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Murphy’s Meanderings:  Being an Account of the Life and Wanderings of Matthew Murphy Between the Years of Our Lord Nineteen Hundred and Seventy-Seven and Two Thousand and Four, Written in Contemplative Isolation in the Author and Protagonist’s Twenty-Sixth Year.   Or, Lint of the Soul:  A Gaze into the Navel of Matthew Murphy

(Scene:  a late nineteen-seventies style, typical North American hospital room.  Enter a Doctor and a couple of Nurses, who then stand in tableau until the Omniscient Narrator completes his opening monologue.  The Omniscient Narrator’s voice is projected from offstage, adding to his intended godlike effect.)

Omniscient Narrator

It is the Year of Our Lord Nineteen Hundred and Seventy-Seven.  There has been, at this moment, born to Sheila Murphy, and her husband, Louis Murphy, a baby boy.  This baby was by no means delivered in a normal manner.   Rather, he was delivered through a particularly difficult Caesarian section, which was authorized by the wise obstetrician overseeing his birth when it became apparent that the infant was stuck and about to suffocate, endangering both him and his mother.  Having dwelt in the warm primordial bath of the womb for a period of nine months, gestating slowly into organic consciousness from the seemingly timeless abyss of origin and eternity, the young baby peered out into the cold, cruel world beyond the uterine gates of saline sanctuary, and opted, in a moment of prenatal decisiveness, out.   Out of this coming sea change, this breaking of the water, this torrent and flood into the unknown world beyond the pale of the predictable and comfortable rhythms of the womb. He wrapped his umbilical cord around his neck and tried to hang himself.  Yes, the young baby tried to commit suicide before he was born, and very nearly took his poor mother with him—an ignominious beginning if there ever was one.  And so, the young infant was snatched from the jaws of death.   His first feeling ex utero was one of cold air and the painful pulling of rubbered hands, his first smell a sharp chemical tinge of antiseptic, his first sight that of tall, masked figures bathed in white light, and his first sounds the hum of medical equipment and the click of sharp metal instruments being placed on metal trays.

Now this boy was named Matthew John Mark, in what appears to be an homage to the Bible, the Gospels in particular.  But that is not necessarily the case.  He was in fact named Matthew after the father of his maternal great-grandfather, Matthew McCaffrey, John after his maternal grandfather John McCaffrey, and Mark after his paternal grandfather Mark Murphy.  Matthew is Hebrew for ‘Gift From God,’ and Murphy comes from the Irish O’Murchu and O’Murchada, meaning, ‘Sea Warrior.’  Two tall orders to live up to, wouldn’t you say?  And with three given names, that although taken from his own family, parallel those of three of the four evangelists, you would think that young Matthew has a high standard to uphold, let alone meet!  Ah, the perils of being Catholic by birth.

Young Matthew grew from the soil of several places, mixed together to form the particular assembly of carbon, water, minerals and electrical impulses that is he:  Were you to delve back two generations, you would see that he comes from Stratford in Ontario, Abitibi in Quebec, Prince Edward Island, and Dublin in Ireland.  Were you to climb further down the winding stairs of his DNA you would find that most of his chromosomes originate, or at least pooled and stewed for a long time, in Ireland, with a little drainage from the ethnic and cultural tributaries of Scotland, England, France, Norway, and the Canada of the Hurons.

His travels until his conception were vicarious and scattered, as the conditions and chromosomes that would eventually create him slowly combined over thousands of years in the form of human migrations, mass movements of ancient peoples whose names are now forgotten moving northward from Africa to the Indo-European plain, loving, marrying, procreating, warring and wandering.   All the way to Ireland in the form of Celts and later, Norwegians, Normans and Englishmen.  And to France in the form of Normans, and to Canada across the land bridge of the Bering Strait in the form of people who would eventually  be called, the Hurons, or the Wendat as they preferred to be known, Huron being an old French slang word for ‘Pig’s Head.’  All telling tales and singing songs of their ancestors around the flicker of a million lonely campfires, and later, hearths, on a million starlit or rainy nights.

All these perspectives would eventually unite in Canada in a burst of euphoric pleasure, a biological bribe influencing two people to procreate.  Conception!  And so, the cycle of life and death, passed down a winding staircase of generations through chromosomes and culture, accident and design, in a temporal and spatial play of matter and energy with a million phases and a particular face for every one, once again manifested itself in the dawn of a new life, wrenched out with forceps and / or rubber gloves.

