Oct '02 [Home]


The Fulcrum
Tim Scannell on PDA's (Public Displays of Autobiography)

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I do not have much of a past—for public consumption:  ancestry and youth, marriage and university, career and citizenship are of such idiosyncratic event and convoluted emotion that several trillion pages of five-point, unindented prose would fail dismally to flesh out…, mere Preface.

Perhaps I am—in reading hundreds of auto/biographies—an odd bird; always skipping their first five chapters (passing birth, childhood, schooling) before beginning an earnest read of an individual's adult Work and Love, the only salient nodes pressing into timelessness. Yes, I know that each life has its Rosebud thrown into the fire at the end. Yet that sociological guesstimate and judgment is so genuinely inane, so flip, that I ignore any and all such societal pronouncements altogether.

It's putting one grain of sand from a thousand-mile beach atop the fingertip, then nodding sagely:  "Ah, that is what that life meant." Nonsense. Nor will I accept personal-tombstone epitaph:  Charles Bukowski's saying, "Don't Try" (adolescent BS) or Marlon Brando's prospective, "What Was That All About?" (delusional Hollywood existence and sophomoronic, to boot).

Stuff and nonsense, because to make even the slightest bit of sense, all life's grains (on that thousand-mile beach) would have to be correctly juxtaposed throughout an individual's three-score-and-ten—ebb & flow/wrack & flood—and that comprehension of reality surely belongs to God alone.

Any other asserted possibility is mere hubris, either overweening pride or some lunatic New Age secularism made faddish by the folk of a given era, at a given place (pathetic and laughable):  the cutting out of human hearts in Meso-America; serrated baby-bones observed, archaeologically, on Minoan Crete; jars of human giblets from Egypt; the moaning channelings of 'Mudbubba' or 'Jennifer' by myriads of mindless Shirley MacLaines. In short, the millions of irrational tribalisms, Ghost Dances, of benighted men and women whose sum-and-substance has ever been, is now, and will ever be the gelatinous scum atop the surface of a cooling cup of cocoa. (Spoon it off.) So…, no to youth's sputterings (too-much-racket-outside/ too-much-racket-inside); and no also to secular, societal quip (bathetic ism-of-a-day).

Then where, "Beauty is truth, truth beauty…"? In the maelstrom of that independent, free-to-choose (sorry to impose responsibility) adult core:  Mnemosyne and her nine yakking daughters rushing in from a pre-historic/ pre-social/pre-ideological past. Living with them all one's adult, sentient, life (18, 21, 23,…onward); and…, and the flint-and-steel of rational adulthood pushing forward into eternity:  Memory and nine daughters—and you—titillant in exploring a mature, resonant plinth:

Some say the world will end in fire, / Some say in ice . . . ;

Western wind when wilt thou blow / That the small rain down can rain . . . ;

Before bed, the dog and I / Go out for a last piss . . . .

(Tim Scannell is a regular contributor to the magazine. [Masthead]. He lives in a coastal town in Washington State.)