I was listening to this story about meteors the other night on the radio. Meteors, it turns out, are distinct from asteroids in that they are “seldom any larger than the size of a raisin; and while asteroids are frequently concentrated from the remains of a planet that fell apart, a meteor can originate from the disintegration of a comet instead. Well, I turned off the radio when I heard that, because it reminded me that I don’t much believe in science – mostly because I don’t understand it; or else because I once got a ‘C’ on a test in elementary school for leaving out Pluto among the list of planets in our solar system: Sometime back when science announced that Pluto was no longer a planet is about the time I stopped believing science.
So, like I said, I turned off the radio, and started to read about the French Existentialist Albert Camus instead. Camus, it turns out, believed that our behavior should be dictated exclusively by “those three or four times in your life when your heart opened up” – before a Stranger, say, or else before the “benign indifference of the entire universe.” Well, I don’t much like for people to tell me what to do with my heart. So I closed that book, and started to read a biography of Stendhal instead. Stendhal, it turns out, despised the glorified salons of 19th century Paris, although if he was not able to speak with some very clever people in the evening-times, he felt “utterly asphyxiated to the point of death.” The kind of death, says Stendhal [I’m still basically quoting here] that “one might find in a terrible pillow-fight that has gone radically wrong.” Well, I don’t much care about cleverness all that much, especially not when it’s somebody else’s; and more importantly, I don’t much care for it when writers tell me about their writing processes—which always feels like a cheap and dirty little paradox to me like, say, bombing for the sake of world peace or having sex in support of virginity-awareness.
So I closed that book up also, and I dashed off to the nearest bookshop – of all places – for a breath of fresh air instead. This bookseller, as it turns out, was the kind of person you might meet three or four times in your life if you’re lucky; and she didn’t much believe in the value of cleverness either, probably because she had so much of it, or because she felt that you should not take her for her word because everything out of her mouth was “complete and utter horseshit” (those were, in fact, her words), and that, “if someone were ever to submit [her] thoughts to the eyes of the law, surely [she] would be hanged ten times a day, at least.” Well I’m not one to dance on somebody else’s funeral; I know when to take a hint. So I left the bookshop, and as I walked home I loosened up my collar a little and looked up to the stars—because you remember to do that sort of thing when you can breathe again—I remember thinking how strange and remarkable it is that something the size of a grape can sometimes light up the whole sky.