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My new favorite media playground.
Funny thing about puzzles, jigsaws, especially, is that when it gets down to the final few pieces, one can still pretty much see the whole damn thing.
But, until the last bit, random and nonsensical on its own, locks into place with that comfortable cardboard half-click… Until then, it ain’t done. A person can’t frame it and say that it’s done. Well, you could, but that wouldn’t impress anybody. Forget that you spent weeks of your precious free-time on this 3000 piece Escher-on-crack nightmare and got two-thousand-ninety-nine pieces together… one piece is still missing.
And, we get no points for that. Assuming that the puzzle was not defective from the factory, the truth is, and what everyone will think if we try to hang that laminated time-sucker on the wall… the truth is that when it is down to one piece, the final, completely-obvious, only-option-left piece, we have no excuse to not put it in its proper place.
Only then can a puzzler move on.
For me, the last piece was a bit of Facebook/Myspace haiku. I have some friends that are very unhappy about the direction our government is taking, and they are (were, by this point) going to protest what they called ‘the socialist agenda’. I read a status update, or whatever, regarding that… and was distraught. It wasn’t the idea of protest, and it wasn’t that it was protesting something I, at least to some degree, favor… In fact, I didn’t know exactly what it was.
But there was a tone to the statement, and a few others that came before and a few more afterward, that, in my opinion, implied that everyone who didn’t heed the call to arms was, well, an idiot. Included in that ‘everyone’ is me. I don’t agree with their viewpoint. And, that makes me an idiot. (Please, reader, if you are one of the people that fits the bill above, do keep going, because there is a point to this, and you are not the villain.)
I couldn’t sleep. At all. I was awake all night with the phrase “If you don’t agree with me, then you are an idiot”, a phrase that wasn’t in the comment at all. But the tone hit me and hurt me and I let it distress me all night long.
If this was the last piece to the puzzle I have been struggling with, then the answer to the last piece comes from the second to last:
“(what we need is) Another world-wide sit down around a giant table BROADCAST LIVE where we revisit what we have in common…”
Words, from another friend, again in the networking abbreve-speak that makes up so much our communication these days.
Two views, not necessarily opposed, but coming from two different backyards. And there it was. The second to last piece (We need to talk) crisscrossing over to the final piece, a statement that made me feel impotent. Not because of what it said, but in the manner in which it was said. And now, I’m not even talking about tone or attitude.
I mean, someone I respect as a friend feels very strongly about an issue that I don’t agree with, and because of the distance, because of the way in which friends far apart are choosing to communicate (instantly but highly abbreviated), there is no dialogue. Just fragments of our most powerful thoughts and emotions. Unfinished embryos.
If there was wine and a campfire and hours to pick at this, all of us involved could take the time to get past ‘status update’ tweets and really dig deep. We would move from “You are a fool for not thinking the way I do,” to the things that scare us, the actual issues that are driving us. Issues can be broken down from “Socialism is great” or “Socialism is stupid”, and while they are not always solvable, they are at least chunked up and made digestible by all parties involved.
Face to face, we all could say: “Well, really, here is what I am afraid of.” And, chances are, we’d agree on many of those fears. Not all, but perhaps enough to not villainize Them.
Well, this is not a political rant. It’s not even a social one. These words are about how, thanks to these dear friends, who I disagree with on many topics (but agree with on many more), helped me complete my puzzle. Together they helped me realize that I was withering without dialogue.
A year and a half ago I moved to the only place that I have ever fallen in love with, New Orleans. Specifically, I rarely see anything beyond the boundaries of the French Quarter, The Circus That Doesn’t Move and I am happy. Truly. I adore every minute I am here.
But I am a comedian. I am not a musician. I am not an actor. I’m a comedian and I am not even the kind of comedian that is comfortable on an open-mic line-up in which I am the only person not bitterly cracking-wise about the lack of butt-sex I am getting from my girlfriend.
So, the truth is, my comedy don’t fly ’round here.
Instead, I sell hats, and, at night, I come home and have just enough energy to write for a bit before I force myself to go to bed because I have to sell hats in the morning. I’m currently writing a horror screenplay. Before that, I quit writing a comedy screenplay. Before that, I quit writing stand-up. Before that, I quit writing sketches for a comedy troupe that suffered from not living in the same state. Before that…
I am overflowing with two-sided monologues and one-sided diatribes.
But, I am without dialogue.
When I lived on the road, I’d like to think I was a respected member of the family. That, out there, I was a sometime counselor, sometime priest, sometime gyrl (but that’s a different blog). Now, I never perform, when I write it is for people that don’t exist, and, because I am tired (Tired, for god’s sake!) I miss phone calls from those whose hands I promised to hold when they needed it.
I am a comedian… And I need, like the rest of the world needs, if it truly wants to heal the rifts that indifference and zeal alternately have created, dialogue.
Weeks ago, I could see the whole picture, minus one small fragment of one upside-down staircase. But now, the final piece is in. The puzzle is complete.
And what is a finished puzzle, if not a solution?
I need to step back and take it all in before I frame it, but it is finished.
Still with me?
True love always.
With the title above, I offer a natural culling of readers straight-away. I have, more than once, been personally offended that I made the choice to waste my time reading someone’s spoutings based entirely on a clever, but ultimately dishonest, hook and title (and oh-my-god, am I a sucker for cover art and profile pictures). I have even returned to the house of pain a few times (losing more precious minutes), hoping that the author just “had a bad set”, only to discover what I already knew: Nope, this just really isn’t for me.
