"The house of cards" by Melinda Smith

We are in an infinite loop of building and falling down

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Perhaps it is a house of cards, what we’ve built around ourselves, meticulously, carefully, painfully, and even indulgently. But who could do differently, deprived of touch?

I’ve read of prisoners who talked to the shade of a lover’s eyes in a burnt sunset while their friends turned to ashes in the sky. I’ve read of people turned into parlor walls. I’ve read of cars and voices and helmets that were the only wild animals we spoke of anymore. And I’ve read of books combusted into black-feathered doves.

Haven’t we all longed for the dandelions to mark us, too? Haven’t we all dreamt of this pain we so richly feel now? Did we not wish for it as a chance to become more? Do we not still?

The house is made of cards.

And what kind are they? Generic store-bought cards, perhaps, that speak like a pronoun in Italian, what they call the impersonal si. There is no I anymore, least of all in team, as the posters in the conference rooms tell us. We are greeting cards. We are nameless, anonymous hearts that mourn your loss sincerely.

Or is the house made of tarot cards or playing cards? Time cards for punching hours?

This house of cards. This house is made of cards. But cards are real. We can touch them. What of the things we cannot touch? How do we know we are real? Might this all be an illusion, a simulation? Are we not already at the mercy of receptors distilling information and filtering it into ones and zeros and zeros and ones and bits and pieces are crumbling and it’s all zeros now.

I want to wake up and be a great work of literary art. I want to drink coffee, orange-faced, gazing into the fires of the underground, and mourn nothing of forgotten, wet cheeks and snakes that empty us. I want to be touched. By a page in a book that is really skin, warm and sweet like stone fruit.

The cards, the cards, and all the cards may fall. Maybe they’re falling already. Maybe we are falling already. Perhaps the cards and the bodies and the flowers and the book pages are all descending at 9.81 meters per second squared toward an earth that never wanted us but holds us like a mother just the same.

But what happens when the cards marked Turing and Descartes fall into each other? What of those marked revolutions and tolerance? Will we laugh uncomfortably and shuffle the deck? Will we claim sleight of hand and throw the table across the room? Or will we hold the hand, hold each other’s hands? None of us know, least of all me. After all, there is no I. That’s what the parlor walls tell me…

Editor says: As finite beings, we must wonder not only to our subjective purpose in this beautiful void of the cosmos but also to our fragility; especially in the world currently as we battle through this pandemic. And for a writer like Melinda Smith reality is the house of cards, each layer showing us the beauty and wonderous philosophical journey that exists upon each level, each card, and how through impermanence comes the art. Through the fall, comes the rise of the idea. Through the collision of cards, comes the revolution within. And this is where Melinda tosses us, whirling through beautiful prose and sharp philosophical inquiry, we arrive at the heart of nature, the core of being a person in the world, and the light of creation through words, story, and the pursuit of meaning amongst the falling of aces and eights; jacks and queens. Onto the dusty floor of new beginnings, we eventually reside, hopefully, to rise again to form a steadier house of cards with the next iteration.

About the author: This piece was inspired by two works of great literary merit. First, Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning. Frankl discusses having conversations with his wife in the sky and the desolation of the camps being an opportunity to rise spiritually above one’s self. Second, Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, one of the richest examples of poetry in prose I’ve ever read. Find me at ScienceGeekMel.com.