by philip scott wikel
Dylan’s mind drifted back to the previous week. Finals were coming and he was feeling overwhelmed. A stranger in a strange land, searching for love in literature, and finding only brains overwrought with analysis. He had paddled as fast he could, but the minds around him had larger sails or, perhaps, were more wont to go along with the currents of captains with Phd.’s, whether or not what they espoused had any basis in grounded truth.
Dylan had hoped to find love and beauty. But his many frustrations over the course of the two years had finally manifested themselves in his intestinal tract. He’d yet to grasp the realm of the Christian supernatural. That would come, but for now, his insides were in a twist and he thought it best to see a doctor.
Alone, alone, alone. He thought then that there was something wrong with being alone…
In the doctor’s office he felt relieved. It would be just a few minutes before someone could tell him what was wrong. Just the thought of talking to someone about it made him feel more at ease.
“I’m having trouble with the usual cycle sir. Nothing seems to be flowing.”
“Are you experiencing any pain?”
“Just a few little shooting pains every once in a while. Mostly it’s just this constant rumbling.”
The doctor asked him to pull up his shirt and as he touched him felt a warmth of closeness in his hands. It wasn’t a homosexual impulse, just the sensation of another human being close and even touching him.
The doctor stepped away and breathed deeply, studying Dylan’s face.
“I think this might be more of a psychological problem.”
“How do you mean that?”
“I mean I think there must be something bothering you and you need someone to talk to.”
Dylan remembered thinking: “What a load of crap.”
He looked past where his father was sitting, at the bookcase. A book he’d never noticed before seemed to make itself apparent. His father noticed his attention had been averted and excused himself to go make dinner.
Pillow of Grass by Natsume Soseki. He turned to the first page:
Going up a mountain track, I fell to thinking.
Approach life too rationally and you become harsh. Pole along in the stream of emotions, and you will be swept away by the current. Give free rein to your desires, and you become uncomfortably confined. When the unpleasantness increases, you want to draw yourself up to some place where life is easier. It’s just at this point when you first realise that life will be no more agreeable no matter what heights you may attain, that a poem may be given birth, or a picture created.
The creation of this world is the work neither of God nor the devil, but of the ordinary people around us; those who live opposite, and those next door, drifting here and there about their daily business. You may think this world created by ordinary people a horrible place in which to live, but where else is there? Even if there is somewhere else to go, it can only be a ‘non-human’ realm, and who knows but that such a world may not be even more hateful than this?
There is no escape from this world. If, therefore, you find life hard, there is nothing to be done but settle yourself as comfortably as you can during the unpleasant times, and thus make life’s brief span bearable. It is here that vocation of the artist comes into being, and here that the painter receives his divine commission. Thank heaven for all those who in devious ways by their art, bring tranquility to the world, and enrich men’s hearts.
Strip off from the world all those cares and worries which make it an unpleasant place in which to live, and picture before you instead a world of graciousness. You now have music, a painting, or poetry, or sculpture. I would go farther, and say that it is not even necessary to make this vision a reality. Merely conjure up the image before your eyes, and poetry will burst into life and songs pour forth. Before even committing your thopughts to paper, you will feel the crystal , as of a tiny bell, well up within you; and the whole range of colours will of their own accord, and in all their brilliance, imprint themselves on your mind’s eye, though your canvas stands on its easel, as yet untouched by the brush. It is enough that you are able to take this view of life, and see the decadent, sullied and vulgar world purified and beautiful in the camera of your inmost soul. Even the poet whose thoughts have never found expression in a single verse, or the painter who possesses no coulours, and has never painted so much as a single square foot of canvas, can obtain salvation, and be delivered from earthly desires and passions. They can enter at will, a world of undefiled purity, and, throwing off the yoke of avarice and self-interest, are able to build up a peerless and unequalled universe. Thus in all this, they are happier than the rich and famous; than any lord or prince that ever lived; happier indeed than all those on whom this vulgar world lavished her affections.
“Dad,” Dylan called to the kitchen.
“Yeah.” his father replied.
“Can I borrow the car keys?”
“Dinner’s almost ready.”
“I know, I just want to make it to the art mart before it closes.”
“The art mart?”
“Yeah, I’m gonna paint!”