Nikola Tesla could have split the world in two, had he a good enough reason. Giovanni Aldini nearly revived a hanged criminal for an audience just after New Year’s Day 1803. He left the work unfinished — why bring a full-grown burglar back into the world when so many new ones were being born every minute? Harry Harlow made the lives of baby monkeys miserable, and it seems that all he proved was that scientists were cruel.
The gruesomer, the less urgently needed in a healthy world, the broader the vision, the madder we call the man who dreams it. Meanwhile, homesick parasites burrow into rats’ brains and pilot them toward the cats the parasites really want. And the vastness of the earth that we could never truly know in even twenty thousand lifetimes and the simultaneous triviality of the earth in the cold and empty nothing that is the universe — they’re both immutable, they’re both crazier than anything we could dream up.
What can we imagine that’s more insane than what already exists? That’s scarier or more wonderful? That in 1950 we decimated the rabbit population of an entire continent with watering holes as myxomatosis vectors seems terrifying enough. Smallpox blankets, plague-ridden bodies catapulted over city walls, twins studied and infected and dying a few painful hours later.
That the same combination of elements and forces that make up our daily morning shower has carved the shape of our planet over stretches of geologic time that are vertiginous to contemplate seems a peaceful counterpoint.
But we have the urge, still. Are we trying to show up nature and god? We are driven to test the boundaries of what we can think of, and then what we can do, and we work without a net.
Is it mad, then, really, to have wanted to send a man into space, knowing he would melt as he passed back through the atmosphere?
The cosmonaut had to have known that that piece was missing. Getting back home. That’s why he cried when he said goodbye to his wife and his brother-in-law, and the cat he’d been feeding in the alley near the bakery, and his dingy apartment and every book on his shelf. He knew that life on earth was weird and mean and sacred enough to give away for something useless but wonderful, something that could expand our horizons the tiniest bit beyond what we were given.
The Judica-Cordiglia brothers listened in from a rooftop on Earth to the sounds of that cosmonaut dying. Later, they won a game show and toured NASA as their prize. They were famous for a while.
A picture of them decades later, a cowl-neck-sweatered cardiologist and a consultant smiling, arms around each other, seems in poor taste. Squint and you think you should see the fear in their eyes. You think they should know more than anyone the tyranny of monotony shattered by the thought of screaming until hypoxia at a distance from everyone you ever loved, the people who did this to you, who knew all along and didn’t say it aloud and make it real beforehand, that you could travel by car in an hour.
The cosmonaut had an open coffin, but there wasn’t much to see.
“Aliens, alright, alright.”—the guy checking IDs at the balcony of the Sundance Kabuki Theatre last night (they check your ID because you can drink in the balcony!) would affirm your legal right to be there by naming a movie released the year you were born. I got a really, really cool one.
“What’s brought me a lot of succor in these most stupid of times are my friendships with other women? I don’t think in the youthiest part of my youth I realized these were something to cultivate and a resource I could use as opposed to just being fun and nice and easeful. But it’s my hunch that you’re never gonna be able to navigate–manipulate, even, can we hope?–the jerkcircus if you are not fiercely caring for and letting yourself be cared for by other exhausted, angry, lovely women, because that’s the only context where that exhaustion and anger are going to be a bonding, rather than a distancing force.”—A Lady. (via bettycam)
“G.G. Allin knew very well that he shouldn’t be throwing poop at people who had paid to see him, and that he did so anyway made it an outrageous rather than troubled act. And outrageous things are fun, as long as all involved are aware of the distance between the apparent intent of the act and the actual motive behind it. Absent that awareness, Allin’s behavior is threatening or worrisome; with it, it becomes entertaining.”—yeah nice
“In Boston, he let his hair grow long in imitation of Jesus, became a street-corner preacher, and harangued his fellow workers for cursing and wenching. But the streets were still full of sin, and he was young, only 26, and lonesome. One night in July, two women mocked him and beckoned him down from his soapbox. He was tempted. Fearful that he could not resist such strumpets, he went to his room, took a pair of scissors, and carefully castrated himself. Then he proceeded to a prayer meeting, had dinner, and took a walk before seeking emergency aid at Massachusetts General Hospital.”—The Man Who Shot the Man Who Shot Lincoln, By Ernest B. Furgurson (read this!)
Ben is earnest. He is kind to animals. He tips 20 percent, even if the service wasn’t great, because maybe they were just having a bad day. He volunteers. He plays his guitar under an oak tree in the quad. He is a good singer. He did well in calculus, but not so well it ruined the curve. Ben makes his own shampoo. He has dreadlocks, and they look great on him.
Ben quit school to really focus on his painting. His work is really good. He is a part-time grocery clerk. It gives him perspective. He will be honest about your poetry. When he says it needs work, you’re not crushed. You’re just so grateful you guys are friends.
Ben doesn’t want to fuck you. He really likes you. You do want to fuck him. You’re sure that would ruin everything that you love about being friends with him, but you want to lay a claim. You go to see a singer-songwriter together and you brush his hand. The segment of a second you spend waiting for him to touch you is the best you’ve ever felt. He doesn’t hold on. It’s better that way.
Ben says you should get ice cream together, even though it’s really cold out. He’s so unpredictable like that. You pick ube, because you’ve never heard of that. Ben seems impressed. He decides not to order his own. He wants to share. Oh my god. You are dizzy for a second. You think he notices this. You think immediately about your underwear. It’s black and new and it matches your bra and you’re relieved.
You’re at Ben’s place. His roommate is home. He has a Metallica record on. Ben sits on the couch next to his roommate. You sit on an ottoman next to the door. A cat jumps on your lap, and you pet her. She has dandruff. The roommate gets up to retrieve a Coors for himself and for Ben. The roommate asks Ben whether he remembers the time they hot-boxed his Ford Windstar. You assume he means in high school.
You fish your phone out of your bag. Ben asks you when the next bus leaves for your neighborhood. Your phone’s battery is too low for you to find out. It’s really late, though, you say. Ben says you can stay if you need to. My casa is your casa, he says.
Ben asks if you want to see his newest painting. Of course you do. You’re going into his room. You’re staying the night. Of course you want to see it. There are no sheets on his bed. You don’t understand his new painting. You think he notices this. He touches your hair. You shiver. He sits down on the bed and it creaks. It’s cold in his room. You sit down next to him and he moves to kiss you.
Ben is awful in bed. He doesn’t read subtitles. He always orders mayo on the side and he never eats it. He has a mole. He doesn’t believe in cell phones or Facebook or digital photography. He watches Family Guy. He doesn’t vote. Ben dates you for eight months and then dumps you over the phone from a hookah bar. Ben’s jeans were made in a sweatshop, just like yours.