Current content is meaningless and fast. I’ve read Knausgaard (slowly)—he thinks something’s off with my capacity to resist and yes I’m happy to put words in his mouth if they serve my purposes, that’s fine, that’s what words and mouths are for, because words in mouths are as delicious as kisses if deep steeped and rough enough for going unspoken but by no means unsaid, though I’ve no desire to kiss Karl Ove, only to listen. Meaning, content. Content, time. Time, resistance, each requiring the next—those words were his, are his, but they’re ours, so they’re mine too and I’m just putting them back where they belong. Meaningless, fast. I’ll be brief and thieving. Or perhaps not brief, but surely thieving.
There’s—yes, there is—a gorgeous Italian girl ten years ago petite with short brown wavy hair and a warmly elven smile who makes a point of coming up to you while you’re sitting at a table in a pub in the center of a town 3000 miles from home with friends you’ve just recently made, and she makes a grandly subtle gesture of stopping by your table which is not at all by the door on her way out to smile that smile and say hi (pause, smile, beautiful) I’m leaving now, dark eyes fixed on you, little transfixer. I’d like to kiss her, yes, yes I would. Now, that is, kiss the then-her presently, because I didn’t when I was then-me, back when the words in her mouth were as sweet as daybreak and her kisses surely sweeter made of soft warm breath and intervening silences. Why do I even remember her? And why the minor twinge of longing, now, for the time not had then? It’s slight, barely more than a half-minded notion, like a papercut that only goes a layer deep and makes you think about blood rather than bleed it, slight but it’s there.
The twinge is for then, just for then, then-me back when. Now is different, though, a much different animal-thing, and now’s been cutting deep and bleeding me confused when I thought I had it straight(ish). It’s not about hating the present because it is and all that isn’t, in other words, more words, I know, trapped closed-mouth until another blank page presents itself, supplicative. Not because that was then and then is over, over and done and little miss smiles and almost-kisses is long gone, always already was, just like everything else between what was once a now and is no longer. It’s not about that at all, and it’s not like that either. That’s too easy, too nebulous and childish, like hating fish for being fishy, those goddamn fishy fish. And hating those fishy fish for all their fishiness is just as foolish as loving the past for being past-y.
This is a different better bigger hate that hurts more and means something. It’s enmity toward presence in this particular now with these particular fish and their certain fishiness because they school swim shimmering dull-wide-eyed circles around and past me and I get swept up and along when I’d rather put on my concrete boots and sink if it meant I could sink down there and think about what kind of past this will be, what kind of past I’m so busy swimming into the future to make this. Treading water is more like it, and my fish suit is really unbecoming.
“Nothing lost, nothing created,” she said, I don’t remember who or if she was a she at all but “she” did and I like it. Lose and create, in order to. Time to lose this now and create anew because this no longer new now is sweeping meaning away like a punch-drunk witch on Tuesday, which doesn’t make any sense and shouldn’t because that’s my point precisely.
My now, this now of mine—androgynous—has thrown the broom down and picked up a leaf-blower, laughing maniacally and yelling at me in German while I reach grab desperate for meaning in all the content I’ve got, sad and uncertain and lonesome as it is, before it gets blown away and it’s just me here with the fishes in my stupid fake fish-suit, no past to be about, because it’s all loss and lost if this is all it leads to, no future to be for, because it’s just dream and yearning if this is where it remains, and no serviceable current content to tap into, because this present is all chatter and rush, it seems, brisk weekly cycles of daily endurance—cubicles and small talk and emails and meetings and “mission” and projects and plans and emails and meetings about project mission plans amidst cubicled small talk—bracketed by brief stolen spans of pause, nightly and weekended, where I barely move my stories along because I’m too busy trying to slow down and recover from leaf blower days, and too preoccupied with getting a handle on why I feel so bad, so stuck, so caught in an unceasing, purposeless middle without time to sink and think or devise and rise. So I just end up writing shit like this, occasionally rhyming. And I’m running out of ways to say it. Fast.
