Excerpts from George Szirtes’ “Child Helga on the Big Questions of Life”

George Szirtes is doing something else with Twitter. He’s trying to make every word count – even weirder, he’s succeeding. I kinda want to be a pale, cheap, awful imitation of him, as that would make my Twitter a 1000 times better.

So recently he posted on his facebook, in a particular order, 10 tweets that were charming, wonderful riddles: “Child Helga on the Big Questions of Life.” I’m not sure I have permission to reprint that. I get the feeling it’s in a draft stage and he might want to do something bigger with it.

What I do know: the tweets are gems, and I’d like to introduce you to a few of them. About Child Helga and her father, he writes that “She only asks questions so her father can say the first thing that comes into his head.” That certainly seems true, but she also seems to have a propensity for philosophical questions.

For example, I remember saying “I want that” as a kid. A lot. Child Helga doesn’t bother with such trivialities: What is fear, asked Child Helga. A blank wall in the sky with only one door, said her father. The funny thing about a “a blank wall in the sky with only one door” is how it tells absolutely nothing. We could be talking about getting into heaven, how death governs fear, reducing us to only one hope. Maybe there will be something afterward, something concrete to vindicate us.

But again, “a blank wall in the sky with only one door” says nothing. It only suggests that notion. The image, literally, makes no sense. I was thinking the lack of doors indicated the lack of a floor. There’s one door and it’s down. Fear is falling in the face of what could be possibility.

In any case, Child Helga shows no fear in the face of more Socratic concerns. The being of anger, manners, justice and other such things are brought forth. Of course, there’s what is central to Plato: What is love, asked Child Helga. The recipe book of the dead, said her father. I confess, the answer a bit is beyond me. I typically look at justice and death as a pairing of interest. I’d like to look past the cynicism of the answer – that the dead, our past and vision of the past, cuts us up and cooks us through our desires. That we learn the hard way why others did things we laughed at.

But any proper consideration of what Szirtes has wrought requires further analysis of the characters in his little drama. I’ll save that for later, when we have a few more glimpses of a thoughtful but grumpy Dad and a precocious but annoying child.