Brilliance On Behalf Of A Neurosis
Sometimes, by overcoming, we fail to overcomeÖ
Door knobs are horrible things. Do you know how many people donít wash their hands after taking a shit? Do you know how many people use their hands to cover their mouth when they cough, supposedly to protect other people from catching their cold, then touch the door knob as they leave the room? (Couldnít they just jump out the window?) Sometimes itís more than just a cold, they have a terrible flu, you hear them vomiting and retching in the bathroom, and smell the diarrhea that is more than a match for a hundred cans of Airwick; and then you hear them making these horrible, enormous coughs from the bottom of their lungs, like they were dying of Tuberculosis and spitting out blood, like they were trying to belch out their very insides to donate their organs to science while they were still alive. God help the rest of us, who want to live! These animals donít take care of themselves, donít seem to mind dragging themselves along on the verge of death, even seem to enjoy the attention they receive and the fear they provoke, as the people around them open windows for fresh air and, wishing them a speedy recovery, make even speedier exits.
The trouble is: those exits! How to get away without being contaminated! The door knobs! The endless hurdles of door knobs! What an insidious invention is the door knob, as fiendish as the firing squad. Why not doors you could simply push open with your foot, exposing nothing but the bottom of your shoe to the danger of contagion? But no, our society which has built rockets to take Man to the moon is still a prisoner of the archaic door knob, which has never taken into account the world-view of Pasteur. It lags behind centuries, lingering in the ages when Man thought illness was brought on by the curses of sorcerers and the power of demons, and could not yet fathom the deadly possibilities of a door knob, swarming with invisible swarms of malicious microorganisms. Incredible though it seems, we are, in some ways, even more primitive than our prehistoric ancestors, who were blessed by their simplicity to live in a world altogether free of doors.
Of course, you say: the glove! The obvious remedy to the nightmare! To the callousness of the infected, and the lack of nerve of our modern civilization to exercise its right of self-defense through euthanasia. But, alas, the glove is greatly overrated as a means of survival. Yes, you use it to turn the door knob - make it plural, the door knobs - one after the other, to work your way through the labyrinth of infected exits which bar your path to safety. Fine. But then what? Yes, then what? Your eye itches, you need to touch yourself. You are hungry and you want to eat. But by now your hand is entombed within the noxious confines of your protective gear. The glove which has thus far saved you is by now coated with a vile film of repugnant bacteria and alarming viruses, you can no longer use your hands with freedom and impunity, you are in fact, a virtual prisoner of your defensive strategy, bound and straitjacketed, as it were.
Remove the glove, you say. Of course! As if I hadnít thought of it. Yes, of course, remove the glove. If you are right-handed, and have opened the door knobs with your right hand, you will now remove the tainted glove with the left-handed glove, which henceforth shall be equally contaminated. And then, you who know so much, pray tell, where will you put the gloves? Into your pockets, to spread the filth to their lining? To take the chance that one day, in a disastrous moment of forgetfulness, you will accidentally place your bare hands into those very same pockets and so negate all the good work of self-protection you have done up until then? Even ignoring the danger of your compromised pockets, once it comes time to put your gloves on anew, as new door knobs appear in your path, as they inevitably will in a society as thoughtless and unprepared as ours, what then? How can you put on gloves whose outer portions are contaminated without touching them, and defeating the purpose of wearing gloves in the first place, by allowing your bare skin to come into contact with the contagion they were meant to barricade you from?
