How long would it take for a man to forget he was a man?
Of course, the first question is never that; the first question is, how did the man become a man in the first place? We can pass over that question for now; we can speculate or build ourselves a little fiction; a square clapboard house, in an unassuming city; an unhappy father who threw a ball around with him a score of times in ten short years, in between the shifts of his disappearing white-collar/blue-collar industrial job — some high-tech factory that closed nevertheless, or maybe some offset printing, or something like that — a mother who loved, but with a shrill shriek in the back of her throat, unexplainable worry creasing her brow that sucked and sucked and sucked out the joy as the world became less safe with every passing year –
The man — who is still a boy — went through all the great adventures that fill those childhood days that last each one a thousand years, had best friends who moved away, got in a fight, kicked a dog, watched a sister be born, and then a brother, limbs growing longer, fell madly and mercilessly in love with a girl with auburn hair as the first stirrings of a new type of wiring went coursing through his transforming frame –
Legs grow longer. Arms grow stronger. Voice gets deeper. The man appears, the face of the man appears, unheeded, unbidden, as if from the forehead of an unknown architect –
The man has been told he was a man through every interaction of his every moment. He cannot remember where he came from, or when his presence first made itself known – his earliest memories are just flashes and those flashes are not beginnings, but fragments of what had been a continuous experience, eternal & always existing —
To himself, he feels infinite. Circumscribed, perhaps, but total.
And everything else — a dwelling place he appears within, with beds, and tables, and chairs, and sinks, and faucets, and bathtubs, all shaped perfectly to fit his frame, appearing as if willed, as if it was responding to what he was, Man, Man — (it would be only much later that he would begin to think about who built these frames for his frame, and what that building meant) —
And beyond the dwelling, whole cities, all sprung up to serve and respond to what he was — Man.
Man, triumphant, majestic, master of the inner and the master of the outer, all the worlds and all the heavens bowing before his perfect eternal being –
He thinks this not consciously but unconsciously, seeing the world as created in his Image, and just for him;
So then. A man.
How long would it take, to take that all way?
To drive him beyond the [unsurprisingly close] limits of his settlements, where the world has been reshaped to answer to his every unspoken and unthought desire –
Out in the world unmade, where he learns that he is the thing that was made, and he must adapt himself to the world; what would he lose first? The shaving, and the bathing, and the strange hygiene rituals practiced by citydwellers; the speech; memories?
As his solitude continued, as he lost his sense of distinctiveness, his sense of the difference between himself as Man and all other Men, all the things he had and all the things he was would be left behind; his speech would falter and fade; even inner language, the Man speaking to himself, would cease, and the Inner would be as quiet and still as the Outer.
The subject resolves. He is gone. A him still exists. Linguistically, it is a collection of subjectless verbs. There is no actor, only action. The need appears, and the action occurs. There is no direction by him, no understanding.
Feeding by foraging. A kill by anticipating how a thing will move. Drinking water from the rain, and moss, and streams. Walking. Sitting. Sleeping and waking. Shaded under trees. In the water’s reflection, the sight of a form that was his. Memory intrudes. Goes just as quickly.
Tall. Standing above a vista. Sight intrudes, the long view, the lay of the land. Not understanding, but like understanding. Sight. Sight without reflection.
Five senses. Unbidden. Uncontrolled.
Water again. Form again. Self again. Memories. Sounds. Sounds structured in a certain way that seems to call forth more memories. Seems to call forth thoughts.
Mirror, mirror. Who is. Mirror. Fairest.
Unbidden, it is now. Again, now. Again, now. Form in the water. It moves with him. Now. Now. Now.