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Page 217

Yes, art (like any game) depends on barriers as well as freedoms
(for there are many freedoms -- the open road lets you go
anywhere, as long as it's on or near the surface
of a blue-green ball; what of freedom to be at the earth's center
or that of the sun or Alpha-Centauri or an atom of plutonium
or an electron?) And yet, I must say a word for my sponsor
(or my spawn, sir): Total Freedom. When any place
is as good as any other, why go anywhere?
When I can be instantly when and where I choose,
why snail my way through time and space? When I can
BE you at will, why try to speak to you? What game remains?

But after aeons of spicing up games with barriers,
abandoning game after game, but leaving their barriers
in place (our ancient codes of conduct and the codes that
countered them and counters to the counters -- for we are
mostly thought, and we are the thought that counts,
growing number the while) -- our old barriers orbiting our heads
like litter from abandoned space stations in endless drift,
old games occasionally flaring into view like flashes
of lightning in attic windows that startle
cobwebbed pinball machines into brief,
rusty excitement. After enough abandonment,
the old barriers (their spicy savor lost, mere hunks
of stuff, millennia in which nothing happens -- parodies
of eternity, brick walls, wind-swept deserts, unapproachable suns
and interstellar vacuums, HOT! COLD! Don't touch! Beware
of the dyslexic Dog!), it becomes hard to play ANY game,
because the new barriers (the ones we know about -- the goalie
blocking our shots, the IRS, the mortgage, menopause...)
are reinforced by the ghostly ones (no less solid, but dimmed)
that we've forgotten about. We know we must pay our taxes,
but that sick hollow in the gut comes from an old game,
when we were a few zflatigers short, so were tortured,
mutilated, tied to a post to die publicly (an example)
after watching our families fed to scaly beasts.

After too many abandonments, too many games gone bad,
too many games won to the real or fancied detriment of others
(fancied because often those we defeat get even by playing dreadfully
dead), our barriers cease to be barriers, for how can there be
barriers without freedoms? How can we collide with anything,
when there is no space in which to move? Our barriers congeal
into a thick skin that we assume to be ourselves.

Note: Stanza 2: Since I describe old barriers as codes of conduct and codes that counter them, I pause for a chain of puns: moral codes and counter-codes, because we are, basically, thought (as opposed to body: Not eternal figuring, but an older sense of the word "thought", so we get into codes and counter codes because we are the "thought that counts", and in our confused profusion of abandoned codes (Never kill anything, kill the bad guys, etc.), we grow numb-er (number). Later in that stanza, among the barriers, I include "Beware of the dyslexic Dog!" – the reference being to fear of God as barrier, where God is frequently supposed to be misread as "dog" by dyslexics. Six lines later I refer to "zflatigers", a word you probably won't find in dictionaries – just a made-up unit of money from some long-long-ago society or world.

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