Inquisitive people sometimes ask me what my vision is. I might be flattered by the question, but I attach no meaning to it. Those who ask it no doubt sense something in me. A deep insight into human affairs and profound humanitarianism might be one way to describe it. The grace of a perfect physical specimen with chiseled features and lightning fast hands might be another. Simply put, I give the impression to some that I have a way with me. But the truth is, those who detect any such qualities in me are deceived. There’s less to me than meets the eye, and of visions I have none.
Still, people stop me and say, sirrah, you have lived many years. Yes, they can tell at a glance I’m pushing 25, since there’s something mature in my wariness. What follows is that since I have lived so many years I must be learned as a judge. That is a requirement for one so advanced in years as I. But who says it is? Why can’t I have learned nothing, felt nothing, reflected on nothing, and remained as senseless as the day I was born? Well, I believe I can, and have, but a few others will simply not believe it.
The typical interlocutor wants me to be specific about my vision. I should lay out, for his or her inspection, my personal philosophy and political persuasion. But I am careful to reveal none of these, for one simple reason: of philosophy and political awareness I have none. Of age-old wisdom and of world-historical truths I know a perfect nullity, nor have I heard of any. If I ever did hear of any such thing, I have long ago forgotten what it was all about.
To hear of my innocence only enrages my inquisitor, who now pleads with me to speak freely and off the cuff, as if I have a great secret to impart. And while I should speak openly and with perfect candor to him, I must at the same time be specific and employ sharp, incisively worded descriptions of my inner state.
But of sharp, incisive descriptions I have not a one, and I will tell you about my inner state: it is the hollow interior of a gas-filled balloon. I tell my tormentor, if it is clever phrases and penetrating insights that you want, go and read a novel issued by a small university press. The public library contains many such. There you’ll find golden phrases and clever coinages and hidden meanings aplenty, enough to gag a shark.
Now my witness is beside himself with disbelief. He objects that I cannot have lived through my life without at least once reflecting on its nature and its meaning, and on my proper place in society. He takes it for granted that, at the very least, I have had a fine meal or two and made love to a beautiful or in any case a healthy woman. And these deeds do not go unremarked. He insists that despite the obvious fact that I am man of from zero to three words, I must have something to say about these far from humdrum experiences.
I reply, in a lifeless tone, that of reminiscence and deep reflection I do not partake. In comparisons and metaphors I place no trust, nor do I dally with them. With allusions and tropes and participles and other odd verb forms I have no truck.
What happens is this: when I am involved in even the most volcanic incident, I tell myself what is happening in plain English and note its importance to me, and then let it go.
Let’s say I attempt to beat a man senseless after a few drinks in a bar, and what with his overbite my ear ends up in his breast pocket. I tell myself, there is a sharp pain where my ear used to be, and a tremendous loss of blood, but enough already, the situation is adequately felt and described.
I might, while reciting those words, move my head up and down as I speak to myself. But that’s it. That fully describes my interior life at that moment. The only other thing that might occur to me is to scream at passers-by to for god’s sake call an ambulance.
I work folding men’s trousers in a warehouse eight hours a day, and my boss there once tasked me to describe my point of view. He perhaps mistook me for Jean Paul Sartre or John Maynard Keynes, although I carry with me no books.
He pressed me obdurately about it, you wouldn’t believe. We were having lunch together and sections of his sandwich began falling out of his mouth — horrible, half-masticated vegetables and crusts. I said, bro, life in my opinion is like folding trousers. Some trousers are cotton, some are khaki…but here words failed me. I knew there were other kinds of trousers, corduroy and woolen for instance, and some have buttons and others zippers, but I couldn’t go on, and I told the boss I had finished.
It’s strange, said my boss. The plan you presented to me yesterday, for restricting overtime and shortening the work week with no decrease in productivity, is what I’d call a vision.
I don’t know, I replied tonelessly. That’s going a bit far.
You know, the boss told me then, your coworker Sal has a vision.
Sal, a vision? I said. How can that be? I have folded trousers with Sal for two and a half years, and did not know this. What is his vision? I asked.
It’s the same plan as yours for cutting down hours, came the answer, but Sal combines that with a modern system of inventory. Also, he says that one day soon he will be the boss of you.
That night after work Sal’s body was found folded up like a pair of trousers in a city trash receptacle, quite separated from his vision, which was nowhere to be found. A vision can be a dangerous thing, and I have naught to do with them.