So we just relaxed in the comfortable seats in the small livingroom of our van, a livingroom that in few seconds turned into a spaceful place to sleep when needed. I had my glass of wine. Thom was reading a book. We had been eating a well prepared avocado with sourcream and scrimps, mixed with some blue cheese - and some wholegrain bread brought all the way from the huge health food store in LA.
I knew that my companion on this trip had been working as an actor in several plays, but I had never heard him read anything loud. Not untill now, when he lifted his eyes from the book and asked if I wanted him to read for me.
LET US GO then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherised upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question …
Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”
Let us go and make our visit.
The begining of T. S. Elliots first big poem, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. This is a difficult text, some say; As it shows us only surface thought and images, it is considered difficult to interpret exactly what is going on in the poem.
So I just sat there, listening to Thom's voice.
On the surface, Prufrock relays the thoughts of a sexually frustrated middle-aged man who wants to say something but is afraid to do so, and ultimately does not. Prufrock is full of self-doubts, with a pessimistic outlook on his future, as well as the future of society and the world.
By these words, Thom was coming out of the Noosphere, and became a person of flesh and blood. Maybe he was seeing himself as a picture of this middle-aged man, and Prufrock's many frustrations? He had gone through a heavy heartbreaking affair before we meet and had assured me from the beginning that this was not a romantic trip. I think that this Burning Man-journey was the opposite of some new romantic wave. It was a way of breaking out of the middle-aged frustration over not having done what he really wanted to in his life.
I was not his new love, I was a hard-headed Scandinavian woman who had been out on a winter night - as we say it back home - many times before. I was an easy travelling companion, he knew I would not freak out over the Burning Man-experience. He knew I would leave and hike back to LA if times got tough, and he knew we shared some real-life-experiences on broken hearts and broken illusions.
I was breaking out of my every-day-life as well, crossing the Big Ocean in order to experience something completely different. I admit that my expectations of a love affair were bigger than his. To say something else would be a lie, and I seldom lie. So he knew, and made the best out of it.
But all these things taken into consideration, I still think that Thom - my former Noosphere friend - will always remember this afternoon in the van in the middle of the Nevada desert.
Someone who wants more on T.S. Elliot and Prufrock may find it here. To me, there are parts of this poem that will always connect me to the Burning Noosphere experience, although the title of the poem is misleading since it is neither a love poem nor a song in the classical sense.
But the end of it is lovely:
I grow old . . . I grow old . . .
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled (- which was very modern at that time -)
Shall I part my hair behind? ( - which was a Bohemian fashion, and a brave thing to do - )
Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.
I do not think that they will sing to me (- oh, no?)
I have seen them riding seaward on the waves.
Combing the white hair of the waves blown back.
When the wind blows the water white and black.
We have lingered in the chambers of the sea.
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown.
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.