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A Dark View in General  


Know then thyself, presume not God to scan, 
The proper study of mankind is man. 
Placed on this isthmus of a middle state, 
A being darkly wise, and rudely great.” 
Alexander Pope 

Dedicated to Coconut

MY JOURNEY MAY SEEM GLOOMY to an innocent bystander. Indeed, a reader

remarked today that I take a dark view or have a dim view of everything. That is hardly
surprising in view of the headlines:

Impeachment of the President of the United States; Campaign Contributions from Red China;
Transfer of Nuclear Secrets to Red China; Bombing of Iraq Continued; Kosovo Massacres;
International Air War on Serbia; Columbine High School Mass Murder-Suicide; Yosemite Serial
Killings; Freight Train Serial Murders; Kennedy Tragedy Continued; Atlanta Mass Murder-
Suicide; Jewish Nursery Shooting; Turkey Earthquake-Estimated 20,000 Dead.
A Dark View in General  
Reality is far worse than the fiction interpreting it – O, the very horror of it! I'm just another man,
but sometimes I think the world is out to get me. In other words, I have been feeling a little
paranoid, perhaps with good reason.

I set aside my sombrous work to take a stroll last evening. I encountered a local woman at the
intersection of Walk and Don't Walk. The ‘Walk’ signals are accompanied by a loud clicking
sound for the benefit of the blind.

The lady was not paying attention to the lights. When she heard the clicking sound, she
mistakenly stepped out into the traffic, not realizing that the clicking was meant for pedestrians
going the other way. Fortunately, she saw the cars rapidly accelerating toward her as if they were
drag racing, and she hopped back on the curb just in time.

"I've made that mistake myself," I said sympathetically – she was embarrassed. "And sometimes
I've misread the lights, thinking green for the other way is green for my way."

"I should watch the lights!" she reprimanded herself. "We're lucky we have lights here,” she said,
recomposed. “Did you see the news about that little old lady killed in the crosswalk? The
authorities said there's no money for lights."

"Yeah, they showed that guy crying in his car right after the accident. Do you know he's the
same man who ran over and killed another little old lady in a crosswalk? I don't think he's been
charged with anything in either case. He's like the Grim Reaper for aged pedestrians."

"No!" she exclaimed. "I'm not really surprised. Pedestrians are almost extinct with all these cars
around. People think only of themselves and are really going the wrong way everywhere as far as
I'm concerned."

"I saw a woman sprawled on the pavement, right over there." I pointed down the street. "She was
bleeding badly. The ambulance had just pulled up. A boy said she had been hurled up in the air
over the car that collided with her, tried to get up and run away on her broken legs, and then
passed out, collapsed, fell flat on her face. You have to be really careful around here," I
cautioned as we finally proceeded to cross the street together. We had taken only four or five
steps when the light suddenly changed back to Don't Walk. “Maybe we had better run now.
They’re out to kill us.”

"You can say that again,” she said. “People today would rather kill you than look at you. They're
in such a damn hurry to get somewhere or something. They think pedestrians are just bugs, if
they notice them at all. They'd squash you in a second," she angrily declared, shaking her head.

"Gee, I thought I was paranoid," I half-joked.

"You're not. It's true!" She was dead serious. As we strolled along, she presented her conclusion
about “the elite", saying, "As far as they're concerned, we're just a bunch of nobodies. The
bottom line of it is they can do what they damn well please, we can't, and there's nothing we can
do about it."
A Dark View in General  
"What about the politicians?" I asked, just to be agreeable. "What about the most popular
candidate, who so far has no program except to look presidential and follow in his dad’s
footsteps. What does that say about the voters?"

"It just says they're nobodies. We don't really count. As for him: like-father-like-son, they're all
the same. As far as everyone else is concerned, everybody is out to take advantage of everybody
else, and if anybody gets in the way they'd soon as kill you if they could get away with it," she
proclaimed. "I'm going in here" – she pointed at the health food store.

"I thought I was paranoid," I offered a coda to the conversation.

"You're not. It's true. Everybody is out to get you, and I kid you not. Nice talking to you. Good
evening." She disappeared into the store.

My conversation with the pessimistic stranger lifted my spirits somewhat, but the Sun had still
not risen on my darkling mood, nor did I really want it to. Pilots say night flying has its own
pleasures. I will agree with that long enough to tarry in the night, taking pause to further consider
the gloom and its possible causes. Naturally, the news of John F. Kennedy Junior’s darksome
death spiral came to mind.

"Then came the human beings,” Albert Camus once said. “They wanted to cling to something
but found there was nothing to cling to."

I imagined, with the enduring perseverance of would-be inventors of perpetual motion machines,
the manufacture of an advanced kite, one with an invisible string and a trusty engine, a plane
upon which I would clamber for my night flight through darkness over turbulent waters. Absent
the Sun, who would melt the wax affixing my wings, and remake of me the featherless biped I
once was, I would soar higher than Icarus ever aspired. Absent the Moon as well, it now appears,
in the final analysis from my cockpit, that the fundament itself is an illusion, no matter how firm
it feels on the ground. Hence I cling to the hope that the firmament is really firm, despite its
apparent infirmity when I view it from the fundament. Be all that word play as it may, and may
efficiency, the curse of modernity, be damned, I say the illusions so sedulously avoided are
lighthouse beacons of that unavoidable fate against which every vessel, no matter how sturdy
and crafty, is destined to crash on its last detour. In spite of that, I continue with my night flight.

