Ad rem eternal souls & Vito Andolini [Apr2012 • contemplations of [Dis-]Infection]



As I am writing this it is mid April and I haven’t written an entry in so long a time. More precisely, I just found out, it is Friday the 13th, a day of good luck and much jolly cheer. A lot has happened which I intended to write about at the time but let pass in the mad, typhoonic rush of days. I have been in a whirlement lately of much pragmatic living: writing my papers [yes, in my early thirties I am still weighed down by such obligations, such nonsense], frequenting the gym with its cumbersome, gravity-bound weight to lift them time and again [even without motivation one can get down to a rather machinal/masochistic level of opeRationality] and living a good social life [in which I hesitatingly include the watching of movies and that wondersome new bewitchment, Game Of Thrones].

The question to consider then is a simple one: where to begin?

First off, let me cut straight to the most important issue, the matter of my eternal soul. Yes, yes, that dreary, overused, still ungraspable, supernal notion of some certain spiritual vapors roaming the body from now to then, from cradle to crematory, exiting at the precise moment of quietus, death, general bucket-kicking to mingle with the spiritual exhalations of my fellow human beings. Yay, the body transcendent, this immortal, the fuzzy, untouchable self we fret about for as long as we suck air and yap it back out again. Is the soul I’m having on about.

I’d be in bad faith to claim I’ve always believed in its existence, I’d be just as much a grand faker if I claimed to fully swallow it, aura and all, as of now. No, yes, I don’t, I am not of the 100% persuasion as to the existence of one immortal soul per person. But, but, but. Lately, after all, I’ve become more convinced that there might be a good deal of reality to it. How so?

One helluva fellow from the Chi, good ol’ Paris on the Prairie, name of Saul Bellow, penning into life this heartbreak whack-master Charlie Citrine, whose serendipitous pregrinations&ravings&prat-falls around the Globe (Chicago, Madrid, Houston, Paris, Nairobi, etc.) have been mine in the mind too, this Citrine character whose heartbreaks I’ve vicariated in, him I partially owe this new-found so-so conviction to. As he nears the end of his luck’s line, contemplating the improbable machinations of fate, as well as those of his age at large plus [not to forget] the writings and thinkings of one unforgettable R. Steiner, he slowly fingers his way towards a number of convictions concerning the said soul. And it seems more than just a matter of what-else-to-do-in-approaching-the-black-velvet-curtain? Citrine, lest I fail to point it out, is also some humble novice of the great, late Humboldt [Fleisher if I’m not altogether out of whack], possibly his latter day avatar.

Anyway, hark, hark, here goes: “No the influence was this: one of Humboldt’s themes was the perennial human feeling that there was an original world, a home-world, which was lost. Sometimes he spoke of Poetry as the merciful Ellis Island where a host of aliens began their naturalization and of this planet as a thrilling but insufficiently humanized imitation of that home-world. He spoke of our species as castaways” [p.24].

Oh lovely, tender spring air, I can almost hear the words… “lone island survivor”. Yes, sure, original home-world, on two out of three days I will nostalgically [if not necessarily rationally] submit to the possible, hopeful validity of that notion and how it allows for that unbearable sense of nostalgia and alienation and heimweh whenever I step out of my mind, our grand imagination and into the busy hustle&bustle of the oh-so-material world. Ayh, good, here’s an idea to clear matters up a little, Humboldt’s poetic notion of the lost home-world. Even to try to begin to think of it in scientific rectitude puts a crack in the good mood of my day-dreaming about it; let it only be fantasized of and rhapsodized about.

What’s more? The theme of the island, the sweet, sad notion of the castaway who has involuntarily broken with civilization at the price of all social & material amenities but for the monstrous, egolonial benefits of a small world all unto herself, himself; a world fashioned to the very desires of that original soul: middle of the jungle waterfalls, wild boars, coconuts plummeting from trees and a night sky to make one kneel down and howl up, a long shore-line to run along during sundown, fresh pineapple and the great Ocean to piss in. But no, here we are, shipwrecked in reality. Perhaps the world has made us one too many offers we cannot refuse.

