Thursday, October 25, 2012

Le Monde 100: Being and Nothingness

I'll admit that I have had in my life a fair amount of personal delusion.

A particularly vivid example occurred twelve years ago, deep in the heart of Westchester County, in the ancient woods of Valhalla. I was deeply involved in getting to know my lovely, spending reckless hours of the day and night persuing, perusing, and perambulating with her, towards her, and around her. Because she lived in Brooklyn and I lived an hour away, this led to very late nights, which I felt was no obstacle at all to the general function and execution of my normal life.

After one very long day in construction, I spent an equally long amount of time in Brooklyn with the object of my desire into the night. I left for my hour long ride at 3:00am with no regrets.

However, as I sped up the Saw Mill Parkway in my yellow Isuzu Trooper, I felt a great weight descend upon me as if I had been plunged to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. My awareness became blurred in every direction. As the parkway snaked up through the ancient American woods like a long lazy sea eel, the space between the road and the forest disappeared, creating a dark corridor that my  Trooper pushed through that was as murky as my conception of space and time. I should have known better. Six years previously, thanks to another long day of stacking railroad ties and a most relaxing rocksteady beat, I emerged from a delicious sleep only to find myself in the grassy valley between the North and South highways of Interstate 684 with my cruise control set at sixty miles an hour. A sobering event that left me auditing the rest of my days.

As that forgotten spectre of slumber returned, my Trooper wound its way through those treacherous curves only by means of some deeply ingrained animal instinct. My arms and legs responded in the manner of the doomed Korean Octopus that continues to exert its lifeforce after being submerged in a communal hotpot. This means of autopiloting, though, generally has a very short lifespan. Mere seconds would pass before I would no doubt find myself careening off the dark road into a ravine to  join the loamy humus well before my time.

But, just as my eyelids were about to droop to their most comfortable position and as my eyeballs prepared their final ascent to a most useless degree, they observed an incredible sight. Like a cannon trained on my windshield, a massive owl burst from the undergrowth, exploding into a ball of bloody plumeage! The sudden energy of its violent demise transferred into every dormant adrenal in my body, emptying themselves into my blood stream, infusing me with a powerful stimulant, erasing every trace of sludge from my consciousness.

After I had pulled over and reflected on the crimson halo of owl blood on my windshield, I became convinced that my days were not numbered and I was, in fact, THE CHOSEN ONE. Chosen for what, though, hardly mattered. Destiny had guided the night creature to protect me and my future in order to fulfill the essence of the person that I actually was and had been predetermined to be.

As I said, this was a delusion. Some sort of Messiah complex.

In Being and Nothingness by John Paul Sartre, he writes AGAINST the concept of essence coming before existence. We do not strive to become something that is predetermined and intractable. We become whatever we decide. The possibilities, which start out as NOTHINGNESS'S, come into BEING through choice. For some, this is depressing because it means that there is no larger story to fit into and that brings about a crushing nihilism. However, for others, this is empowering! It means that you may be the Chosen One because YOU have done the choosing.

I mean, how many owls have to die for us all to have meaning?

1 comment:

  1. This is awesome. Sobering & scary & sad, but I very much like how you riff on it.