blind, not deaf

It’s disturbingly warm as I write this, as it’s been across big parts of the country this summer, as it’s been threatening to be here, and now is. One suspects this is the intro, and the show itself will be worse.

At least that’s what you think if you’re a 56 year old man with a bum shoulder, a busted hand and assorted spiritual and mental deficits that are not getting better. Medicine helps with the worst of it; the rest lies in one’s ability to argue with the world. At the moment, the argument has the best of me.

However, you learn a little on the way, like your brain is very much bound to your body, and you may not think well or at length if you have lost certain endurances, if you spend a lot of your time trying to climb up the gravity well of pain. You have a smaller, lesser set of competencies.

For instance, I am no longer engaged by pictures, except the crudest, most obvious ones. An Olympian’s smile, the daily animal photo on page 2 of the local paper, the abandoned factory on fire all still work for me; I get their meaning, I’m still fit for normal human “Didja see that?” stuff. But the subtler pleasures of the eye, the things that I spent so much of my 20s and 30 considering, are gone. I can’t watch a concert movie, as I did last night, and get caught in the edit, how the music and the pictures bounce off one another. The great still photography of Atget, Evans, Friedlander does not reach me, except as memory of the times it reached me.

Today, shoulder aching, I did what I’ve done the last few Saturdays, which is to say, not much. It takes me most of the morning to get any energy at all, and all too easily I fall back asleep, or just ache in that gray area between asleep and awake. Because he died this past week, I was reminded of Chris Marker and the essay movies he made, including Sans Soleil, which I played while I drowsed on the couch. I really did want to pay attention; after all, Marker’s take on movies is different, a cross between documentary and travelogue and the personal note. I wanted to spend some time with it, see how it worked, why it worked.

But the pictures put me to sleep. Not all the way, but enough so that I was no longer watching. They were still too literal, too bound to what they represented, even though this kind of movie is supposed to be anything but literal. It’s supposed to have – does have, I’m sure – overtones. But I can’t reach them, my eyes and brain missing the point again and again.

What did keep me a little awake, engaged, was listening – the female narrator, her voice the sound of an official report from a detached, but not unmoved, observer. So I would doze, listen, doze, listen and so on. It’s that way with me now: I am indifferent to what I see, at least on the screen, but I still love to listen, maybe more than ever. I wish they made movies for my ears.

(Other than trouble staying awake, my love for and ability to read is likewise undiminished. Reading seems more closely tied to my ears than my eyes, though I don’t ‘hear’ what I’m reading.)

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