Exquisite Corpse

The surrealists played a game
they called the exquisite corpse.
Fold a paper into fours,
draw a fantastic head or two
or three, leave lines to connect.
The next draws some middle body part,
blind and ignorant of the first.
The third--perhaps wings or a torso
or amazing genitals and then,
still unseen, the fourth and final
legs or feet or scales or skin scrawled
across the page's end. Now open up
the whole and what monstrosity appears?

With the pens of these mad ones
coloring the world,
blurred shapes and sharp line figures,
an exquisite corpse indeed,
reflecting the exquisite pain of life itself.

Sometimes I imagine I am
an unwilling exquisite corpse.
A surrealist's amusement formed
by a long night of drinking.
Drawn by many, lines not
quite connecting, more than one grinning
wildly head, a fantastic bloated torso,
tattered wings and no legs at all,
a body created for another's play
without thought of the consequences.

Few examples of exquisite corpses survive,
their very method of creation
ensured wholesale destruction.

Ah, but the few survivors are cherished,
their tattered cheap drawing paper bones
fitted into rich dark wood frames,
admired by the thousands gawking
at the figures on the museum walls.

--Nitty




Dear Nitty,

Or should I say exquisite corpse? Better yet, from one exquisite corpse to another, "Shall [we] drink the new wine?" We shall make a toast to our makers, who definitely did us after "a long night of drinking." Of that there can be no doubt; just LOOK at us!
But seriously, Nitty, we are all in essence patchwork scarecrows, pieced together by a long line of information coded into the building and destroying of things. The repository of replication, design, and development is consulted, and then we happen. Picture the surrealistic formers of us, sitting around in a bull-shitting mood, dipping their hands (if that's what they dip with) into a bowl in which they have already put the pieces of paper assigning to us our various parts and connecting components. It's a party game to them really; they've set in motion a grand amount of possible outcomes, and they enjoy seeing the different variations on their theme. They're bored and so we're born. Little desirous propped-up sentinels of sensibility; scarecrows guarding fields of fear, sooner or later to ponder the necessity of keeping the birds away. Suppose it doesn't matter if the birds eat the seed? There are enough seeds, certainly. So what is Nimrod the scarecrow doing with this one go around (far as we know) in life? If Nimrod no longer believes the birds are the enemy, the poor bloke loses the very reason for being. The holy has become hooey. Sure, it can be faked, but for how long? What will be the state of the soul? And will such parsimonious credulity be contagious to others of like ilk?
And what if it is? Perhaps evolution will bring the scarecrow to a different psychology and perhaps, I--Nimrod, am to be the one chosen to point the way. Thus, I see I can resolve MY dilemma by converting it into a cause, that, in time, could well mushroom to the magnitude of a meme, or better yet, a movement. This is the way I can impose new meaning on my existence. Never mind that I'm still a hostage; overrule the realization that the holy that's now hooey will incrementally be transformed again into holy. The difference, as I see it, is that while still a hostage to social suggestion and consensus, I have taken control of some of it (so it would seem) and have become more indicative of a host than a hostage. I have induced the right conditions with which to offer hospitality to a more refined hooey with which to turn around and once more hoodwink possibly myself, but preferably just others. This, Nitty, is how we scarecrows come to either save or screw ourselves.
I'm being purposefully silly here to illustrate how a dilemma or conflict can be resolved by converting or cleaving to a cause or idea. Scarecrow Nimrod has a crisis of faith or identity and soothes this untenable condition with its terrible tension by binding up all that suddenly loose and unruly energy into a posture that insulates against further agitation. Nimrod can now go ahead and DO instead of enduring and walking through to the other side of the tearing up that goes on during the upheaval.
This capitalizing on a crisis is much encouraged by the current culture. Something occurs to shake up one's world. Often the result is some sort of capitulation of the self into an agent of correction and social reform. This is met usually with approval and admiration, as for the most part it should be. The redemptive aspects are clear, and at the same time, growth and progress are set in motion for the individual and the community.
This is good. But there are alternatives available to awakened ex-custodians of the crops. The earth can be peopled with scarecrows exhibiting amazing genitals, uh, an amazing variety of adaptation. Thus, it can be entertained, wobbly replicators though we may be, hastily and perhaps drunkenly assembled to boot, that it is not unreasonable to suppose that each of us, in our exquisite, own way, "Shall drink the new wine."
Skoll!
Yours in sacred confusion,

--Nimrod




Copyright 1997 The Courage of Our Confusion. All Rights Reserved. Comments? E-mail comments@confusio.comback to table of contents