One would like to distill a warning from the mad dash of arbitrary words; to halt the progress of time in the newsreel, to better linger with the instants that punctuate the mortal march; to repeal the lie of advertisement and give back to language its genetic potency; to strike from one’s pain and possession all semblance of ownership, to broaden the act beyond its personal stakes; to give oneself implicitly with each gesture, as a face gives the whole of humanity; to break down the barriers between alien and host, correct and mistaken; to quote back to the world its own anguish, its own envy and manipulation, in an inverted form that would rouse it to altered states, less certain, more vulnerable; to start a riot in the soul of every being, reflecting its violent outlook, its critique of the world, back upon itself, and to determine then whether or not there is any justice in its ways…
But the past weighs too heavily. Our will to forget embraces us, shelters us, from horrors too ripe for consciousness to take in. Our conscience, overburdened by a guilt we can’t account for, or express in the language of things, capitulates to habits of exaggeration and distraction, one giving the air of disturbance and concern, the other liquidating it on command of light pleasures. Everyone is complicit in the generalized denial, everyone has their strategy to attend and look away. Our barbarity is to spectate while pretending to know the essential without preparation or inquiry, to argue our points like priggish pundits, without philosophy and without history. The kaleidoscope of concepts that makes social reality possible remains unprocessed, unquestioned at its roots; common sense drives everyone, without a thought for the “commons.” Self-preservation enshrines itself, waves some colored flag, finding its opium in a den of gossip and gadgetry. We parade unaware of the alienation our individualism perpetrates and represents; and with neither the tools nor the willingness to investigate the matter closely, we’re caught spreading rumors, the truth of which we can’t perceive and so fail to disprove. Our capitulations and our laziness combine to condone murder, and we hoard away whatever they don’t take.
And so the saving phrase will never find its way– not after this endless deluge of empty words, molested now and forever by the indifferent arms of technology, which immodestly decides their fate, immediately as forgotten: points on a list of grievances too long to be read, let alone to publish. Never again will a word of admonishment or salvation come. Never again will a message come without falling into the disrepute of all commentary, its active properties cordoned off, its fervency reduced to platitude; or into comedy, the destiny of bare thought. We can only feign allegiance to the real of an engagement, now that everything has been sucked up in the ritual of ignominies that characterizes the virtual world– which has so gripped us, so cleverly, with the mirage of our own prodigiousness, that we have not even noticed the distress on the face of that world, which lies there, sawed into pieces pushed off into unseen corners, while the maestro waves his hand, making everything disappear.
The audience falls asleep clapping, their fate sealed by an earlier visit to the teller’s booth, where, like God incarnate, an operative, well-placed man had told them about their dreams and their future in such a forthright manner, in so caring a tone– like fathers who never strike the child but wield through their suggestions a power to outweigh all his misgivings, if not through assurance, then through fear, both of which he wields equally, for his task is to expiate their guilt– that they had forgotten he’d made them sign before leaving for the theater: a contract to be themselves for the rest of their lives.
The curtain closed, the maestro lulled backstage against bookshelves housing the vivisected dame, certain of the audience members drew awake from their snooze and, with a flutter so light not even science could register it, walked away from the parquet in silence. They knew it was by chance that they were there. They took notice of each other instantly: no longer as individuals, but in the manner of ghosts, hollow outlines representing holy absences, apparitions gliding, in time with the maestro’s prostration (time thus ended), not to the back doors, but to the stage, where it had become visible to all, with reticent consciousness, how much blood had been spilled in the act. They knew it would not be enough to conceal the stains, and that there was no way to clean them up now. As for the assistant, with whom they all felt “somehow connected” (they assumed she’d played no willing part in the dealings, having presumably signed a contract), she was going to stay there, dazzling, scattered, accursed, however she was.
The maestro precipitated, delaying, as his snoring grew tremendous. The only light left beamed on him with a stale, unwavering brightness. They thought to themselves, Here is the first indifferent Angel– for its light, though undirected, was enough for them to peer back into the crowd, and to notice other figures rising from their seats, like turtles from a summer spent baking under sand, crawling from the night to the sea.
For it was on stage that they were made to assemble, at least that much they knew. But the show was over now, the whole scene positively irreparable. In this, their strange afterlife, which had resurrected them to the same evils they’d faced in life earlier, but now that the act was over they could see, they had melted out of existence, staying with it; and although this impression made it impossible to verify themselves or the others– for none of them, nor their numbers, could be counted, escaping as bodies do their place among numerable things, being never in one room, but always between two–, it was beyond proof that they were there together. They had seen their eternal aspect, and now it was all they could see. And thus the posthumous commission was ordered: take note of the evils that the living wouldn’t dare to, and wait for the rest to get up.