Charlie Bertsch (cbertsch) wrote,
Charlie Bertsch

There's No "I" In Ulysses

"Modernism protects your dignity," I think to myself as I open the door to the fourth floor, 20 ounce latté in hand, the words in my head stamped with the authority of a printing press. "And that's why it's a cop out, just like the passive voice." But I don't like that phrase "cop out" in this context and the analogy with the passive voice feels wrong too. As I head for the restroom, then, I return to the term "Modernism." You break things up. You rearrange the pieces. You end up with a mosaic. That's what I mean by this combination of praise and indictment. I push open the door, time dilating wildly the way it seems to during a car crash.

What's "passive" about a mosaic? All the links are cut. You don't know which piece came from where. And the only agent you perceive is the iconoclast himself. "This is my body, broken for you." But what about the bodies that preceded it? Every part belonged to a prior order. Artists are politicians. They don't want to take responsibility for what they steal. Standing at the urinal now, I replay that first sentence in my head. "Modernism protects your dignity," knowing all the while that the second person is itself a "cop out," whether I like that phrase or not. And what good is a dignity that derives from theft anyway? I debate starting the entry I was planning to write this morning here, where the train reaches the end of the line, wondering whether I should mention the fact that I'm thinking about dignity while taking a piss.

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