Diary of a Madman: Aphorisms, Maxims and Allegories

The Philosopher (Part I)

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What follows is a short story I wrote inspired by the blogging I have done in this forum. Toying around, I sent it to several publishers; and have received notice this morning that Random House would like it turned into a full-length novel with possible screen play adaptation. I do hope you enjoy it.

It is copywritten, so don't get stupid.

That which we now call the world is the outcome of a host of errors and fantasies which have gradually arisen and grown disheveled with one another in the cause of the overall evolution of the organic being; and are now inherited, by us, as the accumulated treasure of the entire past as treasure: for the very value of our humanity depends on it.


“…Two thousand years, and no new gods.”
I had just sat down at the bar in the tavern and ordered a shot of vodka. A peculiar impression it is when all that you want to do is get blitzed drunk out of your mind, forget the day, the week, the month – the last decade of your life, perhaps the entirety of life, itself; and the individual beside you at a bar rattles off such a random, yet inherently momentous, run of words.
Besides his proclamation, he was immediately strange…not that he looked odd in anyway – indeed he appeared quintessentially typical – well, if there is such a thing, he looked – at first glance – that. One could see him everyday, at the market, checking into a hotel, the man boating down the river on a cool spring morning, a Taylor, what have you. But there was an exemption to his apparent normalcy that obviated it all – his eyes. They were ominous – the lightest grey eyes I had ever seen, piercing, set to an ever so slight oblique axis; they looked like the eyes of an animal, or as one might imagine the eyes of death seem. I felt with immediacy a profundity behind them that had a direct severity – a command of respect, and no diffident measure of threat. In that first moment I saw them, they demanded not only to be heard, but also owned a superiority beggaring description. If the eyes are, indeed, the windows to the soul as the cliché goes, and if I were to judge by eyes alone, then the soul of this man was flagrant gravitas.

“Excuse me?” I held, as anyone would.
“Oh no, excuse me. I was thinking out loud. There was once a man who found no end to the…perplexity, we shall say, that two thousand years had elapsed absent the advent of any new gods.” He smiled.
“New gods?” I said, “Were there old gods?”
“Ohhhh, certainly we are not going to begin our little tête-à-tête in this way. And besides, I was just thinking out loud. Otherwise, perhaps I wasn’t…”
Those eyes – they commanded not only regard, but also that one follow his conversational lead. It would certainly be a more descript anecdote if I, or anyone for that matter, was able to give explanation this seemingly celestial pull of which those eyes were guarantor. I know even as a repeat the incident in my mind, and enlighten you of it, that this was not something, or someone, that had entered my orbit; but, and rather, something, or someone, whose orbit I had entered – and I was unfamiliar with the conviction of the terrain on this alien world that now appeared before me, in the form of two eyes that looked as if they might birth a new universe at the glint of such a desire. I have to laugh about it all, still – for the horror of the alternative; at the irony, I have to laugh. The irony that the nature of the man is revealed only in the regalia of the story; in the event, or series of events depending on how one thinks; or, and more important to the question that the incident poses, how one chooses to think – assuming, of course, anything a matter of choice.
“Who are you?”
As I heard myself speak, I noticed a faint and inexplicable desperation in my timbre, which I now have no doubt he picked up on; the reverberation surely shone in my demeanor as well. For perhaps that is ‘what’ he was? – A master observer? The worlds first true mentalist? For this is as it seemed to be: A wolf sent out amongst the sheep. One’s spoken words were of little significance in so far as words are a glance at the shell of things; a manner in which one attempts to convey the hollow of order that give words their power, but not their truth…no, truth lies behind words; to follow the feed that words provide, back to their source, back to another’s mind. They were the tools that he used to dissect me as a being…no – to vivisect me, as a being.
“I am the man that you were supposed to sit next to, in this bar, right here, right now, from prior to your conception.”
He drank the shot of whatever it was he was drinking, slowly, without a blink, and without the removal of his eyes from mine; turned the shot glass over in his fingers, over again and once more, set it, upside down, on the bar top, interlaced his fingers in his lap – and with a measured and deliberate lean back in his chair, tilted his head to one side. He was searching for a reply.
“What does that make me then?” I quipped with an infantile smirk.
“I’ve answered already by implication; however, I’ll elaborate as I can see that we have much muck and mire to work through before you can complete the task for which you were meant on this night -”
“Which is?” I interrupted.
He let a deep sigh, “All in good time. First allow me to be so kind as to conclude my explanation. It makes you many things; but first and foremost, it makes you my counterpart in fate. Because if what I have said of myself is true, then it is also true that you are the man that I, myself, was supposed to sit next to, at this bar, right here, right now, from prior to my conception.”
“Well you’re a fucking odd one.”
“Odd what?”
“You’re an odd mother fucker.”
I replied, with a false sense of confidence fueled by the liquor that was now having some effect in the figure of vulgarity. I was…felt the need to be, I should say, unusually defensive – what my then nature was. I suspect that this is what occurs prior to every gargantuan quaking that occurs to the foundations of things – the world, that is – our perception of it, relative to what we are. After all, any thinking person, as I now realize, has at the least questioned the ‘line’, if I may continue with a modest ambiguity, between the…accepted wisdom, of fact and fiction as they relate to human affairs.

