Volume 76, Number 44 | March 28 - April 3, 2007

Notebook

On that Oh! moment and, oh, the unmeaning of it all

By Andrei Codrescu

I met someone who said, apropos of my radio commentaries, “I heard you and I went, Oh, that’s how it is!,” an ironic comment on my commentarios. Of all the things I intend, the farthest from my mind is explaining what you already know. I would never presume to explain something you’ve already figured out, unless I don’t know you’ve already figured it out, which I most certainly don’t. It’s entirely possible that I range like an aquarium fish all around a tank filled with the obvious. Like most people, I get my news from TV and I overhear things. I get mythinking from somewhere else, though, from a kind of peat moss made from parents, books, friends and hallucinations. I channel all the time.

I suspect that people only want two things from public voices: to learn something they didn’t know, and to be confirmed in something they already think. I don’t do either of those things, or at least I don’t mean to. What I hope to do is to either tell you something you knew but you forgot, or to make you think that what you thought you knew, you never knew at all because you never really thought about it.

And sometimes I just want to make you crazy with the injustice of itall and cause you to go raging into the streets. Most people’s thinking comes from the same place mine does and, if out of all of that a startling thought bubbles through the unauthorized factotums, it’s Miller Time of the Mind — let’s celebrate the unexpected. This happens, hopefully, to every adult, so I hope you don’t keep it under the hat. My job is to not keep any contrarian thought under hat. But if now and then one of them contrarian ideas ends up sounding like a lesson, forgive me. I only thought I hadn’t read it somewhere else.

Are you sure, I asked this person, that you didn’t go, Oh, Oh? “No,” she said, “It was Oh. Maybe you want that I should go, Oh Oh Oh.” Well, that would be much to ask, I said, even if 60 is the new 40.

I was disappointed, though. I was disappointed because years in the ring taught me that the only thing more futile than pointing out the obvious is preaching to the choir. I try not to point out, preach, lecture or explain. I mean only to increase the mystery and, failing that, to get a laugh, and after that, like I said, some street action.

When I was younger, if you wrote a poem that didn’t get people boiling mad with the awesome strangeness of it all, you were no poet. I’ve relaxed some of that Dantonesque stringency, but not to the extent that I’ll let the yo-yos feel smug enough to go, Oh.

Trouble was, the person who commentated on my comments was the ex-wife of a friend of mine, a poet who writes hermetic verse the purpose ofwhich is to be utterly inexplicable. Failure for this poet would entail being even partially graspable. As a poet and a man, he is of the impeccable mystery tour. His ex-wife, a good woman, no doubt, must have made the mistake of trying to understand him. The mutual incomprehension that followed left them both bitter. She took the path of trying to understand everything and believing nothing, and he went off into the obscure woods with another woman who, frankly, didn’tgive a damn what he did in his notebook.

I presume, of course, as if I was the guy in question. I wasn’t. I just got Oh’ed on my blind side.


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