My Internal Demon, a Rat that Gnaws

Commentator Andrei Codrescu ponders his personal demons, which take the form of an imaginary rat....

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Now an offering from commentator Andrei Codrescu. These days he's concerned about a rat.


It's a wooga-booga rat collaged from newspaper articles, soundbites from TV, bytes from the blogosphere and shifting existential sand. I know this rat because I've created him at my work table of doubt and confusion. The table itself and its construction is an interesting story, but I won't get into it now because you, my listener, are not my shrink and I am not your patient. Let's just say that a table of doubt and confusion which is lodged wobblishly in the shifting sands of early childhood psychology is there, solid as you or I.

What you choose to construct on it is another matter. Some people are content to lean their elbows on the table of doubt and confusion and stare out at the world through the tiny window of their TV or through some holes cut out in the newspaper. They've worked all day and they are tired. Now if that pizza showed up on time or the children or the wife or the husband or the check in the mail, there would be no cessation of water, electricity or gas and no bad weather for a week; all would be almost right with the world. The tissue of scandals and mini disasters that make the republic run could be contained in the small window of the TV and made bearable by the peepholes in the paper.

Unfortunately, the utilities, the spouse, the children and the pizza fail uncannily and simultaneously as the engine of the nation sputters, chokes and runs out of gas. The little window of the TV grows bigger. The newspaper shreds in the wind. The walls collapse, and there is no avoiding the fact that you're sitting there with your elbows on the table of doubt and confusion, unable to do anything about any of it.

Some people take another approach and use the table of doubt and confusion to build something: a Weblog, a death ray, a letter to the editor, a plan of escape, a get-rich-quick scheme or cave furniture. Some people dismantle their beliefs and their principles like watches and try to put them back together by incorporating what they have learned from disaster and disappointment. Tough job; nothing fits back together.

Other people yet take their head between their hands and refuse to look at the TV, hear the radio or read the news. Some take it a step farther and bang their heads on the table to drive out any news that they might have heard in the past. If sufficiently banged so their heads will let go (unintelligible) like so much beach sand stuck in their hair.

And then there are the weird ones. They clamber up on the table of doubt and confusion, compress themselves into a little ball and roll right into the small window of the TV or squeeze themselves right between the sentences in the news paragraph or wedge themselves like spinach right between two soundbites. These people are hoping to free themselves into the cliches of our mediated reality and leave behind their seat at the table of doubt and confusion.

Me? I'm not any of these people. I'm an artist. I made a rat on this table and let him loose in my chest, where he gnaws at my heart. Gnaw, gnaw. It's the world; nothing you can do about it.

BLOCK: Andrei Codrescu teaches at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge.

ROBERT SIEGEL (Host): You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

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