Friday, June 05, 2009

Travelogue 282 – June 5
The Dao De Minn

Okay, I’m experiencing a little culture shock this time around. I’m back in Minnesota. It’s the silence of this place. It’s unnerving. It’s like the sky is too big. There’s plenty of activity – cars still buzzing, business still bubbling, (in its subdued post-prime way) – but the sky just swallows it, as if the vast blue were a wool blanket left over from winter.

One is forced to surrender to it, and move like one is in a medieval Chinese poem, pantomiming the ancient art of the shout in a snowstorm.

The street that can be talked aloud on is not the true street;
The voice that can be heard is not the true voice.
It was from the Noiseless that Heaven and Earth sprang;
Noise is but the mother that rears the ten thousand annoyances.

So one retires with a sigh of relief to the normal quiet of an afternoon bar and watches the quiet sport, baseball.

We swing thirty times and call it an inning;
But it is inside the spaces between swings that the game exists.
We spend millions on fifty thousand seats;
But it is on the green space in the middle, where there is nothing, that the usefulness of this vessel depends.
We mold plastic into stacks of cups;
And it is on the empty space inside the beer cup that usefulness of the cup depends.
Therefore just as we cheer the home run, we should cheer for the empty times, during which we visit the bathrooms.

I make it to see Star Trek, one of my primary goals since I have made it back in the country. We watch the aged Spock as he is forced to watch his planet implode in the silence of space. Quietly it obeys its fate, according to the designs of the evil Romulan, collapsing inside the aural pillow of deep vacuum.

Key to the plot is a show of rage by the young Spock. And it can’t take more than a minute from the rest of the script. So the resulting scene pulls the specter of the loss of his mother from a well of convenient imagery, like the tears of the Madonna as shorthand for everything sacred to medieval man, and Spock obliges with pantomimes of rage.

The names that can be named are not true names.

This resonates with what I see among my compatriots, through the goggles of culture shock, a kind of staged, silent opera. In this show, emotions are substituted by a variety of film and TV shorthand for emotion, according to the script. We’re busy; we have a lot on our minds. An inconvenient ‘issue’ arises, and we have a hunch that a reaction is called for. We know the scripts.

The sky re-asserts its pre-eminence, pushing down. Our thoughts jump like water bugs beneath its vastnesses. When the day is done, we’ll hide.