Monday, October 13, 2008


Recently a friend sent me an Elvis bust made of molded rubber and complete with a good wig, animated blue eyes and lips. He came with his own microphone, batteries, and an adaptor. His lip lifts, his eyebrows rise, his eyes move and shift, his familiar voice comes out. I captured a picture with my cell phone late in the night and sent it to my 19-year-old niece. She texted me back instantly, asking Who is that??? When we spoke, she said it was creepy, she was worried. I reassured her that, in the light of day, and with a clear rather than fuzzy picture, Elvis is actually not scary but very charming. Part of Elvis is now propped on the cedar chest in the sunroom. When a friend walked in, she said, What the hell is that? We laughed, and punched his buttons so he would perform, play with us.

I conceived characters aeons ago, which I would become, each day being its own addition to the adventures (trials and sorrows) which grew into a mountain of joys when seen whole, the view from the overlook, and with some distance from that air.

Devils, angels, incubi, dart-throwers, gargoyles – all the fantastical creatures of allegory have been conceived by men and carved in every manner of medium, even (and often, especially) skin. We have made ourselves into the distorted images we see in our dreams, or the touched-up versions we see in our magazine spreads. Temper tantrums called up by children when pressed by fatigue, frustration, and a moment of emptiness show us what we adult characters grow into, with a little more costuming and maybe more flair. My parents taught us that tantrums are not acceptable, or desired, by thinkers. To be alive is to think and to do, to love life. I have thought about this a lot.

I think about how perfect this pattern/process is in relationship to how we act in our world with each other. How often are we propped up, wait until our bunches are punched, then rise to the occasion? Do we wait to be “plugged in”?
I think of the icon Elvis was and is. I never saw Elvis perform, but have seen plenty of monuments and trickets made and sold in his name. What would Elvis himself think? Elvis as Jesus. I don’t mean to blaspheme, but this is one of the points in my mind. We create images to worship, to manipulate, to suit our fancies, and converge upon them the powers that we want them to have in our world. Beyond a pure enjoyment, this symbol is scary. It’s only scary because I recognize how mammoth our lesson is – we ceaselessly search for ways to entertain ourselves, and yet we do not relate our images to every image we create and the roles our images perform for us.

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