views will never be the driving zeitgeist of civilization.
I won’t make the laws, probably better that way, you have no idea what left-wing liberal hell I would bring if I were left in charge. Drugs and Gays everywhere, roaming the streets like Andy Dick. I don’t just predict this, I promise it.
I’d shut down the churches, abolish the army and hide all the TVs.
Guns and knives would be all gone; people would have to cut their baked potatoes with other baked potatoes.
It would be madness. (I have a good friend named Bob McClanahan who always said he wouldn’t just legalize weed, he would make it mandatory. This is the kind of thing I am talking about.)
But I live and I have opinions and they add up to make the wonderful tapestry that is a healthy culture. I don’t have to be in charge. I don’t have to be the only thing happening.
Retired bus drivers don’t have to hear what I am saying and really that is better for both of us.
But I still live here and I go along with you as we move forward (so our shark doesn’t die) and I, and every other person even slightly like me, has something to add, something you could not get anywhere else, something we need or something we are definitely going to need, for we can never discount the new challenges of the coming years.
I guess what I am saying is that freedom is about choice, a lot of choice, purity of choice. Even when the choices aren’t what you would choose, you must protect and extend the availability and reality of choice. And democracy is about voice, a lot of voice, purity of voice, and even when you don’t care to hear what those voices say and even if you choose not to listen you must protect and broadcast those voices.
And you have to take the whole and we have to remember that America is not done and we are not yet free, that time is coming but only if we make it happen. And in summation, we should all endeavor to be loud and free and keep our sharks moving (and stop sending me rejection letters).