There’s got to be something in all this, though, got to be something that means something that I can grab onto and use to pull myself out of this too-fast, self-antithetical middle between memories invalidated by innocence lost, betrayal, madness, and death, and a suppositious, hypothetical future, the one I imagine of authorship and scholarship and dictatorship, where I Escape From It All And Live. Right? Something to learn take with remember gain. Or forget. Something to lose. Something. A moment can’t be empty, can it? If it is, what can be created on the other side?
Maybe I just can’t see it when all this meaningless and fast is up in my face like a six-year-old on red bull and cotton candy like LOOK AT ME HEY SEE WHAT I’M DOING HEY HEY LOOK. I see you, motherfucker, damn. I see way too much of you, trust me. And the more noise you make, the more you jump around like the jackass you seem primed to grow up to be, the more disinclined I am to do anything but dismiss you because you’re so fucking annoying. Where are your parents. Jesus.
Maybe the meaning is somewhere behind him, though, obscured by the obnoxious hyperactivity fishy-fish content, maybe I can’t hear it over all the German and leaf-blowing, maybe I can’t see it between the refashioned echo words my mouth keeps coming out with over and over again as I try to keep up by slowing down, always slowing down, words that worry me a little when they get stuck back there on lips they never kissed and the ones kissed since, somewhere between then and this. But that’s only sometimes.
Yes, maybe, thinking. Maybe endurance and adaptation have kept me from smelling, hearing, and seeing the message in all this. Wouldn’t be the first moment’s meaning missed, not by a long shot. Maybe that’s now’s lesson, yes, maybe this is, realizing now maybe it is and I’ve just been too agitated and annoyed and desperate swimming, too mad at myself for being fishy, too mired in reaching to both past and future for a distance I couldn’t possibly attain from where I am, because, well, it’s where I am, no matter how impatient I may be to get away and understand and create, too distracted and overcome by all this to grasp what it’s been cooking and learn my lesson, swallow my medicine, take my cake: this moment is dead, it’s stasis; this now, the way I’m living it, is tapped, kicked, dried up flat and cashed, and it won’t have more or be more until I’m out from the middle of it.
It’s done, in other words, always more words, and my order of operations is fucked up, and so is my outlook, now that I’m thinking again. This present, this screaming, squirming six-year-old moment is mine, all me and mine, whether I want it or not; no one has done this to me. And as much as I’d love to engage in the time-honored American tradition of finger-pointing, the only thing left to do… is drive it out to the middle of nowhere and leave it for death. No, no, that’s wrong again, and it may have legal ramifications—he’s only six, after all. I mean the only thing left to do is grow out of it, to lose now to distance, to let it go so it can settle in so I can then create a new now to fill back up with new now shit from then, from here, from anything, some terrible, beautiful, mouth-spoken kissable powerful shit that knows, means, and remembers, all three at once and together.
How to get there, how to get there—I still really don’t quite know. But I’ll start with this, because it’s where I started anyway: a long-ass quote from Knausgaard, just something to slow things down a little and tie it all together before I drift away again on some romantic tangent with strange references and imagery that more obfuscates than explanates.
As your perspective of the world increases not only is the pain it inflicts on you less but also its meaning. Understanding the world requires you to take a certain distance from it. Things that are too small to see with the naked eye, such as molecules and atoms, we magnify. Things that are too large, such as cloud formations, river deltas, constellations, we reduce. At length we bring it within the scope of our senses and we stabilize it with fixer. When it has been fixed we call it knowledge. Throughout our childhood and teenage years, we strive to attain the correct distance to objects and phenomena. We read, we learn, we experience, we make adjustments. Then one day we reach the point where all the necessary distances have been set, all the necessary systems have been put in place. That is when time begins to pick up speed. It no longer meets any obstacles, everything is set, time races through our lives, the days pass by in a flash and before we know what is happening we are forty, fifty, sixty… Meaning requires content, content requires time, time requires resistance. Knowledge is distance, knowledge is stasis and the enemy of meaning. My picture of my father on that evening in 1976 is, in other words, twofold: on the one hand I see him as I saw him at that time, through the eyes of an eight-year-old: unpredictable and frightening; on the other hand, I see him as a peer through whose life time is blowing and unremittingly sweeping large chunks of meaning along with it.
