Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Butterflies and Junk In A Dusty Attic

(Dogger Gatsby’s 1989 Monologue In A Letter to Phil)

I write this in reference to all the things that never came to fruition and all the things that did, but then came to ruin!

Things pile up, in my life and in my mind, like junk in a dusty attic. Whether dumb or smart I am no longer certain, but I was always primarily a brain—a consciousness, I mean—and as I get older that characteristic becomes more dominant, not less. Maybe you understand what I mean, or simply remember that about me. You can't do much with me except talk, I'm afraid—especially now that I don't drink or do drugs. If you recall that of me, then you'll understand when I say that most women find me pretty much the same, except worse, and I'm not sure what to say about that. In some cases, it seems, women don't really like to talk, but in others they talk more than we do. Whichever is more typical, I am not in the mainstream of either activity, but in the cold.

I just watched “The Big Chill” again on cable the other night. I liked it better than I did the first time—the first time, it merely irritated me!—but I swear I think I understood it less. I still don't particularly know what they mean by the title. Oh, yes, I heard the dialogue about things being “frosty” out there in the real world, and so forth. But I've always felt that frost, or at least I thought I did. Now, I'm confused again.

Does nostalgia for one's old college and/or revolutionary chums spell out one's final demise from the old life? Does it proclaim the actual event or signal the absolutely compelling need that's in us to Emerge (like some catastrophic butterfly!) into bold adulthood before “it's” too late?

Butterfly. The adult stage of the order Lepidoptera,' which includes the moths, too, of course. It's mostly a difference in their antennae, as I recall, that sets them apart. Perhaps a more interesting name for an order is Ephemeroptera (as in ephemeral, you know). I believe it's the order that mayflies belong to.

This is it: “Ephemeral, from the Greek, meaning: lasting a day. Short-lived, transitory.” Butterflies don't do much better, nor does Man, not really. At least, not this man.

Strange, isn't it, to be “Men” now? It is for me, at any rate, because my sense of responsibility has increased so little. Peter Pan still floats around in my blood stream like a leaf in a stream, a fluid insensibility that's never been squashed. No matter what, one gets more middle-class, though—can't stand to live without this or with that, can't take the discomfort of certain places, faces, and situations. Just can't take it, really. My physical stamina is gone, gone, gone. Some of it's psychological, certainly, but much of it is simple body-rot. Ha! That much misunderstood, little-envied evolutionary process.

If “Man” is meant to evolve into a higher consciousness, it doesn't do one damn bit of good for individual men who are only destined to evolve into fertilizer. Maybe the smart thing to do would be to make babies and walk around with a dumb look on my face.

No, not really. I still can't stand babies. They want all the attention, and I have never gotten enough of it yet myself. I probably never will. And how could I be responsible for another when I've never yet been responsible for myself? Besides, it ordinarily takes a second party to make one of those, and the general prejudice is that it should be someone who loves you. I accept the prejudice, though not the apparent goal. Yes, the smart thing to do would be to find someone smart enough that I could stand to have babies with her, and then be smart enough to not have the babies. Ah. This doesn't mean very much, does it? I'm rattling on, like something broken.

(Note: If Dogger had lived, perhaps like the rest of us, he’d have not only married, but learned by now to like babies.)

3rd draft: 05/24/06
©1989 Ronald C. Southern

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Abandon hope, all ye who enter here! (At least put on your socks and pants.)