27 January 2016

Hobbies, suicide, kisses, & exercise

I’m glad that writing is my hobby—it fits me better than any other vocation. I could never bear to spend the whole day sunning myself on driftwood like a turtle.

Then again, if I were a turtle, I would’ve begun this entry by saying:

I’m so happy that I chose this career of afternoon sunbathing. I could never bear to wake at an hour when the sky is dark and cold, for the purpose of scribbling words on paper like a human.

But even if you woke with the feeling that life were not worth living, you still would not be able to escape from being part of the FIRE. Suicide is not what we think—it’s more like when an old television turns its own channel.

When I specify that it’s the old type of TV, I mean it has a square, monochrome screen (of the 4:3 aspect ratio), and no remote control. So it would take an immense amount of willpower for it to channel-surf itself. Such an act normally requires the physical hand of a titan, to grasp its knob.

The thing I hate about preparing tea is waiting for the water to boil. And then waiting for the tea to steep. And then waiting for the liquid to cool so that you don’t burn your tongue. For a burnt tongue is less sensitive to the taste of caviar.

Speaking of tongues, when we were children living in the suburbs of Minnesota, we would call the type of deed that involved those par­ticular organs “French kissing.” I’m not sure if this is the nationally accepted term; that’s why I mention it. A dry, chaste touch of the lips to a cheek—or lips to lips without the tongue—was called a “peck”; but slip in the tongue and now you’re Frenching.

(All of the above quibbling was necessary; for I’d like to give a piece of advice to movie directors, and now the key term is established:)

Dear movie directors, if you are the jealous type, then I recommend that you avoid casting your own spouse in the role of a lover. If you choose to ignore what I just told you, what will happen is that you might find yourself trapped behind your cinematographer, with the rest of the crew, while your soulmate is Frenching the protagonist. How can you know that their passion is “only acting”? If you attempt to sustain a fake smile, eventually the expression becomes sincere.

I think one is always in love with something or other; the error, and I confess it is not easy for spirits cased in flesh and blood to avoid it, consists in seeking in a mortal image the likeness of what is perhaps eternal. [This is from a letter by Percy Bysshe Shelley, 18 June 1822, to Gisborne.]

Here I’ve gone on a tangent—I intended to proceed forward from the idea of suicide, but that got me started on television and kissing. For some reason, until reading a biography on him recently, I had it in my mind that Shelley’s death was self-inflicted. I knew that he drowned, but I thought it was an Ophelia event—as the Priest says in Shakespeare’s Hamlet (5.1.220), “Her death was doubtful…” Why did I think this? Have YOU been feeding me bad information again? I even imagined the scene as a shallow pond; but it occurred in the Gulf of Spezia. Nobody knows exactly what happened; there was a storm, and the boat sunk. I think it’s because he was so young (29 yrs old) that I assumed it was suicide. Another fine poet, Hart Crane, fell from a ship into in the Gulf of Mexico—his death might have been self-inflicted; and he was young, too: on the verge of turning 33, which of course is when Jesus gave up his holy ghost…

I think my confusion about Shelley’s death is also due in part to the account below, which I quote from Edmund Blunden’s bio of S., and which in turn quotes Shelley’s friend E.J. Trelawny:

The following story is famous, but has been called incred­ible. One day “I was bathing in a deep pool in the Arno, and astonished the Poet by performing a series of aquatic gymnastics, which I had learnt from the natives of the South Seas.” Shelley was then enjoined to dive in and at least try floating; but instead he lay on the bottom “like a conger eel” and was pulled out by the expert. He com­mented that he had not been over eager to be pulled out. “It’s a great temptation; in another minute I might have been in another planet.” Shelley did not profess to know anything about the next world, but he knew what Shake­speare meant in writing of “this muddy vesture of decay”.

I have the feeling that I’ve already announced to you, dear weblog, that although I respect anyone who does weight lifting or resistance training, I myself prefer cardiovascular activity; that is, supposing I’m forced to suffer physical exercise. Hefting a bulky object can be astounding, but it depends too much on the context of the act. It’s a genuine feat when a human lifts nine thousand tons, but even a tiny planet weighs more than that. (My point is that gravity always wins.)


Simply moving around in this world—say, walking or biking—is like a pinball game: things zoom past your vision at incredible speeds, and there are all sorts of quirky sound effects that nature gives you: various wildlife provides the soundtrack that accompanies a boost in personal health, which is to say: a top score.

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