Absolute freedom exists in literature. One can write about the ridiculously small world of Quantum Mechanics or the ridiculously small world of Garage Mechanics. It’s a small world after all. It’s a small world after all (Sorry – this paragraph sponsored by Disney). We may write prose or poems. We may write about being a fly on the wall in the Oval Office who wishes he were an ant on the frosting of a same sex wedding cake. We may even write about a false prophet whose hard earned truths are showcased in his best-selling book “The Purpose Driven Cadillac.”
Yes, one may conjure innumerable esoteric permutations of charming lterary expression, but the following story is not for mindless snacking. Nope. We need to graduate from the deceptively empty calories of:
”I’m so fulfilled right now! My DVR is loaded with season 1 of Homeland, and I’ve got a Stouffer’s Macaroni & Cheese in the oven with golden brown crispness bubbling away in all four corners. All Four Corners! Do you hear me? All Four Corners are filled with caramelized cheesy goodness! And it’s all for me.”
And embrace the more historically nutritious:
“Be Here Now.” [Pause. Breathe very slowly. Like the sun rising. Aaaaah]
Please tell me you’ll release your better angels and demand the latter rather than the former. Tell me you’re long term and we’ll all enjoy the short term so much more. Don’t be predictable and I promise I won’t be predictable either. Don’t be preachy so I can. And finally when you clean your gutters, demand a ladder rather than a former. They’re so much easier to climb.
The field of literature belongs to anyone willing to invade it. It’s malleable enough to support any circumstance. Sometimes even that wonderfully sustaining nectar known as truth emerges. But this story pertains to the dynamic between its author and his audience (you & me ). Please heed this warning: It’s not enough for you to allow this farmed oyster to cast cultured pearls before your impressionable eyes. Eventually we must go beyond what Julia Child called “Half-Baked Ideas.” Wait. Maybe it was Meryl Streep who said that. She can do anything that Meryl and y’know I think she’s getting better with age. Yup. Anyway, as Dr. Phil says, at some point you have to “Get real.” No, that was Meryl again. We’re caught in a loop. I can’t walk out – because I love-a-ya too much ba-by (Sorry – that sentence sponsored by the Estate of Elvis Presley).
I’m not really saying anything. But you already knew that. It’s like Seinfeld said, “It’s a show about nothing.” Well this is a story about nothing and I’m the one saying it. What is the sound of one writer saying nothing? Well dear reader, it’s a lot like this. In the end we know this kind of vapid verbal confetti won’t ultimately satisfy. We’ll get there though. We always do.
I Hate it when I Think in French
I always had trouble being avant-garde. Like the time my wife and I replaced all our incandescent bulbs with candles. Really more trouble than it’s worth. Especially that 3-way candle. It always wanted to get in bed with us.
Oh don’t let that fluff satisfy you. Now I sound like Woody Allen when he started getting introspective and less funny. An unknown, uncelebrated and far less talented Woody Allen I might add. My ego is fully in check. Unlike the rest of those sad sacs, I know what side of my scrotum the butter is on.
Just a Little More Literary Largess and Then We’ll go Someplace
Christ never spoke a word of English. And if he did, I’m sure he’d be just as misinterpreted as when he spoke Aramaic. For example, if somehow he was to reappear and once again share his worthy illuminations with the multitudes, the very moment he disappeared, they’d cut to some round table of well-lit commentators, where a self-satisfied pundit would casually state, “Well I know what Jesus said, but what he meant was…”
Yet another cross he’d have to bear for us.
