This is a short dialogue I wrote not long ago. A different, more penetrating side of my writing. It is partly influenced by Robert. M. Pirsig’s quote, “When you look directly at an insane man all you see is a reflection of your own knowledge that he’s insane, which is not to see him at all.” from his book, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Excuse the length; there was no shorter route.
“I never wanted this. I didn’t ask for it, you know that. It all happened, and I don’t blame you for letting it happen, but I do blame myself for not trying to stop it from happening. Can we do that, Maa? Can we stop that which is to happen regardless? The unstoppable force, destiny. Do you believe in that, Maa? Everything being written on pages upon pages, volumes upon volumes until it all ends? Do you believe in that?”
Maa’s not going to answer. She rarely answers when I ask these questions. I don’t ask them often; I keep them to myself, preserve them. Or maybe hide them. I believe she does it on purpose, like she’s completely indifferent to whatever I might have to say. Maybe she doesn’t understand. The doctor did call me ‘difficult’.
“Tell me, Maa. When we die, does God run out of paper to write our story on, or ink to write it with?”
“Stop it, Julian. Don’t do that. You need to stop with all thes-”
“Think about it, Maa. More than often, stories remain unfinished, abortive. Incomplete. Even recently, remember? Mr. Hedgeford was on his way to meet up with his son in New York, seven years after their separation. At least, that’s what the talk was. He died on his way; the story was incomplete, Maa. He died and there was no…no reconciliation. No getting back together, nothing. He died, and that was the end of it.”
Is she understanding? I hope she is. She needs to think more, work less.I don’t think she’ll respond. Has she even gotten my point? Does she ever? I’m not particularly abstruse, but she never seems to understand me. I’m her only child; that should be enough to warrant her attention, her devotion.
“Maa, that’s what I want to know. Did God run out of paper on which to write Mr. Hedgeford’s story– or destiny, whichever’s more appropriate. Or did he lack the ink to write with?”
“What difference does it make, Julian? Tell me, what will it solve for you? Why are you so eager on knowing the most trivial of things? Why, Julian?”
“Because, Maa. I need to know these things. They don’t change me, they just satisfy me. I’m like that, Maa. I need to have my questions answered. These queries I’ve gathered over the years, kept inside this part of my mind which I try very hard to forget, to silence. But they’re never silenced, Maa. My head turns and spins and spirals, and I never get to the bottom of anything. They come back, and they–they haunt me. Even now, I remember this question I asked myself once, very long ago. Want to hear it?”
“You’re crazy. Deranged, that’s the word. Quit this nons-”
“Is there ever a bottom to anything? That’s it, the question. Is there ever an answer, or are the notions of there being answers simple motivators for us to keep on looking for them? To keep on searching for some things which exist in thought only, and on the way, stumbling upon more and more questions.”
Please, Maa. Tell me, answer me. I need you to help me out. I need you to listen and try to help me out. That’s all. But she’s not going to do that, I know. Why do I even try? Another question without an answer.
“Look, I don’t know what you want to talk about, I don’t. I don’t even want to know. But I know that you’re wasting your time, you need to be doing something else, not just thinking. There are questions and there are answers, that’s all that I know. Questions give birth to answers, breathe life into them.”
“Well, why can’t I answer my questions, then? Why can’t you answer them? I try and I find no answers. There must be no answers. Just questions.”
“I guess, sometimes, the answers are inaccessible. Far away, far from our grasp, you understand?”
She doesn’t know what she’s talking about. She never has, it’s always been that way with her. Why does she do that? Why do you do that, Maa? A disappointment, that’s what you are. Never really helped out. These things, are they as trivial as she thinks they are?
“Listen, Julian. About the God thing. Maybe he doesn’t run out of anything; he just doesn’t feel like writing anymore.”
And that, too. Why do you do that? It’s so typical of you; when you can’t answer it, just try to completely destroy the purpose of it. More and more questions…
“Maa, listen. You can’t say that, you just can’t. You either possess an answer, or you don’t. Presence or absence, you see. You can’t destroy the question, at least not for me. I’ll still remember it the way it sprung to my mind, untouched by whatever you said just now. You’re not helping me out, you’re hurting my head even more-”
“You’re hurting your own head! Does Michael ever do that? He doesn’t, he studies things in his textbook and studies in his classroom, and he gets it over with. His mind hurts from real knowledge-”
“Knowledge which is already possessed, Maa. By others, people who believe they’ve unlocked mysteries and answered questions. What’s the point in that; knowing what is already known. What I do, I think is different. I try to answer different questions, ones which haven’t been answered. Questions I’ve proposed, and somehow, unconsciously vowed to answer. I didn’t ask for this, it just happened. I’m like that now. Maybe I always was, and just realized it now.”
“Very impressive, Julian. Keep talking like that, and you’ll get admitted into a mental asylum. Brilliant, Julian, pretty soon you’ll be just there.”
“You see, there. That’s my problem. Another questions arises here. Isn’t the whole world one big mental asylum? After all, we all think and our lives are dominated by what we think. In fact, we’re all slaves to our thoughts. We’re continually on a mental war with ourselves, unable to understand it all, and we do this until we die. Another generation then wages its own war with its own mind.”
“Sooner than I think…”
“No, Maa. Listen. Think about it, human intellect is similar, isn’t it?”
