…certainly not Christian Bale’s beard.
As I write, the Oscars are on the television. Not that I’m actually watching the program, although my dog seems to be enjoying it.
However, my fleeting glances at the “star-spangled” lineup reveal one consistent and confusing trend: celebrity beards.
2011, apparently, has been the year for celebrities to don facial hair. They showcase their often ill-conceived hirsute renderings during awards shows, even if they were clean-shaven in a film. There’s no pattern, rhyme, or reason to which male celebrities grow beards.
Their reasons for growing them? Arcane. The way they look? Typically dreadful.
Tomorrow, I’ll be featuring a showcase of celebrity beards, both noble and savage. The reason for doing this is simple: I want to know what beards symbolize.
Name one contemporary public figure (think politician) that has a beard. If you’ve managed to ferret one out from the dregs of your memory (or from a perfunctory Google search), I’ll give you a quarter. No, really, I will. Bonus point if he’s below the age of 35.
I remember approaching the hill with trepidation. The scars of carpet bombs and soldiers’ screams were burned into the rocky face, ripping straight into the cloud-cover above.
Somewhere I hear my family’s murmurs woven into the fabric of war. Their lives are forever here, lodged into the valley between two mountains. The trains run every few hours through the station where a single, ancient bellhop sits doing nothing, hat in hand and terribly wrinkled.
"…a leftover of the war, no doubt," says James. He’s already anxious to leave, and doesn’t speak Italian. On his right arm, there’s an elaborate tattoo of Caesar’s (Julius, not Augustus) death in front of the capitol in Rome. It is incomplete; he adds a new feature once a year.
Sharpshooters were poised right across from where I stood, rifles sighted and loaded with .22 grams of Nazi powder. There were, in fact, only a few occupying the village, and none in the monastery in the hill.
…at Vespers, the Benedictines hum low for the Lord, urging the heavenly host to dispel the Germans from the village. Some wonder why God permits this to happen, while the Allied bombs torch the hills.
James and I climb halfway up the precipice when a small van pulls up next to us:
"Devi andare al Dio?" detto la macchinista.
"Si Signore." I replied. He smiled.
We arrived before nightfall. The air was so much colder there, but cleaner, almost sanctified. There were gardens and silence and ponds; ivy clung desperately to the walls; fig trees, gnarled and dead, flanked the exterior overlooking the valley.
James, fighting his Irish impulses, didn’t say a word.
We stood still outside of the chapel’s doors, where I’d said a prayer for my mother’s soul. I lit two candles (though I paid for one), absorbed the chants, and left the dark sacristy through a portal with the word PAX emblazoned on the arch.
I cried, but not for myself.
I took the picture, and descended the hill, past the ruins of the Other monastery, the charred and skeletal remains standing against the currents of time.
So I’ve got an idea for a story.
Problem is, I don’t know how to articulate the idea fully or masterfully enough to make it convincing.
Essentially, the idea revolves around a doppelganger, or the double of an individual. This has been done before, namely by Dostoevsky; the difference is that mine is terrifying in a different way.
The Mad Russian focused keenly on the psychological effects of an individual that repeatedly sees his doppelganger in action. Ruminating over his own madness, the man decides that he can no longer identify what is real and what is false (whatever the hell those two terms mean…pick your philosopher in a battle to the death, ladies and gentlemen!).
I would never measure my own writing in comparison with Dostoevsky, nor any other author for that matter. The vocality of each author is unique and indivisible, and a measurement against any author would be anathema. in my opinion.
This is the first story that I’ve had to map out diligently, focusing on a physical representation of the story in graphic form rather than a narrative strand. Basically, I just start writing, and see what happens. Then, I pare down the raw material into something desirable (to me, at least). For this story, I’ve forced myself to go back into the “Doppelganger Problem” (abstract: http://www.springerlink.com/content/yg6x3616630mwu40/) posed by Nietzsche, re-read Heidegger, and try and base my readings in a horrific story.
I’ve worked with this problem before, but not to this extent.
…when we’re born, we are born double. At some point in the universe, somewhere far off or nearby, we exist concurrent with ourselves. And, when we take a step towards something in our lives, the Other does so as well, coming ever closer to us. What happens when we finally meet ourselves, reflected not in a mirror but in the fabric of our perceived reality? Do we die? Do we cease to understand everything that’s been presented to us? What of the rock, the ocean, the birds? None matters anymore, when confronted with ourselves, our doubles, our origins.