Friday, June 26, 2009

Bathroom Monologue: Words in Tribute to In Tribute to Auguste Rodin’s The Thinker

If there is a piece of art that has influenced the Bathroom Monologues, I lament that it is not a short-short. It is not microfiction, flash fiction or shotgun fiction. It’s not prose or poetry – it’s not in print at all. The seminal piece of art in the Bathroom Canon is a sculpture.

It is Auguste Rodin’s The Thinker.

If I were a good writer I would lie about the origins of my affections. They would come from values instilled by parents, a deep spiritual connection made upon visiting it at a museum, or from some overwhelming burble of art history.

Instead, the origins of my affections come from Dobey Gillis. It was a black and white sitcom on Nick At Nite about an unusually introspective student. Dobey often opened the show by breaking the fourth wall and talking about issues that weighed on his mind, usually in front of a replica of The Thinker. Dobey, diminutive and not terribly bright, mimicked its position as though in religious ritual. Ever afterwards it was a monolith to thought that could inspire and be emulated by mere mortals like my ten-year-old self. I got the religion of Rodin from Dobey Gillis.

I got A.D.D. from genes, which meant whenever I assumed this position, or began the deep thoughts I associated with the statue, it didn’t last long. So these thoughts would be brief, just long enough to provide a little mental satisfaction. A little contemplation on why Skeletor didn’t save up several of his apocalyptic plans and hatch them at once, since He-Man could barely overcome any one of them given nothing else to do. A little contemplation on whether the bearded giant God my grandparents believed in really was in the flower outside the window since they said He was in all things. And a little contemplation on why Nick At Nite started so late.

The prototype for short-short fiction, don’t you think?

It’s funny because The Thinker wasn’t originally an independent statue. It was meant to be at the top and center of Rodin’s Gates of Hell, a tribute to Dante Allighieri’s Divine Comedy. The Thinker himself was originally to be The Poet, a reference to Dante himself. A version of him can be seen in that massive sculpture, perched just above the break in the double doors, surrounded by naked ladies and looking at the demons emerging from the frame. Think about that. Our culture really has taken a pickaxe to chastity, hasn’t it?

No man, woman or child who isn’t told that was what Rodin meant has ever looked at that sculpture for the first time and thought, “He’s pondering the nature of Dante’s Hell.” Maybe he’s considering a lost love, maybe it’s legal reform, or maybe he’s just taking a dump and has some form of Hell on the mind – but the exact origin has lived independent in the art since it was made. And separate, it has inspired more wonder than Rodin’s complete Gates of Hell entirely. The one man statue has become personal art that begs individual thought. Hell, it’s become the icon.

But think about that again. The Thinker is just one tiny bit, a brief snatch of the grand design reflecting the Italian epic poem. It is the Bathroom Monologue of sculpture. A microcosm torn from the whole, and frayed in context, inspiring more than it is. It’s a shame I can’t chisel words as well as Rodin did his idea.

I’m so taken with the statue that for a good year I intended to photograph myself in such a pose on the toilet as the author portrait for these Bathroom Monologues. What a visual pun it would be. But any time I got the nerve to request a digital camera, a consortium of parts of my brain jumped and beat the crap out of me. You see, there are some puns that even I will not make, and most of those have to do with dragging someone else down. A lot of the time I don’t mind making an ass out of myself, but to do it to someone or something I revere? Doing so will cause me to go somewhere alone, put an elbow on a knee and reflect many of the worst emotions that people have projected onto The Thinker. The offense I might give, even to an unthinking hunk of rock a continent away, will put me before my own Gates of Hell.

Skilled biographers will analyze the use of puns and cheap metaphors in the above paragraph to psychoanalyze me. I request they do it in an original pose.

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