Friday, March 27, 2009

An Evening with Bazarov

In my apartment there’s a light switch with no function. There are no light fixtures in the living room, nor are there any remnants of them—nothing indicating that in one point in history there were lights on the ceiling, for example. I have plugged lights into every outlet, turned them on, and checked to see if perhaps the switch controlled some outlet or other. No. What is the point of this switch?

Could it be that somewhere on the property of the apartment complex some light is turning on and off as curiosity drives the muscles in my arm to flick the switch back and forth? Through some awkward, convoluted wiring is another tenant’s sink disposal turning on and off? Why is it there? I don’t know, but I know I keep it in the ‘off’ position, just in case, lest I get an unexpected, expensive electric bill.

I’ve wondered about this switch. Certainly I’m not the only one with such a switch. How far will fantasy allow me to go with this mystery residing in my abode? Could it be some experiment, carried out by super agents of some secret government group or aliens, planted there in order to measure the flick rate of a useless switch by the current resident?

The apartment has certainly had a lot of tenants, me being only the most recent. It’s one of those common apartments where the carpets bear the scars (or stains rather) of age. The maintenance crew slops on a new coat of paint after each tenant either leaves or is evicted (or arrested)—when the denizen departs—never removing the previous coat. This goes on and on, the volume of the apartment diminishing, decreasing as time increases, always moving forward, positively correlated with an increase of stains, negatively correlated with the volume. The walls swell and the apartment shrinks. Doors get stuck, not functioning as they were designed to when they had but one coat of paint on them, when they opened and shut smoothly. Now they stick, the door jambs only remotely resembling what they once were, all their contours blended and smudged over by countless layers of paint, killing any form they once had in their youth, like an old fat person of whom you can no longer determine the sex—is it some old dude with man-tits or a geriatric woman who has lost her shape? But the layers aren’t countless, are they? Certainly not, for when you’re stupid enough to force a door shut and then open it again, patches of old paint come off, revealing layers, like a geological dig site, or tree rings if you’re more inclined towards thoughts of botany. You can count them going back, the history there before you plain as day, so apparent even creationists must admit their existence, the rainbow of off-whites stacked one upon the other, so popular in those apartments, the slight variety giving clues as to what was on sale at the time of painting: egg shell, beige, cream, camel skin, smokers teeth, coffee stained, dead man’s nails, jaundice, baby phlegm, mayonnaise, sandstone, khaki, oatmeal, albino yak taint, and so on towards the infinity that is the list of names people with too much time and pride have bestowed upon, at most, five shades of one color. Real history is lying therein and one cannot help but think of the lives of those who lived in that imperceptibly larger chamber, they who never got the privilege of living in this ever-so-slightly smaller apartment.

Were they nice people? Did they live quiet lives when this area of Dayton was perhaps a nicer place to live? Did some have dirty secrets that only that pale mocha on the walls witnessed? What sort of sex was had within these very same walls? Could that explain the switch on the wall? Was some long ago used electrical device once installed for the pleasure of the tenant or whoever they brought home? Enough of the fantasizing.

My apartment also wields a mail slot, even though there’s a communal box outside the front door for the four apartments served by said mailbox. My guess is that my apartment was once that of the landlord, hence my door being the only one equipped with a mail slot which I quickly plugged and taped over to prevent any forbidden smells from escaping, or, even worse and more relevant given my change of habits, to keep the smells outside from breaching in. (That is but one of the unfortunate side-effects of quitting smoking--I can now smell the stench of the wretched). I’m also guessing that this mysterious light switch at one point served some purpose, most likely related to the former role my apartment once played, back when it was just a bit bigger and a whole lot fresher.