"Throwaway gloves", you say? Latex gloves, such as the ones doctors and food handlers use? As if it were that easy! Donít you know that our society which is microbiologically ignorant and slipshod, is also brutally prejudiced against the prudent, lambasting their highly-intelligent precautions against illness as "neurotic", and lashing out against them with cruel, collective, conformist rites of ridicule? For these unsparing ignoramuses of the herd, germs are as sensational and absurd as UFOs or sea monsters, and those who believe in them, and act as though they were real by seeking to protect themselves from them, border on being lunatics. While the masses wallow gleefully in a sea of diseases, the wise are called "hypochondriacs", mocked and ostracized. Unfortunately, the physiological advantage gained by protecting oneself from microbes is offset by the social and emotional disadvantage of being isolated, denied, and persecuted. It is a phenomenon which occurs in the home, the work place, and the street, separating one from family and friends, turning one into a pariah who the rest of society seeks to keep at a distance almost as if one, oneself, were one of the germs one has tried so hard to avoid. The use of throwaway gloves is, therefore, not a practical solution from the social point of view, although it is a biologically astute one. Unlike other gloves, which can be masked, in the winter, as part of oneís "normal person" apparel, or for ladies, under some circumstances, as part of oneís commitment to style, the "throwaway glove" is too obvious, too blatant, too glaring a signal of nonconformity for the masses, who wish to drag all Humanity down to their same level of bacteriological obliviousness. Or is it that he who breaks the collective suicide pact is somehow viewed as a traitor?
Throwaway gloves are like a brand in the hide of oneís soul, marking one, for the rest of society, as a "strange one", a "nut", an "outcast." How joyous they are in their mutual celebration of misery, what beautiful music they make together hacking, coughing, and vomiting; turning door knobs, and opening and shutting doors!
And I, more at their mercy than any other, for I am an opera singer whose voice cannot bear the slightest dent! I cannot get by whispering and wheezing, or croaking like a frog, as they seem content, and even exhilarated, to do. I have better things to do than drink lemon and honey, to pour boiling ginger tea down my throat like lava, to run vaporizers all night long steeped with eucalyptus leaves, merely because a horde of self-destructive barbarians cannot control their disease-spreading habits. I have the most glorious notes of Verdi and Puccini to uphold, before demanding audiences which have entrusted me with the preservation of civilization. They have not come to hear the music of a spittoon, they have come to hear the heroes and angels of the ages, whose voices make us human. They have not paid such a high price for their tickets, and sat themselves beneath chandeliers fit for kings, to listen to the gasping of a dying lizard; they have come to hear Tristan, Parsifal, Rodolfo, men who make them weep with passion, not shiver with fever. No, I cannot participate in this solidarity of mindlessness, this allegiance to thoughtless exposure to infection, this brotherhood of disease which saves the mediocre by disguising their mediocrity as mere physical incapability. I cannot crawl as they do, I must have the power to leap into the sky, to fly, to keep high places before the eye of Man. At least a few men and women among the billions of the earth will profit from the treasures my exertions bring back to the earth.
No, for those of you who see door knobs as nothing but a way to leave and come into a room, I have no respect, or should I say, I have pity; I am sorry, but you are blind, for the door knob is a weapon as fearsome as any ever invented, as ruthless as the spear, the rifle, and the bayonet, which the lonely rifle, distressed by its aloofness, added to its barrel to restore to it its ancient savagery; they are destroyers of light, joy, living, and capability. They are like the German machine guns which raked the beaches of Normandy, or the Turkish cannons which decimated the valiant Light Brigade. The door knobs of the world, defended from practical remedies by your spiteful mob reactions against medical prudence, your laughter and your recommendations of psychiatrists, haunt those who need their strength to make life worthwhile. Damn you, you illness-loving hordes! You creatures of the shadows, you bottom-dwellers and scavengers of greatness!
But I have found a way to protect myself in spite of you. Yes, to save this voice, which the refined cherish, from your brutal stampede, your cultural lynch mob sworn to glorify the lowest common denominator. It is called the frontal-pressure-door-knob- opener, a fitting name for an invention, which properly conveys its functional properties and suggests its technical nature; a name wholly unsuitable for a painting, opera, or other work of fine art, but absolutely splendid for representing a mechanical accomplishment, which requires a solid, workman-like title in order to be trusted. Anything "fancy" in the field of technology is, at once, suspect. Who, for instance, would ever dream of using the "screwdriver" if it were called the "Hyperborean Turning Implement"? I must confess that I was aided in the design and construction of this device by my good friend, A.P., who is a lover of the opera and essentially took on the role of my bodyguard by committing himself to this project, selflessly interposing his craftsmanship between my precious vocal chords and the swarms of bacteria seeking to silence them. The idea for the opener, however, was mine. Desperation drove me, as it has driven others through history, to an act of genius.
