What Makes Use
What interests me most is whatever it is that immediately sets about making use of everything. That which uses everything, even shame.
If I had not been ashamed I would still have left the house in order. But, to be honest, if I hadn’t been acutely self-nauseated from three hours of porn the night previous, I would not have crawled beneath the counter to scrub the baseboards, nor washed the fire extinguisher, nor scoured the cats’ dishes -- and those things really did need to be done.
If I’d woken up clear-headed and on time, with a heart like a meadow instead of a swamp, what would I have done? I might have written a real story, with setting and plot and (gasp) other people, all in the style of Raymond Carver, with nods toward the other men of my generation making strides in fiction, all of whom are also named Jonathan.
As a heart like a meadow wasn’t really an option, not this morning, not generally, the fire extinguisher was made immaculate.
I am a person who is interested in everything, not as everything, but only as one very small thing at a time. And above all I am interested in what makes use of everything. A kind of relentless undercurrent, all the time making use, making use. I stop just shy of the word benevolent. Because it appears to be beyond human scale, that all- the-time streaming attention, that which makes use.
If I can’t say what it is -- what’s it like? Like an all-encompassing, stop-at-nothing version of those mad cooking shows people love nowadays. Here is a persimmon, brown bread in a can, freshly chopped chives, cauliflower, white eggplant, cocoa powder, two Toulouse goose eggs, corn tortillas and an abundance of tripe. Please create a family-friendly entree and appetizer! You have use of a professional kitchen. The lights are surgically bright. The panel of experts will do nothing but gasp and wince at your every move. You have twenty minutes! Have a good time! Everyone is waiting for something delicious. (Everyone hates tripe.)
Here is a middle-aged man with one leg, promising (formerly) except that he chose (as most men choose) the wrong person to believe. At ease in ten countries and at home in none, with three areas of education (all equally unprofitable) and three venues of toxic habit (all equally ruinous), few human connections, an unpleasant personality and bad teeth -- now please, get a life!
The light is bright, the clock ticking, the experts wincing. It is reasonable, sensible and true to say, “There is nothing that can be done with persimmons and tripe”. We can say that and we do say it. We say it and say it. We may even sit for awhile, immobile on the floor of the kitchen, glaring at the studio audience. It’s UNFAIR. What sadistic chef could have selected such preposterous and doomed ingredients?
And yet. All the time beneath the refusal, mine and yours, something is setting out, getting to work, making use -- even as you issue a formal statement to say absolutely not, under no circumstances. It is unstoppable. Something is all the time making use. Making use of everything and anything. Even making use of you, you and your ludicrous circumstances.
Something is forever making use. Collaborating instinctively with what is here. The plane hits turbulence and the mother of four says, “Wheee! A roller coaster!” Poets in Portland write poems about rain. Parents of direly ill children become instantaneous specialists. Zucchini pickles. Solar power. Yet it is more than necessity, much more than common sense. What is it that puts limitation to such good use, what puts misery to work?
This force is everywhere at work, though perhaps it is unusually apparent in my case, devoted as I am to making art which consists solely of Dumb Things I’ve Done Recently. On the very off-chance there is ever a Selected Works, people will be able to pick it up, shake their heads in wonder and exclaim, And it’s all made of trash!
Sulphur-fuelled living fossils lurking in the deepest ocean trench, Russian thistle on the overpass, it’s non-stop inspired improv. A force is relentlessly making use of me and all my nonsense, making use even of the addictions, the nightmares and waiting in line. It is not at all clear when it is all being used for. (Though I’m pretty clear it’s not a family-friendly entree.)
What makes use? There’s a force, not exactly a force, a something, though of course it’s not actually a thing. It’s not interested in my comfort, it’s sure as hell not interested in making me look good, though it’s certainly willing to string me along, even rescue me, from time to time, in ways that aren’t strictly speaking believable.
Something is always plotting, even when it’s nuts, stupid, impossible, ridiculous or too late. There’s no way to stop it because, whatever you do, it makes use of it. Like an incorrigible lech, trimming his toenails at the age of 99, noting that the lady across the hall isn’t half bad-looking, not for a centenarian.
What is it? What is all the time making use? I can’t say what it is. I can say what it isn’t. It’s not a Republican engineer all the time mining the resources. It isn’t practical or pragmatic, it isn’t regimented or capitalist. It isn’t prudent. If anything it’s profligate, making use of everything all the time, betting on everything with everything, like a fish that lays a thousand eggs and not one survives, then the next moment comes, with another thousand eggs.
It’s quite crazed really, Kolkata at rush hour, the very definition of stopping at nothing, or, as my father-in-law would say, throwing money after nothing. It’s useless, it’s pointless (or use and point cannot be found and held) it’s gorgeous (if you’re not wedded to the family-friendly entree) and it’s actually more than slightly exciting -- IF you can accept that you are not in charge and this ain’t gonna be your non-stop coronation, the rich Dutch ladies all appeased, the toxic cousins looking pleased.
And it’s not about being good. (It’s not about being bad either.) This ain’t the Pilgrim’s Progress. Being good is often just an imposition. (I’m going to make my life something my mother likes to eat!) Being good with all its incessant lists. “From now on I’m going to be good. For breakfast, only juice, followed by cardio, selfless service at work, clean up the credit rating, orthodontia research, family time”. It is no wonder really that one more or less immediately decides, “You know what would really make this juice delicious? Vodka!”
As for the cooking show, I am tempted to put the chives on the eggplant and present the other items individually with simple condiments. That’s not how it’s supposed to be, of course. (What makes use is not what makes supposed to be.)
Each item on small white plate. How to disguise tripe? I reckon you must let the tripe be the tripe. The experts of course will disapprove. That is their job. But if you used nice plates, assorted drizzles and insisted, with your full authority, that it was all an example of French naturalism, I reckon you might get away with it.
You might get away with it. You might not. Whether you did or you didn’t, something would make use of the success or the failure, that which is all the time making use of lazy days and bad politicians, of eggplant and cocoa powder, of us.
This moment’s predicament becomes the ingredient for whatever comes next, for that which is relentless and non-stop, neither benevolent nor heedless, neither pragmatic, infernal nor virtuous. No time or chance for positive identifications of that which is all the time making use, making use, making use.