life before god.

25 May 2011 § Leave a comment

Sometimes I think life was set out before us by a five-year-old with a 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle. She’s so cute, this niece, or perhaps a nephew of your best friend, sitting on the shag carpet in this old apartment of yours that you keep a mess, usually. She takes the new puzzle, which has elements of sky and trees and sea and confusing geometrical shapes that might one day appear like the photograph on the box cover, and dumps it all out on the floor. Jigsaw pieces wind up everywhere – uneven, upside-down, right-side up, backwards, and there’s a few that somehow bounced into the kitchen or into the bathroom.

Our first job, then, is to smile and say she did well. After all, how can we know what life is, if it’s all tucked away in a cardboard box? Then we go about turning over the pieces to see what part of the picture they belong to.

Some people don’t do so much of that, I suppose – they pick up a piece, rip at it if the rug caught a corner, perhaps break the puzzle piece, and put it down in a convenient place. The puzzle is forever a puzzle, a toybox, and doesn’t have to be deciphered.

Others, I imagine, look intently at the picture on the box, lay out a placemat or carefully organize the pieces on the coffee table. They’ll do the borders first and work their way inward. Occasionally, they might get up for a cup of coffee or feed the cat. They’ll finish quickly, retire to bed, and do it again in the morning.

My puzzle got caught up in the tornado that ripped through Oklahoma yesterday. I feel like I’ll be looking for the pieces for the rest of my life. I may complete it one day, but I enjoy the little rush when I get one piece in the right place. I’m not sure if I’d live up to the feeling of completion if I ever nailed that last piece. I guess I’d rather have to go to Timbuktu or Socotra or Pitcairn to find a piece or two, and right now, my chances of getting into Yemen don’t seem very likely. It’s war over there right now, and I’m feeling for those people. Keep fighting.

A few weeks or months ago, it doesn’t matter which, I went into one of those huge bookstores that look a little like Walmart and I always feel bad for buying new books, even though when I write one I’ll want people to buy it new so I wouldn’t have to work at Home Depot. But that is a moral question, and one I leave to you. My short attention span will keep you out of Barnes and Noble for many years, to say the least. But no matter.

I found a small book listed for three or four dollars, and there were a lot of them. It was the sort of shelf they put really cheesy novels on to sell them quickly. I picked up the book and bought it on a whim, along with a fake moleskine that I’m avoiding writing in. I’m still a bit of an elitist – a leftover trait from my metalhead years – and I really enjoy quality in the things I do and love. Writing on good paper is important. Traveling with me, my notebooks get abused, and my favorite books get beat up to when we’re on the road. But generally I take care of my things. Words are meant to be ravished and consumed, however, and that’s my justification for having torn up books sometimes. Again, no matter.

The book I bought, called Life after God and written in perhaps my favorite time to romanticize (the early- to mid-90’s), is an insightful, cathartic, and honest book written in pieces by Douglas Coupland. He’s a Canadian, and I love his writing. I copy it sometimes, and reply to his short passages with my words in his style. hunter used to copy portions of The Great Gatsby, and I tried that for a while. But this is my favorite book to write outside of T.C. Boyle’s anything (boy, that guy can create an atmosphere).

Anyway, I read a passage now and then, and skip around a lot. It’s not a book I wish to read cover to cover. Sometimes, one part, like in the desert, or how he describes the disappearance of his sister, Laurie, I get so caught up in that I wish I was there so I could write about it. Sometimes I do anyway. And perhaps that’s what I do, too – I look for other people’s puzzle pieces and help them place theirs when maybe I should be looking for my own. But that’s a good feeling, too.

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