RaggedEndings

RaggedEnding
Achelous and Hercules, Thomas Hart Benton, 1947


"Resolution was never anything but a dream."


We all learn early how stories are supposed to end, with loose ends all tied up, signaling resolution. The novel, once unknown and new, becomes experienced and thereby old. A few, we'll refer back to again and again, not to rediscover any ending already known, but perhaps to re-experience the style and craft of the storytelling, the satisfying phrasing and deft plotting. These stories might never properly resolve, for though we do learn that the butler did, in fact, do it, that knowledge quenches nothing, but sometimes encourages a longer, perhaps life-long engagement with this author and his prose. But that describes the book world. Out here in what passes for the real world, RaggedEndings tend to be by far the most common form of resolution, where though not completely done, one must eventually simply move on. Time and tide and all that.

The last day of Spring, just over a half of a day this year, finds me surrounded by unresolved WhatNow? Stories.
I feel reasonably certain that the butler was somehow implicated in the crime, but I doubt he acted on his own volition. I suspect a dastardly conspiracy, but no more than circumstantial evidence supports my suspicion. No Perot has shown up yet, and the unread pile seems to have already left this novel moot in comparison. I feel ready for a fresh investigation, even though that next one will very likely unfold identically to the one I'll leave behind, unread to the final resolution. None of my stories ever cleanly resolve. I have apparently not cared enough about my readers' experience to provide them closure before leaving.

I began by asking WhatNow?, acknowledging that while this question might prove fundamentally unanswerable, we might find some utility in asking it anyway, in asking it from slightly some different angle every freaking day, for ninety days running, resulting in what, exactly, another Ragged Ending? Yup, another Ragged Ending. I mean, the Pandemic backdrop featured danged near everything: human folly and human bravery, great courage and degrading cowardice, hopefulness as well as despair, mystery and banality. We could have been recreating a brand new Old Testament complete with prophets false and true, with Amos, Ruth, Esau, as well as me and you along for the ride. An extended allegory overflowing with rumors as well as hints of great wisdom. We might have told the stories to arrive at something beyond truth. Pity anyone who takes any story literally, for they interpret to enslave rather than to liberate themselves. We're all stuck within the same time, sequestered except in our minds.

I stopped aching to know once I discovered that there would be a test involved. I wanted to learn without actually showing my work, and not simply because I was some kind of shirker attempting to avoid some sacred or blasphemous responsibility. I found great joy in learning and terrible punishment in trying to remember straight, nourished by the intake and poisoned when regurgitating. I'd much rather remember crooked, to learn again as if I'd never learned before, to combine half-forgotten information to discover something that felt brand smacking new to me, however ordinary my blinding discoveries might seem to anyone else. I have learned to hope my endings will be ragged and to unselfconsciously embrace their very unkemptness. Must the journey have been worthless simply because it didn't take us anywhere? Where were we expecting to go?

Our progress against our primary adversary has always been temporary and perhaps illusory. Our Damned Pandemic might fill the present foreground, but it's just a background bit player, representing context, a medium within which the real engagement occurs. The real story's always far too ambiguous to definitively describe. We run on rumors of coherence and never the actual stuff. Confusion only amplifies the tension, providing drama, fleeting though it might eternally be. A fresh controversy always emerges, challenging our senses, and soon enough fades away regardless of how we play it. We might choose to take full credit for vanquishing it were it not for a fresh challenge tromping all over the resolving tail end of it. Another RaggedEnding abandoned for more pressing and urgent concerns. May fresh concerns never abandon any of us, for they keep up sharp and moving.

WhatNow? Now, something new but not so different, perhaps even deep down precisely the same, for we engage only in infinite games here, the finite ones being thoroughly imbedded within many meta-games, ad infinitum. New engagement for the sake of its ragged beginning to bookend the latest RaggedEnding, each ennobled purely by presence. Their great gift not found in resolution but in renewed provocation. We desperately need more meaningful tails to chase, even after we learn that catching those tails could never have been any true purpose in chasing them. The steady production of RaggedEndings seems to stand in as my purpose here, those produced by the continuous generation of questions never intended to be definitively answered. It doesn't matter whether the butler did it, for, as Shakespeare wisely insisted, the story's the thing. Resolution was never anything but a dream. WhatNow?

©2020 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved








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