(Enter chorus of angels, heralded by trumpets and bathed in a golden light.)

Chorus of Angels

Haaaaaalleluiah!  Haaaaaaalleluiah!  Halleluiah, Halleluiah, Hallelu-u-u-iaaaaah!

Doctor

It’s a boy!  Thank God we saved him!  Or, rather, thank God I saved him!

Baby

(Slick with afterbirth.)  Whaaaaaaaaaaaaa!  Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!  Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!

(The Doctor, Nurses and Baby go into Tableau as the Narrator begins to speak.)

Omniscient Narrator

With the birth of Matthew Murphy, a microcosm was born, as happens when anyone is born—a microcosm of the world as embodied and experienced by humans.  Epic themes and cosmic questions manifested in his flesh, carried out in the affairs of the everyday, in a manner slightly different from each of his siblings.  Of the epic within everyone, Sing O Muses, Sing!  Each one differs from the other, each one walks a certain path, able to talk to one another, but headed in different directions.  We can all fall together, but we all die alone……

(Enter Matt, at twenty-six years of age, looking irate.)

Matt

That’s about enough from you!  You’re getting too morbid, and you’re not really getting anywhere!  You lingered on my birth for too long, and covered thousands of years without getting much in depth about me.  And now I’ve had to intervene!  Because you made me intervene, this whole thing is turning into some insane metaplay, totally about itself!  Get out of here–I’m taking over now!

Omniscient Narrator

But I’m you!  If you didn’t want this written in this particular manner, then you wouldn’t have concocted me, that is, this particular version of you, being an omniscient narrator looking at you from outside of yourself so as to allow yourself to convey yourself through the third person, as a means of hiding yourself from others by drawing attention to the deliberately stylized manner through which you have decided to write your narrative, that is, through the imaginary voice of someone else who his in fact you, or an aspect of you, made into me.

Matt

(Looking alarmed.)  So I’m insane then.

Omniscient Narrator

Not necessarily.  You are just, um, egotistically dissociated.

Matt

You mean, schizoid.  Split personality.  Psychotic.

Omniscient Narrator

Hey, to some it’s a potato, to others, a potatto.  The glass can be half empty or half full.  It all depends on your perspective.  In truth, you’re not insane—you’re just carrying on a dialogue with yourself to ease your personal narrative out of yourself.  It’s quite clever, really.  Why don’t I, being an older and supposedly wiser version of yourself, analyze you, and you tell me your story, starting from after your birth?

(Exit Doctor, Nurses, Baby.  The delivery room turns into an early twentieth century Viennese study.  The Omniscient Narrator appears onstage, looking very much like Sigmund Freud.  Matt reclines on the analysis couch. )

Omniscient Narrator / Sigmund Freud

(Pensively and introspectively puffing a cigar and watching the cotton roils of smoke curl upward as he speaks.)  So let us start at ze beginning,, ja?  Where were you born?

Matt

Sudbury, Ontario, Canada.  In a manner similar to, though much less exaggerated than, you, or rather I as you, conveyed earlier.  But I thought we were moving beyond my birth.

Omniscient Narrator / Sigmund Freud

Sorry.  It is important to start at the beginning.  Tell me about your parents—who they are, where they are from.

Matt

Alright–they are Lou and Sheila Murphy.  My Dad was born in 1943 in Kirkland Lake, my Mom in 1945 in Sudbury.  My Dad’s family is about three quarters Irish in background, along with a bit of Scottish, and about a quarter French and Native.  My Dads’ father’s family is from Prince Edward Island, and his mother’s family is from Abitibi in Quebec.  My Mom’s family is very Irish, her own mother being a first generation Canadian.  Her maternal grandparents nearly bought a ticket for the Titanic to come to Canada, but never bothered.  It’s a good thing too, or they, likely being third class passengers, would have almost surely have become two pairs of those boots you see lying on the ocean floor in Titanic-themed coffee table books.

Omniscient Narrator / Sigmund Freud

Describe them.  And describe your relationship with them.

Matt

(Suspicious of Freud’s question, though playing along.)  My mom and dad are both ex-teachers and are very intelligent.  My mom taught history and my dad taught everything at least once.  He was also a musician and a football player in university.  When I was about 10, they divorced.  That was no fun, but at least, after a little while, they wisely remained cordial, and later even became genuine friends, so that we wouldn’t become disaffected delinquents.  (Proudly) To this day, I have managed to keep most of my delinquent acts secret.

