Miscellaneous Mental Musings of an Emerging Artist
Write Club is a monthly, literary bloodsport in which contenders face off against each other with 7-minute essays on competing topics. Below was my combatant essay based on the prompt “HIT,” facing off against “QUIT.” This essay was performed on July 24, 2016, at The Neo-Futurists Theater in Chicago, and was victorious in its bout.
Against your wishes and despite your protests the man onstage begins to spin for you yet another creation myth. The man onstage tells you that there is a deep, dark well at the center of a deep, dark nothingness. Do not ask who dug the well. The well was always there. Do not ask how one can reasonably call it nothingness when one has just clearly described that something was always there. Don’t interrupt me again when I’m sharing the secrets of existence, that ain’t a right you’ve earned.
There is a deep, dark well at the center of a deep, dark nothingness. A child walks towards it with a large metal bucket and an infinite length of rope. The child carefully lowers the bucket into the well. The bucket descends for somewhere between an instant and an eternity; who can say, there’s not yet such a thing as time. The bucket hits the surface of a medium that is not water and then the bucket pushes past that surface, the bucket begins to fill, the bucket submerges entirely. The child begins to pull the bucket back up. It ascends for an instant or an eternity and then the child holds the bucket in their hands. The fluid in the bucket is as deep and dark as the well it was drawn from, and then the child spills the contents of the bucket across the nothingness. The child uses its fingers to draw a paintbrush of the fluid and then uses the brush to make the universe, like an impressionist oil painting made of matter and light and marbles, a painting with no discernible edges. It hangs there in front of the child in silent, taciturn beauty, a shining, frozen perfection. The child looks up and across at their masterpiece with a curious, judicious eye.
“This,” says the child, “is rrrrreally fucking boring.”
And lo did the child wind back their arm and deliver unto the universe a mighty haymaker, a wallop such that the visage of the universe began to slide and slough, to rattle and ricochet, a pummeling so profound it made specks of dust coalesce into planets, created gravity and magnetism where before had been naught but stale vacuum. And lo did the universe careen into motion from that moment forward, etcetera etcetera, look, my work is done here. If you want to make a religion out of that I’m not going to stop you, and when Neil deGrasse Tyson and Richard Dawkins team up to DESTROY me in THREE PERFECT TWEETS I will claim that I was speaking allegorically and it’s not my fault if hundreds of millions of people decided to take it literally and send me their life savings in postage-prepaid envelopes.
Except it’s not the creation story of the universe that matters. It is never the creation story that matters. The creation story is overture and underscore, the creation story is the stagehand in the pre-show moments of the parlor room comedy making sure that the glassware is set next to the brandy decanters. Everything after the creation story is what becomes genuine narrative, and everything that becomes narrative is built from the way the various elements hit each other.
A meteor strikes the surface of a lifeless rock. Inside the crater the individual grains of dirt tumble over one another, the friction creating heat energy, the heat energy transforming chemical molecule into organic molecule, the organic molecules colliding and converging into a stew of oblong proteins that float past each other, oblivious, centimeters that may as well be miles. The paths of two intermingle against probability, and they tangle, they bond, they become the keystone in a structure that is destined for life and destined for sentience and civilization.
Then another meteor strikes the crater and chaos reminds destiny who’s truly in charge here. This was not the story of our planet. Sorry. Perhaps that was the story of Mars. Perhaps that was the story of a world long ago and far away, a world we will not discover no matter how well-crafted are the lenses on the next powerful interstellar telescope, a world that was battered by a hundred thousand high-velocity boulders until it finally stopped trying to be a world entirely, until it returned to its previous state of never. Perhaps it was the world that they tested the Death Star on before Vader set his sights on Alderaan.
While here on our precious mass of saltwater and sand, the process is allowed to move forth unabated with varying and questionable results, where the act of striking something is refined beyond its randomness into precise procedures. An ape with enough firing neurons to develop pattern recognition watches a bolt of lightning ignite a tree and realizes that the sparks flying from the inferno are similar to those that jump from the stones they’ve been banging together for entertainment, and now there is fire, and now there is society, and now the society that has fire has outlived the starving bands of beasts that did not have fire. The societies develop methods for hitting each other that cause one another to expire unnaturally, the males and the females of the species toss their bodies together with or without each other’s consent and the distribution of life proceeds across every square inch of the available firmament. Our collisions carve out what it means to be human beings, living and dying and evolving past our understandings of ourselves.
A man is elevated to a tremendous social status by his ability to beat another man into unconsciousness. Another man by his skill at hitting a hurtling sphere of leather and stitches beyond the walls of an arbitrary stadium. Hearts punctured by the cannonball of rejection, skins punctured by bullets of hollow-pointed steel, hit after hit after hit after hit until the algebra loses meaning and the equations have been balanced beyond recognition.
One’s mood. One’s psychology. One’s decisions. All success, all failure. All of it in one way or a hundred ways can be considered the result of a hit.
Every imagined iteration of universe. White men with whiskers working for six days and a nap, the love children of Gaea and Uranus, the lotus flower growing in Vishnu’s navel, Overlord Xenu colonizing the church of John Travolta, an uncountable stack of world-burdened turtles, a child with a bucket making a mess of what they pulled from a deep dark well. If I impress upon you anything in this diatribe I want it to be this: The history of everything, of literally EVERYTHING, is the history of impact. Unless acted upon by outside forces objects in motion tend to stay in motion, and objects at rest tend to stay at rest. And nothing quits without being made to do so.