Tuesday, February 16, 2010
On Chairs, Spoons and Toasters
This is an old essay I'm reposting.
How do you write a letter to someone who doesn't want to read it? Doesn't want to read it not because you are an enemy, a nuisance or a guilty reminder but because you are a complete nonentity, a thoroughly uninteresting everyday object, a piece of the background against which heroes do their stuff.
How do you write to people who don't plan to pay any attention? How do you get their attention? Should we cry? 'Look, guys, a chair just walked in and cried!' Should our words be weapons? 'Hey man, that toaster just tried to cut my throat!' Should our sentences plead? 'Gee, I could've sworn that spoon just begged me for understanding.'
No. All it would achieve is a small surprise, the astonishment that an inanimate thing suddenly acts and feels. This would be added to the list of supernormal events. It wouldn't make us seem any less of a chair, toaster or spoon; only an uncommon kind, a weird chair, toaster or spoon. Something that, for one fleeting second, might deserve curiosity. But not for long.
How do you touch someone who doesn't believe in your existence? Can it be done?
And if not, is it enough to talk to the other chairs, toasters and spoons? To write 'chair books', 'toaster stories', to be exhibited with the works of other spoons? Is this of value?
Perhaps. If you know that at night the chairs dance, beautifully, on one leg, twirling around the kitchen, leaping over the toasters which tell stories about their lost loves and vanished hopes, while the spoons drum a rhythm from misty worlds full of desperate questions and complicated answers. Perhaps . Isn't this life, too? Isn't this a sort of heroism, a type of victory in the war against dying? Isn't this human, too?
So why bother trying to reach the others? Because they are the sitters on the chairs, the eaters of the toast, the stirrers of the spoons. Because theirs is the kitchen in which we dance, whisper stories, sigh and cry. And because when they see us and say 'Such a comfortable chair, such an efficient toaster, such an elegant spoon. What would we do without you?' they turn away without expecting an answer, without hearing us scream.