“Splendid!” he exclaimed, “What a joy it is to be able to converse in the modern nomenclature of chestnut expletives! Truly, old friend, that is a fucking load off my mind.”

He performed a slight roll of those eyes, grabbed a handful of peanuts out of the bowl in front of him, hammered them to his maw, and looked at me sleepily as he chewed as an ingratiated cow might. He was bothered. – Which bothered me.
“You know, I thought of you differently…you are not at all as I suspected…” he said quizzically, almost confused.
He looked me over in an investigative manner, suspicious even. Those eyes…my soul was being examined – and then it had apparently been exposed in its totality; or, at the least, what he needed to witness of it, anyway.
“But you are he.” he began again, “You know, however, things are rarely exactly as we envision them. What I mean is, that our expectation of…events, never cease to fall short of the mark of perfection – such is life, I expect…have we an alternative, another conclusion to render?”
“Exactly how drunk are you ‘old friend’?”
I was uneasy. And such a response seemed appropriate, had to have been appropriate – under the circumstances to that moment – as that is what I said to him. He…I swear it to this day – he did not blink. Maybe it was the additional three shots of vodka I had taken to this point in our discourse that leaves my mind with this impression… I can and shall never be absolutely confident. But what I remember is that the man had yet to bat an eyelid… No – I am certain: He never did blink – until, of course, well – until – until he did…but I’ll not get ahead of things.
Smiling again, from one corner of his mouth, I now knew what he was drinking. He rapped his knuckles on the couther thrice, and ordered another shot of vodka from the barkeep. The Tender poured, and scurried off to attend to other patrons. – The bar was filling up. And for a reason I still know not what, there began an immutable and pinpoint…ire, within myself. Unspeakably vague are the why’s and how’s of its entry. But it was there. In the distance and dim of motive, it was there. And he had created it, I am certain of that, too. What is more, he created it, seemingly, out of nothing.

I would spend the remainder of my encounter with this man – if one can call him that – fighting an approaching rancor that his mere presence seemed to oscillate within me with creeping intensity, from the ether of that which animates us all. Perhaps that is what confused me the most; after all, this was just some drunk, some lunatic, sitting next to me, by way of pure chance, at an equally random bar, who just so happened to be a little more crazy than crazy. Why would I care, you might ask? Why…But I did. God damn it, inside of ten minutes next to this man, next to those eyes, I hung on every utterance – transfixed – an eternity within a reverie: if, indeed, there is such a thing as control; and if, indeed, I had once possessed and owned some reticent fraction of it, in the presence of this man, under the glare of those eyes, no dregs of even the notion belonged to me.

