A Hunger Artist


I knew a man once who was molested by a young girl, a few years older than him, when he was a child. He had a fascination with extraordinarily thin women. He said he found it attractive, and although I didn’t doubt it, I think his interest lead back to this incident. What he found attractive was that pre-pubescent body. This girl, who had probably been molested herself or worse, imprinted on him an ideal of pleasure that he sought throughout his life. It was as if he wanted to recreate the situation so that as an adult he could shed himself of guilt or hurt or emptiness or what ever it was that perplexed him. It was also a pleasure that was thrust on him before he was able to understand it. It seems that no one helped him, no one mentioned it again. They simply separated them and then sent him away, leaving him to search for this unconscious and uncontrollable ideal for most of his adult life.

He was seemingly always on a quest to control his body, the vessel of his emotions, whether it was through exercise, or quitting smoking or collecting others who he thought embodied his desires. While he starved for love. He believed he acted under the guise of being “healthy”, because healthy in body meant healthy in mind. If he could just find the right soul-diet he could wipe away the rape of his youth. Perhaps he also saw plump women as lacking in emotional self-control. They allowed themselves to wear their needs, to let their inner emotions show. Something he desperately wanted to do – express his inner self, but was too afraid. Instead he sought refuge in control.

To me, he represents a model of our own cultural view of the body. America has lost it’s innocence. Our food was stripped from it’s sacred and personal aspects. Apples forced to ripen before their time line our produce sections, looking lovely and tasting bitter. And we scoff at yard gardens and co-ops as Morbidly obese people walk our streets, showing off our cultural illness of need and gluttony. Just around the corner is the next fad-diet that will restore us, make us whole, make us healthy.

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“A Hunger Artist” explores the familiar Kafka themes of death, art, isolation, asceticism, spiritual poverty, futility, personal failure, and the corruption of human relationships. Claude-Edmonde Magny has seen in the hunger artist’s isolation a “fundamental solitude” that is part of the human condition.

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Some say we lost our innocence, that we left Eden’s palace,

when a young president’s skull and brain fragments were blown into a pink mist in Dallas.

…Up to that point, the only threat to our innocence had been watching Annette Funicello sprout breasts on national television.

Although our prepubescent minds were filled with lust, we really had nothing to fear,

because Annette Funicello’s breasts were not that threatening,

they were more like breast-ca-teers.

But still we wait,

for the return of Valium yellow sunshine to burn a hole in this fog and return our world into a pastel paradise.

But it does not come.

And as we wait,

a sudden storm, man-made and malevolent, burst forth from the Oklahoma prairie, heaving dust skyward, occluding the sun, and CNN reports once again that this is our loss of innocence  (but I ask you:)

How many times can our innocence be lost,

I mean, is a prostitute who suffers total amnesianow declared a virgin?

How can we be innocent when we plowed our fertile prairies into furrows and plantedrows and rows and rows and rows of dead Indians, then watered them with the sweat of African slaves,and asked the good lord above for the ground to be fruitful and multiply by performing a ritualistic, salesman’s tap dance.

And the good lord responded and the ground was indeed fruitful and it did indeed multiply and sprung forth office parks, strip malls and subdivisions.

Well it seems to me:

that the proto-typical American

is Mary Kay accessorized with a Gatlin gun.

Did we innocently steal this land?

Innocently,

like when I was a kid and I wanted a skateboard,

but my mama would not let me have one.

So I took one anyway,

and she made me return it, giving me a lecture on mine and yours and theirs.

I grappled with this concept until one day my mama said,

“Be careful with your little sister.”

I thought, “Ah, she’s my little sister.”

So I took her up the street and traded her to Kenny Jones for a skateboard.  I thought my mama would be proud of me but instead she did to me what the Indians did to the settlers– she scalped me– or as we say in the south, “She snatched me bald headed.”

Now maybe I understand those old westerns.

Is this the way we innocently stole this land?

Like a child steals, or like a dog will eat from the bowl of another, because they are still connected to the oneness – to the holy oneness of everything.

That is beautiful, but it is a strangely Zen concept for a property owning nation.

Is this the way we killed tens of thousands of “guilty” Iraqi civilians?   Because a bomb does kill innocently.

Even a so called “smart bomb” cannot not distinguish innocence from guilt.  A truly smart bomb would be one that could blow the guilty to bits and would leave one whose character leans to the decent alone– It’d might even buy a decent person a round of drinks.  One whose guilty of let’s say– a little too much vanity– it’d leave them clad in clothes off the rack from JC Penny.

A sort of smart-ass bomb– one more Groucho Marx than John Wayne.

These are some of fogs and mysteries of our recent history,and our history is indeed a mystery.

It is a mystery that requires a great detective.  And the best detectives are not Angela Landsbury, teaming up with Dick Van Dyke, Andy Griffith and whatever down on their luck, hasn’t worked in twenty years, looking for any role they can get, I don’t know, The Partridge Family Murder Mystery Series – where they travel around the country in a psychedelic mini van solving impossible, implausible crimes in the last five minutes, the guilty are locked up so we can innocently consume whatever products are advertised after the miraculous denouement.

It is time, my friends, for us to stop declaring our selves innocent and say,

“I was no where near the scene of the crime, I was busy watching Top Cops at the time, but still I am the murderer.”

Or: do we continue to declare ourselves innocent and proclaiming, “You’re God Damned right I’m innocent– and I will kill anyone who doubts it– and I will enter heaven, even if I have to climb the mountain of corpses beneath me”

-Chris Chandler

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