“Einstein was much smarter than you, I know that.”
“Right, but he had a mind as I do. And he had the same stuff that made him think, as I do. In fact, we’re all the same. We’re just thinking in different ways about different things. Answering different questions.”
“Okay, go on. Hurry it up, I haven’t much time.”
You wish you weren’t here, right? All this is nonsense, a waste of your time. I’m not stopping you from leaving, you wouldn’t understand anyway. It’s always like that; she feigns interests for a while, and then leaves.
“And if we’re all essentially the same, what gives us the authority to determine who is in the right and who is in the wrong? We’re all on the same mental level, and people who we define as insane are as sane as you and I. Why, and how, then, do we get to label them insane and not sane, as you and I. Sanity isn’t quantifiable, can’t be expressed in numbers. There is no scale for it. What makes us think and say that; ‘She is sane’, ‘He is insane.’”
“Julian, stop with all this, you’re making no point. Crazy, insane people do things that are bad for society. They’ve killed others, destroyed things, destroyed themselves even. They need to be separated from society, and that’s why labels are used. For identification, you see.”
“Right, but think a little more about it. He’s crazy because you think so, and you’re on the same mental plane as him. If, suppose, God says he’s insane. Alright then, it’s true, He knows, He is the all-knowing. But humans judging humans, that’s a bit unfair, don’t you think? The ones we call insane, they’re answering their own questions. In the process they hurt others and themselves, but isn’t that the price one has to pay for the discoveries? I say they’re just a bit more obsessed than we are, they lose track, that’s all.”
“Julian, please now. Don’t be saying all these things, you sound crazy. You’re not crazy, I know it. You just have a lot in your head, a lot that you’d be better not giving voice to. Please, don’t say such things.”
“Look, Maa. I need to say these things; in my head, they hurt a lot. If I don’t voice them, I’ll go insane like the ‘crazies’ we’re talking about. That’s what happens to the insane. Their mind becomes a jumble of unanswered, maybe unanswerable questions, inundating their whole thought processes. Overflowing with original doubts over things of life, little or large. And they keep all that to themselves. The people we call insane just keep to themselves all they have in their heads, that’s what I think. That can happen to me too, but if you just listen to me, I’ll be alright.”
Am I getting through to her? Just listen to me, Maa. I need you only to listen, and I’ll be okay.
“How do you know? You just think. Trying to be smart.”
“Well, Maa. No one’s been inside the mind of an insane person except the person himself, right? Well, for me. I’ve been on that side. I’m a bit on that side even now, in the middle somewhere. I’m moving to that side anyway, insanity and all. All these questions and all this void created by them. It makes a man insane, thinking a lot, contemplating all the time. Like I said, I didn’t ask for it to happen. It just did, and I’m sorry I couldn’t stop it. But now that it has happened, it’s not bad. Insanity is the same as sanity, Maa. Just viewed differently by others; in my mind I’m the same. I’m still me.”
She won’t understand. This is beyond her. This is beyond anyone but me; my trouble, my struggle. Isn’t that right for all things? Facing the tide alone, not a soul to guide you…
“Julian…son…you need to stop doing this. Look around you, at anyone and everyone besides yourself. We’re all happy the way we are, carrying a smile around us wherever you go. You carry your questions and doubts and the weight of them all makes you tired. Look at yourself and the others; they’re smiling and what are you doing? You’re always thinking, like you said. And you say it isn’t bad, but it is. You don’t realize it, it’s really bad. You’ll end up like them, the crazies; alone and confused and regretful in a cramped black room with toilet stench all around you. Do you want that?”
“Maa, what makes you think they’re alone? Or confused and regretful? We think that but we don’t know. I think I’m going insane and I’m not joking about it. And I’m not alone or confused. I’m going there for a reason, I’m going to discover things or die discovering. And I’m happy that way, I don’t need to fix a smile to show it. It’s just that, it’s becoming too much, and I need to…I need to brush some of it off, the burden.”
She’s different, today. Why Maa, what’s wrong? Slap me already! Isn’t that what you always do, when you don’t understand me? Always, she does that. Expect of her.
“You don’t know what you’re talking about, Julian. What’s happening to you? What’s happened to you, Julian?”
“Maa, I’m the same as I was before. I’m me, and you’re you. You’re just viewing me from a different lens, that’s all. I’m not changing, I’m realizing. On the way to being satisfied. Do you know what that feels like, satisfaction? Of course not, no one does. No one ever tries to know, but I will. I’ll only be satisfied this way. With the finding of answers, or the death of them. Not in between, Maa. I can’t stay like this, in between thinking there’s an answer and there’s isn’t. I need to know.”
Pause. Pauses are for thinking, is she actually thinking? Are you, Maa? Are you trying? I hope you are, Maa, I need you to do that.
“Well, good luck with that. Your father will be happy to have some company. He always did seem a bit lonesome there.”
Right, walk away. Do just that, Maa. Another one of your habits. Your expression of love? Never try to understand. How will you understand, Maa? You don’t see how I see, you don’t look where I look. Can anyone look where I’m looking, see what I’m seeing? My questions devoid of answers, can they see them? Or do they see the answers? Someone must have them, the answers. Does that someone even exist? Do answers even exist?
“What if God just runs out of a story?”
Questions upon questions, and only a mirage of answers.