Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Splitting the Infinite

Words are my toys. I like to brazenly make mountains out of molehills, to perilously snowboard their verbose slopes, to secretly spelunk their cavernous underbellies. Most of all, I like to gleefully split infinitives.


My English teacher used to always tell me that, someday, I was going to seriously regret splitting infinitives. To constantly split infinitives, she told me, was to wantonly commit an act against nature, and the Universe would find some way to properly exact judgment against me.

I didn't believe her. 

Not until today.

While trying to again split an infinitive, I accidentally split the Infinite.

He is, after all, the Word.

I was expecting to really see something spectacular, like an eclipse accompanied by large chunks of the Earth succumbing to centrifugal force, or storms with surges larger than Al Gore's ego, or perhaps Elvis having cheeseburgers with Jimmy Hoffa sans Quikrete. Turns out I was to sadly be disappointed. Instead, I found in my living room, in my recliner no less, a guy who looked a lot like Armin Shimerman, if Armin had a beard and slightly larger ears. He sat with his hands tented, and a brief smile playing in the clearing of his lower face.

"Well, " He said, "Your English teacher DID warn you."

I had to quickly choose between conflicting urges at this point: having a fair idea who this was, the urge to prostrate was strong; but, regardless of my respect for Shimerman's work, the idea of kneeling at his feet was somewhat absurd to me. I opted for hospitality.

"Would you like some bread and wine?" I asked, offering what I had handy. I used to normally have sardines as well, but had already consumed my daily quota.

His smile broadened. "I could ask you the same thing," He chuckled, "And I think you may need it more than I do right now."

For the sake of doing something, I poured us each a glass and proceeded to gingerly hand Him His. He raised His glass. "L'Chaim!"

"To you, " I replied, and drained my glass. I sat back down in my writing chair.

With my nerves steeled, I tried to preemptively rectify the situation. "I need to really..."

He cut me off. "I don't believe that you understand yet what you have done," He said. "What you need is to begin again."

With my eyes still on Him I nervously lifted my glass to drain it again. This did nothing to help my courage, since there was almost as little wine left in the glass as coherent thought in my head. I saw my water bottle on the desk and picked it up instead, taking a swig of some of the best wine I've ever had, and choking. In an instant He was up and smacking my back, concern and a slight giggle in His voice. "You're OK? That one never gets old for me, you know. Old Abe at the wedding," He shook his head in pleasant reverie. "Good times."

He handed the bottle back to me. I glanced up at Him and sniffed before I tentatively sipped again. He returned to my recliner, and I started over.

"What I think I did, Lord - May I call you "Lord"?" He acquiesced with a brief wave that straitened the pictures on the wall, "- is that I think I broke the cables that bind space and time, and everything will begin to sud - um, to fall suddenly into decay and chaos." I sat back in my chair waiting for the blast.

It was a blast of laughter. When David mentioned the "laughing to scorn," he didn't mention how that affected the scorned. When others think you're a fool, you can content yourself with the assumption they're wrong. This laughter accepts that you're a fool, assumes that you know that, too, and then makes you reject yourself as a fool, willingly and with no other option. This isn't the maniacal laughter of the villain, or the derisive laughter of the one who takes pleasure in the fall of others. This was the knee-slapping hilarity that ensues when an inside joke is shared, and which ends in wiping away tears of merriment and arms around one another's shoulders. I'm serious, there was actual knee-slapping. He leaned forward and lightly punched my shoulder.

"Buck up there, Buddy - May I call you "Buddy"?" I have no idea what my face said, but He continued. "Philip, then. No biggie here, Phil." He patted my shoulder again. "Does everything look likes it's coming to pieces to you?"

I looked around. My mother couldn't have cleaned the place up like it was now, the stars were visible even with the apartment lights on, and there were sardines next to the bread. "I'll be goddamned!"

He laughed again. "No, see, that's the point here. You won't be goddamned. Not by me, anyhow. There's only two of us that can do that, and I refuse to God damn you. I suggest that you refrain from doing so as well."

"So," I said. "No chaos then? There seemed to have been last time."

"No, no chaos then, either." He shook His head. "See, the first time someone intentionally tried to split the Infinite, he failed dismally, moved here, and began teaching others to try also. The difference with these others (your ancestors, in case you hadn't guessed, and other extended family members) was that they actually contained the Infinite. As each sought a piece for himself, he obtained it. The Infinite was split."

A realization dawned on me. "I didn't do anything particularly special, did I? Splitting the Infinite."

"Accolade and garland special, no. Short-bus special, on the other hand..." He grinned. "See, the Infinite isn't something to be grasped, until it's handed to you. It's the attempt to steal it for yourself that cuts you off, that makes what you have finite and temporary."

We both reflected for a moment. "So, if I split the Infinite, the Infinite splits?" There's no good time to pass up a bad pun. We both smiled, He more broadly than I.

"For the Infinite to be, it has to be everything, so the situation had to be remedied. Otherwise, the situation you were afraid you caused would be the current one. That which had been separated had to be restored. The pieces had to be without separation or confusion. They had to be freely given and received. When they were freely given, the splitting that occurred was the cause of what you assumed to be chaos the last time."

"Splitting doesn't always break things?"

"Of course not," He said. "Try giving of yourself sometime."

I passed the bread and fish and poured another glass of the the excellent vintage for each of us - no matter how much nose a wine has, it doesn't taste right out of a water bottle. While I masticated, He continued.

"There was a lot of splitting that day, and I don't mean the disciples!" He joked. "My body, the veil, the graves; and it was all part of setting things right, drawing them all together, making one new man out of two."

"What I did is all taken care of, then?" I asked Him. "Is there something I have to go and do?"

"My son, " He said as He rose from my recliner and reached out His open hand to me. I found myself finally on the floor at the feet of Armin Shimerman. "Go, and split no more." He disappeared. His voice returned for one last word. "Also, have some bread and wine."

He split. I plan not to do so again.

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