[A snippet from a writing project in gestation, which will probably make very little sense if you haven’t read these other snippets: Square one, No importa, New tables, Belly of the beast, No turning back, Memories, dreams, reflections, El campo de pueblo, Wait and see, Bug in the Jug, Only now, & When it rains.]
Finished Tropic of Cancer today and felt sad about it. Sipping cold Nescafé in the mornings, following Miller through the streets of Paris – this has been the highlight of my day, every day, for the past couple of weeks. Miller is a kindred spirit, no doubt about it, and it’s almost felt to me as if he’s been at my bedside, regaling me with his reflections and reminiscences, comforting me in a grandfatherly way through a trying time. That’s it right there, I think – his words truly comforted me, and comfort has been hard to come by lately.
I discovered an interesting synchronicity about a hundred pages into the book. Miller goes on at length about peoples’ tendency to wait – all their lives perhaps – for some extrinsic turn of events, for a surge of power emanating from outside themselves, to usher in a time of redemption and transformation in their lives. “Man looks for the miracle” is how he puts it, a phrase which immediately brought to mind the title of my latest collection of songs, “Waiting for the miracle,” which I finished recording and posted on my blog a few weeks before leaving for Mexico. As it is with my creative process in general, music and lyrics typically come to me in a flash of inspiration, which I record as quickly as possible, usually in one spontaneous take. I often get the sensation of delicately holding open a channel – to my unconscious or the muse or whatever – in order to allow the creative energies to flow through and take form in my conscious mind. “Waiting for the miracle” is not only the title of the album and the opening track (my personal favorite) – it is a phrase that has captured my imagination for the past year or so, as if contained within it might be some code I’ve yet to decipher, a secret transmitting in a muffled whisper I can’t quite make out.
Of course it’s possible I simply subconsciously lifted the idea from Miller. I did read Cancer once before, many years ago. I remember being rather unimpressed with the book at that time, telling my brother it was a disappointment in the wake of Tropic of Capricorn and Black Spring. For whatever reason, I savored every word this go around. It felt as if I were reading the book for the first time. Not a sentence struck me as familiar, and when I came across the “miracle” passage, the base of my spine lit up like a fuse, sending fireworks flashing across the dome of my skull for hours. It makes no difference to me whether the insight was born in Miller’s imagination or my own. Hell, if it were originally written on the stall wall of a Burger King restroom, or pissed into the snow by an Eskimo – all the better, I say. Nobody owns the truth – or ideas or song lyrics or melodies, for that matter. We’re all playing with the same wad of Play-Dough, and any one of us can roll out a perfect hot dog once in while, if we’re earnest or lucky enough. In any event, Miller and I gazed upon the same star and thought about this miracle, the one we’ve been waiting on as long as we can remember, the one that promises to turn everything the right way around. This miracle, we realized in a meteoric flash, is a phantom, a no show, and what’s more, it will never show, at least not in the way we always hoped it would.
As with all truths, we can always choose to look the other way, to simply ignore the bare facts of the matter. Or we can still hold out for the deathbed, as many do, for who can definitively say the miracle does not breeze in with the last breath. However, the moment it dawns on us we’ve been waiting for a ghost-train, one is either crushed like bug or completely unburdened. All middle ground is quicksand.
Having just related a rather hilarious anecdote about how an acquaintance of his (a disciple of Gandhi no less) mistakenly shit in the bidet at a French whorehouse, Miller imagines how wonderful it would be if the big miracle we’ve been waiting for turns out to be nothing more than these two lumps of shit, scooped from the bidet and served to us on a silver platter when the curtain finally closes on the whole drama. Miller, so it seems, found freedom in the utter hopelessness and absurdity of it all. And while my spine is still in tact and I’m straining to keep my eyelids raised, nonetheless it was long ago that I felt the ground give way beneath my feet. I’m in up to my armpits now, one hand on my bootstraps and the other upraised, waiting for a helping hand, or a lump of shit. Thanks Henry.