So, here is the out, twenty seconds in: If you cannot see a meaning of Zen Cattle-hammer behind your eyes, then this blog will probably not appeal to you. If you can, but the image does not move you in some way (whatever that way is), then this blog will probably not appeal to you. If you don’t simply adore an assault of italics every two-dozen words, then spare yourself the conniption. Trust me. I’m a Doktor.
Otherwise, welcome and read on.
But, that said, just what does the title mean? I really don’t have a concise answer. I’ve thought about it… at length… but not until after I made the decision. I merely knew it was time for me to start writing things to be read (rather than spoken, which is my normal method of communicating), and I knew I’d need an umbrella title for those typings, but…
The truth is that I woke up with those five syllables in my spirit and I knew they were the right ones, but to really determine why I’d have to reverse-engineer them a bit. Technically, if I wanted to be as cliche as possible (and why wouldn’t I? [“Hair-lip hair-lip hair-lip!] cliches are, even at there worst, understood by most), then I’d call this blog “Zen Post-Modernist Paradigm Shift.” However, while I am a card-carrying member of the Hyper-Pretentious Intelligentsia, I still do not actually own a basque beret, so am not legally entitled to string the words ‘Zen’, ‘Post-modernist’, and ‘Paradigm Shift’ together in one sentence (or more case-specifically: sentence fragment), under pain of having my smokes and unearned cynicism taken away so fast my head would stop spinning.
Besides, as I typed at the very beginning, Zen Cattle-hammer is more of a picture than set of words. It came in a dream, and dreamspeak is visual rather than verbal (at least in my experience), the rare appearance of the written (and spoken) word in Dreamland wanderings leading more often to ambiguity than clarity. I can see the meaning of ‘zen cattle-hammer’ in my mind more than I can write it, and I’m guessing that you can, too, if you are still with me on this page, dear Schroedinger’s Reader.
Even now, with the digital ink still fresh, an unexpected interpretation of the image is swimming around inside me, twisting my goopy-bits into new knots. Born from the belly of another dream, the new picture hurts and heals more than my original concept did/does.
The dream was an accident, and I pay very close attention to these ‘accidentals’, in the same way that I have learned to take the Lovers card that leaps from the deck during a bad shuffle with even fewer grains of salt (which should be better for the heart, I imagine).
I say it was an accident, because my sleep was interrupted in a very unexpected way and the dream to follow hinged (or, at least, cleverly segued) on that awakening. I’ll not bore you with all the details (I have an entire toolbox full of other ways to bore you), but simply say that the way I tripped over my own feet on the consciousness sidewalk and landed in the Dreamlands was brilliant and jarring. (Good on ye, Brain.) Once there, however, came these images:
A tiny puppy was brought to my home by a barely-known friend of a friend. I picked it up and held it into the crook of my neck as it nuzzled me with little squeaks. Soon I would notice that the puppy was made of wood, cork really, and that it was hollow. I set it down and it grew to be my size. Once it was beyond fully-grown (but still puppy-proportioned), I could see an old crush sitting and weeping, knees to her chest, inside of the head of the Trojan Puppy. She was the blended spirit of my current sweetheart, but in the body of this brief flame from the past, in that disjointed but fully legible language of Dreams.
I opened the unlocked door of the Puppy’s eye and lifted her out, cradling the crying woman in exactly the same way as I’d done the little beagle. Then she braced her feet on my chest and stood up, our hands clasped in a static-acrobatic cirque pose. With one hand she let go of me and leaned out, brushing the ceiling with her fingertips, tears gone and dry.
Then things go wrong. An armed rebellion occurs in the Dreamlands and I and my sweetheart (now fully in her own body) are fortunate enough to be near the Emperor and his entourage when the revolutionaries’ purple and grey-green helicopters come tearing the world apart with rounds the size of a fist. We are shuffled into relative safety with the Emperor and it is quickly determined that we are the less than ideal seeds of the next world, if there is to be one. The ousted leader’s Secret Service breaks our bunch into two lines and makes it clear that the front of each line will face each other and be challenged to a puzzle question. The first to respond correctly, must execute the other. The nonsense question I am given is this:
“What did Janis Joplin do after learing that Michael Blank (something iconically Irish and associated with “The Troubles”, but not Michael Collins) had been killed?”
With a second left on the timer (Go Dream! Way to keep the tension up!), I deliver my answer (which was my very first instinct, but was agonized over for 4 minutes and 59 seconds): “She got drunk.”
I am correct and both I and my ‘opponent’ accept our fates and accompany the Emperor to a parking lot where, presumably, we both shall consummate our respective destinies. I type ‘presumably’, because I woke after kissing my sweetheart (who I am fully confident will survive the culling, given the nature of the puzzles and her proclivities) and begin making my way sadly to the lot, knowing who I am now, but also what the next minutes will make me.
And there it is.
The Zen Cattle-hammer, first imagined as a quick and clean (if brutal) picture of epiphany, is twisted around. Sometimes the blows of spiritual development are so strong and direct they can knock us into a new stage in the blink of an eye. But this dream reminds me that sometimes the Hammer skips at the last second and we are only grazed, leaving us stunned and teetering and hurting and half-blind, not fully being allowed to fall into the next lower circle of understanding.
Sometimes fast and inevitable. Sometimes nothing more than a spiritual head-wound that we cannot comprehend at this time in our lives.
But always a blow we never see coming.
Still with me?
With true love, BCNU,
Reverend Doktor Saline Drip, IV