Friday, August 11, 2006

Winter on the Beach’s Edge

The old man sat quietly looking out his window. Winter was his favorite season. He found something peaceful, yet vibrant about the way the snow floated down wildly. A drift of heat from the fireplace hugged his arm. It sent warm chills across his tired, wrinkled skin.

His eyes reverted to a book about the ancient origins of philosophy, which was sitting on the café table he kept next to his reading chair. A thought tickled him. “People near the end are silly,” he mused, “always interested in learning about the beginning hoping for one last insight that might reveal what’s next. Of course it won’t come. Still, there’s my book.”

He had concluded years earlier, before retiring from his lectures that life was not meant to be understood. Reality was simply beyond our comprehension. Trickery was not to blame. No, he attributed the fault to the nature of our construction.

Our minds interpret the way things are, translating them into something compact and comprehensible. The truth, however, the real face of life, far exceeded anything we could envision.

For one to think that our percepts are identical to the face of life equates to Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa suddenly becoming conscious of its self and subsequently thinking itself to be the actual wife of Francesco del Giocondo—in all the dazzling complexities of that self.

Oddly enough, the old man had never wanted the study of philosophy to be his life’s work. He began to study it in his early days of college in order to attract those women attracted to intellectuals since he lacked that look some men had—that something, which automatically enticed women.

The attention he encountered captured him as well. Professors soon acknowledged and praised his work’s potential. As someone who had often been slighted by people he took this very favorably, indulging in his supposed talent. Though he often felt his work lacked sincerity—that he was placating to their expectations.

Before he knew what happened he was halfway through the studies for his master’s degree. At that point, the other paths, which were once opened to him had vanished. The funding for him to start over simple did not exist.

Nor could he simply drop out to work. What was a man in his late twenties who could speak volumes on the existential quandaries of man (but little else) going to do for a living. Retail or labor would certainly not be able to hold dominion over his thoughts long enough to enable him to complete a day’s work.

So, he decided that even though his heart laid elsewhere he would continue upon his chosen path like a man who suddenly awakes to discover he does not truly love his wife the way he should and reserves himself to a life-long act of affection. The days proceeding, he knew, would be polite, quiet, and dispassionate, but of dignity.

And here he sits quiet and alone staring out at the snow speckled beach wondering about the possibilities life held. His mistress, though now retired, lingered—his thoughts and books haunting him. In them he saw the wife whom he knew never loved him as a wife should love her husband. In them he saw the lie of affection to which he consented every day for over forty years. In them he saw his daughter.

His telephone rang.

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