"The Childe...More restless than the swallow in the skies..." -Lord Byron, Childe Harold's Pilgrimage

Sunday, February 6, 2011

My Ode to Emerson's Transparent Eyeball

Fair warning, this post includes some profanity.

A Preface from Childe Harold

I live not in myself, but I become
Portion of that around me...

--Lord Byron, Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, Canto III, lines 680-681
The above excerpt comes from a person who felt trapped by the pretentious urbanity of society. Byron wasn't the first or last writer to revel in this sentiment--a sentiment that is both an urge to transcend one environment and a desire to become immersed in a second, usually Nature.

Another writer who mused along these lines was Ralph Waldo Emerson. I haven't read any more Emerson than was required of me in college (and that is my fault). My familiarity with Emerson is primarily limited to his famous line, "I become a transparent eye-ball..." If you aren't familiar with the reference, don't google it right away. Just ask yourself what it might mean to be a transparent eyeball.

The Personal Context

Recently I spent an hour sitting in the coffee shop of Borders Bookstore in downtown Ann Arbor. (Quick aside: online bookstores don't have coffee shops. Just sayin'.) While nursing a white chocolate mocha, I found myself feeling at turns proud or ashamed of the choice to hang in such a crowded and pretentious setting. This sense of discontent, mingled with caffeine, brought on the urge to write. So I started transcribing my inner voice into a pocket notebook. It ended up being a stream of consciousness exercise. If you need a quick primer on stream of consciousness writing, Oprah provides a good one here.

By way of honesty, I didn't write extemporaneously the whole time. Sometimes I paused and mapped out the next line in my head. But it was the most spontaneous writing I've done in awhile. So I'm going to share it here. Just remember the background. This is Childe Jake sitting in a crowded coffee shop in Ann Arbor. Also, since I employed stream of consciousness, this piece may seem cryptic in places and occasioned by odd transitions. (My vanity dictates that I let you know I know that.)

A Perverse Ode to the Transparent Eyeball

This world has chewed me up.
This world has saturated me.
The world is a coffee shop where people pose as busy and engaged,
And then sometimes kill other people based on what they order.
I want back the world that had thriving video stores,
But not really.
I don’t want that world back—just that part of that world.
I think people who make fun of Emerson’s “transparent eyeball” are assholes.

I’m an asshole.
The girl sitting next to me is reading a romance novel entitled,
When Beauty Tamed the Beast.
Do I have to respect her?
I know I’m supposed to respect women, but really?
Her too?
It’s not like she’s reading Tolstoy.
Tolstoy would have respected her.

Someone I respect once called Tolstoy a flake.
If I could be a transparent eyeball I would never buy porn again.
Women who wear fur are walking romance novels.
Beauty Wears the Beast.
I’d read that novel.
This world is worn by Time.
The Romantics knew that Time was the fourth and great limiting dimension.
This world is bound by Time.
Light is the speed limit.
I keep trying to come full-circle.
A light comes on.
And it’s time to go.
To be immersed in a wireless age is to be a transparent eyeball.
He wanted to be the Immersed One
Just didn’t realize what a bummer it would be.

A Further Adventure

Click Here to Read Episode 2 of my Transparent Eyeball Quest.

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