Perchance the glaring light in the prison-Paradise has temporarily blinded me, I reflected. I have
resided in the valley, at the foot of the lizard-shaped mountain, in self-imposed exile since I
crawled from beneath the rock of one of civilization's biggest crowds. When I subsisted
underground, in a dark, dank and dirty city cell, my attitude was sunnier in contrast, for city
notes from underground are composed in the enduring hope they will be noticed. No matter how
mean, a city spirit can always find a kindred crowd of curious cranks peering suspiciously
through the cracks at any given moment, forming a subterranean bond of mutual resentment and
contemptuous self-exaltation. Misery does love company. The mutual observations serve as a
suicide watch, keeping the subway suicide rate relatively low.

On the other hand, nearer the Sun, in the peaceful Pacific, the models for Paradise are mutually
exclusive resorts of complacency. Their value increases in proportion to their distance from each
other, in accord with the governing ideal of private property. The security force therefore is
A Dark View in General  
suspicious for a multitude of good reasons. Above all, the perimeters must not be punctured by
complaints. Complainers gripe with impunity in the city, and they are amply awarded for doing
so, but one had better not be querulous in Paradise if s/he wants positive reinforcement. Yet
where would civilization be, or would it be at all, without incessant complaining?

No, there is no sympathetic audience for discontented misfits in Paradise: retaliation is swift to
arrive in various forms including shunning and banning. There are no cracks in the conservative
walls (leaving me to wonder where all the bugs come from). Even notes giving praise and other
sacrificial offerings to the long-established patriarchal powers-that-be are greeted with a studied,
granite wall of silence.

To compensate for stunted ambitions, the weather is perfect and the scenery most excellent. Each
resort has its alluring siren, but I expect nothing more than a song and a dance, a cosmetic smile,
deafness to personal pleas, and rejection of all offerings.

I have learned that I may never have an audience as such. I do not count on the slim chance that
my scrawling from limbo will ever be noticed. If my destiny is to be destitute, or to be set down
alone without the comfort of even an imaginary other, I shall do my best to turn the negative into
a positive and say, "Well, then, there is just more room for me in my solitary confinement." If by
some marvelous accident or hostile takeover, the grandiose merger of my pathetic subject and
ideal object is consummated, I may consume myself in the ecstatic ambiguity of eating and being
eaten at the same time - the great white shark in the deep, blue soul has no self-conscious
reflections to inhibit its diet.

But upon due reconsideration, I feel my scrawl is being noticed in Paradise after all. “Hope
springs eternal in the human breast: Man never is, but always to be blest,” pronounced the great
Pope. I know that You have not abandoned me, for I have finally realized You will always be
with me until I am devoured. As long as I am in possession of myself, I cannot get rid of You
even if I want to, for You are my social counterpart, my Alter Ego. Of course, every author
would love to have readers other than his Alter Ego, but lacking them does not detract from his
Stoic dignity.

Indeed, the emperor Marcus Aurelius wrote to himself unabashedly to encourage himself in his
hopeless task, confronted as he was by a transient, brutish world, with hardly a chance for any
enduring fame for himself, and with no dogmatic possibility for personal immortality.
Nevertheless, the Logos must stand in its native virginity undefiled by chaos and futility.
Therefore, considering his enduring fame, perchance there is hope for real readers, perchance
somewhere in posterity. Be that as it may in the interim, still, by means of metaphysical mirrors,
me and my shadow are, by reflection, self-sufficient, thank you very much.

Yes, Dear Alter Ego, I may confidently resume my night flight over troubled waters with You as
my copilot, or, if You wish, as back seat driver peering over my shoulder. And if we plunge into
the ocean, it will be a familiar place for me. In fact, I became dimly aware of my fantastic
oceanic Task when I was in grammar school. I wrote a little story about it. The plot was simple.
Once upon a time, I am a hero. I take a deep breath, dive into the ocean, and swim to the bottom
where I find a cave. I enter the cave and find a pocket of air. I discover a secret object in the
A Dark View in General  
cave. When I bring it to the surface, the world is saved: The End. May I mention now the cheers
and applause?

In the memory of my childish fantasy, I shall still perform the Task but with all due respect for
adult futility. In this absurd endeavor, I might glean my fate fully well, even knowing that the
world is surd as far as I’m concerned, or find some clue by which I might discover the way out
of this labyrinth created by the same inventor who designed the wings for my night flight. Would
not foreknowledge of my fate satisfy my curiosity over whether to be or not to be, by placing the
matter in other hands? Strange as it seems, I must know what my fate is before I look for it. I
must have at least some idea of what I am seeking before I search for it. Perhaps in the heights of
the air or the depths of the water I already know my fate.

Therefore I must continue to drift down discursive streams until my excursions are exhausted. I
hope that You will tag along indefinitely, for my sake if not for yours.

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