SOFT GROUND, FERTILE MIND

 

The ground, open to certain interpretations through zoning, has been taken advantage of in an unfair negotiation. Left hollowed of itself, heaps ocupy pits, standing water REFLECTS shortsightedness, and the marks and machinery of greed sit nearly silent. Bank swallows nest in the excavation walls. 

The stalker in Andrei Tarkovsky's film by the same name, leads curious individuals into an abandoned and heavily gurded area in the forest deamed "the zone." inside the zone, circumstances become UNPREDICTABLE, things shift and change without warning, and a quiet landscape is haunted by the past, present, and future effects and desires of human presence. 

 

  • That must be boring too, searching for the truth. It’s hiding and you keep searching for it. You dig in one place - eureka! The Nucleus is made of protons. You did in another - great! Triangle ABC equals Triangle A-prim, B-prim, C-prim. With me it’s quite different. While I am searching for the truth, so much happens to it… that instead of discovering the truth… I dig up a heap of , pardon… I’d better not name it. You’re Luck! But imagine some antique pot displayed in a museum. It was used at the time as a receptacle of food leftovers, but now it’s an abject of universal admirations for its laconic pattern and unique form. Everyone goes oh! and ah! And suddenly it turns out that it’s not unique at all, that some joker has palmed it off on the archeologists… Just for fun. Strange as it may seem, the admiration dies off. Those connoisseurs… Is it what you think about all the time? God forbid! In fact I don’t think much, it’s not good for me. 

  • Are you really a scientist? 

