Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A Work in Progress

Hans was fledged in the dawn of the Age of Aquarius, and died at its turn. From his ashes emerged Michael, so named for the Archangel: “Prince of the Heavenly Host, The Conquerer of Lucifer (…ironically, the Bearer of Light…) and of the Proud, who wage war against God and the Church.”

All that Hans had been, Michael was not. Michael was formed imperfectly, yes; but perfection was his object and goal, where complacency was Hans’ resting place. Michael sprang fully formed from an imperfectly-shaped moon, rising full but not full over a greyly mountaintop, a warm buttery-colored disc pulling through the cold ragged wintry clouds with a mysterious notch eaten from its corner like an eclipse, but not an eclipse. It was full but not full. In the deep dark dead of a winter’s night, that ragged moon said to all who were seeking illumination in that moment “Fear not! The warm sun still shines! See it shine upon my face! Look for it where I look!” That moon rose and fell, and when it was gone, it took Hans away and left Michael behind to take his place.

It was a good trade for all concerned, but especially for those upon whom the moon’s rays shone that February night. The rising of that moon closed the door of time on an era of turbulence and confusion, of cloudiness and misdirection, of prolixity portraying profundity. Indulgence was the word, and the word was made flesh, and that flesh was Hans; and the Lord looked down upon his creation and said:

“What was I thinking?”

And the Lord turned his back on his creation and walked away, leaving him to his own devices. But being that it was The Age of Aquarius, that time of all possibilities and all creations, Hans flourished for a time, because time was mostly what he had. Hans burned through his birthright, and squandered most of it on trivialities, and then went looking for more things of little consequence to satisfy his appetite and amuse himself. And Hans found many others who were in some ways like himself; they too had been created on a whim by a restless and easily distracted God, who set them down somewhere and then forgot all about them. But this is not really about Hans, not so much.

On that night, Michael took shape, mostly as a name in a dream, at least at first. The name kept recurring, floating to the top of consciousness again and again, yet without association; for it was yet unconnected to a person, because of course, at that moment the person that name was meant for did not really exist. There were many, many Michaels around, many known personally to the dreamer of this dream and viewer of this moonrise, and of course countless more known at more degrees of separation. The name did not associate itself until Michael himself was actually formed; and at that instant, the name and the man became one, and this time, there was no God involved in the act of creation to muck it up with his lack of attention to detail and what-not.

And of course, in order for Michael to be formed, Hans must first be made to go away.
The irony was not lost on Michael that he was in fact the bringer of light; the long association of his name with that of Lucifer and the battle in heaven and the fall was a familiar country to him, and he knew its highways and back alleys well. The novelty had long since worn off, and he had heard the joke made too many times to count, had forgotten so many ways to act like it was the first time he had heard it.

But here is the thing: Michael was yin to Hans’ yang, black to his white. In all aspects, Michael was the opposite of Hans. Physically taller; lighter; where Hans had fat, Michael had muscle. Michael was resolutely clean-shaven whilst Hans was matter-of-fact about it, often going days without a shave and weeks without a haircut, though Michael in fact had a full head of hair and Hans’ hair had begun to abandon him some time back.

Hans was second-hand tee shirts with band logos; Michael was crisply-ironed shirts with buttoned-down collars or stays, and always a tastefully appropriate tie. Where Hans was faded jeans with torn knees, Michael was creased khakis with cuffs.

Yet the irony of their differences was that Michael became invisible in his elegance, camouflaged in plain sight, his presence unmistakable yet the details indefinable. Hans, despite his studied casual demeanor, was inevitably conspicuous, and bore with him some indelible and constantly-replenished stain, not unlike the pavement around a diesel pump.

The problem with Hans all goes back to his being misbegotten. Some little error in his initial conditions spun out over countless iterations, some detail left out, some bit of coding done wrong, a zero when it should have been a one—what did it really matter? He was misbegotten. It was built-in; a feature, not a bug, as they say. It wasn’t like he became this way somewhere along the journey. Except for the part about the Age of Aquarius, it was all pretty much set from the get-go. Had he come of age in a different time, the details would have been changed, the extent of his—wrongness—might have varied to one degree or another. But the basic flaw that was Hans was there from the beginning; it defined him.

Hans dragged an anchor behind him for his entire life, barely aware of its presence or even its existence. Without a helpful Marley to point it out to him, he simply went on from day to day, oblivious to the “…weight and length of the strong coil…heavy and as long…a ponderous chain!” He knew something was there, yet he never stopped for a moment in all his years to disentangle himself from its damping embrace. Hans swam like a shark in a sea of self-loathing, in constant self-defeating motion, ever onward towards a new self-destructive end. This was perhaps the primary distinction between Hans and Michael: Michael was utterly free from such pointless distractions, and Hans was utterly enamored of their sour savory tang.

Michael was formed with his eye on the prize, a calm gaze above and across the obstacles in his path, and his gaze never faltered. In contrast, Hans felt fealty to failure, and never stopped at the finish but always one step short. This perhaps most self-destructive behavior was at once reflexive and irresistible; he acted as though his committing completion would close the circuit that initiated Armageddon, and so he reliably steered clear of any final act.

Hans’ meandering life was littered with the nearly-finished hulks of ten-thousand different efforts, most simply needing one last coat of paint, a touch of caulk, a reworded clause, a bit more research, a trim piece refitted just so, another thought. It didn’t matter the scope or scale; what mattered was that they all remained unfinished, with an almost religious devotion and dedication that Hans did not bestow on anything else. It was his mark.

His bedside displayed a score of partially read books, dogeared and flagged with all manner of bookmarks. Somewhere past the halfway point but at a safe remove from the conclusion, Hans’interest inevitably waned and he set off in search of a new topic, in most cases never to return; his personal best might have been Joyce’s Ulysses, the opening chapter of which he must have read two dozen times, with the opening of ‘Moby Dick’ a close second.

Hans lived from day to day with what he believed was a certain ‘carpe-diem’ dedication. But the line between ‘carpe-diem’ exuberance and fin de siècle desperation is a fine one, and in reality, Hans danced the tarantella of despair more frequently than he tripped the ballet of joy. To his growing horror, the future kept arriving at his doorstep one increasingly terrible day at a time, mounting year upon year, in unrelenting defiance of his limited expectations.

In a way, Michael was sent to clean up Hans’ mess and wipe clean the trail of litter stretching back through the decades. In one grand sweep, Michael would be able to tie up all those loose ends without measure, to render complete that which Hans had struggled so mightily to leave undone. Perhaps Michael could ring in the Apocalypse by his actions, and reveal himself to be closer in spirit to Lucifer that he would like to believe.

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