The Elegance of the Hedgehog

As always, I am saved by the inability of living creatures to believe anything that might cause the walls of their little mental assumptions to crumble. (18)

As much as we admonish those walls, we are bound to them and should be grateful for the social sanctuary they provide. Why are we so quick to presume social prison is their only consequence? Crumble they should, but disintegrate entirely? The more you learn, the farther away the walls are from your center. Can we ever be boundless? Would we want to be? As long as we can no longer see the walls that frame our existence and channel our experience, why worry? Would it help?

Then again, can we ever really see the walls and how high they stretch?

“Life has meaning and we grown-ups know what it is” is the universal lie that everyone is supposed to believe. (22)

Lie? Maybe. Or the inner motor that fuels our movement. At least the first part. The certain knowledge that follows the quest? That might be the fruitless endeavor. But to journey toward meaning, or perhaps in meaning, that’s no lie. Our truth is in movement, which never pauses for Knowledge.

A note: If your enjoyment depends on mine, you might want to question your enjoyment.

What we know of the world is what our consciousness can say about it because of what it has perceived – and nothing else. (60)

Man, fuck that noise. Or don’t. What difference does it make? Then again, this is what our blog’s title is all about, folks. Strange Projections is an extension of Pynchon’s “Shall I project a world?” question from The Crying of Lot 49. Do we dare disturb the universe, anxious J. Alfred Prufrock’s that we are? What might we disturb if the universe if just a mental projection? The projector? The projectionist? Where are they even located?

Lucien was a non-entity who was merely returning to a nothingness from which he had never fully emerged. (74)

Lucien (who dies in relative anonymity, one of “the ordinary little people,” so far as he concerns the rich) represents the socially disenfranchised, and you can trust that description because I used “represents” and “disenfranchised,” which only a credible literary analyst and social commentator would use. Why am I playing this masturbatory game? Where does analysis get me except deeper into my own self-indulgent (and apparently now masochistic) psyche? Is analysis – if it ends up being primarily evaluative – creative activity?

It would be so much better if we could share our insecurity, if we could all venture inside ourselves and realize that green beans and vitamin C, however much they nurture us, cannot save lives, nor sustain our souls. (79)

No doubt you’ve experienced the deadening daily rituals of worrying about what you’re going to eat or talking about food, weather, and what not with other people. No doubt such “polite” conversation serves us in some positive way. No doubt I’d rather cut through all that crap and get right into, if not insecurities, genuine joys.

…and in all this sound and fury, amidst eruptions and undertows, while the world goes its merry way, bursts into flames, tears itself apart and is reborn: human life continue to throb. So, let us drink a cup of tea. (91)

Surely you knew that profundity is in simplicity? That a learned affect is the means to both? That a cup of tea is revelation? That grandiosity surges through the banal into our painfully open hearts?

In our world, that’s the way you live your grown-up life: you must constantly rebuild your identity as an adult, the way it’s been put together it is wobbly, ephemeral, and fragile, it cloaks despair and, when you’re alone in front of the mirror, it tells you the lies you need to believe. For Papa, the newspaper and the coffee are magic wands that transform him into an important man. (92)

(I imagine Fuller’s rolling eyes, but, knowing that she is a precocious 12 year old, would he forgive the narrator of this passage her excess?) (Maybe that’s just adult Canelli fearing adult Fuller, and there is a silly injustice in such assumptions. Or the injustice is in the facade that generates and sustains the behaviors on which those assumptions are based. Or there is no facade, and Canelli is trying to sound perspicacious. Or he’s trying to write himself into something that actually makes sense, but then uses this meta-recognition to cover his graceless ineptitude as resilient striving.)

Day after day, we put up the brave struggle to play our role in this phantom comedy. (97)

Live, or die: mere consequences of what you have built. What matters is building well. So here we are, I’ve assigned myself a new obligation. I’m going to stop undoing, deconstructing, I’m going to start building. (114)


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