Holding his glass up before his eyes, he spied it intently, turning it slowly, this way and that; and gulped it down – no blink. His look turned, again, toward me.
“Is that what this does? Get one intoxicated? …It is expensive, anyway.” A crooked smile, and an absence of his attention ensued. Ever so briefly. “…And besides, we are not here to talk about that. Such banality is not suited to men such as us…we ought to occupy our conversation with beautiful things, glorious thoughts – for our expedition this evening is a shared one; not to mention that it has recurred again and again for all eternity, exactly as it plays out over the…” he looked at his watch, as if looking at something revolting, “- next hour and forty-seven minutes. I shall be me, and you shall be you. And we shall find the strength within ourselves to create a heaven out of such a hellish design. Do you find such an inspiration hellish, old friend?”
I looked at the clock on the wall. It was 1:13 a.m.: exactly one hour and forty-seven minutes to 3:00 a.m.
“I’ll ask you one more time, who are you.”
My voice shook uncontrollably. The ire, which I have already mentioned, was now propped-up by surreal frustration – and the inability to break away from the tow of the situation. I began to wonder why I was unafraid. It was the only visceral article left in my emotive repertoire that had yet to be triggered. The ambit of premonition, perhaps...

“But I have answered this question already; and in so doing, I have told you who you are. One might even take the perspective that neither of us really matter this evening – ah, or morning, I might say, to be more precise. One may go so far as to say that we are little more than two sequences, having our own affect upon something larger, more profound, than even the connotation of import that we both shall place on the events that are to take place during these dark hours of encroaching dawn; there is no small irony that this takes place at the time of day that it does, I can assure you. I have had forever to figure that out - the answer is meant to escape spoken illumination. But we are getting ahead of ourselves…or behind ourselves? – It really matters not. At the center, this line of thought is, as of yet, out of order.”
There was a long pause, then a bellow of howling laughter. – No blink - just bashing waves of efflorescent mirth.
“Is this some game? Did Elizabeth’s family put you up to this? Look, I’ve more than paid the piper on that one, all right? I loved her every bit as much as her family did – she was my fiancé, for Christ’s sake! Does her father honestly think that a single day doesn’t go by where I don’t think about her? Where I don’t think about what I might have done differently the night she was killed? I – “
He slammed his fist on the bar; his lean drew forward towards me. And just as instantly as his countenance became a grimace of fevered ferocity, it faded, intently, back into a serene repose. Positioned back to his previous posture, he once again examined me; this time with an air of the erudite that accompanies misgiving. And was then placid, once more. And there it was. Fear…I now feared him. I now had to hear him; I now had to respect him; and, I now feared him. I knew, that I had to fear him. Those eyes…
“Now.” He said, touching the tips of each of the fingers of his left hand with the tips of those of his right, “Shall we continue?” I nodded slowly, “Very well. You, after all, are the one with the power, here – not I; and I think that you know that, too – on some or another intensity, on some level. You are feeling, right at this moment, the birth pangs of providence. And have never, not truly, ever been self-aware: you have been automata. If this is not clear now, it soon will be. What was I saying prior…Oh yes! – I am I, you are you, and we are here, and it is now. Easy enough, old friend?
“I…if you say so.” I said flatly, and took another shot.
“Outstanding. You might want to at least slow down on the drinking, however – because we are in for a very long night. Or morning, I should say – to be more precise.
No blink.

This had to have something to do with Elizabeth. Otherwise, none of it made any sense. – None at all. My urgent intuition of impending finality and danger that this man conjured from the great arroyo of conscience, his directedness, and the self-evident dynamic of an impeded will unfold upon the wreck of humane heartbeats that filled the space of the tavern – all of it, was an amorphous mass that had something approaching sound, but no shape, no account. Was he the reaper I had wanted visited upon me after Elizabeth’s death? I didn’t have the fortitude to visit that upon myself. Who else here was with him, at the ready? Could I buy him off? Could I buy him off! I sound so foolish to myself, now…but I tried to make sense of him, of things, of this ‘it’ that was…happening. And that’s what ‘it’ was doing. His words, “you have been automata” – they echoed in by brain, as a single enormous synaptic miscarriage. I knew, and yet did not, what he meant; never before had I felt so involuntarily mechanical. It was seizing, profound, and yet vapid. It felt as if all of that which connected me had been snipped – and was eking together again into an entirely different configuration; like oil poured in water, then shaken – violently – and allowed to rest until reconstituted. But my reconstitution was slow to coalesce…am I yet reconstituted? I have my doubts.
This man, if one can call him that, again looked at his watch as if it were an immense crushed insect. Tepid, he then seemed: as if he were preparing himself for some routine thing, some regularity, some habituation. An earnest mask enveloped his visage, and he tapped his index finger on the rim of the glass of water that had been poured in front of him. He dipped his finger in the water, and ran it around the rim. He leaned forward tediously, rotating his head to direct his ear and attention to the glass, as a perfect “C” flitted off the lip. And then he, again, turned his notice towards myself.
“Who is Elizabeth?” he said in flattest tone.
“I think you know who she is.”
“Humor me then – please.”
“She is…was – my fiancé.” A bulge lodged itself in my gullet. “She was killed… three years ago.” I cleared my throat, “She was murdered three years ago tonight.”
“I see…tell me about her.”
“I think you already know about her.”
“You are trying far too hard, old friend. Please, tell me of your Elizabeth.”