  • Here we are… Home, at last. How quiet it is. … This is the quietest place in the world. You’ll see for yourselves. So beautiful here. Not a single soul here. What about us? Three men can’t spoil a place in one day. Why? They can. It’s strange that flowers don’t smell. Or have I… Do you feel anything? I feel the stench of the bog. No, that’s the river. There’s a river here. There was a flower-bed nearby, but Porcupine had rambled it down. The smell lingered for many years though. Why did he do it? I don’t know. I asked him why, too. And he said: “You’ll understand later.” I think he just came to hate the Zone. Porcupine, that’s his name? A nickname, like yours. He had been taking people to the Zone for years, and no one could stop him. He was my teacher. He opened my eyes. 
  • What was that?
  • At first they circled the place in barbed wire to scare off the inquisitive. All this gave rise to rumors and there’s a place in the Zone… where wishes come true. Naturally, they began to guard the zone like the apple of their eye. Who knows what kind of wish someone might cherish. What was it if not a meteorite? I told you, no one knows. And what do you think? Nothing, or anything. A message to mankind, as one of my colleagues says. Or a gift. Some gift. Why on earth would they do it? To make us happy. The flowers are blooming again, but they don’t smell for some reason. 
  • You told me yourself… about how some tourists camped here when the Zone originated. There’s no one in the Zone and there can’t be. 
  • How are we going to return? They don’t return here. What do you mean? We’ll go as we agreed. I’ll show the direction. Any deviation from it is dangerous. The first landmark is that last pole. first, you professor. Now you. Try to follow in his footsteps. 
  • It’s not the place for leisurely strolls. The Zone wants to be respected. Otherwise it will punish. Don’t you ever try it again… Have you no tongue or what? I warned you didn’t i? Are we to go there? Yes. Up, enter it and to the left. Only we are not going this way. We’ll go around. Why? People don’t go this way. In the Zone, the longer way, the less risk. And to go straight ahead is fatal? He told you it’s dangerous. And making a detour’s not dangerous? It is. But they don’y go this way. What do I care that they don’t? What if I take a chance… Listen, what’s the matter with you… To go all the way around! When everything’s so close. Here a rich, there a risk. What the hell! You’re being very flippant about this. You may do as you wish, but I’m going. You’re insane. It’s you who are… 
  • The wind is coming up. Can you feel it? The grass… 
  • Listen! If you should notice something… Or just feel something, go back at once, or… 
  • Stop, don’t move. 
  • You’re smart Mr. Shakespeare. To go straight ahead is scary, to go back is embarrassing. So you gave yourself a command. fear has made you come to your senses. What? Stop it. 
  • The Zone is a very complicated system… of traps, and they’re all deadly. I DON’T KNOW WHAT’S GOING ON HERE IN THE ABSENCE OF PEOPLE, BUT THE MOMENT SOMEONE SHOWS UP, EVERYTHING COMES INTO MOTION. 
  • I don’t know what’s going on here in the absence of people, but the moment someone shows up, everything comes into motion. 
  • Old traps disappear and new ones emerge. Safe spots become impassable. Now your path is easy, now it’s hopelessly involved. That’s the Zone. It may even seem capricious. BUT IT IS WHAT WE’VE MADE IT WITH OUR CONDITION.
  • But it is what we’ve made it with our condition. 
  • It happened that people had to stop halfway and go back. BUT EVERYTHING THAT’S GOING ON HERE DEPENDS NOT ON THE ZONE, BUT ON US! 
  • But everything that’s going on here depends not on the zone, but on us!
  • So it lets the good ones pass and kills the bad ones? I don’t know. It think it lets those pass who… have lost all hope. Not good or bad, but wretched people. But even the most wretched will die if they don’t know how to behave. You have been lucky, it just warned you. I guess I’ll wait for you here. Until you come back made happy. You won’t even last an hour without me. Besides, one doesn’t return here the way one comes. Anyways I’d prefer… then we’re going back the right away. 
  • Oh God. Judging by his tone, he’s going to start sermonizing again. 
  • Let everything that’s planned come true. Let them believe. And let them have a laugh at their passions. Because what they call passion actually is not some emotional energy, But just friction between their souls and the outside world. And most importantly, let them believe in themselves. Let them be helpless like children. Because weakness is a great thing, and strength is nothing. When a man is just born, he is weak and flexible, when he dies he is hard and insensitive. When a tree is growing, it’s tender and pliant, but when it’s dry and hard, it dies. Hardness and strength are death’s companions. Pliancy and weakness are expressions of the freshness of being. Because what has hardened will never win. 
  • are we on our way already? of course. Why? I thought you just wanted to show us something. 
  • Can you understand that no one here has ever come back the same way? 
  • If you go straight, about 200 meters, but there’s no going straight here. 
  • Give up your empiricism, Professor. Miracles are outside empiricism. Remember how St. Peter was nearly drowned? 
  • This is a local joke. Normally one has to swim here. 
  • Things change here every minute. 
  • Look! What is it? How could it be? 
  • I already explained. What did you explain? 
  • It’s the Zone, don’t you understand? Let’s go, quick. It’s…
  • How could the zone let us through? Oh God, I’m not going to take one more step until… I don’t like it. That’s it! We rest! 
  • Everything gets clear only here, when it’s too late. 
  • Some psychological abysses!
  • No one in the world has ever herd of the Zone. So we’ll work a sure sensation! You lousy scribbler, a homespun psychoanalyst. You’re only good for painting walls in public toilets, you blabbermouth. Alright, I’m going to get a Nobel Prize. 
  • I don’t care a damn about mankind. Of all your mankind. I’m interested only in one man - myself. Whether I’m worth anything or I’m just shit like others. And if you find out that you’re really… you know, Mr. Einstein, I have no wish to argue with you. Truth is born of argument, damn it! 
  • You’ve brought here many people. Not as many as I would like. That’s not the point. Why did they come here? What did they want? Happiness I guess. Yes, but what kind of happiness? People don’t like to speak out about their innermost feelings. And it’s neither your nor mine’s business. 
  • I’m fine as I am. 
  • Well, I must say, that we exist for…
  • Will you be so kind and leave me alone? Let me get a wink, I haven’t slept all night. 
  • Keep your complexes to yourself.
  • I any case, all this technology of yours, all those blast furnaces, wheels… and other bullshit, are only designed in order to work less and eat more. They are all just crutches, artificial limbs. And mankind exists in order to create… works of art. Unlike all other human activities, this one is unselfish. Great illusions! Images of the absolute truth! Are you listening to me, professor? 
  • What unselfishness are you talking about? People still die of hunger. Have you fallen from the moon? And they are considered to be our brainy aristocracy! You’re not even capable of thinking in abstractions. Are you going to teach me about the meaning of life? And also how to think? 