The crucial observation which I made which laid the groundwork for this device was the fact that when diseased hands - or any hands for that matter (but arenít most of them diseased?) Ė are placed upon a door knob to turn it, they do not actually touch the front of the door knob, but only its sides. Go on, see for yourself, try opening a door knob and you will see that I am right. Who would have ever thought it so? But it is from such tiny observations as these that the solutions to the worldís most impossible dilemmas are wrung.
This fact having been established, I realized that if I were able to turn the door knob by touching the front, while the rest of Humanity opened the door by grasping the knob on the sides, I might be able to avoid contact with the germs which they had spread all over it, and to, in essence, open an untouched door. It would be like inventing a new world, for myself alone, untainted, uncorrupted, pristine in spite of the filth which encircled it. The key problem to be solved was how to actually establish a grip with the door knob, if I only touched it on the front, which would still be powerful enough to enable me to generate the force needed to turn it. At last, the solution, which eluded me only briefly due to my detemination, leapt into my head in an overpowering moment of inspiration such as that which propelled Archimedes to rush naked out of his bath tub 22 centuries before. (He, at least, was clean, and contaminated no one as he ran through the streets proclaiming his discovery to the world.) Through the use of magnetism, I was sure, I could crack the problem. A magnet, placed on the end of a small and easily-concealed rod which could be hidden inside oneís hand, could be used to establish a powerful bond with the door knob (or so I thought), which could then be turned by contact only with the front. I envisioned some sort of electromagnet, which could be turned on and off, so that one could easily disengage the rod after opening the door without attracting attention to oneself by having to pull it off. I embellished the proposal by imagining the addition of easily-removed-and-replaced disposable liners in my pockets, so that the frontal-pressure-door-knob-opener, which might be slightly contaminated by bacteria migrating from one part of the door knob to another, could be stored in my pockets without contaminating them, and sterilized with an antiseptic spray at appropriate interludes. What a genius! What a comprehensive solution!
For a brief moment, my delightful residence on the technical cloud-nine I had lofted above me, was shattered as my friend, A.P., warned me of the fact that a great many door knobs were, in fact, not at all responsive to magnets. However, he found the original instinct of my concept to be "luminous", as he put it - God bless those who see! - and he quickly adapted my idea to another form of mechanical expression. He put together a strong and compact little device which, by the simple manipulation of a button, creates a powerful suction effect which forms an unbreakable "bridge" between device and door knob, allowing one to turn the door knob by frontal pressure; and which, by another push of the button, breaks the "seal" and allows the device to be disengaged. By cleverly blocking the line of vision of anyone behind me in a room I am departing with my body, I can conceal from them the fact that I am opening the door knob with a contraption rather than my bare hands, thus deflecting their ridicule and protecting me from their despising ways, as well as from their germs.
Yes, I know, we patriots of art who populate the world of the opera are considered to have a free rein to be eccentrics, with a license to be practically insane as long as we can hit our notes; but that is only the theory. In reality, we are subject to more judgment than people think. Perhaps Maria Callas, perhaps Pavarotti, or Caruso could afford to be as aware of door knobs as I am. But as for me, well - I am good enough to be odd, but no more, though I am proud to do my part to keep civilization from sinking. Unfortunately, in the eyes of an unimaginative world such as that we live in, my attention to my health is not, and will never be, understood. Rather than face the noxious clouds of infectious organisms cast in my direction, and what is almost as bad, the brutal gang-attacks of judgment generated by that lower level of consciousness which condemns all those who believe in the germ as a reality, I have chosen to defend myself with the brilliance of the human mind, which has elevated us from the forest and the cave to the glory of the Opera House. Though I know I am but one man in a vast world that has existed for ages, I feel that, in some way, my small story encompasses the story of our race, our defeat of limits and our conquest of adversity.
Truly, there is no obstacle that our genius cannot overcome!
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