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Positive Feedback ISSUE 3
october/november 2002


The Mysteries of His System

The Verses in His Life

A Love Story


by Barry Grant



Part Ten


there is too much there there

—John Cage



"Professionally designed and installed closet organizing devices are only a partial solution to the problem of domestic disarray," Audie observed as he burrowed through the scrum of dry goods that lived in the network of poles and racks and bins in the bedroom closet. "Whenever I put something in the closet, everything is fine. Whenever I look for something, everything is a mess. How can that be?"

Audie pulled a striped sock from the patch pocket of his blue blazer. "My mind is like the bedroom closet," he said to himself. "Self and system, noise and music, time and spirit all tossed together omnio-gathero. The linguistic philosophers say metaphysical problems arise from the misuse of language. . . Can proper conceptual organization alleviate mental muddles?" Audie plunged his arms into a thicket of sweaters and scarves. "Any organizing system is arbitrary, not arbitrary exactly. . . artificial, pragmatic. One solution to a problem that has many solutions. Socks here, but they could be there. Handkerchiefs with shorts, while they could as well go with the tee shirts. Didn’t Wittgenstein realize this in his later philosophy?"

"Pruuuuue," Audie howled into a heap of caps, gloves, and wool socks laying higgledy-piggledy on the top shelf. "Have you seen my gray sweater? The one I always wear?"

"Is it in the hall closet?" Prudence answered from the kitchen where she was making sandwiches for the plane trip to THE Show. Audie and Prudence always took homemade sandwiches on domestic flights.

"Never mind. It was . . ." Audie yanked the sweater from under a pile of cellophane-wrapped shirts and stuffed it into the old sea bag he used when he traveled. "Damn," he said glancing at his watch. "Prue," he yelled, "we’ve got to get going."

"What’s this?" Audie exclaimed, spying a scrunched up piece of paper stuck between a suitcase and several shoe boxes. "The closet is a mess, but it’s not a waste bin."

He carried the crinkly ball to the kitchen, pressing it into the grain ridges of the oak table from Edith as he flattened it. "It seems to be a test. Printed on that paper the nurse pulls across the examination table. ‘The Mysteries Quiz.’ Strange."

Prudence put the last aubergine and onion sandwich into a canvas carrying bag and glanced down at the paper. "It’s a perfect name for a quiz, Audie," she said.

"Prue," Audie exclaimed. "It’s about us! ‘All progress comes from uncertainty.’ I said that to you, or to myself. I don’t remember. I remember thinking it could serve as the basis for a theory of history. A theory only needs one good idea. The rest is exegesis. . . And you said this about Mr. Bell and birds. And this about perfect things, the most wonderful and terrible idea I have ever heard. How did it get there? Where did it come from?"

Prudence grasped Audie’s hand and pulled it to her lips. "Who knows where one thing ends and another begins? Everything connects. The closet has an opening in the bedroom and one in a room in another city or suburb."

"Like that man in the movie with a hole in his head?"

"Like that. Or maybe we are not alone in this apartment. Maybe someone enters and leaves messages in obscure places. We think we are the authors of our lives, but who knows. There are mysteries everywhere."

"Like that man who shaves and paints and coats and covers CDs for better sound? It’s not just ones and zeros and no one knows why."

"Like that, a mystery. There are many reports of objects dematerializing in one place and rematerializing in another. Most people don’t take them seriously."

"The dominant ideology precludes awareness of these phenomena?"

"Yes. The surprise theory of reality at work—if it would be a surprise if it were true, it isn’t!"

"Ha!" Audie said, his eyes lighting with pleasure at his beloved’s cleverness. "That’s great, Prue! Sure, people say, ‘I’d be surprised if this amplifier sounded good with these speakers’ and believe it wouldn’t. Or they say, ‘I’d be surprised if there was an international banking cabal,’ and believe there couldn’t possibly be one. Or they say, ‘I’d be surprised if there was a cycle of birth and rebirth’ and continue their egoistic ways. It explains a lot."