I paused. I took some puerile stab at wonder as to why he simply wouldn’t commit the act with which he had been charged, and go on his way. What were all of these questions? Not a hint of it struck me as some sadistic satiation, or engorged and compelling urge toward vengeance. And why would he undergo anything of the sort anyway? – A personal association between he and Elizabeth did not exist; I would have met him already if he were a family member, friend or acquaintance of Elizabeth’s. But where I erred was trying to make sagacity of it all – ‘sense’ as it is commonly understood, of the situation, as it was – as I was. Sense in this manner of speaking is gibberish; it has its practical applications, but considered as a piece of a puzzle, it is a piece that I would find did not fit this particular riddle. He was right again: I was trying too hard.
“She was…everything. She was sweet, caring, devoted, loving – she wanted as many children as she and I could make, she was that type. Long blonde hair, deep blue-grey eyes – simply gorgeous. She was gregarious with people, entirely exposed at all times. People sometimes took advantage of that. I would try to tell her that, but she always insisted on the benefit of the doubt.” I felt myself smile, “She used to say, ‘the more you hide yourself to the world, the more of the world will be hidden from you.’ Isn’t that breathtaking?” - I repeated out loud, almost in a whisper, looking off into nothing, “’…the more of the world will be hidden from you.’”
“She sounds angelic. She is passed, then?”
“Three years ago, this night. ‘No small irony’ that I meet you now.” I replied, resigned yet facetious.
“And what do you make of her death?”
“What do you mean?”
“What do you attribute to her death? What has her death meant to you?”
I stared at him. How dare he. How dare he. He was treading on sacred earth, now. The bile steeped.
“If you’re going to do it, do it. I’m not going to sit here and be psychologically tortured. That’s for me to do. Everyday. There is nothing you can do or say to make me suffer any more than I already have so let’s get on with it.”
He looked at me knowingly, “What is it you think that I am here to do, old friend?”
“You’re fucking here to gut me, so stop the charade and do me the favor. Tell Elizabeth’s father I said to go fuck himself.” I was livid. Incensed that he had even said her name.
He furrowed his brow, crossed his legs, and smiled toothily, “You have a rather short memory, don’t you? Do you not remember that you are the one with the power here?”
“So if I play along with your bullshit riddles, you won’t kill me? Is that what you’re saying? No thanks. I’m ready as I’ll ever be so let’s go.”
And then, silence. – A good thirty-second stretch of it. Those eyes…those same eyes that summoned up all the feelings of a death less consumed by vehemence and more by caprice, those same eyes that would not be outlandishly set on a beast from the inferno, spoke; they said, “Ease back, ease down – be calm”. And so I was: before I knew it, I had returned to the place I was prior to his question, which had yet been asked – I was awake of it having been asked. More of the snipped connections of myself had absorbed to their novel locations; I felt a slight sense of loftiness, of looking out and down.
“If you are quite done, and I do hope that you are as there is more dignity involved in this scenario for everyone involved for you to be done, I’ll ask again: What has her death meant to you?” No blink.

