No Delusions of Grandeur

Polish SkullsSkulls. Sand. Shadows.

Three of my favorite things.

As I near the release of this, and thus slam the door shut on a too-long writing project, I sit in a rotting leather chair, my feet propped on a destroyed-by-cats ottoman, and reflect on my existence. I should be happier, I think. I should shimmer like Twilight’s vampires and bounce like Barney the fucking dinosaur after a line of coke. Throw a party, I tell myself. Celebrate it. Relish it. Savor it.

Fuck it.

 I’m not in the mood.

It’s not that I don’t feel a sublime sense of satisfaction. Or oceans of relief. It’s just that tonight, with the wind battering my windows and my candle sputtering its final breaths, I feel a little bit pointless. Self-satisfaction, I tell myself, is for the narcissistic. Get your ass back to work, my brain commands. Right. Now. And I will. There won’t be a party. Or a fist pump. Or even a celebratory glass of wine.

If a tree falls in the forest and no one’s there to hear it, does it make a sound?

Yes.

If I finish a book and only a few thousand people read it, does it matter?

Yes.

Maybe.

As I gloom in my writing cave, I’m reminded of a poem from the 70’s. The Deteriorata is a prose-form poem written to both mock and celebrate 1927’s Desiderata. It pretty well summates my feelings, my ‘F it’ mood, my devotion to sarcasm, cynicism, and indifference, and my awareness that a few quick breaths from now, the fleeting afterglow of publishing a million words will vanish into the air. As though it had never been.

Here it is:

Deteriorata 

You are a fluke of the universe. You have no right to be here
Deteriorata. Deteriorata

Go placidly amid the noise and waste
And remember what comfort there may be in owning a piece thereof
Avoid quiet and passive persons, unless you are in need of sleep
Rotate your tires
Speak glowingly of those greater than yourself
And heed well their advice, even though they be turkeys
Know what to kiss, and when
Consider that two wrongs never make a right, but that three do
Wherever possible, put people on hold
Be comforted that in the face of all aridity and disillusionment
And despite the changing fortunes of time
There is always a big future in computer maintenance

You are a fluke of the universe
You have no right to be here
And whether you can hear it or not
The universe is laughing behind your back

Remember The Pueblo
Strive at all times to bend, fold, spindle, and mutilate
Know yourself
If you need help, call the FBI
Exercise caution in your daily affairs
Especially with those persons closest to you –
That lemon on your left, for instance
Be assured that a walk through the ocean of most souls
Would scarcely get your feet wet
Fall not in love therefore. It will stick to your face
Gracefully surrender the things of youth: birds, clean air, tuna, Taiwan
And let not the sands of time get in your lunch
Hire people with hooks
For a good time, call 606-4311. Ask for Ken
Take heart in the bedeepening gloom
That your dog is finally getting enough cheese
And reflect that whatever fortune may be your lot
It could only be worse in Milwaukee

You are a fluke of the universe
You have no right to be here
And whether you can hear it or not
The universe is laughing behind your back

Therefore, make peace with your god
Whatever you perceive him to be – hairy thunderer, or cosmic muffin
With all its hopes, dreams, promises, and urban renewal
The world continues to deteriorate
Give up

(Tony Hendra, National Lampoon Radio Dinner, 1972)

And so I’ll close up shop tonight, contented but not. I’ll eat some Ramen, knock back a Scorsese film, and plot new beginnings tomorrow. There’s no glory in finishing one book…nor six…nor likely a hundred. There’s no party long enough to satisfy me nor a woman cold and cruel enough to fascinate me.

It doesn’t matter.

I’m not giving up.

Love,

J Edward Neill

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