Evening Will Come: A Monthly Journal of Poetics (The Force of What’s Possible—Issue 48, December 2014)

William Todd Seabrook
There Is Nothing to Get

There is an orange, and you hand this orange to me.

I ask, What is it?

You tell me it’s an orange, and I say, Yeah, I know it’s an orange. I’m not an idiot.

I observe the orange’s dimples and bruises, rolling its fragrance between my finger tips, and smelling it. You wonder whether or not I am an idiot. Then I bite into it, both the rind and the flesh, first together, then individually. When I pull open the orange, its juice shoots into the air like tiny comets escaping to the void, and I push my fingers into its pulpy flesh only to find more orange.

I say, I don’t get it.

What is there to get? you say.

Everything, I suppose.

You repeat that it’s an orange, and I repeat that I am not an idiot.

Perplexed, you say, I don’t know what you are getting at?

I don’t know what this orange is getting at! What’s the point?

There is no point, you exclaim. It exists. What expectations could possibly top the act of existence? It is a thing. It is a specific thing, an orange, and there are no others like it. All other aspects of that orange are infinitely trivial compared to the wholly astonishing fact that it exists, that it is not Nothing.

I say, I still liked it, I guess.

There is one difference, of course, between an orange and imaginative inventions, and that is that our ideas are pulled from a vast, internal oblivion, the infinite space of the mind. Every time I have an idea and transcribe it to paper, I am bringing forth a new entity onto the universal plane. In this sense, each one of us is a deity, creating our own universes every second of every day, bringing light where there was dark, hope where there was not, ideas where there were none. An orange can’t do that. It’s just a bunch of atoms held together by physical laws. The limitations of a structured universe are not found within our imaginations—So long, first law of thermodynamics! You had us going there—and the act of writing is a transcription of what is essentially magic.

To create something out of nothing is terrifying and revolutionary, which is perhaps why our species is perpetually terrified and under revolt. And perhaps the horror of the infinite is why the majority of our thoughts have turned out roughly the same, mere reflections of the rigid structures of the physical universe. These are useful and we understand them. I’m going to switch to cereal for breakfast or I need to buy stamps, and even though each of these thoughts should be scientifically classified as a miracle, no one stops us to say, I don’t get it. There is nothing to get. We all need stamps.

But the thoughts that don’t align with the rules of the physical universe, the ones which reflect our terror of the infinite imagination, those are the thoughts that get the skeptical eyes, the But what does it mean, because it can’t mean this. I’ve spent most of my waking life suppressing the desperate urge to grab every person I see, shake them furiously, and scream there is nothing to get until my blood vessels give up the fight, and I fall to convulsions on the floor. It exists. What more could you want of it!

However, I also know that if no one is saying I don’t get it, if every reader understands my writing perfectly well, then I know I have run aground in shallow waters. I do not write so that I can be a god; creating is only a useful process. I want to see the colossal void, and I write so that I can face that horror.