Overall, I get along well with my parents, but—

Omniscient Narrator / Sigmund Freud

—But you fear your father, yes?  You want to kill him?

Matt

(Outraged at Freud’s deduction.)  No, I don’t fear him!  And I certainly don’t want to kill him!  And don’t, I mean, DON’T, even THINK about my mother!

Omniscient Narrator / Sigmund Freud

Tell me about your siblings.

Matt

(Settled and comfortable with the change in topic.)  Well, there is Patti, born in 1970, Kate, born in 1974, and Liz born in 1980.  Patti was always athletic, and very good at writing.  She took English and History at Laurentian University, got married, and later became a journalist in Sault Ste. Marie and later in Caracas, Venezuela, where she briefly edited an English daily.  She now has two daughters and she and her family live in Ottawa, where she is a technical writer.

Kate was always social and a bit rebellious.  She has a mind for business and looks like a model, which is a very good and profitable combination.  She took Public Relations at Cambrian College currently works in marketing for Toshiba.  She is married and has two daughters and lives in Markham.

Liz was born with a syndrome whose manifestations include cerebral palsy, hemiplegia, and brain damage.  She was born with a hole in her heart and was operated on at six days old.  She was predicted not to make it, but not only has she made it, she can walk and talk to some degree as well.

Omniscient Narrator / Sigmund Freud

Tell me about yourself.

Matt

Here are the facts:  I was born in 1977.  I skipped out on Junior Kindergarten because I hated the idea of going to school.  I went to Senior Kindergarten very reluctantly.  I immediately became interested in writing stories and drawing pictures in school, though I disliked everything else.  I was shy during elementary school and part of high school, but then I decided that being shy is not in the least bit beneficial, and with the aid of drama, became quite loud.  I wanted to go to university out of town, but a lack of funds compelled me to go to Laurentian.

This turned out to be the smarter of two options, because I graduated without a debt and was able to travel to Dublin, Ireland on a SWAP visa for a classic seven month debauched, distorted alcoholiday.  That is a quick dissection of the backpacker experience as I saw and experienced it.  This was an exciting time—I went all over the island, as well as Belgium, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary and England.  I returned home for eight months, worked a crappy job at a call centre, and saved enough to go to England with a friend for five months.  Upon returning from England, I went to teachers’ college at the University of Ottawa.  Currently, I am getting my M.A. in Humanities here in Sudbury.   And talking to myself in some strange psychological mind drama.

Omniscient Narrator / Sigmund Freud

(Withdrawn, not really listening, puffing a great white cumulous of cigar smoke.)  Are you sure you don’t have an Oedipus complex?

Matt

(Indignantly leaps up from the couch) Okay, that’s it!  This charade is over, Sigmund!  You’re not even listening to me anymore!  You’re just playing an exaggerated version of yourself, complete with all the Freudian cliches!  You’re faking seriousness just long enough to play for cheap laughs, using the long serious moments to maximize the comic payoff every time you say something deliberately Oedipal.   By the way, what are YOU thinking about when you’re smoking that cigar, huh?

Omniscient Narrator / Sigmund Freud

I can’t help it—that’s the way you thought me up.  I wouldn’t have said these things if you didn’t think of them first, or even think of them at the same time I say them.  Remember, I’m you and you’re me.  However, I am entirely dependent on you for my existence;  you could take me or leave me.  Yours is the ego lucky enough to be born with the body.  You get to will me out of existence, to think me away in a puff of cognitive smoke, to break me down to my component memories and associations into imaginative building blocks.  I can’t do this to you!  You can do it to me!

Matt

Then, I wish you away.  Away with you!  Away, phantom of my mind!  Away, figment of my imagination!  Away, ghostly imprint from the cellar of my soul!

(With this, the Omniscient Narrator metamorphoses from a comic-book likeness of Sigmund Freud into a comic-book likeness of Socrates.  In turn, the Viennese study transforms into a backdrop of Classical Athens, with the Acropolis looming in the background.)

Omniscient Narrator / Socrates

All this discussion of pseudonyms and appearances, seeming versus being, has led to the creation of a likeness of myself, as I am intrigued by such subjects.  Would you say that your name is Matthew Murphy?

