Tuesday, May 6, 2008

message on the side of the road

For my dog, Sabrina, a walk is an occassion of maximal stimulation. She reads the world like a book: smelling, looking, pawing at the ground here and there. I try, as well, to read the world, as a means of guiding my life. It's not that I think the world is speaking deliberately to me. Rather I attempt to be in the world the way it actually is, and to notice the facts about the world laid out all around which I then interpret as messages.

On our walk yesterday I received a pretty clear message. Sabrina pursued her usual strategy of walking quickly, nose down, exploring smells invisible to me. Then in a patch of ivy to one side of the road, she nearly stepped on a message that meant nothing to her but which I immediately recognized as a book. I dug out of the dirt a paperback copy of the script for Tony Kushner's play, "Perestroika" the second half of "Angels in America." I've seen the play. In fact I own a copy of the very same paperback. I picked it up flipped through the book, hoping there would be an interesting inscription inside, but there was nothing. Then I began to read the Afterward which I had never read.

The subject of the Afterward was to thank a particular friend of his who was a major source of the ideas in the play. More than merely a thank you, though, this was a meditation on the illusion of the individual, the fact that no artist really, despite the romantic notion, really creates alone. I spent the rest of the walk reading the essay, my just as happy dog on the other end of the leash reading the smells of the street as I read the book. The two of us, me taking her for a walk, she taking me, both of us in our worlds of smells and messages left for us by others.

The final sentence of the Afterward is this: "Marx was right: The smallest indivisible human unit is two people, not one; one is a fiction. From such nets of souls societies, the social world, human life springs."

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