The Rambler

A masthead of vagabonds, drunkards, and saints

C. Travis Webb

C. Travis Webb
Location
California,
Birthday
July 16
Bio
Writer, teacher, father, husband--definitely not in that order. If you've got the time, check out therambler.com.

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Salon.com
MAY 11, 2011 2:10AM

Fernweh

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The Germans have words for everything. And when they don’t have a word for something, they simply sew their nouns together and create linguistic monstrosities which are, none-the-less, terrific significations. These ingenious Frankenstein vocabularies often capture the state they’re after so succinctly that the words become a sort of philosophy unto themselves.

Schadenfreude–the pleasure derived from another’s pain–and Weltanschauung–the total worldview of a people–are just two examples. There’s also Zeitgeist, and Gestalt, and Kindergarten, and Augenblick–to name a few more.

And then there’s Fernweh.

It means, “an ache for distance.” It’s the opposite of Heimweh, or nostalgia, which is “an ache for home”–in the German and the Greek. Two antipodes, was and will be, and between the two pangs the entire bounded round of our whole damn race.

An ache for the distance. For the far. The not yet. The soon to be. The maybe someday.

And an ache for the past. The gone. The evaporating now. The “I remember when.”

We are moved to action by discomfort. Dissatisfaction drives us. Felicity is only a rest stop. Bliss makes us limp and lazy. Only joy’s retraction, jouissance’s hasty departure, drives us on. The distance calls. We are time’s tickled wound. A sensing sieve that assembles itself out of what passes beyond it–forever.

We meet on crowded avenues. Mingle until the final intermission. What’s your plot complication? What’s mine? These are the kind of questions we ask over dinner, wine in hand, already imagining the nothing between us. We tell the itale, the youfable–myyarn. Like some masturbating wiki, our redaction is constant, exhausting and necessary.

We’re usually lost. Rarely found. Always going. Soon gone.

The only thing to do is pray. However you can. With calculus, or words, free throws are fine, raising chickens if you like, meditate on the sierras threatening the sky, whatever; drinking, of course, is the preferred method. We are a material race, and as such, our spirits require life’s fermentation.

For me, tonight, this is my prayer. You’re inside of it now. Look around. Take some souvenirs. Throw out the garbage, and keep whatever you can find that has some resale value before you head out into the wild-blue wherever.

But while you’re here, I’ll take the time to fondle you–I hope you don’t mind. If you do, I apologize. You can do the same if you like.

Did you know that people who are cut off from human contact for extreme durations, when they are discovered, only engage in two activities? Masturbation and shit smearing. Freud claimed that fecal play was the precursor to visual art. It’s interesting, I think, that they don’t craft rhymes. Apparently, that only happens when there’s another set of ears. A poet needs an audience. Some sensuous cochlear curve to pour his honey into. Yes, there’s a reason that the muses are born of memory and spirit–Mnemosyne and Zeus. These shapely offspring of past and possibility are the want-groaning ache made manifest.

We paint before we speak to dispel the loneliness. Maybe one of the bison in Lascaux will respond. Maybe my waste will reveal God’s hidden arcology. Masturbation and the manipulation of death. It certainly tempers the ambitions.

More humbling than God’s wrath is His insignificance.

I don’t mean to be cryptic. It’s just me following disquiet into the dark.

An ache for the distance carries us on. For my part, I will twine myself to nothing and call it a sail. Let us lee one another. Make ourselves a Viking helm from kisses and three-way benedictions.

Did you hear? There’s a rumor floating around that we’re made of string, and the whole universe is a bridge folded over itself 11 times one. It’s fantastic, I know, but when I think of all that extra space in my chest, and all those spools of thread unraveling into the distance, it makes me ache all over with love.

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