I am not an artist.
I am no longer able to write.
There is no poetry left on my page.
As a cultural leader I have always been a failure.
As a person I have lost my face.
As a lover I have lost my passion
As a teacher I have nothing left to say.
On television I can see the graves and trucks
full of dead cold bodies
But I can’t seem to touch my feelings.
My concern is faltering.
If we’re all in this together, why do I feel so alone?
Repeat after me…
Maybe Sartre was right. Nothing much matters.
But at least he had his wine, his Gauloises
and his amphetamines to help him through
While he looked around at the ruble of the war
Exhaling thick plumes of smoke
to cover his tears.
I wonder what will change for us
When we all meet again.
Will we be happy?
Or will we forget the past
as quickly as a click
as easily as a swipe
as forgettable as our most recent passwords?
I picked up on the third ring.
“Hi. I’m calling to bring you the good news.”
I said, “I love good news.”
He said, “God loves you.”
I said, “That’s nice. So what’s the good news?”
He said, “That’s the good news.”
I said, “I don’t want to get personal but can you really make a living calling random people to preach the word of God to them?”
He said, “During the day I work as a plumber.”
I hung up.
He must have really thought I was an idiot, I said to myself.
Ten minutes later the phone rang again.
This time it was a cheery female voice that told me I’d won a free trip to Boca Raton. Free travel, free hotel, and a one-day visit to the Vista Mars beachfront properties.
No strings. No big sell.
Finally, someone without an agenda. I was thinking of that poor dumb guy I’d just spoken to.
“How cool!” I said with enthusiasm.
“You sound cute,” the cheery female said, “ are you single?”
(I knew we’d had something going, I could tell right away)
Hmm. I wondered, “Can I ask you a question?”
“Of course,” she answered instantly.
“Did you ever hear of Jesus doing any plumbing on the side?”
“Besides his woodwork. Did you ever hear of Jesus doing any plumbing on the side?”
“No. Why do you ask?”
“I just had some guy on the phone preaching the word of God. Then he told me he was also a plumber.”
“Oh my lord! “She cried.
“You said it. Everyone knows Jesus was a carpenter. I mean get your facts straight before you try to put one over on somebody. Don’t you think?”
“Right,” she said cheerily.
“I mean it is Christmas and all that, but really…”
“I agree,” see said, “totally inappropriate.”
“He was probably trying to trick me into buying something I most likely didn’t want. I hate those calls, don’t you?
“Yes, I do.”
“And you’re sure about Jesus. No plumbing right?
“I thought not,” I said, and felt a surge of satisfaction.
“So, when do we leave for Florida?” I asked.
Me and Plato
Plato: Out of the cave at last!
Me: Yeah. It’s pretty bright. Hurts my eyes
Plato: You’ll get used to it.
Me: Ah. That’s much better. Look at all this space!
Me: It’s beautiful. Mountains, rivers, sky.
Plato: Not like that dark old cave.
Me: No. Not at all! Let’s go have fun!
Plato: No thank you.
Plato: I’ll just sit here and think about the next life.
Me: What? I thought this was the next life.
Plato: Oh no. This is a better life, but not the real thing.
Me: Looks pretty real to me. Look at that girl over there.
Me: Yeah, and I’m pretty horny from being in that cave for so long.
Plato: I can understand that.
Me: Maybe she’s just come from out of the cave as well.
Me: I’m going over and talk to her. Maybe she has a friend.
Plato: Maybe so.
Me: You comin’?
Plato: No. I want to sit here and study and think about the next world, the better world.
Me: The better world?
Plato: God’s world.
Me: You told me this was God’s world.
Plato: All worlds are.
Me: So? What’s wrong with this one?
Plato: It’s not real.
Me: I thought the cave wasn’t real.
Me: This one too?
Plato: This world is just substance, not form.
Me: Jesus Christ!
Plato: Not yet. But soon.
Me: Then what?
Plato: Then I will have to do a rewrite on some things. But no worry, others will do it for me.
Me: I don’t get it.
Plato: The holy trinity, the word of God, the objective good. All will come so that future generations can see the light of his sacrifice.
Me: Oh, you’re one of those. I thought there was something strange about you.
Plato: Me? Nah. I never met the man. I died well before he was given to us. So I couldn’t be “one of those” as you put it.
Me: I see. So where does that leave me?
Plato: Wherever you want. It’s your choice.
Me: Do you really think so?
Plato: I do.
Me: But I always have an excuse if I make the wrong choice.
Me: Yeah. I am not the form, only the substance. My body is only the thing that holds me together, my brain is only the thing that helps me move and speak. It’s the forms of good and justice and the supernatural power of God that really count. Right?
Plato: Yes! But don’t quote me on that. That job has already been taken.
Me: I’ll take my chances with this world. I’ll supply the power. I’ll decide the justice and the good of things.
Plato: But you’ll lose the essence, the mystery beyond what we can’t see or understand, the faith of all things made in his image.
Plato: Because you’ll have nothing to believe in.
Me: I believe in me.
Plato: That’s pretty arrogant.
Me: Ya think?
Plato: I do.
Me: And your essence, your god that forgives?
Plato: What about him?
Me: Pretty arrogant if you ask me.
Plato: But he is I am.
Me: No, I am, he is something else.
Plato: What else?
Me: Not sure. Maybe he’s you or your mother in law, or my third grade teacher who sucked a good deal of “essence” out of me before I was 10 years old.
Me: Or maybe he’s your priest, or Rabbi, or cop on the corner, or maybe he was Hitler or Mother Teresa.
Plato: Now just wait a second here, you’re out of line.
Me: Am I?
Plato: You bet. You’re not being rational. Your logos has been lost.
Me: In what sense?
Plato: In every sense.
Me: I’m tired of this talk. I’m going to hang out with that girl over there.
Plato: Do what you wish.
Me: You don’t really mean that.
Plato: No. I don’t. I mean do what you know to be best.
Me: You don’t mean that either.
Plato: You’re right, I guess. But I Kant think of anything else to say.
Professor Dean Goldberg is the Director of the Communication, Art and Digital Media program at Mount Saint Mary College, a private liberal arts college in upstate New York. He spent more than half of his adult life as a film editor, writer and director for film and television and has written articles and reviews on film production and film theory. His article ‘More Than a Touch of Madness’ on Donald Cammell and Nicolas Roeg’s film Performance (1970) appeared in issue 15.3 of Film International. His review of ‘Show Trial’ appeared in issue 16.4. He also is a contributor to FilmINT online.