My best friend is visiting. This is always an event in itself. If we don’t talk about Wittgenstein – which we reserve for long telephonic conversations – then it’s always about things that fall between philosophy and theology. Heavy stuff, some might think, but not where we are concerned. We embody multitudes. We both wanted to study theology, but didn’t. We did what is worse, perhaps. Teach ourselves. In any event, if I’m the missionary converting kind, he’s the forgiving kind. When I embody the theologian I always think of myself as Der fliegende Holländer who is condemned to sail until Judgment Day. In Romanian we have an expression that characterizes someone who, when wanting to teach someone something, will not rest until the lesson is learned, so we say that the teacher forces the pupil to chase with her the “white sails” – all the staging of Wagner’s opera I’ve ever seen have had white sails in them, so there’s the connection. The beauty of the white sails is that they don’t exist. But as they conjure up an image in our heads as to what the result of the teaching lesson might be, they emphasize the process. If endured, the walking, sailing, or flying towards abstract lands, armed with a sense of trust, adoration, and anticipation, always proves to be a unique experience.
My friend forgives me for talking incessantly, and expecting total submission as we walk through the beautiful woods called Grib not far from Roskilde. Grib in Danish means catch. We catch things and the day up, convert the incredulous and call the stubborn ones stupid – that is, ourselves. I insist telling my friend: “the best season is autumn.” He thinks about it. I insist again, “don’t think: watch and smell. The best season is autumn.” He thinks about it some more. I insist a third time after having been met with the suggestion that there may be other seasons. Equally beautiful. “Wrong,” I say. “The best season is autumn.” As he realizes that this is not multiple choice, he turns to me and provides some arguments which rely on some interesting belief constructions. But I’m adamant. My husband, who is with us, turns to us from his walking ahead of us – he doesn’t have much patience for either philosophy, theology, or missionary positions – and thus says: “Shut the fuck up. You know this woman, and you know that she’s always right.” “Right,” my friend says.”
Back at home, we all sit at three small round tables, each with our laptops. Candles burn. Ethiopian incense burns. We listen to vocal music and I ask my friend to sing along. He wants to know why, but before I get to say anything, my husband says: “didn’t I just remind you to do what she says?” “Right,” my friend says again. How marvelous, I think to myself. As Yo Yo Ma plucks his cello to Bach’s music, I praise my taste in men. How did I ever manage to find these two? I convince myself that it has to do with the white sails. We all agree that we should start a new religion and call it the interrupted apron, after an Ashbery poem which my friend sends me via an email while sitting half a meter away from me. While computing, he’s reading Ashbery’s The Tennis Court Oath, I’m reading Marc Augé’s Oblivion, and my husband tumbles art quotes. But before I forget, or ask the question: “any followers wanting to wander,” here’s what my friend wrote in his post to me:
to hell with all the others...
Here is a pertinent quote for you:
One might as well pick up the pieces.
What else are they for? And interrupt someone's organ recital -
we are interruptions, aren't we? I mean in the highest sense
of a target, welcoming all the dust and noise
as though we were the city's apron.
(From John Ashbery, Where Shall I Wander)