And when he comes to the end he often has the sensation that he hasn’t gotten very far.
As if he’d just begun
or that it seemed quite near to where he’d started from
that foreign felt familiar and a bit of vice-versa
Where had he gotten? And where had he set out from? And when? What had moved him from place to place, situation through situation and so on?
Max Frisch came to mind. He’d once said or written that “a man has been through an experience, now he is looking for the story to go with it – you can’t live with an experience that remains without a story…”
which brought to mind everything he knew about the world and everything he’d ever read or seen and everything he didn’t know but may have heard of, and everyone he’d ever met or fathered, loved or hated, felt indifferent or mildly agitated by, animals, trees, chemical theories, in short, whatever remained, at this point, in his memory, mind, consciousness and/or body, however one might denote such a thing,
and he wondered if there was a story to go with it, or a thousand stories, or layers upon layers of inextricable stories, or if he hadn’t got any? Who would author the narrative? Any narrative?
He must be at the end of it. Something has assuredly happened, yes, he could swear he has “gone through an experience” (while remaining quite unsure of what that entails or might mean, or how to go about verifying or evaluating it). Yet he’s quite sure that things have occurred, including, quite plausibly (it seems to him) maybe even himself as well as the myriad characters and events that are flooding his mind.
Not sure why he’s assuming that this is the end, as even now it seems to be going on, or whether something about experience requires various, occasional or possibly constant inceptions, so that maybe each moment merely is the identity of ending and starting out as one simultaneous thing but with an altering additive of the moment just wisping away, a sort of counter-entropy inherent in the action of living (is this what fiction and memory are? or being “pregnant with feeling”?) while the entropy (the thermodynamic theory/law – by what authority? Or whose?) acclaimedly part and parcel of all moving systems did seem and feel undeniable, what with the hurts and losses, pains and changes, and all the blindspots, mishearing, wrinkles, greys and forgetting.
He almost satisfies himself with a “this is the way it is” Conditional Truth kind of thing, maybe Provisional, but he wasn’t sure that really satisfied anything, at least in regard to explaining, at best all the labels, the naming, the numbers, even the metaphysics of concepts seemed descriptive somehow, not answers.
So he’d come to the end, or so he thought-felt, which honestly did feel astonishingly like being ready to begin, a pregnant pause, a breath, a sigh, a reflective moment or ritual prayer before setting forth, a gesture.
Maybe this was the beginning, maybe you had to live enough experience to a point where you beggar’d a “story to go with it” or you’d nowhere to go, he thought, maybe a certain compendium of chaos had to be lived through in order to activate a larger organizing principle or else one was doomed to redundancy?
As if the bulk of past tense required an antidote or it drug you down with it, called for a name so one could relate to it, an historical epoch, a style, a period, a strain?
Maybe at this point he’d amassed a society, a race or a nation, at least a person’s or beast’s amount of experience and so had somehow to account for it or simply identify with it and become past-tensed himself, done.
He was sure he’d come through an experience now, something that ought to be calculable, observable or quantifiable if he had the proper tools of measurement, but hauling things up from the dark deep wells of his body and mind was a lot more like guessing the temperature from an ungraduated thermometer than gathering evidence for a case or utilizing note cards for research.
And what was a story, really, then? Did it require beginning, middle, end, something slung over the shoulder like a knapsack, fabulated, parable, head-and-taled? Or was it much more akin to a consortium of the blind reporting on a mammoth object or subject of all manner of shapes and angles, textures, substances and liquids, vibrations and electrodes and various articulated or kinetically shifting parts?
And who’d role-call the committee?
In all cases, verification and valuation was at issue, seeking inwardly or outwardly he was having difficulty locating a stable standard, an absolute or authoritative measure or equation to fit much of anything to – how shape a moving – ?
Or how determine the cutting? Perhaps he could splice it and reassemble from whatever did remain (or was invented by) his flesh and brain – at a certain point he had children, grew hair, completed degrees, lived at addresses, cohabited with particular persons, got tattooed, markers, markers, markers of something or things, yet did that count as a story of simply his-story? Life-writing? Biography? Diaristic diarrhea? Wouldn’t seem particularly apt, or justified, unless this end-which-is-also-a-beginning was in fact some kind of recognizable end!
As if the experienced occasion of a culminative apprehension actually began what ended, a spiraling path of tracks and traces, each a beginning in pursuit of an end that begins more (and apparently infinite)tracks and tracings toward more ends which turned out as he tried to set it down to fall under the topic of “beginnings” the further back he went…
And weren’t the children already becoming before the point at which they appeared? His hair developing prior to breaking the surfaces of his body? Highly coordinated moves toward and away from the addresses that had accompanied his name? Billions of fluctuations, emotions, choices, preferences, knowledge and opinions involved in countless people and places crafting who lived with whom and why this or that tattoo on this or that segment of his skin? And so on?
