Friday, December 14, 2012

The Sword Swallower

(This blog post originally appeared on my ENG 274 Creative Non-Fiction blog.)

This image is a sobering reminder of the frail threads of mortality.
I enjoy the absence of emotion here: the skull, the spine, the teeth, the ear canal, and the eye sockets as well as the juxtaposition of translucent bone and the solid black metal of the sword. The curve of the vertebrae in the neck next to the straight edge of the sword speaks boldly.

All of the corruptible things about a human are deleted in this image. I can't see his face. I don't notice his clothes or his surroundings. I suppose it is possible to determine, but I have no clue as to his age. I don't even have a hint as to the gender; only the title, "Ajax the Sword Swallower" hints at a male identity.

But despite the lack of such details, I find the picture to be a powerful statement of individuality, an expression of defiance towards pain--or a peculiar embracing of it.

I wonder about who he is now, in raw human form. What was it that lead him to do this? What the x-ray cannot capture are the memories stored in his brain that would reveal such things. We can only witness the physicality of the act. Was he a sword swallower before joining the circus, or did he learn this skill once he stepped away from society? Or was he born into this life? What is this expression to him? Does he put on the show for the eyes of others, or for the thrill of it himself? I imagine that perhaps this is his moment to walk the tight-rope of death, to stand on that threshold and proclaim a strict willingness to defy its permanent touch. To be so close to a force of unrelenting power must be a thrill that no life in common society could hope to provide.

Here we don't see the capture of light imposed on a negative, but a spectrum unknown to our eyes. We don't see the surface but what is underneath and we are left to only ask endless questions.

-ej

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