Matt

(Perturbed.)  Oh no, not you……Well, I guess I have to answer.  Yes, my name is Matthew Murphy.

Omniscient Narrator / Socrates

And you feel that you are the real Matthew Murphy?

Matt

Yes, I am the real Matthew Murphy.

Omniscient Narrator / Socrates

That is, embodying the IDEA of Matthew Murphy?

Matt

Yes, embodying the idea of Matthew Murphy.

 

Omniscient Narrator / Socrates

And I and Dr. Freud and the original Narrator, and the doctor and the nurses and the baby, are together merely manifestations or expressions of the idea of Matthew Murphy, expressions that differ in their individual particularities?

Matt

Yes, you are all manifestations of me, differing in your individual particularities.

Omniscient Narrator / Socrates

But together, we all, including you, share the essence of Matthew Murphy?  That is, a certain individual pattern of being and perception which remains constant in its definition, from which varying forms can be produced?  Do you agree with this?

Matt

Yes, I agree very much.  We are all expressions of a deeper, constant me.  But I thought I willed you, being the narrator in disguise, away.  Now I am stuck in a world of my own devise.  And if I linger here too long, maybe a world of my own demise, too……

Omniscient Narrator / Socrates

Oh, nonsense, nonsense.  You don’t know that to be true.  All you can know is that you can know nothing.  Knowing this, you know all there is to know.  Now, you believe, then, that Matthew Murphy is the idea behind you, behind me, behind the scenery surrounding us, right?  I mean, that Matthew Murphy is the idea through which all these forms are expressed?

Matt

Yes, Matthew Murphy is the idea binding all these forms together.  Didn’t I just answer this question, though worded differently?

Omniscient Narrator / Socrates

And I am thereby a pseudononymous rearrangement of the essence of Matthew Murphy, constructed as a sort of lie to help you find the truth?  I mean, I am what we call a Noble lie, that is, a lie created from some sort of larger need, in this case being a means of helping the underlying essence of Matthew Murphy make meaning of himself?

Matt

Yes.  (Excited, having an epiphany of sorts.)  Yes, that’s it exactly!  I am lying to tell the truth!  That’s essentially what writing is, isn’t it?  As your philosophical descendant Aristotle said somewhere, poets use particular lies to tell larger, constant truths.  And I have concocted you and everyone else in this drama as splinters of my own ego based on associations acquired through reading and other forms of experience that together amplify my essence, that is the idea of myself.  In writing this dialogue, this narrative of myself, I have in effect created another version of myself, that is, another form or manifestation, both complicated and eased by multiple personalities used to illustrate parts of myself, that is, parts of my essence in a manner that is hopefully entertaining and useful.   This paper narrative version of myself is defined both by the use of certain details, and by the omission of others.  If I were to write 100 different narratives of myself, I would have 100 different stories, or forms, all based on one elusive essence binding them all together.  And were a hundred people to read every one of those hundred narratives, the number of forms of Matthew Murphy would be multiplied a hundred-fold in each of the readers—a hundred different Matthew Murphys for every single reading of me, all of them capturing something, a flash of the essence of me, whoever and whatever that me may be.  All of them taking different forms depending on the combinations of thoughts and of words used to give them form.  I get it, I get it!  Now that I get it, I can get rid of you all!  Eureka!

(With this, Socrates and the cityscape of ancient Athens disappear into a puff of smoke.  Matt comes to, lying on the ground, a goose egg protruding from his forehead, an errant baseball lying beside him with a spot of blood on it.  A group of kids clad in baseball gear surround him.)

Lead Baseball Player

(Apologetic and embarrassed.)  Whoa, are you okay?  I’m sorry you got hit.  I just, y’know, knocked it right out of the park.

Matt

(Sitting up and smiling to the confusion of the kids.)  That’s okay.  You can’t hit a homer without breaking a few heads every now and then.  If you didn’t whack me, I would never have seen the light.  That hit was the Big Bang that allowed me to go through  the universe of my perspective.  My whole life, or a version of my life, right from the dawn of man!

Lead Baseball Player

(Uncertain.)  Um, yeah.  Whatever you say, man.

Matt

Well, thanks for the trip, fellas.  See you somewhere, maybe imprinted in my own soul…..(He stands up and walks away, happy and whistling, over the horizon and out of his narrative.  Exeunt.)

                                                FINIS

 

 

 

 

 

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