At the end of the day (Antarctican summers excluded) we must write about something worthy or eventually it all becomes inconsequential (this is why many relationships fail after the frisson of sex fades). I hear you. Two parenthetic statements in one sentence. And that last sentence isn’t even a sentence. I never said this would be easy – cathartic maybe, but not easy. Therefore I will focus on a redeeming topic or at least one that’s interesting. I now cast aphrodisiac pixie dust into your yearning eyes so you may enjoy what I write, as much as I enjoy creating it. Y’know, now that we’re 1209 words into this literary play date, I’m growing quite fond of you all. I’ve never felt this way before…
Note: The author’s breath grows fast and shallow as he contemplates the implications of this hedonistic dynamic. He’s irretrievably enamored of his audience and seeks to engage them in what Dr. Kinsey called “literary intercourse.” Just prior to strutting his sesquipedalian verbiage before his adoring audience he remembers his previous admonition “this is why many relationships fail after the frisson of sex fades.” It’s his Aha! moment. No. It’s better than an Aha! moment it’s his epiphany. He’ll be more creative knowing he had an epiphany. Watch.
Wow! I feel like I just experienced a spontaneous catharsis or something. I’m on top of the world. And in my world, where sex once ruled, the penis pen is now king. I recognize that character and story matter. And so do you. Therefore, my Platonic readers, I offer something much more satisfying, but still complementary to the joys of sex – I offer character and honesty. As Gandhi so instructively stated, “Sex is for reproduction.” No wait. That was Meryl again. She’s everywhere. I simply must get her one of those heated shaving cream dispensers for Christmas. She’ll love it. I think you can even use it to make hot chocolate.
Just a Little More Gobbledygook Featuring Me
For those angst-ridden folks trying to solve the world’s problems remember; life is not an equation. There is no equal sign. It’s mostly false equivalencies purveyed by people with agendas designed to consolidate power (and I wonder why I’m not invited to more parties). And while you’re enjoying that quicksand, fold into the rest of your luscious royal jelly that the divine paradox is nothing to get all adrenalized about, even though we do regularly. I’m confronted with challenges, and they matter dearly, and yet somehow I know they don’t matter all that much. The shadow of death has a peculiarly analgesic effect in diminishing any out-sized attachment. That’s not to say I want some smart aleck aphorism on my headstone. Instead, 400 years from now, I’d like my epitaph to read:
Born 1961 Died _____.
I aspire to catch a deeper wave with this piece. To produce a work so arresting you stop what you’re doing and buy life insurance or at least kiss your wife on a different body part for a change. I pray to present words that make you so self-aware you’re able to effortlessly follow a hemoglobin molecule as it traverses your circulatory system, and then, just as easily, tune in to your finer vibratory bodies as they trace a path back to their ultimate source. Micro and macro get it? Divine paradoxical duality get it? Good. Now would you please explain it to me?
This isn’t just one dox I’m suggesting. It’s two dox. No, actually it’s a pair a dox. In fact it’s so complicated it’s a quadradox, but we all know it better as a simple clusterf*ck. This flippin’ world (I’ll replace that word “flippin'” when this piece is properly published). I want to be privy to the operating system pervading our universe. I want power and control. There I said it. I just outed myself. Yeah I want power and control. I deprecate this high wire act of being so vulnerable here on earth. Fragility blows. Co-payments suck. And muzzle velocity scares me. Then again, I had leftover Indian food for breakfast and maybe that’s just the Chana Masala talking.
A New Reality Takes Hold and So Don’t I
And now we will pivot our thoughts and focus on something else. In this way we’ll eclipse and replace all that has come before. Nature has acted similarly by placing our perfectly omniscient souls in these perfectly ignorant bodies so we’re distanced from our true nature. In order to enable this new reality I’ll terminate the jovial equivocations marbling this story so far, and pick up my long bow of clear eyed prose to vector our ship of state into a new more exalted realm (Can I do that? Yes!). This example of a writer exercising his caprice by redirecting our attention is no different from the change that happens in our everyday lives. Sometimes change slowly evolves and other times we have change thrust upon us – like at Walgreens after we pay cash for eye drops. In a similar, but literary vein, I’ll dare to mimic the vicissitudes of life by arbitrarily writing about something trenchant. I’ll be specific and meaningful thereby redirecting our consciousness and exposing the ruse that is life. Ready? OK. Here we go:
People don’t fully appreciate Henry Ford’s contributions in transforming America’s economic and social landscape. Though receiving only an 8th grade education, his imprint is writ large in the psyche of American consumers. Ford was the epitome of the self-reliant, pull yourself up by your boot strap individualist we all admire. And I’m not going to degrade his achievements by mentioning his obvious flaws. We’re all flawed. They’re inherent in any sentient person. In Mr. Ford’s case we should all be so flawed. Don’t be aghast or smug about his faults. Avuncular advice alert: Focus on what you do well.
