May 25, 2013
Mr. Fish’s New Year’s Dissolution
Posted on Jan 7, 2011
By Mr. Fish
Moving through such predictable stages of alarm, elation and acquiescence eventually became for me how I came to experience the approach and passage of each New Year as a political cartoonist. The sequence of events was always the same. I’d suddenly wake up sometime during the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day in an absolute panic, fearful that I hadn’t yet created a piece of art that adequately recapped the bureaucratic failings of the previous 12 months. And although it was so obviously contrived, this public recapitulation of the recent past so cleanly bookended between Januaries—and although such a display had much more to do with the slovenly habit of the greater culture to reflect upon itself only annually rather than daily—I still felt obliged to add my voice to the mass assessment, knowing that minimal participation in a society’s traditions, however lame-ass, was polite and well-mannered and the sort of behavior that helped sustain my professional credibility and kept my seat warm at the communal dinner table upon which all the members of the press and artistic communities feasted on the hyperbolic stew of one another’s company.
After the fear that I would never be able to encapsulate all the petty and predictable bullshit of the previous year and to inflate its importance and reconfigure its purpose into something profound and instructive, I would typically end up submerging myself in the absolute satisfaction that comes with not cartooning at all. So, in late December of every year I would lower myself, underpants and all, into the quiet lake of inactivity and steel myself against drowning. I would pull the plug on my critical thinking and disconnect my ears and my voice box and remove my brain and set it on the table in front of me like a cruddy little engine in need of cooling and cleaning and walk away. “Silence is the universal refuge,” Thoreau said, “the sequel to all dull discourses and all foolish acts.” Rumi, at least according to his leading translators, capitalized the word silence as if it were holy: “In Silence there is eloquence. Stop weaving and see how the pattern improves.” Silence was all too often misconstrued to be emptiness, usually by those equally as likely to wave their spastic hands through a flashlight beam and to insist that there was nothing there. Not me.
In many ways, I found that by removing my voice from all conversation about the world I was finally able to recognize, with great humility, that the world was not enhanced by my excessively verbal participation in it, but rather I was enhanced by the world whose inarticulate physics were precisely what gave me license to participate in the machinery of my very existence. In my silence I felt not unlike the word fuck and that, in the face of reality’s illiteracy, I was suddenly permitted the grace of getting to exist merely as typeface against pulp, my obscenity made completely irrelevant by the indifference of the corporeal world toward the King’s English. In an instant, I felt as if I could mean so much more by meaning so much less than the bogus definition previously attached to me by the capricious folly of language. Like an emancipated slave allowed to suddenly become invisible inside a free society, I could finally experience the thrill of watching life proceed without the disruptive influence of my presence. By no longer adding my own voice to the ceaseless blathering that constituted the cacophonous schizophrenia that was the public consciousness, I could finally feel as if I were communing with the wordless truth that lay beyond human comprehension like edifying bones beneath flesh.
Then the muscle memory in my pleasure center would begin to reminisce and I would be reminded of the woe that I felt slam into my 14-year-old chest upon bursting through the bright menthol of pine trees on my bicycle at the edge of the lake in 1980—the vertical stack of fluorescent cones like dunce caps, the great coils of chain-link fence, the Private Property signs stapled to the white strings strung low between wooden stakes—and I would dutifully extricate my drowsy self from what felt like the meaning of life so that I could cheapen my understanding of existence by commenting on it, using pictures and a ravenous alphabet that I’d unleash like shrapnel upon an apathetic universe that was so hysterically incapable of moaning or assigning blame or coming to my defense.
After all, I figured, unless I made a few bucks, I’d never amount to anything.
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