In short, what would shape the story, and what, exactly, would it be about? And how? And why? He was now beginning to doubt that he had gone through an experience at all but in truth was in the act of experiencing of which everything else was a part and did this nullify his need for a story, since what had happened continued happening and is happening forward so that actually his feeling or sense of coming-to-an-end was confoundedly fallacious or delusional-illusory and that in reality no end had come, no experience had been gotten through?
To return to the story then, about him getting to the end that feels, he realizes, much like beginning, in other words that particular freedom one has by changing one’s name or address, city or country, neighbors, acquaintances and strangers, even weather systems and media, finishing one book enabling the absorption of another, falling in love after falling to pieces, and so on, this would be where we had come upon him, if we are to trust both his experiencing and description and our own capacity to decode or empathize, resonate with what we’re offered
not without a certain nostalgia, even grief, the losing that actualized freedom always involves, centrifugal/centripetal realities of the present – that entropy and ecstasy of being alive, in motion, ongoing or at least realizing a capacity thereof thereby again falsifying the sense of conclusion which first circled us back to genesis anyway
and all of this merely standing at a corner rehearsing to himself possible courses of action, configuring “plans,” drawing hasty conclusions from dramatic passions, rational and irrational given what’s apparently occurred, but which to which and whom to whom, and wherefore and howfor? Leaving aside again the ever-bewildering suprasensory whyfor…
he stands, shifting his weight slightly foot to foot, looking at everything in his field of vision with his head bowed over to the curve of the curb, but seeing nothing at all, not the base of the traffic light, nor the lines of the sidewalk cement, the inscriptions of it’s makers, the few cigarette butts gathered and fumbling about in the breeze, nor his own shoes or the points of the few others in his frame waiting to cross
because he is wondering what might be happening, in other words what has happened and what will happen, so his attention in fact is not on what is happening at all, escepting what he cannot help, which his body continues to do a quite passable job of managing, hand and digits finding their way into the pocket of his shirt and his jeans for cigarette and lighter respectively, lips opening just the height of the right end of the stick to steady it for the flame, hands cupping and flicking the contraption against the wind.
So he doesn’t know from whence the red pump point on the woman’s foot at his left has come, nor where it is headed when it steps out into the crosswalk at the flashing of a signal, nor the rugged sandal on his right, not even what gender or size or shape or demeanor is wearing it. If he had perceived even the footwear we’d be tempted to inquire why he assumed the red pump strapped over the delicate young flesh and beginning of a small anklebone was inferred to belong to a woman whereas the sandalled and besocked foot was too ambiguous to conjecture without adding information such as type of pant or short, length and pace of stride and so on, but that’s all been duly covered by studies in convention, familiarity and probabilities somewhere. Anyway he wouldn’t be all that much surprised if automatic hypotheses turned out to be mistaken, such was his level of interest and introspection.
I’m not even certain his mind registered all the nicotine and tar that suddenly rushed into his body with his next inhalation, though often it does, being that the habit of smoking usually has ceremonial as well as unconscious functions, but he was not participating in this particular fag to mark time, relieve addiction, or experience pleasure or specific freedom, at least not consciously.
No, he was wobbling at the corner of a busy city street’s intersection trying to determine if he’d come to the end of something or other, what that something or other might be, and whether or not these were really the sensations he was having. Also, whether the experience he seemed to be experiencing was a kind of positive releasing that he might then naturally feel good about, or whether it was instead a kind of closure more like a death of someone like a beloved parent or favorite pet that sorrow or grief ought to attend, because, upon reflection it really seemed to him that all those possibilities and more were boiling together in him like stew or a marinade and he didn’t know quite whom to ask about it.
Aside from The Conclusion, endings are generally like this. Nothing in the lived milieu stops for them, they barely coincide with another (even if others are involved, per se), there may be a pause of sorts that one orchestrates for oneself, but these occurrences are not regularly what we might call “shared” experiences. No, generally the cereal box runs out to be replaced by another, a job flows into the searching of the next one, a meal passed aims toward the hunger of the following meal, leaves fallen…etc…
This, he had to admit, did feel different from that (general entropy-replenishment cycle of life thing) but he couldn’t quite account for it. Still unable to get a handle on what it was that was ending or beginning made it noticeably (if anyone was looking) difficult on the poor fellow. One set of pedestrians replaced another while his jeans and sneakers remained, one filling out, then the other, amid some muttering and politenesses as others were forced to step around.
In fact he couldn’t really even seem to decide where it might be advantageous to go to ruminate over such a thing. Just now a favorite bar and booth spurted across his image-making-recognizing faculty, but the landscape contained a nice out-of-the-way spot and bench in a nearby park as well. Along with the loaded term “ennui” which nearly everyone wonders if they possess (or are possessed by) when anything a relative of melancholy occurs.
He wobbles. He smokes. He ponders an ending or beginning or third thing as synthesis. He thinks of Max Frisch and Derrida and Bakhtin of Bibles and novels and histories, he wonders if he needs a story, he is not paying attention to the world around him, maybe even very little to himself at this point as ideas and theories and recompositions of experience our minds are quite capable of seem to be happening. But he is not there yet, not to the –ing stage of happen, although he must be experiencing, he thinks, thereby thwarting a story.