Mr. Ford (Hank to his wife), catapulted himself and his company into another orbit as he differentiated his car firm from the numerous fledgling motor car companies at the turn of the 20th century. This was a dizzying time when America’s nascent industrial might combined with the synergies of mass immigration and the explosive power of limitless gasoline to form an urbanized middle class (I think that’s what happened). In less grandiose terms, he devised a highly efficient assembly line, obliterated the competition, hired immigrants, paid them well and enabled them to elevate themselves into contributing citizens with a stake in their society. Sounds like a microcosm of his personal story. These were avant-garde ideas radiating from an uneducated farm boy born in the hinterlands.
At one point Ford automobiles commanded 60% of the market with only one car – the Model T. A reliable if stodgy model known for being inexpensive, easily repaired and ubiquitous in black (black dried faster). As Ford built his empire and economies of scale manifested, the cost of a Model T dropped from around $800 to about $250. FoMoCo insinuated itself into the fiber of American mobilization – cars, tractors and airplane motors. Ford was always innovative. In one instance a relative of Ford, EG Kingsford, went to the boss with an idea for converting burned wood scraps into charcoal for barbecues. Perhaps you’ve heard of the result: Kingsford Charcoal Briquettes.
Henry Ford paid his employees more than a living wage. He paid his largely immigrant workforce $5 a day at a time most workers made $1.50. He shared his royal jelly with the worker bees thereby improving the entire hive. And with the money the drones made they soon left the colony, formed their own hives and became consumers of the very honey they produced. And with their higher standards of living they were able to provide better lives for their wives and larvae (Alright. I’ll stop. I understand. You get the bee analogy.).
He became a social engineer demanding after hours sacrifices of his workers you couldn’t even put in a memo today. For example, in order to qualify for the $5 a day wage an immigrant had to take Ford sponsored classes in English and American citizenship. Even workers’ living situations and associates were monitored. See all the damn paradoxes? How the good comes with the less than savory. You have to actually go in and make structural changes as Ford did in his patriotically ham-handed way. Ford spoke homespun truth to vexing power and managed to strengthen the bedrock of this country while generating a modicum of hostility to his methods and political views (not a fan of Jews). As he indelicately pursued his passions he provided a greater good while antagonizing financiers and portions of the intelligentsia. A high concept man in a low concept world, he damned the torpedoes and went full speed ahead.
This is What You Learned
Did you notice how that literary change of pace distracted and redirected you? One minute you’re “Hey this is some nutty stuff this guy’s writing.” And the next thing you know you’re thinking, “Henry Ford is my kind of guy.” Dat’s life if you don’t examine it. You’ll be taken for a ride every time, if you don’t pay attention. Of course you’ll be taken for a ride anyway so you might as well create a spiffy model to drive around in. Because if you’re not careful, you’ll be taken for a ride in a ’59 Ford Edsel featuring the iconic horse collar grill (let’s outlaw the word iconic for 5 years). That disastrous model was known as, “The wrong car at the wrong time.” The Edsel did for cars what the 2nd Bush did for Presidents. And so we find ourselves riding around in our own mobile units we call bodies. In some sense we’re sentenced to these models and yet were free as a bird to do, and, more importantly, to think as we please. The mind is a powerful force and bound to us in extremis. The soul, however, is powerful beyond description, but more difficult to locate. One is self-evident and the other takes faith. However, as we evolve they trade places and the paradox is no more. We see the paltry illusion of one and the endogenous veracity of the other.
Now, having said that…