I scrolled through the prior three years in my mind – I had never asked myself this question. Of all of the things I asked to, and of, myself – for three years – I had never asked what Elizabeth’s death meant to me. I was staggered, and simultaneously elated. An elation I felt I needed to suppress.
“…I don’t know…” I rasped. “I suppose I’ve never really thought about it in terms of meaning; what I mean…I mean that – there is no meaning with her gone: without her, there is nothing.”
“For whom?”
“For me.”
“That is a tad selfish, don’t you think?
“What…? How can that be selfish?” I was completely dumbfounded.
“It is selfish, by definition. Your fiancé is dead; ergo, there is nothing for you. ‘Selfish’ is just a term; that you have appropriated some pejorative connotation to it is a bit of moral twaddle. And you’ve wallowed in for years, like a pig in its own shit. You were given a cross roads, an opportunity, and what did you do with it, what is it you tell me now? That there is nothing – for you; when in reality, there is everything at all times. The word ‘nothing’ is a convention, a dumbing down, a colloquialism, that is to say – a fiction. There is always something. And it is always accessible. But you chose, and continue to choose, to snout and root your way through the shit of daft and fallacious mores at the expense of the alternative.”
“Which is?”
He answered with over-enunciation and a simper, “The proverbial road less traveled. - You were given myriad of paths upon the death of Elizabeth. And what do you do? You hop on the thoroughfare of the false, the jam-packed bus known as ‘predictable’. But perhaps you had no choice, right? Maybe everything I am saying on the matter is its own bit of claptrap, eh? What say you then? Did you, or did you not, choose a course of action after her death?”
“Things seemed to just take on a verve of their own. Life became a series of going through the motions and –“
“Mechanical?” he interjected.
“Yes, mechanical – mechanistic, living. It’s so difficult to let go; especially when the love was faultless…when it was so-“
“Yes…yes, exactly.”
I was swallowed by a somber mood. Solemnity had never been my strong suit. I don’t think that I had ever had anything other than the most quixotic breech of introspection prior to Elizabeth’s death. I have to laugh at that now, as well. – The notion that even Elizabeth’s death was in any way a vehicle that carried me off and away to journey the Self, that is. Because it hadn’t. I was merely a corpus of numb soliloquy – the same standard bollix as every head of human cattle is accomplished, more than capable – that encapsulated shallow depths. My depths! Ha! As if I had ever been anything but a skin! An atrophied, sentimental, maudlin pelt of a man…The Self, I would learn, is not, in itself, the fulfilling of a path; but the spark that lights the fire – and fuels the blaze.
The man looked weary for a moment, on verge and reticent. He took a drink of his water, and again, as before, wet his finger and rang a note off the glass. This time, a true “A” sustained in mid air, and then sauntered mischievously into the heavens. He gathered himself, finding some axis; and proceeded from this, onto the matter.
“And what is ‘Real’?” he asked, methodically, cryptically.
“Well, how things are. – The sky, the moon, the stars, this tavern…death.”
“Is there a thing that you would call the opposite of death?”
“Of course, life.”
“And what is it, to be alive?”
“Drawing breath, a heart beat…I suppose.”
“Is it so simple as that?” he said, reclined.
“No…no, it isn’t. I’m at a loss as to what else to say, though.”
“Would you say that life, to be alive, must do some or another thing?”
“I would – but, I don’t know what.”
“But you would concede that life, to be alive, is in the doing?”
“I would have to.”
“And death is in the not doing, therefore?”
“Yes. I suppose that’s how it would have to be.”
“Then I’ll return to something I asked you earlier. You were given myriad of paths upon the death of Elizabeth. Did you, or did you not, choose a course of action after her death?”
“It’s just not that simple.”
“It is. Answer the question, if you would.”
“I would have to say that I just don’t know then.”
“And is not knowing a doing or a not doing?”
“It would be a not doing…” The room began a slow spin.
“Well then we are landed smack in the heart of a conundrum, old friend. I want to ask something else of you, and I want you to answer simply, by what must be deduced from what we have agreed upon thus far.” He paused, leaned onto the frame of the bar, against his forearms, nonchalantly chaffing his palms together, drew a long breath, held it, and injected his eyes – those eyes – into my Being, “Are you alive…?” His release of breath was not accompanied with a blink.
The room then seemed to…discontinue – deceased in time. Everything was beleaguered, and fraught with drought of motion. I felt dizzy, disorientated. I looked down, and in so doing noticed for the first time a small handgun in an ankle holster peering from underneath the edging of the man’s pant leg, lurking just under the cuff.
“No. I am n- …not alive.” I said.

