Wednesday, November 25, 2009

On not being put to death, hell, a rhetorical question and the pleasure of uselessness

1. The important bit
WE* MADE IT into Indonesia without being put to death or locked up for anything: awesome!

2. A brief descent into hell

All Halloween orange and chimney red.
- Tom Waits, Frank’s Wild Years

AFTER NOT BEING put to death we spent a wee short while in Kuta Beach, a deeply unpleasant place. It all seems to be built on a compact where Indonesians accept money to ignore behaviour they’d otherwise find offensive. They didn’t look happy about it though. I felt embarrassed to be a part of it and couldn’t see how not to be involved, given I knew jack about Indonesian culture or language myself. All I could rely on was emanating nice-guy vibes. It wasn’t enough. We left.

3. Yesterday a moth landed on my radiant foot
(FAR AWAY OVER waves when the weather is right I can see a volcano, rising proud and triangular like Mount Doom from the mist, Mount Doom in Mordor where sinfulness is made and where it can be destroyed if returned by a hobbit pure of heart and cast into the radiant fire. I saw it from the café where we sat last night, the café with the poster that says ‘Everybody can surf, so do you’. Later I looked up and saw two lizards crawling like hobbits toward the cold fire of an oblong energy-saving bulb fluorescing in the night. Maybe they mistook it for Mount Doom and carried some evil thing they wanted removed from creation. There were no moths around the bulb but yesterday a moth landed on my radiant foot. Maybe it mistook it for the fiery sun?)

4. That was a rhetorical question, and so is this:
IS ANYTHING MORE mournful, gentle reader, more sorrowful and full of woe, more provocative of lamentations than the moment when cheap toilet paper gives way and one’s middle finger slides unstoppably up one’s arse and into one’s own shit?

5. The now moment
ANYWAY: THAT WAS then. This is now, otherwise known as The Now Moment. Now we** are surfing in West Java. It’s beautiful. Sometimes a hundred tiny fish jump from the mother ocean like laughs from the mouths of tiny children – hahahahahaha! - just like that and then they bounce on the mother ocean - once!twice!thrice! - and are gone - kapow! - into the opalescent water which bears us forth when we get the timing right.

Other times when the waves are higher we go by the limestone headland. There are trees growing out from the top, shading the water, with garbage trapped in their roots. Swallows describe parabolas and hyperbolas and curves with no straightforward names. A grasshopper landed on my board somehow, too.

6. There will now be a brief intermission

7. Uselessness
Before coming to Indonesia I’d been busy as several motherfuckers, making myself useful. Anyway, yesterday I felt relaxed and realised it was because here I’m pretty much useless. It’s a good feeling. I’m not good for much more just now than exchanging money for entertainments various like food and accommodation and surfboard hire, which suits me fine. I walked through a shady gate and felt useless like music: music might be good for something other than just being music but we’d like it even if it wasn’t.

(Susanne Langer argues that music gets its power from being shaped like our emotional life: tension then resolution, tension then resolution. Which is true enough of a lot of music but also true of weather, the Dow Jones index and the waves my friends are riding while I hide temporarily from the fiery sun, the sun radiant like my foot, hiding from moths in the vastness of the sky.)

8. Other
TODAY WE DRANK tea beneath a café umbrella which looked like an abstract tree and I guess that’s what umbrellas are, no? Portable trees whose boughs you can spread and shelter beneath at whim. Anyway: there was a tiny lizard on the umbrella’s trunk. Its eye was the colour of amber and looked like a single drop of sap.

9. Tomorrow
MAYBE I OFFENDED the sun by hiding, because later today and tomorrow morning it hid itself behind rain, the rain of a god wrathful with the sinfulness of His creation, a biblical rain wherein the water cycle was short-circuited. Usually water is coaxed from the sanctuary of the mother ocean by the fiery sun into masses of vapour who make themselves useful by moving shade and water elsewhere and supplying metaphors for sadness and confusion. Here, though, it’s the rainy season and the prodigal water is impatient for union. There’s no horizon anymore and the surfers look so much further away through two tricks of perspective painters know:

a) atmospheric perspective, wherein things look further away the hazier they are. Here this is effected by a shitload of drops. And

b) some other kind whose name escapes me, wherein small things look further away because larger things are in front of them. Here the rain makes the waves between the surfers and me look like a succession of rolling grey hills and the surfers like hypothetical beings dancing on those misty hills miles away.

The absence of horizon underscores the simple verticality of everything: there’s a cloud doing its best to become ocean again through the agency of descent. It takes a while because protocol demands it happen drop by drop, even though the eye is convinced they’re already fused into non-duality over there where the horizon used to be. Wouldn't it be easier for everyone though if the cloud just sank gently onto and into the water without having to go through the bother of transforming itself into drops? I have had many good ideas about how weather could be made more efficient and have penned numerous letters to the Bureau of Meteorology but nothing seems to come of it: fools!

(Later we went surfing in the rain ourselves and I saw the process up close. Each second numberless drops hit the ocean fast and seemed to bounce on its surface like tiny fish. Spherical drops jumped up at the moment of impact like this: hahahahaha!)

10. Wait! I forgot!
Yesterday morning I walked out the gate useless like music to look at the grey waves. There were two lithe dogs trotting purposefully along the dark sand. They looked like they knew what they were about. Now and then they would dig and snout around in the sand for something. One was black and the other was amber. The amber one chased a tiny tiny crab in the limpid morning light.

xx Mike

* Me and Hanna. Hanna is very happy: there is tofu and tempeh, there are cats and mangoes and beaches and it's warm and humid. She is in her Element and has also turned out to be a natural at surfing.

** Me and Hanna and Kate and Tristan. Kate, she of the famous iron stomach, is sick today but has been otherwise well. We got her on a surfboard after four days of her screwing up her nose and changing the subject whenever surfing was mentioned. She liked it! Tristan, who Kate used to call 'pansy guts', is not sick at all, has finished his studies and is happy and relaxed.


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