Saturday, November 4, 2017

Parallel Universe

Seems like most books I read or movies I watch have, at their core, the issue of how to be OF this world but not altogether IN it. If there is an alt-universe there are times I want to get myself on that queue. However my guess is we’re already there. We live with one foot on the ground and the other perched in some mid-distance elsewhere.

It’s the last train to Clarkesville / And I’ll meet you at the station.

About thirty years ago Peggy and I fell from the back of a bus on Oxford St. in London. We had hesitated getting off and when it started up again we tumbled into traffic. Sometimes I think we were killed that day and all these years are just the beginning of our after-life. I could live or rather die with that.

So maybe I didn’t burn the toast this morning...and the Dodgers didn’t go listless in that 7th World Series game ….and Trump really isn’t President.

Show me the way to get out of this world / cause that’s where everything is.

The operative word is transcendence. How to lift off, find the metaphor, burst through the margins, sometimes in an act of creative destruction. It may mean not only smelling the flowers but also listening to them. It may entail finding connective tissue that isn’t there, risk going crazy and it may be worth it.

One author (Jean Giono, Joy of Man's Desiring)) takes the pastoral road into a bucolic world of farmers communing with animals in a peaceable kingdom. Another writer (Richard Powers, Orfeo) sees the artist as a misunderstood fugitive in flight from convention and a fearful populace.

I suspect we all, to some extent, live inside our own paradigm, the one we’ve created in order to breathe freely in Trumpdum. Outwardly we exist in this agreed-upon world. Yet at the same time we inhabit that parallel one where Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto drowns out the sum total of all his majesty’s Tweets.

All four-legged, fin-legged, no-legged and winged creatures prance, slither, gurgle and flutter out their days hearing their own sounds beyond our frequencies and know nothing about the headlines that tremble us. Soon we may join them.

From pre-history on we have sensed a glimpse of an imagined beyond. We love the mystery; that unaccountable twinge felt when mad Uncle Abner dies three continents away or the word succotash appears in the newspaper at the moment it is spoken on the radio or that dog whom your neighbor thinks is her deceased husband having returned.

Conspiracy theories are yet another way out of here. Page eleven of the rag at the check stand tells of the half a mermaid discovered inside a tuna fish sandwich. On page twelve is a JFK sighting or was it Jesus in the arrangement of cornflakes in the cereal bowl.

Next flight in ten minutes. If I had my druthers (and when don’t we all have our druthers, existentially speaking?) I’d book passage on Rauschenberg Airlines or board a slow boat to China with a collection of William Trevor stories accompanied by a bluesy sax to see me off. Anything will do for transport to that other dimension, parallel or wobbly.


  1. Oh my goodness, Jean Giono! One of my favorite authors but known by not enough readers, it seems. Norm, your blog posts are often the highlight of my week. Thank you! And I do often share, hope that's ok. Thank you too for offering a transcendence for Trumpdom. I feel chagrined that at 62, this is the world I am living in. Much love to you and Peggy.

  2. Thanks so much, unknown person, it's always a blessing to find a receptive ear and Yes feel free to share.