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After the Golden Age by Alvin Schwartz
Giving a glimpse into the formative years of comics and beyond.

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AFTER THE GOLDEN AGE for 09/19/2005
Vol. 2, #177

Yes--Flying Is Really Something Special!

Sometimes it's possible to break through. When you've gone where I've gone already, when you've discovered that the things we think are real and solid and permanent, even possible, are the result of an hypnotic consensus rather than immutably real, as I explained in a recent column, then it should be possible to, fly.

No, I don't mean literally flying in superhero fashion. That, in fact, is a relatively minor feat compared to what I'm really after. As long time readers of this column may recall, I've already managed to break through the reality-consensus in various ways such as observing that people, just about all people, glow! But you have to learn to see them without prejudgment or prejudice as to how they look.

You know, that is, that every passing face evokes a response in you, you like it or don't like it. You note expressions that are always somehow bound to your own past experience. In short, our everyday vision is inevitably judgmental. We can't normally look at a face without having a feeling or opinion about it, some kind of instantaneous and associative like or dislike. But when you can look without prejudice, then you can see what's really there. And you can see that almost everyone glows. In other words, see like a child, a very young child, and you'll see the glow. When you do, you've broken through the limiting consensus, the hypnotic state we all share.

But that's only a beginning.

For the most part, without the consensus, we really can't see anything. There's only a kind of presentational immediacy, a blur of light, sounds and color, formless and meaningless. The consensus, after all, provides the kind of common sense by whose means we share a world.

We need that world, of course. I need it. But I also need to be able to break free of it. I need to be able to see alternate possibilities, the realities of paths not taken more solidly than the wisps provided by dreams.

By the way, did it ever occur to you that superhero comics are really a form of dreaming? Many of the things we're drawn to and even celebrate, are consensual efforts to materialize our dreams, and for most they don't get much further than superheroes and wistful images of free flight.

So, for example, when I tell tales of an old car that can travel roads that get me to the Sixth Avenue Cafeteria during the 1940s where I can pass the time of day with Clark Kent and various artists and friends from that period -- well, these are what I call breakthrough dreams, dreams on the edge of the reality consensus. By now, though, I've become much better at breaking through the consensus. I don't have to depend on dreams of any kind. I go. And I see probable lives and selves and futures and pasts.

What does this gain for me? Are all these not also fragments of other consensuses? Yes, but when I come back to this consensus, this now, I understand a certain freedom of being. I understand that the worst things are not inevitably fixed, and the best can be retained. It's like Superman's impermeability. And it's available. You can get there.

It's easier, perhaps, when you've reached an advanced age. Because by then, you've seen so many changes in the consensus that you're less locked into what seems to be at any particular time. Your time-span experiences cross so many boundaries that once seemed so fixed and inevitable. So, to those of you who think in simple terms of flying like Superman, I say, keep at it. Someday you well might. Although not quite in the way you thought when you first started out.

--Alvin

<< 09/12/2005 | 09/19/2005 | 09/26/2005 >>

Discuss this column with me at my Round Table.


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