A weak volcano
And it’s not even bursting
There’s a story of a mad scientist who, filled with rage, after decades of elaborate development of a brilliant device, the one to end with all other devices, of any kind, sat down in quiet contemplation, at the close of a hard-working day; he had, at last, achieved his live’s dream and succeeded in building a revolutionary machine — while, at the same time, a malicious, jealous gossip running around gave wide strength to the information that his historic accomplishment would run the world down, as if there would be no need for universities or labs or even knowledge, should he give his honourable gift to the people. And, with an equal degree of fury and wonder, the scientific community waited calmly, projecting the future magnitude of an apocalyptic blast.
The scientist was stunned, paralyzed. Gesture without motion in his eyes. He lighted up the machine and saw — his mind in tireless activity, his skin red in flames, his knees almost bowing down, such was the pious reverence in the flesh of his soul — it working perfectly, without any need for repair or regulation of any sort. A bright, blue light was flying in an impossible oscilation across the room, revealing each little fragment of his impeccable dedication. It was a masterpiece of color and force, solving every problem ever faced with an almost humiliating simplicity. If the art is the inherent expression of the human heart in conflict with itself, because there’s always an unforeseen — or forbidden — answer waiting for a beautiful and imperfect endeavor, he had destroyed it. That bright, blue light was effectively the end of humanity.
He couldn’t bear it, and so, after a prolonged feeling of love, came down a powerful sensation of despair. He went back in his memory, searching for every detail of the process, for nothing wrong to be found. Ten years of lost evenings devoted to the conception of an astonishing sorcery, one hidden deep in the most truthful, ancient myth — he forged the wine by the water, gave a heir to the wounded king; a lightning bolt started the foundation of the Earth. That achievement was his bowling alley, soon to be covered in blood, because a malignant anger persuaded him, instantly, to have a strong, black staff — and to shatter the unholy machine. He was unable to face the end of things before the arrival of death, and, as an act of godly accident, he had a greater fondness for a restarted life of labor than for the everlasting darkness.
This nice fella had come to my attention during a warm summer night of celebration. A garden party with a very good Campari, that I always mix with an eighth of lemon, two rocks; I was sitting alongside a ladder, and it was a hell of a house. The new gravel at both sides sparkling, a green grass fighting for growth in the straight gap between the electric fence and the concrete for where the cars should climb. He was bland in shape and shadow, as if the world didn’t want to give him any space, while the wind gracefully played with the grass, painted in gray over the concrete in a joyous dance of movement and vitality, despite the struggle against the perfect bricklaying.
He laughed easily at every joke I was capable of drafting. He was undoubtedly hearing the sound of my voice, and I’m sure he could remember it for a few minutes, although I can’t utter, inside my head, any chord of his hollow lyric. I don’t dislike him, but I have an enduring resistance to people who lack the ability of admiration. Show me a hero and I’ll write you a novel; show me a villain and I’ll write you a great novel; show me a placebo and I will taste the drug, even if it kills me.
There’s a story of a mad painter — his name is Modigliani. They say he drew a very detailed and eloquent sketch of this fella, but even after the cautious finishing of the innermost layers of his round, brown eyes, it was impossible to find the window to his soul.
A pirate digging for a treasure; a beaver slowly building a natural dam; Gawain; Steve Jobs wants to have a new port connector in each of Apple’s gadgets; Jackson Pollock covered in paint; every worker who supports the painful and long journey, every night, to come back home after hours of bad public transport; a child’s first meal in a week; Max Schmeling and Joe Louis friendship — they were great icons; and Eric Moussambani; how we can be moved by a remarkable song; tales of brave Ulysses; young Boriska, the son of a deceased master, in his hysterical, fantastic, laborious effort of assembling the greatest bell ever shaped; Magica de Spell burning cities to get the One; the human who first produced a gleaming fire.
There is a riot going on, and the people got divided in two spheres of influence: some would say — and it’s hard to disagree with them, most of the time — this is a contest between segregation and unity, or between the sacred and the unholy, as if there was a hidden (and holy) evil, vile and cunning, looking for the long-waited opportunity to free the land of the heavy burden of progress. The fella was, no question about that, a good, sacred boy, a law-abiding young citizen, with no display of freewheeling cruelty; the conversation started as a fine, old healthy bullying, with a long display of ancient jokes from long ago — from school age — that resonated, at that time of celebration, as beautiful nostalgia, once we saw ourselves in a better place to laugh freely about what, at another moment of life, was shameful and embarassing. It was the jolly return of the memory, as Tim Riggins has always, very wisely, wished for.
And we got a little drunk, embalmed by a hell of a good whiskey (I sticked to the Campari) and a lightweight good beer, for those who had to drive back home in perfect safety. I hate sweet drinks. From the beginning, the fella wasn’t having much fun at the nostalgic chat — he wasn’t one of us back at the time when memories were made. He, however, laughed well, diligent, being a fair acquaintance; and enjoying the stream of reminiscences. At every short uttering of the expression “Remember when…”, that conducts us inexorably to the warm kingdom where we had happiness in our troubled hearts, his eyes went from the author to the receptor (usually, I was the author, as I love the past), waiting for the bait: a gone girl; a stupid answer at the science class; a hilarious misunderstanding; a fine funny moment of everyday life (or everyday past); being a sixteen year-old guy. And then, at the conclusion of every short story, he was able to smile, because the memories were warm and delightful. It was a cool gathering.