  • And there was a great earthquake. And the sun became black as sackcloth made of hair. And the moon became like blood. And the stars of the sky fell to the earth. As a fig tree casts its unripe figs when shaken by a great wind. And the sky was split apart like a scroll when it’s rolled up. And every mountain and island were moved out of their places. And the kings of the earth and the great men and the rich and chiliarchs, and the strong and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains; and they said to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us, and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?” 
  • What’s all this needed for? And most important, who needs it? You would say, “No one. And for no reason.” Unselfishly. No. I don’t think so. 
  • After all, everything has some sense. Sense and reason. 
  • Do we have to go there? Unfortunately yes, there’s no there way. 
  • It looks morbid, don’t you think professor? 
  • Go, we haven’t got much time. 
  • Oh God, did you come here to die?
  • He was so scared, he went the wrong way. 
  • One more experiment. Experiments, facts, truth of highest instance. There’s no such thing as facts. Especially here. All this is someone’s idiotic invention. Don’t you feel it? But you of course, must find out whose invention it is. And why. What good can your knowledge do? Who is going to get a guilty conscious because of it? Me? I’ve got no conscience. I just got nerves. Some bastard would criticize me, I get wounded. Another would loud me, I get wounded again. I would put my heart and soul in it, They gobble up both my heart and soul. I would relieve my soul of filth, they gobble it up too. They’re all so literate. They all got sensory deficiency. And they’re all swarming around, journalists, editors, critics, some endless broads. And they all demand: more, more! I wanted to change them, but it’s them who have changed me! Making me in their own image. The future is just a continuation of the present, with all the changes looming far behind the horizon. Now the future and present are one. are they ready for it? 
  • Gosh, how lucky you are. 
  • Summer has gone, leaving no epitaph. It’s still warm in the sun, only that’s not enough. All that is true could have come, like a five-fingered fluff, folded into my palm. Only that’s not enough. No evil was slighted in the good aftermath, world was festively lighted, only that’s not enough. Life forever was tucking, caring, making me laugh. I was really lucky, only that’s not enough. No leaves ever seared, no limbs broken rough. Day, like glass, washed all clear, only that’s not enough. 
  • Why do you fidget, fussing all of the time? 
  • Who are you to decide? Who is to live and who is to go into the meat mincer? You’ve chose it yourself! What? One long match out of the two long ones? The matches are nothing. 
  • You can’t even imagine how dangerous it is to make a mistake here. But someone had to be first. 
  • I’m now at a stone’s throw from that place. Do you realize that’s the end of you as a scientist? 
  • But now I’m not afraid of anything. I assure you. Oh God, you are not even a Herostratos. 
  • Compassion is not ready for realization yet.  As a regular instinctive impulse. There cannot be happiness at someone else’s expense. I can see quite clearly now. The you plan to overwhelm man with good deeds. As for me, I’m not a bit worried about you or myself, and least of all about mankind. By the way, it’s absolutely clear to me that all this poem reciting and making detours is just a form of apologizing. 
  • Wait a minute, don’t be in a hurry. I am in no hurry whatsoever. 
  • I know you’re going to get mad. Anyways, I must tell you… We are now on the threshold… This is the most important moment in your life. You must know that. Your innermost wishes will made real here. Your most sincere wish! Born of suffering. No need to say anything. You just have to… concentrate and try to recall your whole life. When a man thinks of the past, he becomes a kinder. And most important… Most important… Now you can go. Who wants to be the first? Maybe you? Me? No, I don’t want to. I understand it’s not easy, but it will pass. I doubt… that it will pass. If I begin recalling my life, it’s very unlikely I’ll get any kinder. Besides, don’t you feel how shameful the whole thing is? 
  • Humiliating yourself, sniveling, praying? What’s so bad in praying? It’s just your pride speaking. Calm down, you’re not ready yet. It happens quite often. Maybe your first? Yes, me. 
  • An appliance exploring human souls! Soulmeter! It’s only a bomb. 
  • What? You must be kidding. No, it’s just a bomb. Twenty Kilotons. What for? I had it assembled by my friends. My former colleagues. This place will never bring any happiness to anyone. But if this things gets into the wrong hands… Though I’m not sure anymore. We came to the conclusion then… That we shouldn’t destroy the Zone after all. Even if it’s some miracle, it’s still apart of nature, And therefore, a hope in a sense. They had hidden that bomb, and and I’ve found it. I guess there must be a principal… Never do anything that can’t be undone. I understand everything, I’m not some maniac. But as long as this plague lies in the open, accessible to any scum, I can get no peace, no sleep. 
  • Poor man, some problem he’s invented for himself. 
  • That’s all people have got left on this earth! It’s the only place they can come to, if there’s no hope left for them. You yourself have come here! Why destroy hope then? 
  • Shut up! I can see through you! You don’t give a damn about people! You just make money, using our… anguish! It’s not even the money. You’re enjoying yourself here. You’re like God Almighty here. You, a hypocritical louse, decide who is to live and who is to die. He deliberates! You revel in all that power, that mystery, your authority! What else is there to wish for? It’s not true! You… you’re mistaken. I haven’t done any good in this world, and I can’t do any. 
  • They’d already taken everything from me back there, behind the barbed wire. So that’s mine is here. You understand? Here! In the Zone! My happiness, my freedom, my self-respect, it’s all here! I’ll bring people here like me, desperate and tormented. People who have nothing else to hope for. And I can help them! None else can help them, only I, the louse, can! I’m so happy to be able to help them that I want to cry. And that’s all. I don’t want anything more. 
  • I don’t know, maybe… Anyways, excuse me, but… you’re just a God’s fool. You have no idea what’s going on here. Coming true here is only what’s in line with your nature, with your essence, of which you know nothing. But it’s there, in you, directing you all your life. You didn’t understand anything. 
  • I’d rather drink myself to death in my mansion, in peace and quiet. You don’t understand anything about human beings. If you take people like me to the Zone.
  • And something else… Why do you think this miracle really exists? Who told you that wishes actually come true here? Have you seen a single man who’s been made hoary here? As a matter of fact, who told you about the Zone. 
  • Then it makes no sense to me at all. What’s the use of coming here? 
  • It’s so quiet. Can you feel it?