Grabbing me by the back of the neck, he pulled my face to within mere inches of his own, and sneered, “You’re god damn right.” And then, deliberately, gently, as if releasing a caught bird to freedom, let go his hold.
“I think that it is time for another drink, don’t you?” he rapped, again, on the bar. He looked at me, studying…then veered away. His gape went missing for an age, and then materialized once more.
“Incidentally, I have no idea who this Elizabeth or her family is. It was a charming description of her, however; thank you for that.”
I felt my jaw go completely slack.

I hadn’t seen it occur, but the tavern had nigh on emptied. There were, besides this man and myself, only two others sitting at the bar and possibly two tables occupied within the tavern. I found this discomforting: the sanctuary of numbers now dwindled to the menace of partially inebriated sparseness.
He was not lying. Until I delved of her, he didn’t seem to have an inkling as to who she was, my Elizabeth. As I said, I was simply trying to bring some manner of order to the anarchy of the situation – the perceptive excess, the plain arbitrariness, the warped and dissimilative theater of the bizarre that I had sat next to. Presumptuousness…it is revolting to me now. But this is what Man does: he presumes. – Without a certain predictability in the world, Man could not function, could not make of the world a utilitarian contrivance – could not prescribe, nor ascribe, his fictions; he could not live under the anthropomorphic hypnosis that is the substrate of the Human Condition. Bear in mind that I have nothing against Man, as such, for his condition; I have simply been jolted into a curious status. It is Man that is to hold himself to account for his incipiency, for his deficiency of appreciation that he has ‘Others’ in the midst of himself to balance himself to. Man can only be on familiar terms with that which he is by saying to himself, “I am not thus.” I, too – a seeming eternity ago – was Man.
Our drinks arrived. He took his dawdling; and I was unable to drink mine swiftly enough. That ire of which I spoke earlier went un-medicated by way of drink; indeed it grew, as if in the least possible increment once again. I knew he was going to put me to death, but I did not know why – there was no why... There is a soothing conviction found in one’s Self under such circumstances. To know not a thing other than death is looming; yet as it approaches, a locus of power – and an object to direct it towards – is equally reputed. It doesn’t lessen the gravity of the situation; however, in the setting of this state of affairs, and the ensuing occasion that was drawing near, in the vicinity of occurrence, it was a consolation…yes, a comfort, to experience some sense of control returned. I glanced at the clock on the wall: it read “1:59 a.m.” “One hour and one minute to go.” I thought to myself.
“I want to return to something you said earlier.” Said the man, “In so far as you do not know if you had any alternative in the life that followed for you after the death of Elizabeth, you have acknowledged that you are, in some or another sense, not alive. Prior to that you acknowledged that life – being alive – is something more than base biological functions such as lungs full of air, and a heartbeat. Now. – Is there something that immediately comes to mind, something that tells you what it was prior to her death that lets you know that you were, then, more alive than you are now?” He pulled down on his pant leg, concealing the weapon. Flailing within, I, once more, found the power of speech.
“I - I think I wasn’t so nearly disparaging about things…I was capable of bliss, joy, serenity – I was able to feel more intensely, life had more…color, to it.”
“So, is the faculty for bliss, joy, serenity; the aptitude to feel more intensely, a doing or a not doing?”
I searched my mind, “I think that those things just – just, are.”
“I see. So it would give the impression that we have a third element to consider, perhaps? – That which ‘just is’, to use your words?”
I hunted myself for a correspondent alternative, finding none, “I think so, yes.”
“But this cannot be, as bliss, joy, and serenity are effects, not causes: feelings are brought about, at their extraction, from something peripheral to ourselves. A cause can only be found within the context of a doing or a not doing. What was it you did, what was your doing, that brought about your bliss, your joy, your serenity?”
“…I can only say that I was…happier.”
“And I can only respond that the mangiest dog has the capacity to feel. And, perhaps, a mangy dog has more reason to experience than one that is not. – Or to suffer differently, anyway; but, either way, the detail remains that the capacity to feel is not a doing. And as you have said, life, to be alive, is in the doing.” His words, ‘…and you have never, not truly, ever been self-aware…’ lashed at my mind, like a whip – again and over, in a static refrain of anesthetizing ache, “So the question is begged: when Elizabeth was alive – that is drawing breath, having a heartbeat,” he let loose of a miniature chuckle, “ – were you really alive…?” I felt tiny beads of sweat form on my brow.

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