Here I am sleeping in, semi-conscious, thinking big thoughts. I’m closer than ever before to the grand idea, the supreme connectivity, the metaphor that explains everything. I’m almost there. I can see it. But just when I’m ready to grasp the damn thing I move up into a more wakeful state and it’s gone. I’m left with the image of my favorite shirt.
This is no ordinary shirt. It is a work of art. I could hang it over the couch even if it clashes with the throw pillows. I don’t wear it very often because I don’t want to show off. It would be like Vincent wearing his Starry Night. The shirt is mysterious. It is a galaxy as yet undiscovered. Witnesses have passed out just looking at it. It is the answer to the question as yet not asked.
Apparel, advised Polonius, doth oft proclaim the man. So I wear this shirt sparingly not sure that I have the credentials to be the bearer of the Big Idea. How can I describe the greatest shirt in the history of shirts? It is deep chocolate as in dark matter with streaks of burnt sienna and celestial beige with random fires of terrestrial orange. It is soil and motion. Rust and forest. Rufous-sided towhees in flight. The ancient sun and apricot moon. It is asymmetrical blotches of autumn foliage. Sycamore divas singing their descent. Shakespeare spotted it and declared, Motley is the only wear.
When I wear my motley shirt I really don’t get to see it. Maybe that’s the way it should be. We are each other’s big idea. Everything can be found in anything. There are portals, for some, in their oatmeal. The Big Idea doesn’t hold still for a minute. Nothing moves faster than a fleeting insight. The harder you look for it the more futile the search.
In his novel, Satin Island, Tom McCarthy creates a character looking to tie together disparate images in his head. The hub city, Turin, or it could be Atlanta or Chicago, is compared to a parachute in its configuration. When he sees a news flash of a sky diver whose chute failed to open it becomes the dysfunctional hub city whose flights are delayed. So it is that everything is seen with new eyes from oil spills to out-of-control cancer despoiling the ecosystem.
My habit is to seek out transcendent positions. I live in mid-perch looking for patterns, not too far away to be caught in the static but not altogether stuck in the muck. Maybe my shirt is half muck and half mist. The Big Idea is sculpted from the marble of small earthy particles.
We live in a time that cries out for a larger frame of reference. Otherwise we’ve been Trumped. I turn to the sweep of History to explain the phenomena. How to locate this blip, this aberration …or is it? Maybe the answer lies in the fear and rage he stoked and the human frailty to be suckered, to abdicate our autonomy and be led by a hollow man of overwhelming promises and audacity. My shirt gives me an aesthetic lift but that’s not enough to save us from the menace of the man.
Where are you Steven Hawking to explain our predicament, this Small Bang, this deposit of human debris and orbital retrograde?