…wasteful dissipation of one’s life blood or other essential fluid
…but wait, I forgot; Oscar likes to walk.
He walks. He walked yesterday. He walked today. He will walk now, in a minute, as soon as he can shake off this lethargy which had only temporarily descended upon him. It was only temporary after all. That’s it – only temporary. And though inactivity is part of his essence, an essential aspect of the person Oscar is, a fragment of his soul, a portion of his heart, a slice of his liver, so too is activity. It’s like two sides of the same coin.
Have you ever wondered how come one coin can have two sides? Every coin has a side you can see and a side you can’t. But as soon as you flip it over, the same applies. There is always a side you cannot see. For centuries philosophers have thought about this phenomenon – a pained and arduous process which gave rise to that saying: every coin has two sides. When their various thoughts, assumptions, wonderings and such like were thus distilled, the philosophers let the matter rest there. No one has ever been able to penetrate further into that mystery: how can one coin have two sides? But this mystery applies in particular to Oscar, who, like a coin, has two sides: one, the side with the queen’s head is the side of apathy, inaction and sloth. The other side, the side with the guy sitting on a lion or the lion wearing a crown, in Oscar’s case is the side of the opposite of apathy, inaction and sloth, whatever that may be.
Of course, action is the opposite of inaction. But what is the opposite of apathy? I suppose energy would have to be the opposite of sloth and a deep concern could be the opposite of apathy, but that doesn’t quite fit Oscar. Perhaps he isn’t like a coin in having two sides, perhaps he has one side, and that side just changes. This one-dimensional Oscar could be subject to change, which in itself opens up a whole new area of philosophical poking around and humming and hawing. Because philosophy never really got to grips with the concept of change: how can something be the same but different, be the same chair but a different chair? At what point does it stop being the same and become different in this process of change? Might not this be an entirely different Oscar walking along the canal towpath? What links him to the Oscar who was moments before lost in a deep and comfortable lethargy on the sofa in his living room? At what point did Oscar a become Oscar b?
Maybe he’s still changing as he walks along, becoming another Oscar and another Oscar and another Oscar, all the while. And what about external influence? What about the body floating in the canal? Oscar had never seen a corpse before but didn’t react in the manner of one who hadn’t – so is this the same Oscar? Or some other Oscar who had waded through corpses on some battlefield? He just stands there looking at the corpse; the corpse of a dog, but a corpse nonetheless, a dead body, but that of a lower mammal, but some dogs son or daughter, some man’s best friend, then picks up a damp black branch and pokes at the body, to assure himself of its substantiality. And when such substantiality has been assured Oscar actually smiles. He smiles! Who smiles when they see a corpse floating in the canal? Oscar apparently. This Oscar, this side of the coin… but what does the Oscar on the other side do? Is he crying for the death of another such as himself – another living being?
That is difficult to tell, because as with coins, only one side of Oscar is open to view. And if, unlike coins, Oscar has more than one side, then there are many sides hidden from our view. So whatever is on these sides is anyone’s guess – even Oscar’s guess, would Oscar guess, can he guess, must he guess, wouldn’t he have simultaneous access to all sides, no matter how many there were, even if there were over fifty, fifty sides to Oscar’s coin, so many sides? But all of this is useless speculation – idle speculation as they say. Who says? People say this all the time; Oscar himself had come across this expression on numerous occasions in the last few days, owing to his predilection for idle speculation, as well as idle chatter, idle gossip, idle strolling, idle sitting on the rims of fountains, window sills and parked cars, and idle standing around. It could be said that almost everything Oscar did was in some way idle, even collecting up copies of free papers and burning them in the park.
And what, you might ask, is the motivation for such an extraordinary act?
Well, because if its very nature – the essential idleness of the act, the idle collecting up copies of free papers and the idle burning of them in the park – the motivation is difficult to pin down. The act in itself, if you could call such a drawn out and lengthy process, the collecting up of free papers from various collection points around the city and the depositing of them in an out of the way place in a park some ten minutes bus journey outside of the city centre and the pouring of petrol, the lighting of a match, the flaring, the burning, the kicking at the ashes, an act – would you call it an act or a whole play, a drama of several acts taking place over one day in the city and its environs, one scene of which could be assigned to the comical subplot as a free-newspaper man chased Oscar down the entire length of a shopping arcade and across the square at the other side, the chase only ceasing on that free-newspaper man bumping into another and them both falling over onto their fat asses… but the act itself, lest we forget, was of no possible benefit to Oscar, anyone else nor humanity in general.
Looking at the flames lick against the black bark of a damp tree, none of Oscar’s sides seem open to view. But if we were to toss that coin, if we extend the metaphor somewhat and see what life is in it yet, what would come up? Such idle speculation would appeal to Oscar. If Oscar saw himself as a coin, perhaps he would flick it every morning and let the fall of that coin dictate his actions for that day. There seems to be no other rhyme nor reason to the manner in which Oscar confronts the rising sun of a morning. In fact Oscar had told Henry just last week that he hated both rhyme and reason, and he hated that expression more than both of them put together. Surely this is a worthy conclusion to such idle speculation.