Until the stock got empty and other endeavours drew the attention of the group members. We had walked dangerously, tale after tale, through the bitter realm of present, without the protective wall of time — that keeps the misfortunes at bay, covered by the vivid carousel of nostalgia, when we know we have been loved. The room to remember became a room to altercation (albeit veiled); and, freed of the historical restriction, that unabled him to fully speak, as there was nothing to look back, the fella was released. His wolves started to howl, because the riot came to the scene and the polarization had pushed me alone to a corner, jabbed not by boxers, instinctive and real fighters of skill and dignity, but by some other grotesque kind of assailants, like those who lock themselves in cages, tainted sinners with the words of god over their shoulders and arms — and a speech of empty hate.
As the sole defender of the unholy, I got repeatedly punched, but wasn’t bothered. Those were long known strikes, hurting very little, only in the boundaries of inebriation, and I was happy. The attack was frequently stopped by jokes, words of admiration and photos and brief chats with other folks as well, and we don’t cultivate the mood for absolute vindication; the loving memory keeps stronger than the warmongering. So I was in the position of spectator, drinking Campari, sneaking behind doors and the yard to evade looks of reprehension while I smoked a Marlboro. My friends didn’t rush the riot talk — they didn’t want to — and the sparring came, overall, from the fella and from another fellas, known only by a few brief encounters in celebrations like that. Those guys had a strong schedule, imitating the same argument, hyphotesis accepted before any accurate examination: a throwback of bad informations, daddy’s voice echoing and lack of experience, but none of them sharp, smart or faithful enough to make me feel tempted. I don’t usually dwell into verses I have heard for so many years.
All the time, for repeated times, there came the phrases prêt-à-porter, the same weary enactments of bad government, bad corruption, bad democracy, good being rich, the lombrosian nature of poverty (although they don’t know who Lombroso was), look out! the marxists will take the world (help us, daddy), having privileges is a right, Obama is a communist (I don’t remember how we got to Obama in the first place), daddy don’t want myself working (let’s have other people do it for us). Every fella said some of those things in an automatic voice, in a perfect pattern of enunciation, as if they had it ready since long ago. But they didn’t know why, and they didn’t know how, and they didn’t know (and I asked, really) for whom they have been speaking — or for what they have been fighting (besides daddy). They had exchanged narrativity for waste, as they failed, by my drunk and slightly arrogant perception, to really, really want something — and were pleased enough. No force of will at all, because saving a golden princess is worth nothing without a dragon to kill.
The nice fella didn’t want to conduct any quarrel, but he wanted altogether to speak with great violence. He saw himself in an one-sided parliament, where he could stand up and defend the most embarassing of issues without reprisals, and so, obedient, I gave him the honor, out of curiosity. This is an important stop: he who couldn’t feel anything was ferociously enacting a statement of intolerance, greed and vacuum. Any glimpse of passion was blocked to my understanding, or else — and it’s not a low probability — I was deeply disturbed by his speech to the limit of wild rejection and contempt. To every sentence spoken by any of the other fellas sharing the same group, he had a ready, legislative, shallow explanation, well learned at the benches of a mechanic law school, without the awesome offer of allusion or imputation that makes the stuff of meaning. He was truly cut for the profession, once we conceive justice as a strict, mathematical science of privileges and prohibitions, and not as a social framework, open to hatred, uncertainty and wrong virtues.
Some very gifted people can make an event of any short conversation about the weather in the elevator, early in the morning — they can make it a contemplation of time, a recognition of beauty or a lucid example of how we may all interact, as basic and inherent as it seems; because it is. The nice fella, sparked by common agreements from (almost) everybody else, seemed happy and slowly started to go through other fields, leaving the steady law square, going further, going farther. He wished for a very different world, where the absolute rule of merit would dictate the fate of us all, even if it comes from a military grasp, with an army of pure-blooded soldiers of the strict, mathematical operation of law. The mad scientist couldn’t live with the murder of meaning, and yet he was ready to embrace it.
The problem is that, for me, it sounded more of an endorsement than a devoted speech; a competent rehearsal for the final act of a debate club, when you can survive for an hour defending your stand, but can’t figure out which stand is it — and you win. A lie repeated a thousand times and strongly engraved in the throat, without reaching the mind. At the root of his unhabited prose, the lack of motion that stops the journey before the beginning; there was only repetition, and no difference. He, in his light pink shirt, pale shorts, a rounded, composed hairstyle, an everyday face and teeth — I can’t describe him beyond this — , blasting the beacons of war as if it was less than a bleak weather chat early in the morning.
I don’t think he would embark in a perilous odyssey, although anger can be a powerful instigator — again, I didn’t see an angry voice, in the verge of eruption. At one time, he gazed to his girlfriend, sitting in a table for girls; I didn’t see the eyes of the young Boriska, filled with doubt, an excruciating, confused pain and fear. He was accepting his course of life very easily. The beacons of war would’t be charged by him.
Actually, this is my last hope.