Speaking Emphatically Amidst the Flux: On Irony and Funyuns


When I was in high school, sitting at the town diner enjoying some french fries, I was known to declare, “This is the greatest fucking thing I’ve ever eaten!” The next day, while wolfing down some Funyuns, I’d declare, with equal emphasis, “This is the greatest fucking thing I’ve ever eaten!”

I did the same thing when listening to music. Traffic’s “Low Spark of High Heeled Boys”? No doubt, the greatest fucking song ever written. Jethro Tull’s “Baker Street Muse”? Oh, c’mon, the greatest fucking song ever written. And so on.

And you know what? Each time, my declaration was right. It’s not that my mind changed per se and I had to update some list of best things I’d ever eaten or best songs ever written (although I did know people who kept such lists; I was not one). It’s that circumstances changed and, for that moment, for that time and place, those french fries were the greatest thing I’d ever eaten and “Low Spark of High Heeled Boys” was the greatest song ever written.

What I’d discovered was the absolute within the circumstantial.

All is flux, yes. But as all there is is this flux, it is absolute — for a time. As a kid, I loved being overwhelmed by a Funyun or by Tull; I loved having every fiber of my being on edge, standing up, yelling: Yes! Yes! Yes! There is no other moment! This is it!

Everything gives way. I know that. I know that in every fiber of my being. At the same time, this flux is all there is: I am this flux (even if the flux exceeds me). I therefore try to live absolutely — and yet within circumstance: Absolute circumstance.

Irony has hence always attracted me. With irony, I can speak thoroughly of and with this world and at the same time recognize — and articulate — that all this will give way, is already giving way, even as I speak. If Socratic irony points to the infinite — or, according to Nietzsche, to nothing — my irony (I hope) points to the flux.

I speak with great emphasis and yet I know that things change — my mind will change, life will change, I’ll feel differently. Does this knowledge mean I need to temper everything I say? Qualify everything I say? Well, yes and no. I do qualify everything I say — in tone.

But at the same time, I love being overwhelmed by the moment, by an idea, by a song or a food or a woman or a book. I love that moment when my body and everything in my body declares, without hesitation, Yes! Even though it knows that that yes may become a maybe, or even a no, down the road. But, for the moment, the feeling is absolute.

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