When I sat down tonight, I wasn’t sure how to begin. I’ve re-written the sentence you just read so many times that the pixels on my screen are beginning to bleed through my meaning like some digital palimpsest. The last Rambler I wrote, on Rebecca Black’s ninja ambush of U.S. pop culture, was far and away the most popular Rambler, in terms of visitors, I’ve written. Several hundred people stopped by to take a look, which is a very small number by internet traffic standards, but a whole lot of people by my own. It was also the least understood and the most galvanizing; if emails, Facebook comments and private conversations are an accurate indication of how it was received.
The fault for misunderstanding was mine, of course. I obscured my point with observations I knew would raise the ire of strangers and friends alike. Many of us take our preferences for art and music seriously. Very seriously–myself included. It’s a matter of identity. The outposts we’ve established against the night’s howling advance.
This writer I love says, “I am myself.”
That song I sing says, “I am my own. You cannot have me.”
We define ourselves by these things we love. I know that. Even more so by these things we hate. I know that too. I was using Rebecca Black to play on discord’s strings, but it was an empty tune, and it left me wondering why I was writing at all–talk about taking yourself too seriously. I’ve been doing this for almost six months now, and every month the number of readers has grown. I know the readers have grown because I watch the metrics like a stockbroker watches the Dow Jones. My conviction, however, has been running inversely to the readership. After all, I wondered–what was I chasing?
The short answer is, of course, you. I was chasing you. You that dodges me like a jack rabbit the owl. You that spurns my drunken advances. I’d root naked in Delphic mud to find you, even though you wouldn’t ask it of me. But why do I count you? Why does your number matter? Should you be legion? If I woke up tomorrow, and something I had written had been read by a million people, ten million even, what then? How would it change you? Would you still keep the second law of thermodynamics intact? How ’bout your tendency to love in waves, to crash back on your own origins like some psychological singularity?
It’s not as if I didn’t know I was trucking in my own narcissism–it says so, right in my bio–but I don’t think I had quite come to terms with just how hollow that pursuit was. The pursuit of numbers, that is. It was a cruel trick of nature, but every number I chased diminished you. And when I finally caught that number–you see don’t you that the number is irrelevant; it’s just the representation of a system that reckons without purpose or end–I had lost you. I know that now, and in that knowing, there is some clarity of purpose.
For some of us, the creations we champion form invisible axes as emotionally vibrant as any coalition chartered by custom or law. Indeed, the establishment of a community is the first order of business for any spiritual seeker. And we are all spiritual seekers, every one of us. Whether we dash ourselves into bodies, or hide like fugitives from news of the reaper, we are spirit and dust. All of us spirit; all of us dust. Even the solitary buddhas called pratyekabuddhas, who “wandered lonely as a rhinoceros horn,” had a community. A community of two, of you and me, is all that we need to keep us warm, because the night is coming; it’s always coming. Nothing is solitary. Not art. Not love. Not reason nor the gods. Even good ol’ Yahweh got busy making people. Just because we have to find our own way doesn’t mean we can’t meet along the avenues.
There’s a field somewhere out there where I’ll hope to find you–drunk and dancing and spoiling for the light.