The possibility of mislocation of the self (Donald Barthelme)

It was suggested that what was admired about the balloon was finally this: that it was not limited, or defined.  Sometimes a bulge, blister, or subsection would carry all the way east to the river on its own initiative, in the manner of an army’s movements on a map, as seen in a headquarters remote from the fighting.  Then that part would be, as it were, thrown back again, or would withdraw into new dispositions; the next morning, that part would have made another sortie, or disappeared altogether.  This ability of the balloon to shift its shape, to change, was very pleasing, especially to people whose lives were rather rigidly patterned, persons to whom change, although desired, was not available.  The balloon, for the twenty-two days of its existence, offered the possibility, in its randomness, of mislocation of the self, in contradistinctions to the grid of precise, rectangular pathways under our feet.  The amount of specialized training currently needed, and the consequent desirability of long-term commitments, has been occasioned by the steadily growing importance of complex machinery, in virtually all kinds of operations; as this tendency increases, more and more people will turn, in bewildered inadequacy, to solutions for which the balloon many stand as a prototype, or “rough draft.”

From Donald Barthelme’s short story “The Balloon.”

Advertisements