Audie bent forward. Prudence gently kissed the top of his head. Audie loved it when Prudence kissed him like this. He felt as if all his sins were forgiven.

"Prue, sure everything connects. I was just thinking that, sort of. But aren’t you afraid? Who wrote the quiz. Who put it in the closet?"

Prudence brushed the side of her hand across Audie’s cheek. An arch smile spread across her face. "Didn’t you once say ‘at a certain level of analysis all theories are absurd’?"

"I guess I did."

Prudence took the paper from the table, pressed it against her cheek, and laid it down. "Whoever put the paper in the closet," she said, "a spirit, an occult will, or a being beyond our understanding, is friendly and means us well. I’m not afraid."

"OK, I relax."

Audie grasped Prudence by her shoulders and gazed into her soft brown eyes. He pulled her toward him. His lips met her lips soft moist lips tender comforting lips sweet loving lips. Audie and Prudence loved to imagine that the faint indentations of their lips meshed in a numinous harmony.

"You are always right, Prue, about the important things. Most things, actually. Almost every single thing, really. But, you were wrong last week about the concert. One hundred and four washing machines in simultaneous action make a majestic sound."

"Oh Audie, I love you," Prudence said. " I liked the concert too. Only I couldn’t help thinking about one hundred and four women loading the machines hundreds of times in their lives."

"Look! How could we have missed this?" Audie pointed to a sentence at the bottom of the page. The person with the most correct answers wins a prize. A John Cage CD of zir choice. ‘Zir’? Did we miss a liberation movement? You send your answers to Do you think bgrant has a hand in this, or is it a drop box address? And why John Cage? Cage believed in freedom and people making up their own minds, not in right answers and sneaking into closets."

"Audie, we’ve got to catch our plane. If we miss this flight, there’s not another until tomorrow, and we’ve got to find Mr. Bell."

Audie looked up at the Cyclock dangling from the kitchen ceiling. "It’s a beautiful thing Edith made, but I still don’t see how can you read a clock that shows sidereal time simultaneously in twenty-four zones?"

"You look and you see," Prudence replied.

Prudence carried the canvas carry-on and her suitcase to the front door.

 "What’ll we do with the quiz?" Audie asked as he set his sea bag next to the suitcase and pulled on his jacket.

"We shouldn’t enter the contest. We know all the answers, or most of them. If we leave it on the table, someone who wants a John Cage CD may find it and win the prize."

"Prue, that is a sweet idea," Audie said as he grabbed the bags. He bent his head and lapped at Prudence’s neck, smiling as he recognized the familiar taste, bitter from perspiration and residue of olive oil soap.

The apartment door closed with a gentle snap. Audie and Prudence departed for the fertile valleys.



The Mysteries Quiz

Match the name to the words:




Dr. Johnson

Dr. Johnson

Dr. Johnson



Mr. Bell


1. All progress comes from uncertainty.

2. Hhhrrrrrrrrrrrrrruuuuuuuuuuhh.

3. Things are perfect in themselves.

4. How is your system?

5. What does it mean that one day I didn’t know the difference between a wave going down before it goes up and a wave going up before it goes down and the next day and every day after that day, every time I hear the difference I am happy? Can a person change like that?

6. I am not the man I once was. But who am I now?

7. Rice and Beans for a One World Dream.

8. Did the piano player have a pompadour?

9. Probably 60 cycles. That makes sense.

10. A man’s system is in truth the man himself made manifest.

11. The perfect state of Euglena gracilis is forever lost to us.

12. Can I love a man who regards appearances with suspicion?

13. Keep listening.

14. There is only Original Sound in all its manifestations.

15. "And" is the most important word in the language. If there is a god, that’s god’s word. The world is not one, it is and.

16. You are most yourself when you pretend to be someone else.

17. Is the Absolute One?

Submit answers to The entrant with the most correct answers wins a John Cage CD of zir choice. Ties resolved through chance procedures.

Contest closes 01.02.03.


Click here to read all the
The Mysteries of His System, The Verses in His Life, A Love Story
(Parts 1 to 9)
by Barry Grant