by Patrick Dubuque
Occasionally, as I’m combing through the bookmarks on my browser, looking for nothing, looking for something I haven’t clicked on in a while, hoping something has changed, which means I will have changed: occasionally, I will click on a link called “Millions.”
I have no context for it. I was given the link by Jason Wojciechowski, for reasons I don’t recall. I have avoided learning what The Millions is, or what they are all talking about in this particular webpage: I do not know the book, or the author, or the subject. I don’t want to know; it’s not important. I click on the link, and read the following passage:
“When the men with bluish rifles line up along the illuminated railing of the Ozark Bridge, do not marvel at how the bridge’s support cables resemble your own ribcage.”
I read this the way that sometimes, when I am at home and have done something stupid and unfatherly like leave the front door unlocked or forget to add something to the calendar, I will move into an empty room and punch myself once, in the shoulder. I read it when I have been writing too much and reading too little. It is so easy to write poorly, and I am so tired. I can rest a little, then a little more.
Another quote, this time by Reggie Jackson:
“When you take a pitch and line it somewhere, it’s like you’ve thought of something and put it with beautiful clarity.”
Baseball has been made into everything; that’s one of its virtues, to serve as the template for every possible idea or argument. There are few instances of sport that match the hitting of a baseball in this regard, however, with its indelible fortepiano. That knowledge, almost instantaneous but never quite, that you have got something, created something unique and thrilling. If I were a baseball player, if I were Reggie Jackson, I would never quit, I think to myself. I would keep trying for one last liner. I’d never grow tired.
That’s what the first quote is for: like pinching an earlobe on the fourth hour driving, something to wake you up and hurt you just barely. To try something fucking amazing. Last night before bed I read a short summary of the Allegory of the Cave, maybe for the hundredth time. The old idea that there is something greater out there, that our own existence is gray-scale, shadowy. That there is a wisdom if we want it.
It’s paternalistic bullshit to me, mostly the idea that there is One Wisdom to have, the typical defensive philosophical stance. But it’s undeniable to look at this metaphor as a writer, to consider writing without the silken cords of our own patterns, our own cliches, our comfortable single-camera lives. The identity we forge in our own borders, the communication with readers and friends who know us, who expect from us.
So, to myself, when I click on this later: close your eyes. Forget the shadows, forget the light behind you. Forget the drive to work, the podcasts, the basic structure of the English language. Find atoms where there are objects, stories where there are silences, rib cages where there are bridges, mistakes where there is safety. Risk being alone in your words, risk not even being able to find yourself in them. Wake up. Go.