A visitor to the abstractionists.
There was a visitor. The visitor had some questions but didn’t give a name.
The visitor inquired. Let me ask you this: why did you bother with a trip to the moon if all you found were pleasant pictures to remind you back to the optimism of the intellect that got you here?
Writing in light is a matter of stage management, the visitor told us. And it’s worth asking how you got from the beginning word to this endless buffet of utopian manifestos made manifest by your co-opting of the lens.
We didn’t know what to say. There’s a start, the visitor nodded. Try abandoning confidence.
One of us moved to speak.
Shh, the visitor said. Look around. Consider, for example, this net of records. You keep trying to close it, to capture its contents. But it will not be closed, and you are in it. Debt, in the end, will have no satisfaction.
The visitor was silent, then. One among us asked, what are you thinking?
Nothing? we pressed.
Here’s a cipher: zero. Without it, no algorithm: 00101001 . . ., and so on. You were so excited when you made that a starting point, for calculating the value of a loaf of bread against the cost of making it, the weight of fish against the trouble of going out; the power of, say, the atom bomb. But as the net only grows more intricate, cutting blood off at the wrists, are you any closer to seeing, as you say, The Big Picture?
Abstraction always does this, and only the abstractionists have the stolen luxury of negating particulars. This junco, this scarred back, these soiled diapers, this afternoon, that baby’s pink sock in the middle of the road. Even subtle omissions in the particulars of birdsong make it impossible for one to be recognized as a member of its own kind.
So, we asked the visitor. Um, how are you, anyway?
Great. Fine. Take your pick among the abstractions you prefer. Each is a substitute for the here before you, a zero to add to or take from.
An old saying: the devil in the details. As if to negate the trope of the killer in disguise.
But where does the time go? As it runs through your splayed fingers and you still forget to drink, too distracted by your reflecting pool of questions of who you are and the meaning of it all and the big nothings of what now and when, forgetting the bodies right here––one, and one, and one––preferring the salvation of nowhere.
We wanted the visitor to elaborate, but the visitor turned, saying someone needs to check the buds, the eggs, the dishes and the tiny nests, and the waters, while you orbit around your zeroes and keep on deciding there are not enough fish.