Did you See that?
I started the day thinking about the word “potluck”. It may be the most gorgeous word in the English language. A rich and oily sound, with a cynical and laughing chip on its shoulder. I want to say it out loud, but I am on the subway looking up at an ad for Cottonelle that says “We shine where the sun don’t.” Next to me is a man with a newspaper. I am sucked into it. He is flipping pages, and I focus where he stops. The headline says “The Young and the Bucharestless.” This is very clever, and I suspect that some junior editor got some mileage out of cooking that up. Put his feet up on the desk for the rest of the day.
I keep blinking as my neighbor turns the pages and I am reminded of being on my back on the floor of the stretching room at the gym last night. I was looking up at the rotating ceiling fan and trying to guess how many blades it had. I began to wonder about how we see things. About the reality of vision. I saw a gray blur against a white ceiling where I know there were actually black blades. Suddenly I realized that when I blinked, the motion froze. If I blinked at the right rate of speed, I could freeze the fan visually and easily count its blades. What could this mean? Do we really only see freeze-frames?
Later, at the office, I look out at the view over Queens and Brooklyn. I see a helicopter buzz the East River. Again, the blades are a blur. Too far away to inventory them by blinkage. But nearby, a giant flagpole bolted to a parapet a few floors below me is strung with a huge American flag that furls and unfurls like summer river water in the thin air. The motion of the flag is so fluid, so not a shuffle of images strung together. Or is it? I try blinking at the flag as I had done to the fan. I create individual still images. Then, I try something different. I close my eyes and try to replay a “video” of the furling and unfurling of the flag. I can’t do it! I can only call up to the mind’s eye still images of the flag at its various moments. What could this mean? Do we not recall motion? Do we retain only the “idea” of motion? Good grief. For all these years, I have lived comfortably in the embrace of an illusion called motion. It doesn’t exist. It’s a device. I guess I always suspected this. In the passenger’s seat of a car, I look at the spokes of the hubcaps of the car we pass. Again the blur, and suddenly, when the speed is just right, the spokes emerge from the blur, and then! And then, they begin to spin in reverse! I can’t even begin to imagine why. I don’t want to know. Please do not tell me. The sidewalks of west 28th Street are alive with the purposeful threading of work. Can we not step out of it? Can we be still and timeless? Can this city ever rest and close its eyes?