My Position On Nothingness

Peter Handke, the Austrian novelist and playwright, is known to be unfailingly polite, even to those who behave boorishly in his presence. There are times, though, when Peter Handke does not feel like being polite. Or, no, there are times when he feels that being polite is uncalled for, when you happen to cross paths with someone whose aggressive nature and churlish attitude need to be met head on and without compunction. Let’s say Peter Handke is walking down the street, or, up the street (depending on your position when it comes to such matters) and he rounds the corner so that he can continue walking towards his eventual destination, and just as he’s rounding the corner there is another person, another man, say, of similar build, who also may, for the purposes of symmetry, be a writer as well, and this writer, who is not Peter Handke, who is someone else, is in a bad mood, for reasons too numerous to mention here, but one of these reasons, it stands to mention, surely must be that he is Austrian, and a writer, and not Peter Handke, which for most Austrian writers in this day and age is enough to put them in a bad mood, perhaps even a permanent one. And these two men, one Peter Handke and one not Peter Handke, both walking down (or up) the street, both rounding the corner at the same time, almost run into one another, and Peter Handke, the real Peter Handke, not the Not Peter Handke, as he is want to do, quickly steps out of the way, letting the Not Peter Handke pass unimpeded, which is, of course, the polite thing to do, but which is not received that way, as the Not Peter Handke looks at Peter Handke, snarls, and says, with great irritation and a very loud voice, “Watch out, Peter Handke!” Now, normally Peter Handke would react to such a display of rudeness by not reacting at all, but there is something about the way the Not Peter Handke yells out Peter Handke’s name that rubs Peter Handke the wrong way, and so it is that Peter Handke turns towards the Not Peter Handke, who is now almost half way down (or up) the block, shakes his fist and says, in a voice that can barely be heard above din of street traffic, “I’m not sorry!” This encounter, fraught with tension and the threat of violence, will stick with Peter Handke for days, if not weeks, and so will the satisfied feeling he has whenever he manages to be forceful. That feeling will pass, though, and at some point in the future Peter Handke will think about his encounter with the Not Peter Handke and hope that one day soon they will run into each again so that he can formally apologize. “I should have watched where I was going,” Peter Handke will say to the Not Peter Handke. “I should not have been staring at my shoes.” How this exchange, if it ever does happen, will play out is unknown. Perhaps the Not Peter Handke will still be defensive. Perhaps he will still have some choice words. Perhaps he will look at Peter Handke and, having been reminded once again that he is not Peter Handke, become even more agitated. These are all possibilities and they are possibilities that Peter Handke doesn’t know if he can live with. Perhaps it would be better to just stay inside. Because life on the street is unpredictable. There is always the danger that you will find yourself confronting strangers who lack the grace of God, who are not you, but almost.

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