Friday, April 27, 2012

Luco & the Teddy Bear

In a fit of something like empathy, the prison guard dragged out this stuffed animal to try and soothe me, she said, to make me feel less alone.

To make me feel less alone. Because at a fundamental level, whatever she tells herself, she knows and I know and you know that we are all alone.

Alone in our thoughts. In our experience of life. I look at this stuffed animal, this teddy bear, and I am revolted, but perhaps you look at it and you see something else. Something sweet, something to hug close and cherish. Perhaps you look into its beady eyes and see your own face reflected and this is like a hand to hold.

Not me.

Reflected back in its beady eyes I see torment. Anguish. The bathos of not-being. Although maybe I am sentimental. Expecting too much from fluff and nylon and cotton.

I would like the prison guard to look at me and to know me, to know that this sort of thing, this teddy bear is not going to quell my suffering. Is not going to light in me love.

That it, instead, sows the opposite.

I find myself filled with disgust. Revulsion. Sad trick, this, stupid gesture, it - teddy bear a lit match to my skin, smoke in my eyes.

If I wanted company I would seek it. I would not do as I do which is to lie here and pretend the animals do not swarm me. Which is to lie here and not listen to Sir Alfonso's bumbling recitations of Wuthering Heights from memory (it goes something like this "I've just returned from seeing my landlord, that weird guy who's going to be a total pain") for the thousandth time. To lie here and read Sartre's Why Write:

"[T]hrough the various objects which it produces or reproduces, the creative act aims at a total renewal of the world. Each painting, each book, is a recovery of the totality of being. Each of them presents this totality to the freedom of the spectator. For this is quite the final goal of art: to recover this world by giving it to be seen as it is, but as if it had its source in human [animal] freedom."

Can this be applied to the bear? Is he the product of some creative act? He must be, if he exists-but-does-not-exist. Sartre continues:

"But, since what the author creates takes on objective reality only in the eyes of the spectator, this recovery is consecrated by the ceremony of the spectacle - and particularly of reading. We are already in a better position to answer the question we raised a while ago: the writer chooses to appeal to the freedom of other men [animals] so that, by the reciprocal implications of their demands, they may re-adapt the totality of being to man [animal] and may again enclose the universe within man [animal]... the writer, like all other artists, aims at giving his reader a certain feeling that is customarily called aesthetic pleasure, and which I would very much rather call aesthetic joy."

This teddy bear, reader, does not in me birth an aesthetic joy. Does it you?

I shrug away from it. I shudder and growl. Still it persists. Still it glares at me, all beady-eyed (as previously established! I apologize if I, in my terror and boredom, repeat myself. My nerves, reader, are frayed).

Oh, how I wish it did soothe me. But I am ever troubled. Ever struggling to straddle despair and my greed to communicate - an ambivalence seemingly irreconcilable. Sartre writes: "To write is thus both to disclose the world and to offer it as a task to the generosity of the reader."

Reader, be generous. Reader, it is you who, although I am bereft, although I am misunderstood; although I weep alone and often; it is for you I write. It is to you I send my deepest respect. Love, even.

And it is you only who quickens in me the thought. We are all alone.

But we are alone together.