Sure, maybe. It sounds nice, has all the right rhythms and sweeping gestures and introspective layerings and philosophical ratamacues. Sounds a little like something I’d write, if I were older and Norwegian-er, and perhaps a little calmer than I am right now, but I’m getting there—perhaps you’ve noticed? No? Ok.
Knowledge is distance, knowledge is stasis and the enemy of meaning. And the more we “know,” the faster time flies, because knowledge is systematic adaptation. Meaning requires resistance. Right now, this is true. It may not always be, but now it is. For me (because that’s who we’re—still—talking about. My apologies).
Time is not meant to do anything; time doesn’t mean. But it does speed up, and when it does it’ll sweep meaning right off the map or the calendar or the schedule or the table or the plate and right out of words and actions and sometimes, somehow, even out of memory, like it reaches back down into itself and says nah you don’t need that anymore. If you’re not careful, as it seems I’ve not been. And it hurts, all this brusqueness and sweepifaction, it’s the source of significant distress and discontentment and perhaps still other dis-prefixed words, because yes you fucking do. Right? I do. Don’t you? Don’t you need it because it’s your life, it’s your content, your source of self-meaning and understanding? Or something like that? And if all you do is adapt and accept and go along, time will do what it does when left to its own devices—it’ll gush and cascade and life will spit you out on the other end, dazed, exhausted, spent, without even knowing why, all so you can finally slow down and finally take a breath and finally die (after said breath).
Cheerful, I know. You’re welcome—it sure makes me feel sunny. As much fun as that grossly oversimplified scenario sounds, getting leaf-blown through the majority of life and stumbling across some arbitrary finish line and into cardiac arrest or dementia or who knows what, even just some peaceful decline, I’d really rather not, and the rather not is resistance. This doesn’t mean being a ruthless revolutionary or even some petty thug born of anarchic idolatrousness and conveniently skewed realities—outright violence over ideas and ideals and ideologies is generally for the birds, or fishes, rather. My resistance thing is the opposite, in fact, and if it does turn in any way violent, it’s much more toward self than other. Which should keep me out of correctional institutions, but may land me in some other.
I resist by quieting down, stopping, and stepping out—and I think, at last, that’s what this now-moment has taught, and what all these words said but mostly unspoken are trying to tell me to remember. When all else is swirling out of control, when that witch has her leaf- blower cranked and my little bastard now-child won’t shut the fuck up and sit down, when the moment is done, I have to stop, and step out. Stop and let the nothingness settle over me and just see, no reaching, no adaptation, no making myself about a past or for a future, and just see, with quiet purpose, calm and collected, and walk away.
That’s probably, surely, what’s needed here, now. No past to be painfully about, no future to be ardently for. Like I just came from somewhere and might be headed to something else, just passing through, carrying on, imminently present in, although not swept along by, the Great Ugly and Stupid. No more wrestling with it, no more trying to squeeze kool-aid from a lemon. Just get up and walk away. It’ll be hard, and lonely, but then I’ll see, and I’ll make something more of this than an is or was, and more, too, of myself.
God, these insufferably hopeful quaint fucking endings, like little red bows I’ll go snip as soon as no one’s looking. Hey everyone! I’m ok it’s ok everything’s ok! I figured it all out!
Snip. I’ll take these two pieces with me, so I can tie them back together later and then cut them into four.
 Karl Ove Knausgaard, My Struggle, Book 1, trans. Don Bartlett, p11.