Of the vaudeville

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What is history? In texts filled with distinguished men and events thoughts and questions arise in the thorough words of an age of the artist; eventually break loose in the silent hinterlands where dreams slip into minds. What soul or sex may exist i...

What is history?
In texts filled with distinguished men and events thoughts and questions arise in the thorough words of an age of the artist; eventually break loose in the silent hinterlands where dreams slip into minds.
What soul or sex may exist in our words? What fallen angel shall come to rescue? Who will sing in this spring of springs?
It was an overcast Sunday morning. Jacob Brommel had skipped church to go to the vaudeville, which had lately become his greatest pleasure in life. He was sitting in a nearby cafe, wearing his best suit – a brown coat over his army uniform – and a searching, impatient expression known in the supernatural. Students, perhaps young poets or philosophers, were seated in a group in a cafe in an earnest office-like discussion.The only other table was occupied by two actors: a blonde who was shaking her leg in a brisk manner as she read her script, and a man dressed as an ordinary citizen who was cracking jokes between his, making her gush in cheerful excitement. A painted graffiti on the grey walls of a building in the lane read ‘science a grand illusion!’ A dreamy eyed woman in an old, unwashed gown was smoking a cigarette in a verandah on the first floor of the building. A waiter had been asked to get rid of the madman who was lurking outside the cafe, who then sat down beneath the statue of Caesar at a turning. The two waiters looked content in the negative atmosphere of the cafe and beyond it, for very little philosophy has to do with the men who wait at tables, perhaps smiling knowingly, as if in an act of rebellion against established standards of happiness. Opposite the cafe a vegetable vendor was opening his shop, looking curiously about his grocery as if to be alive was a magical proposition. Jacob liked to write what he saw and heard in his dreams. Recently he likened the world to the vaudeville: all Logics, Answers, and Natures were created. Of all the rules in which reality appeared it was hardest to break the rules of the vaudeville. He found a lonely, comfortable place at the back of the nearly filled chairs. In the front, seated amidst a crowd of regular theatre goers and artists alike behaving clownishly, was the famous Novelist and critic Eugene Hoffstrader, every moment about him glowing like a tragic candle that appealed to the senses by the force of a personality quintessentially human. Since no official permission was granted to the vaudeville, it was taking place on a podium just at the entrance of an abandoned, ruinous park almost a century old, at the center of a slum dwelling. Towards the opposite end of the large oval park, hidden from sight, some men were smoking brown sugar and playing cards. Each time he went to the vaudeville it seemed to him to start life afresh; for example, his heart was shivering, but it did not matter because he sat in the warm lap of nature. There was a lightning in the sky. The audience had taken out umbrellas and coats. The theater, like the temple, is a place to reflect on life and to worship it, which distinguishes it from the ordinary reality of leading life. Both exist as means of story-telling: on the stage are characters: heroes, villains, men; behind it are gods: the creators of our world, directors of our narrative. The actors, all dressed like tramps, surrounded the circular podium. Children were running about the park and the stage, a young woman running after them. The crowd fell into a sudden, nuanced silence when a prostitute followed by a nasty looking tramp who was crying to the sky in song like Shylock in a dream, entered the stage:
Say
that is
to speak
to utter forth
a proclamation
that is
not quite the dreamy,
quiet affairs
each living,
passing day anew
a grand silence
fell upon me,
fell upon you.

What shall be seen?
What shall be felt?
What hopes and dreams
have slipped into my head?
What shall be spoken
of this silent tread?
Our passion sings of Kurukshetra
and a heaven in the sky,
their songs conquered death
when gods had bid goodbye.
In our dreams
we hear them sung,
in our dreams
we hear them said.

It had begun to drizzle softly. A child toppled on an empty chair into the song before his mother angrily tugged him to her seat. Dust and papers were everywhere. The grim scenery of the park was out of step with comical acts and melodramatic songs supported by the band with local instruments. Trees and tall bushes were in a flushed, mellow dance to a Devil’s tune. Jacob was under a spell; his weary eyes shut themselves against his will under the weight of nights of toil and wander, though he could perhaps still hear the skit, no longer in the strained coherence of an empty world archetypal to a vaudeville but as though dreaming all along about life and the tramps. We are the creators of this world, like actors without an audience or direction left to choose whatever they wish to say about life and about themselves. Cheerful individual faces dispersed into the open road in a truthful intonation in the noisy, eager chatter. It was as they were leaving that the audience could not be told from the actors still waiting at the podium. The clouds had faded into the sky like a forgotten moment of wonder. Jacob passed the empty roads without caring so much for the sad, wilting monuments and dead statues surrounding him. Men’s motives are modeled after these sculptures which are our only concrete reality, our only notion of truth – namely the street – the rest is a work of imagination.

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