Surreal is just a word. If you look straight at reality it’s, uh, surreal. Think about it. What’s more surreal than any single day? What’s more surreal than a whole planet going on about it’s (bizarre) business and being hit by a microbe? To add super-surrealism to that, imagine the most affected species on that planet ARGUING about the reality of that microbe while, ultimately, six million people die? What’s more surreal than a species working daily toward its own destruction and then paying good symbolic wealth (in itself surreal) to watch films or read books depicting dystopian futures? What’s more surreal than a tiny, tiny, tiny bird flying all the way from the Yukon to suck nectar from my Scarlet Emperor Beans for a whole 3 minutes? What’s more surreal than any single day on this planet? It’s not surreal. It’s real. Like me, just now, typing “How many people have died of Covid?” and getting the data for the US as if there were NO OTHER COUNTRIES? And why did I do that? Because I confused the number of people who died during the Holocaust with the number who’ve died from Covid. If THAT isn’t surreal what is? Not surreal. Real. Absolutely totally real. OH and that we refer to THE Holocaust. Wow. I don’t think it’s even possible to count — or describe! — the number of historical holocausts. It’s just the “one” closest to us in time. Our penchant for naming things in order to dismiss them or pay knee-jerk respect to them is surreal. That’s surreal. A great poem that demonstrates the surreality of this naming fetish is The Naming of the Parts by Henry Reed.
On top of this reality we create philosophical structures to help us understand it, and they are completely bizarre, then, to add a skosh of total absurdity to THAT we have wars over them. Or are they just what our species would be expected to do by its nature?
Surreal isn’t all bad. I have a 90 year old pen pal in Seattle. How did I get this penpal? Well, the woman who ran the museum in Del Norte’s husband’s cousin, who became my penpal, wanted my notecards, and preoccupied with the museum and her husband’s extremely surreal death (not surreal, real), she didn’t send them to him. He found my business card and called me. Where did that lead? Well, among other things, the gift of a thermal cup from Starbucks at the Beijing Airport. Not surreal; real. An old man, on the trip of his dreams, through China with his daughter, bought souvenirs that he would have no use for, but he has a friend in the remote valley where he grew up who might value them. Real.
My dogs? “So, Martha, what do you want to do with your life?”
“Thanks for asking Walter (Cronkite). I want to walk dogs.” Everything else has been ancillary, apparently.
Surrealism in art is another thing. “I’m going to paint weird shit to show the world as it really is,” or something. I don’t know, but other than Dada which set out (partly) to depict the horrific reality of WW I to counter the (surreal) propaganda, I don’t think surrealism is nearly as “surreal” as daily life. When my friend, looking at my paintings, made the comment, “What’s your obsession with reality?” I thought, “You’re blind.”
Nowadays when someone says, “That’s surreal,” I just shrug. Clearly they were just born. Our ability to perceive reality? Never expressed more clearly than by Towelee in this episode of South Park
Featured photo: me with a torn ACL back in 1992. The evening after this photo was taken, the Boys on Bikes took me to see Jurassic Park and to dinner at McDonalds. They’d scraped together all their money so I didn’t have to pay because they respected my injury and loved me. Surreal? Or the fact that the hospital refused to repair my ACL with surgery because I had no health insurance?