alnilam 6

Some quotes, and silly little notes to go with them.

Cahill is approached by a man called the Navigator, who proceeds, in a roundabout way, to (maybe) summarize the goddamn book for me:

“The thing’s bound in, don’t you see. It can’t be any other way than it is. You ask the right question, in the right way, and the universe has got to give you the answer, and there’s not but one. It’s where you are, where you stand, where you sit, where you’re flying. There’s no other place for you to be than right there, because the numbers line up… they come together, and they put you right in your location, no matter what you’re doing there. That doesn’t matter: it could be anything. What matter is complicity, the connection: your complicity between you and the big thing, the biggest of all. When you have that, you can do anything at all. Your boy used to say it’s like a right-handed fighter throwing the punch from his right heel. The ground gives you the force to knock the ass off the other guy. It comes all the way through your leg and body and out your arm, and if you hit him, he can’t stand. The universe has established you; you have a base. The main thing is that you know it, and you know you know it, and you know how you know it. It’s a collaboration, really; the thing is built in, and it turns on what is, really, a mystery, and unknown thing that’s right.”

Location, self-awareness, a centeredness in the self and your knowledge of the self. Cahill inhabits his body like this, though when the Navigator pauses he offers

“This is high talk,” Cahill, said. “I don’t understand it no more than Zack does.”

Also, the title drifts into play:

“…’What is centered,’ he asked me. ‘What is the center, the dead center of something? Something big? Something in the winter sky? The night sky.'”

“What is?” Cahill asked.

“The star at the center of the belt of Orion, which is the most obvious of the winter constellations in the Northern Hemisphere. But, I told him, it has to be a moving center; the whole thing seems to move, move across. The central star is called Alnilam, which somebody told me means string of pearls in Arabic. I remember he said, ‘That doesn’t throw me. The moving center. You like that. It carries you with it, and yet it’s always the center. You follow. Everything follows, and holds together.’

Cahill moves from person to person. Carrying on about Cahill’s son, Joel, and his curiosity and his personal magnetism. Everyone loved him, he wanted to learn every damn thing, on and on. The image of a prodigy, his death a loss felt by every (damn) person anything like close to him This instinctive holism with which he approaches this and that.

“Engines used to interest Joel a lot. He really didn’t know much about the actual parts, as far as I could tell, but he had a great feel for just what an engine would do, and what it wouldn’t. We would do orientation work in the big hangar, and one of the mechanics would be showin’ an engine part, like a piston, say, and he would look at it and make some crack about the whole engine’s bein’ different from the parts: as being somethin’ completely beyond the parts. He said he was sorry for the parts, because they was beautiful in themselves, you know, just as objects kind of, but they really didn’t have no reality until they was ‘taken up into the engine’; he seemed to think it was like they had to be passed on, somebody or somethin’ had to certify ’em, like Saint Peter, before they could get into the engine, like it was in a way going to heaven, or some great place, some other place.”

In his blindness, Cahill constantly reaffirming his image of the world, assuring himself of its physical consistency, falling back on that one reliable thing, his body, his undeniable center, when doubts and loneliness nag at him.

…Cahill putting his feet down soberly, setting them in the sand and picking them up a little reluctantly as he listened for the stairs he had been up and down once before; there were three, and they wouldn’t change.

Where am I going? he thought. Where am I ever going? I am supposed to be on the road through some woods, but I could be in an open field with nothing in it but me, no other people, my dog gone, nothing but the next step, silent, seen by nothing, heard by nothing. He pulled up his pectoral and trapezius muscles, and they were hard in the wordless snow, the small-ticking flames in his face, the endless curtain-hang through which he was going, as they had ever been in sunlight, with Ruiz beside him on the pressing bench, drops of pool water mixing with sweat on his good-natured straining body. It came to him then, out of the recall of effort and sunlight, that never in his life had he looked upward into snow, and seen it coming down to him. He imagined it would not be white, but some kind of dark, an enormous shadow in a million pieces.

Sightless, he’s left to speculation, a mirror of the feelings he has as he looks after his dead son, who he likewise has never seen and must now form an image of based on second-hand report. Later, he’ll despair, voice how useless his task is, how foolish it is to hope to find anything when he wanders blind, at the direction of others.

When he stepped in from the snow on to the hard floor at McLendon’s… and he was in the heat and confusion of voices he associated with the place, Cahill balanced for a moment or two, getting solid, setting up the dimensions and relationships of the room in his mind

Sometimes we see, through the dubious columns, the difference between the images he forms of people and their actual appearances But he seems to get along alright, at least once assuring himself that the image he formed is simply the way he wants it to be, is something he can work with, and its literal accuracy isn’t worth worrying over.

It’s late, I’m tired. Here, Cahill climbs into the bath to wash away the chill of the snow, and the imagery suggests the constant, necessary fires of creation in his mind:

The presence of snow was also leaving: the ticks of flame in his face, the scatter as of hooded coins, the released and compulsive swirling about, the seething, the hiss from all sides, the in-ranging, the suggestion of hammers and anvils, paper-thin bells, forge-fires, the peltering of sparks, the bee shower, the vague quick coals dying instantly, and the sense of disclosure there in all that hoodedness and numbness and unlikeliness–was that gone? What had Harbelis meant? Was he supposed to pick up on what it might have been? Guess it? Build a meaning that he could add to, when he went back to them tomorrow? He shuddered, now helpless, the whirling envelopment of the snow gone except as a memory of discomfort temporarily dispelled, but returning as the water cooled. The cold room outside the door waited also, with linoleum ready to frost the brain through the foot-soles before he could lump into bed, and beyond that the town purposelessly feathered and draped in whiteness, half stunned, frozen in midair and skidding underfoot, and beyond that the countryside, and the field with its silent aircraft, having nothing, not even their engine noise, to defend them. They are parked in rows, he remembered, preparing to get up from the tub floor according to routine, as he did almost everything, envisioning aircraft in a long line marching away from him out of sight, and the top wings–McCaig said they had two–formed, from his angle–which could have been everywhere but was here–one single wing all the way up to the horizon, a wing of snow, pure wing, ready for unimaginable flight when the weather cleared, or ready now.


~ by ironcupshrug on 02/10/2010.

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