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The Lecture Last Night

 

after Howard Dossor

i

Life is a travesty. I've endured
even worse. Used to be

a time when cognisance
had the better of me. When I believed

in the aura of authenticity
(if I hadn't had too much to drink.) Now

I'm a cog. Meetings and salary
, a healthy diet, recycling bins. Subjectivity

, frankly academic. I even laugh
at my boss's jokes. Used to be

the kid who renounced conformity
, no hope for love or popularity. Now

I'm a participant. Debates and discussions
, clean socks and gas heating. Essence

was certainly secondary to substance
abuse. Don't get me wrong; I despised

being. Truly. It wasn't purpose
I lacked. (I have it now & don't like it.) What

I missed was the vision (or wisdom?)
to perceive the voids of hedonism

; now that the spade is called a spade
all too often ... I'm speechless. Contrivance

of the Symbolic surrounds me. Can't I curse 

God again even if he doesn't exist
without a bad science? Can't one shoot
an oblivious Arab on the beach, for old 

time's sake? I even compliment my aunt
on her cooking. I perve, obediently, on women

in online advertisements. The normative
has consumed me. I've become a human.

ii

On the way to the lecture
I noticed the footpath widened 

to accommodate two-way traffic
of effervescent teenage shoppers

in what was only six years ago
a spooky, rundown suburb. How

self-deception dissolves all
in its path of necessity. On the way

to the lecture on 'Existential Love'
one week night, waiting for the tram

I overheard a soft-spoken man
give directions for an authentic Thai

restaurant on his Blackberry; later
on the tram a mentally ill tramp

grumbled to himself about the bitch
who took his sandwich-maker. Is the jury

still out on religion or do we see it 
as the license for a will to power? I see

people being what they want to be. Free
-dom, style, choice abound. On the way

to the monthly lecture of Melbourne's
Existentialist Society, I'm the autonomous

agent who chooses the singular, special 
deal - half-priced donut with a coffee -

at the 7-11 opposite where I get off
the tram. An absurd dinner, indeed. I spill

jam on my jacket (I always do)
on the way to the church building

where the secretary of the Atheist Society
chairs tonight's lecture. Irony

isn't a mark of a true being. (or 
is it?) Illusions, illusions. The lecture begins.

iii

But how do I account for this
love? So much oppression

I've seen and felt, can't undo the notion
of my/your integrity. If I can't sense you

at the level of vitality, won't we touch
as mere, sacred bodies? So much simulation

I've lived with, can't refute the passion
for the Real, shattering originality. Where

do I trace the tangible locus
of this love? So much consternation

I've been offered, can't oust sensation
of attachment, however transient. And why

do I need this love? So much sedation
by the opiates of religion, facts, information

can't turn me off Truth entirely. Love
has brought me into Being. Sexual, ineffable.

iv

After the lecture, I'm hungry
and have an overpriced felafel. Angry drunks

outside Smith Street Woolworths, gone
, supplanted by suave African tourists. Windows

of shops proclaim the glory of saving
money on wine glasses, hand-knitted scarves. I tend

to agree with Adorno apropos the jargon
of authenticity. Capitalism has made a killing

from our existential obsessions. I'm 
an unnamed soldier. I march (with dread)

towards Monday morning, office computer
and ripples of status anxiety in the eyes

of battle-hardened colleagues. The tram
slithers past my old Northcote joint, a warren

actually. There I survived on alcohol
, dope, fantasy until love's insubstantiality

lured me to her proximity. Am I sufficiently
committed to my innateness? When

I get off the tram, darkness of the street
doesn't obscure the path to the small flat

where loved ones sleep. It was interesting
, the lecture last night, I'll tell her in the morning

before roaring, chasing Marco as a Velociraptor
and at work I'll maintain a sort of smile. I'll sense

the point of existence, the price of Being.

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