This other, edenic island of course is not to be sought out in the meaning of Ellis Island but in that of the castaway. Poetry, I’m afraid, I’ve never given much credence to, no matter how much the two Bs, Bellow and Bolano, harp on and on about it; I’ve never been able to see in it anything more than a cop out from the long, exhausting, rewarding grind of novels. In these latter, as in the abandoned, lost and finally found home-world [is it indeed this here earth? not some hyper-spatial otherwhere? is not this the mad craving we feel when reading premium sci-fi?] we are always aliens. Alter aliens. That is, visitors from a different cosmos who enter the new world, the fictional realm, green behind the gills, eager to find out what lies beyond yonder hills, dressed in the clunky spacesuits of our imagination so the terrific otherness of these new places and faces will not steal our breaths; but also ready at a buzzer’s blare, a SMS’s inane jingle, to dematerialize and return to our material home worlds.

As for Ellis Island? I should not have to tell you. The first station of that so long via dolorosa of the Old World’s exiles, in dreamy search for greener pastures, any pastures to turn away famine and hardship and slumlords and other scheming sovereigns. But above all the indelible scene of a refuge’s heartache: young Vito Andolini, in quarantine, standing by one of the hospital windows, humming that old, plaintive Sicilian tune, looking out across the waters surrounding Ellis Island, longing for the homeland perhaps and wondering what untold wonders the New World might hold for him. Ah, Italia mia, arrividerci, but yes here, incredibile, ciao, Bella America, andiamo! Ellis Island, you can feel it there in the ground and the scent from seaside, the ancient energies of millions of people ready to hit the big time, Ellis Island, the very pad to blast off from. But don’t forget your immortal soul.

So all this alienation, migration, soul-schmole gibberish on account of a single book? A single passage sucked from it like a sample of malignant marrow? Not at all, not at all. Now and then the old sense of spiraling, I think, has come back. Spiralling inwards that is, not towards a core, or a perennial center of being but some kind of seed [maybe even genetic code] that is forever in the process of unfolding: entelechy is the best word for it; though I’ve never quite managed to wrap my mind around it. There’s a certain amount of potential and talent and capacity, whatnot and then in the course of life it can become actuated but yet at the same time it is also always still there [perhaps some reminder of it] in potentia. To think of the whole thing in absence of a solid scientific theory is to invite lunatic raving of the most delicious sort.

What then? Perhaps I am not moving towards an imagined focal soul but outwards really, looking back and in vaguely perceiving the trajectory of that outward curve ever better getting an understanding of where might have been my point of departure, my personal Ellis Island and towards what unknowable locale I am heading. That would harmonize nicely with migratory metaphors and such. The sense of uncertainty and fuzziness experienced in thinking, writing, fumbling through these matters is a perverse encouragement to pursue them ever further. Bellow states as much:

“In the next realm, where things are clearer, clarity eats into freedom. We are free on earth because of cloudiness, because of error, because of marvelous limitations, and as much because of beauty as of blindness and evil. These always go with the blessing of freedom. But this is all I have to say about the matter now, because I’m in a hurry, under pressure – all this unfinished business!” [p.141].

Yes, the business of life all too often and urgently calls one back to the desk of mundane affairs where all things need to be put in their proper place and forms filled in correctly, bills & taxes paid and the infinite boredoms that allow us to exist be fully complied with. We have to admit it, sometimes even in this realm, rugged replica of the original home-land, things are all too clear and this too eats into freedom. Blessed we are for the salubrious psychotropic of good writing in all its splendid cloudiness because even as we sit by said desk it allows us to feel, within ourselves that evil, beautiful, blind, free soul ever pulling towards the other realm.

Far from finished, true, but I might just go to pieces if my external cerebrum’s MemUn is not augmented soon. Ugly, serried digitanglions computing in a hyper-ventilated basement Google-knows-where.

• • •

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About tmabona

writer, reader [bolano, DW, bellow, deLillo], runner, badmintoneer
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