Welcome to Our
25th Year of Publication

July 2024

The Stranger Face of the Friend
Part Four

Brian George


Giorgio de Chirico, Gladiatorial Arena, 1927


At cross-purposes, wearing constellated masks, two actors perform what they are scheduled to perform, and they may not turn to applaud each other’s skill, even as death’s birdsong can be heard. They just turn their heads aside. In the amphitheater that looks like downtown Worcester, they do not notice how the small waves lap the lower steps. They do not notice that these waves are getting bigger, that dolphins are circling the pretzel stand, that their feet are very cold, or that their shoes had started to squeak many centuries in the past. In spite of our great freedom, it is difficult for us to be other than who or what we are. Collapsing the wave function, by violence crafting a location for the socially-programmed self, we pull one story from the oceanic flux of all potential versions of that story.

We would far prefer to believe that we are conscious. We would far prefer to believe that our talents are our own, that our names are not detachable. We would far prefer to believe that the ignorant hear what we say. We would far prefer to believe that our actions all make sense, that we know where we were born, that a luminous tide was not waiting to retrieve us, as though it were possible to have an “up” without a “down,” or a shore without a seabed. No artist should ever feel misunderstood. No teacher should ever feel that his gift has gone unvalued. Things should happen when we expect that they will happen. How troubling it is that they do not.

It would be so much easier to come equipped with all we need to know at birth. To forget, of course, is the reason we have chosen to be born. There are crimes that a nonexistent culture once committed, wells that we filled with blood. There are books we wrote on the wind that we grew too drunk to decipher. There are suns we threw into the bowels of the deep. There are gods that we dismembered, orphans we indifferently let starve, close family members that we struck down in a rage. There are vehicles that we miniaturized so as to tuck them in our pockets. We have accidentally turned these pockets inside out.

In moments of sudden illumination, we can, on an almost tactile level, feel how all the bits and pieces of our story fit together. The satisfaction that we feel, however, may be anything but complete, for the whole of the story can seem to have happened to someone else. The Perfect watch from the upper benches of the atmosphere. To themselves, they appear hunched over and attentive, with lamp-like elbows pressed on lamp-like knees. To us, the Perfect are no more than abstract points, just barely visible, but we can sense that they have some say in how the drama will be judged. We would probably go blind if we looked at them directly. It is a good thing, then, that our eyes just barely work.


Share This Page

View readers’ comments in Letters to the Editor

Brian George is the author of two books of essays and four books of poetry. His book of essays Masks of Origin: Regression in the Service of Omnipotence has just been published by Untimely Books at
https://untimelybooks.com/book/masks-of-origin. He has recently reactivated his blog, also called Masks of Origin at https://masksoforigin.blogspot.com/. He is a graduate of the Massachusetts College of Art, an exhibited artist and former teacher. He often tells people first discovering his work that his goal is not so much to be read as to be reread, and then lived with.
For more of his writings in Scene4, check the Archives.

©2024 Brian George
©2024 Publication Scene4 Magazine





July 2024

  Sections Cover This IssueinFocusinViewinSightPerspectives Special Issues
  Columns AdlerAlenierAlpaughBettencourtJonesLuceMarcott Walsh 
  Information MastheadYour SupportPrior IssuesSubmissions Archives Books
  Connections Contact UsComments SubscribeAdvertisingPrivacyTerms Letters

|  Search Issue | Search Archives | Share Page |

Scene4 (ISSN 1932-3603), published monthly by Scene4 Magazine
of Arts and Culture. Copyright © 2000-2024 Aviar-Dka Ltd – Aviar Media Llc.

Thai Airways at Scene4 Magazine