The enlightenment of a lurking menace
In a recent re-post on Killing the Buddha, Jeremy Richards imagines the most transcendent of summer jobs: trolling the shores of the Pacific Ocean in order to catch monks unawares. If he is noticed, the monks pass peacefully by. If not, 'Woosh,' out into the waves they go, only to 'surface facing up, smiling.' The monks remain unfazed. One, it is told, even learned to converse with shrimp while tangled in a fishing net. The verdict: 'They talk about sex.'
Richards -- a writer, actor, and improviser currently working for KUOW radio in Seattle -- seems to understand the pathos that comedy can bring, using the absurdist notion of pushing monks into the sea as a gateway to exploring the intangible. He accomplishes a similar sleight of hand in '(An At)tempt at Elegy: In Memoriam, Jacques Derrida, 1930-2004.' His attempts at eulogizing the postmodern avatar are repeatedly thwarted in this short piece by an interlocutor who is preoccupied with finding a cup of coffee. The eulogist circles round-abouts of Derrida-like thought, exiting only when his companion expresses his pressing need.
Richards excels at witty and piercing turns of phrase, and while this skill has made him a respected writer, he is also known for his spoken-word ability. He was a member of Seattle's 2002 and 2003 National Poetry Slam teams and is a frequent contributor to National Public Radio's 'This American Life.' His penchant for the spoken word serves him well in his writing, which is as much about the words as it is about the sounds the words make. Both pieces cited here -- 'Pushing Monks' and '(An At)tempt at Elegy' -- culminate in a kind of call-and-response sound. It feels like he's in the room with you, speaking his story, illuminating the enlightenment of a lurking menace.
Go there >> Pushing Monks