Wednesday, July 15, 2015

a small tragicomedy

Perhaps the tenderest song in the living idiom (Bon Iver's "Re: Stacks") was playing from my laptop over on the shelf by my armchair, as the rain and distant thunder we earned with the day's thick heat splatted steadily on the landscaping rocks outside my closed basement window, muffled and tinned by the plastic-framed glass. I was sitting in bed writing the journal version of this blog post, which was longer and had other things in it, bringing one more rambling summer day to its close with the quiet of the bed beneath me and the page in front of me and the rain outside and the song that pierced them all and sewed them to my heart to patch its tatters, today's allowance of the hope of heaven.

The heater by my bed came on and vacuumed over the whole intimate soundscape.

I watched the needle quiver a little on the meter in my soul that determines if, in my current estimation, the cosmos is fundamentally a good place to be or a bad one, and, grieving the banal tragedy, got up and turned it off.

I slipped back under the covers and against my pillows and wondered if such moments could be re-entered, or if prosaic intrusions upon delicate perfection were fatal to the spirit, forcing one, as they do, to laugh at oneself, to relativize the ferocious wrath that rises at the trespasser (because it is absurd to rage against a space heater), and thereby to relativize the entire experience that the wrath rises up to defend. The small black box of malice* was sitting innocently in the corner, a (now-)quiet emissary of the noisy, plastic world that brands its block letters on pastoral landscapes and that wedges its winking and nudging dramas into all the interstices of daily life, a world from which for a few moments alone in bed I had thought, perhaps, my heart and I were safe. The needle dipped deeper into the cynical half of the meter.

But then, from another blinking appliance in the room,

Your love will
be safe with me

Justin Vernon sang, and just as quickly as the moment had been broken before, I found it in my heart to overlook the inanimate offense and softly to pick up the song again, because with seven words another human heart reminded mine that I'm the only one in the room who knows what this means, to sing to one another, and that for all its blundering indecency, a space heater's nothing to blush before.

Here's to the humans driving the machines. May we ever sing to one another's hearts, even unto the technopocolypse.

*To be fair (not to the de-anthropomorphized space heater, but to its human designers), it is actually quite an attractive appliance, not aptly described as a black box. However, neither is its artfully crafted shape aptly described in any other way, and so I let my impassioned words stand.