But now that switch is useless. It serves only as an instigator for flights of fantasy, sparking chains of thought and streams of consciousness, more like a drippy faucet than a stream really, which gladly eats up a few calories that would otherwise have been spent churning around neurotransmitters in the brain of an evolved ape with almost as much time on his hands as those pathetic folk who come up with more names for off-white. Now, instead of thinking about matters of his day, matters of the future, he’s stuck writing in the third person (how did that happen?) about purpose, and the useless switch has become fixated in his mind, stirring up all sorts of musings. I’ve used that word--useless--carefully, planned this sentence selfishly (in order to reduce by two the third to first), and have begun to spin that word, ‘useless’, over and over again. What does it produce? If I were to flick that switch the other way would it turn out the light bulb hovering over my head?

Road kill is useless. What purpose does it serve? Of course one could claim it feeds scavengers and bacteria, our ancestral cousin we feel we’re too good to acknowledge anymore, let alone invite to the reunions. But that’d be missing the point. They were going to get their meal sooner or later. I saw, recently, a dead raccoon, followed by a dead ground hog and deer not far beyond. These creatures, these mammals, these warm-blooded critters took over 3 billion years to come about once life got started. The process was long, grueling, haphazard, and, ultimately, pointless. Darwin could save them if they reproduced before finding their end at the front of a car travelling at highway speeds. But few, if any, are given much comfort by the idea of a gene line supporting purpose. The reader can look ahead as well as I can and see where that leads.

Telos is an idea that gets tied up with all sorts of things in which it has no place. Humans put great worth and emphasis on purpose, on telos. Shouldn’t the species reliant on tools and artifacts? It’s so instilled in us that it’s blinded many of us from seeing what is readily apparent. Telos doesn’t exist until you have humans, humans that paint it on everything, slopping it on poor things that don’t need it, layer upon layer of it, until the world, like the apartment, gets smaller and smaller. Maybe they get comfort from it, but what’s that leave the humans that think? Just more shit to scrap off, like a bloated deer carcass on the side of the road. That thing lying on the side of the road has an unbroken chain of ancestors, of parents, linking it back to the first replicating entity that is ancestor to us all. Should it have died before replicating, its end, its telos was to get hit by a truck? Really? It’s not human some may claim. Those people need a switch, one with purpose, on the back of their necks; maybe it would shut them up until they’ve thought a bit more. Roadkill is a modern thing. Sure, maybe you had the occasional critter getting crushed by some chariot or horse drawn cart like Marmeladov in Crime & Punishment, but never before has purposelessness, has anti-telos, been on such prominent display for so many people whizzing by full of purpose and intent.

Humans maybe didn’t invent purpose, but we’ve definitely got a fascination, if not an obsession, with it. We can’t help but ooze it onto everything we handle. Intention was a late-comer in the universe. It took a big bang to create matter, a few generations of stars and supernovae to create the heavier elements of which we’re composed, another series of stars with accompanying disks of dust which coagulated into pebbles and rocks that collided with one another until planets were formed, whirling around a star some five billion years old in a universe some ten billion years old, and countless generations reproducing with no purpose, only because the conditions permitted it and the laws necessitated it, spawned some beasts with the rudiments of foresight and imagination that managed to take the 14 billion preceding years and yoke them into a mindset that put them on a path to us, a mindset that has made its existence there for us: ass backwards. Yet, every once in a while, these creatures saturated with intention and purpose, filled to the brim so that it spills over onto every thing else that has no purpose, those same beasts can make something so useless as a light switch with no function.


not undecided said...

Holy fucking fuck, man. That was awesome, but I gotta say that you gotta get out more. And now I really don't want to paint my house anymore!

Schmutzie said...

You are being featured on Five Star Friday!

not undecided said...

Congrats again!

Bazarov said...

Thanks. I'm wondering how crazy I can get on here before people get concerned.

not undecided said...

Take me up on the drinks soon and I won't worry too much ;-).

Bazarov said...

The hump's pretty full. We'll see.

not undecided said...

When/whatever. You are really skilled at the blow-off....fills up my hump, too. But I think I get over it faster, so just let me know when there's space for a little less/more hate.

Neil said...

Awesome post. I think you just discovered the light switch that does it ALL.

not undecided said...

Holy crap...I am jealous. That commenter above is not a nobody in the blogging world. You really should do this more often.