Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Cupcake and the Rook's Dilemma



One of Cupcake’s favorite literary characters is in Dostoevsky’s “The Possessed.” The character, Kirilov, is a man who never sleeps. This is because he knows that some day he’ll kill himself. Until then, he stays awake, so he can live as much as possible.

Cupcake enjoys this irony. This isn’t because Cupcake is suicidal. (Cupcake makes no judgment about suicide; she’s certain there are times when it’s the most reasonable solution. In Cupcake’s opinion, suicide is a far less heinous way to squirm out of your problems than telling untruths, or, say, bulimia.)

Cupcake likes Kirilov because she understands being caught in the middle. As faithful readers of this blog know, Cupcake’s perspicacity has at times confused her.

Her first year of college, Cupcake went to Hampshire College, a “hippy” school. At that time, Hampshire’s student population was so predisposed towards the radical that wearing matching socks was seen as hyper-conservative. There, Cupcake didn’t fit in. She discovered that she was one of the most shockingly moderate students. (This largely because it’s Cupcake’s practice to buy dozens of the same socks. No matter how she shuffled them in her drawer, they always matched.)

Cupcake’s second year, she went to a Jesuit college in Rome. There, Cupcake still didn’t fit in, discovering herself to be one of the most radically left-wing students. (She believed abortion was a personal choice; she still does.)

Mind you, Cupcake didn’t modify her behavior in any way. She’s simply never managed to fit in, which is why she tries so damn hard to be invisible. (It never works.)

In The Phantom Tollbooth, Norton Juster (a Hampshire professor, at least at that time) created characters who were “World’s Shortest Tall Man,” and “World’s Tallest Midget.”
Cupcake liked those literary characters a lot, too. She understood.

So now, Cupcake is in a quandary.

Cupcake prides herself on her realistic outlook on life. But there are some aspects of Cupcake’s personality that defy logic. (Cupcake presumes her readers will agree that that realism is primarily logical.) These aspects often pertain to affection felt for people who’ve done nothing to “deserve” her affections. (See Winding Roads of the Heart, posting from November '05. I think. It's somewhere.)

Cupcake knows that a sure way to a confusing life is to change who you are all the time. As a playwright, Cupcake knows that Consistent Character Choices are crucial. And even though she is consistent, Cupcake is still often confused.

Like— in this particular case, Cupcake’s personal values mandate that she recognize and value another person, because person’s personality and values represent everything she's ever valued. Her choices in behavior are limited, as they must represent her values. Cupcake strives to enact her own ideals in all areas of her life. But in this area specifically, because it's all ABOUT values, she must behave according to Who She Is. To behave otherwise would be to make a Rook move in a diagonal line like a Bishop, or an L-shape like a Knight.

But by virtue of acting within the construct of her own personality, in a certain aspect of her life (which Cupcake demurs to confide to you), she’s screwed.

Someone has her over a barrel, or a desk, perhaps, like at the end of Secretary where the girl can’t move because she can’t disobey James Spader. She just can’t, because if she does, she won’t be herself. And then all hell will break loose and chessboards everywhere will churn with chaos and she’ll find that she IS suicidal or she might as well be because she’s simply no longer herself and she has no respect for herself and the sun will rise in the west and nothing will matter any more.

Or something like that.

Look, it's not that she's afraid of change. Cupcake’s not a coward. Cupcake was once mugged. Her companion was screaming so loudly that Cupcake couldn’t hear the mugger’s demands. So she walked closer to him, put her hand on his arm in a friendly way, and said, “I’m so sorry- - I can’t hear you. What is it you want? My whole purse or just my wallet?”

This caused the mugger to jump in terror, drop his knife, and run away.

Cupcake once stood on the deck of a burning tour bus which was about to explode and patiently assisted a handicapped passenger out of the lavatory. She felt only annoyance that the diesel fumes were so obnoxious.

Cupcake’s no chicken.

But she can only move with a certain range of motions, and that limitation is holding her in a holding pattern. Which is she supposes what limitations are supposed to do. Usually, that's just the way the game is played. In this case, it means that she's unable to move at all. Like a Rook blocked into its corner, she has no choices.

It's very hard for a smart girl like Cupcake to admit this. She's used to being able to figure something out. In this case, it seems like she just has to sit there and acknowledge that the game is over. But she can't leave the board.

Still. Maybe there’s some bright positive aspect to this that Cupcake hasn’t recognized yet. Sometimes perspicacity requires processing time. In this case she’s been processing for a good 90 days, but it’s not like there’s any urgency. Cupcake has the rest of her life to ponder this matter, and even though she has no plans to kill herself, she doesn’t sleep much anyway. So like Kirilov, she’s got extra time.

Cupcake must act like Cupcake acts, the way a Rook must act like a Rook. (Perhaps that’s what the crows were trying to tell her.)

I suppose when the game is over, the Rook can move any damn way it likes. But then it’s usually put away into a box, not left on the board.

What to do? What to do.

2 Comments:

Blogger cuff said...

I'm not sure I understood half of that. But I do know that "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds," or so says Emerson.

4:34 PM  
Blogger cosmic shambles said...

"The heart wants what the heart wants" or something like that. Although I can't really discern what you are talking about in this cloud of obscurity.

Reading Cupcake's blog can be exhausting!

4:06 PM  

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