Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Attention Seekers & The Struggle for Silence


My next door neighbour, J.D. Cornfield, works as a shoulder blade sharpener. I can't remember when he painted his Garapa garden decking green and blue to mirror the sea. I know it made me nervous, tense, and drink sour milk. The man is a blatant attention seeker. Each morning, at sun rise, he can be found sitting in a lifeboat in his garden, its bow directed towards my kitchen. He wears an orange life jacket, and vigorously rows while shouting or blowing a whistle.

His facial expression is usually one of fatigue and anguish. Sometimes he sees me and throws fish into my garden. Then wails in a voice, stern and provocative: 'This sea is poisoning my life!' 'You think you're a big-shot!' 'Hey, you in the big house! Big-shot! Watch out for sharks, and women who smile and take you for a sucker!'

I watch this little man navigate imaginary waves and seas, and think I'm experiencing a film in slow motion. Sometimes it is hard to tell whether someone is laughing or screaming inside. Sooner or later, the shallow, amenable, myriad of persona one adopts each day, must crumble for the sake of one's sanity. The illusion of indispensability, the pressure to conform, to be respected, loved, is a shallow pier.

I have a charming, shallow house. J.D. who continuously craves attention has a transparent home. Each room has glass walls. Some are frosted, for example, the bathroom and master bedroom. Only curtains obscure the view from the least observant voyeur. He installed CCTV cameras (inside and outside) to watch every movement he makes. I believe he has a website devoted exclusively to thrill-seekers detached from reality. The number of subscribers is frightening. And yes, I watch with darkened gaze.

J.D. has a desire to be noticed at all cost. In fact, he's just an empty train fastened to an unused railroad track. And there's no shortage of trains.

To my dismay one of our interior French doors is starting to dress, and speak, Dutch. I stand and stare at the doors like an idiot. The dog is playing the piano; something from the Canine Composer Series. Now I understand how silence sometimes struggles to be heard.

A face floats before me like a plate of Tagliarini with courgettes, prawns, mint, and chilli. In fact, it is food. My 'present' wife, Mona, has thrown my lunch at me. Her face has cracked, and the dreadful anxiety of her thoughts are laid bear. 'Nothing happens around here except what's in my head!' The dog keeps playing the piano.

I notice the sky is overcast. J.D. is rowing with conviction, and going nowhere; throwing fish, torturing himself. The dog tells me that it wishes to be potty trained. My wife says, grimly, 'I can't be bothered. You're an empty restaurant. You'll never amount to more than a short walk around the docks. '

Suddenly, I feel my life has structure and meaning. I feel a strong connection with the earth. I look down. My wife has smeared the floor with 'high quality' super glue. I'm barefoot and, for the foreseeable future, not going anywhere.

Reflections: Most of the time we are acting without being aware of it. In the end everything becomes jaded and dissolves. Surviving life and work requires considerable hypocrisy. Sometimes honesty can be a luxury.

The future looks bright for the pharmaceutical industry, so keep plenty of water at hand to help swallow their pills, whether you need them or not. Also, the banalities of self-help books are embarrassing, and rootless, and foster the illusion that fulfillment is easy, which it isn't. When I feel calmer, I intend to potty train the dog, and cook some of the fish lying in my back garden.