Then came the summer of Dirk’s retreat—into the mountains? The desert? On a single-sailed raft, adrift in uncharted seas? Dogsledding out over northern tundra? Or was it Patagonia, on austral ice, flocks of penguins drawn to him like angels to the feet of the risen Christ? Do we dare see Dirk fishlike, submerged with open eyes, gliding through turquoise waters, abask in the uterine warmth of some equatorial sea? Picture him roaming rocky Galapagos, newfound avifauna arranged two-by-two, nestling placid along languid outstretched limbs? Or was Dirk lost in the rainforest, the Congo, the Yucatan, a pale titan throttling wet foliage, probing trail-less Amazonian depths, pausing, perhaps, to seek barter with natives? Is he passing Canadian pines? Out of breath atop icy peaks? Peering into pits of volcanic fire and ash? Sahara, Sonora, Siberian wasteland; across Australian Outback with long loping strides; Appalachia, Madagascar, aboard a private shuttle to the moon, spacesuited, on solitary pogos trekking lunar desolation? Could we have sought him out by telescope, if we had known to look, seen him bounding over lucent rock? Or was it into an urban heart, in deep disguise between some city’s walls, sidelocks and beard-sweep masking the unmistakable jaw, covertly pacing our great nexuses of commerce, immersed in motion and din, the stolid desperation, grim havoc after-hours, mortar, steel, glass, concrete, vain erections binding hosts of hungry with their longing, vitality and noise? New York, Los Angeles, Tokyo, Sydney, Rio de Janeiro, Bruges, Cleveland, London, Athens, Jerusalem, Unreal—into the wild, away from it all, to an isolate place, coordinates undisclosed.
On Horseback with Nash:
On horseback a young Dirk Nowitzki races teammate Steve Nash down a thin strip of floury sand along the lapping shallows of some sub-tropical sea, the duo’s long hair flapping like matched manes in the wind.
Dirk is clumsy on horseback, Nash skillful. Waiting at the finish line, Nash joshes his friend:
“Howdy,” he says, doffing an invisible Stetson as Dirk’s steed lumbers over the snapped tape.
Dirk chuckles, executes an ungainly dismount. A breeze flutters their similar white riding shirts.
“Steve,” Dirk says later, the two of them sipping electric-blue drinks through complexly-looped pink straws, their horses happily gamboling a little ways down the beach. “What could be better than this, Steve? We’ve got the whole world, don’t we?”
Nash stares out at the giant red sun, dipping into the Pacific.
Skywritten over Dallas, December, 2011:
Marry me, Dirk!
Opposing Coaches address Dirk's tenacity:
Coach 1: If you look closely at Dirk, his tenacity really seems to pick up right there toward the end of his career—for the most part in that one final season, honestly. I’d say that he was less tenacious early on, more wide-eyed and excited to learn the ins and outs. Of the American game. Only in the end, particularly after the return from the, ah, the hiatus, did we really see a sharp increase in terms of tenacity.
Coach 2 (Retired): One instance really sums up the tenacity question for me. Late in a close game against the Pistons—or maybe the Sixers, similar color-schemes—Jason Terry gets fouled on a jumper, heads to the free-throw line. Couple of their guys lean into the lane, give him some of the typical shit, you know, get into Terry’s head. Give him something to think about. Terry laughs—almost in a rueful sort of way, is how I’d describe it—then clanks the fucking free throws. Nice player, Terry, 'cept for any time it actually fucking mattered. “Forty-seven,” is what our guys always called him, in terms of his being a stud for the first forty-seven minutes of the game.
So now anyway it’s been back and forth all night, and the Pistons or Sixers go down the other end, and what do you think happens: they nail a three. Now they’re up one. Timeout, Carlisle draws up the play, and now under two seconds to go, Dirk gets hammered on a jumper at the elbow, heads to the line. Couple salient points here: first being this look of what I’d probably go ahead and call sheer malice or rancor—hate, even—all over his face. Needless to say, no Piston or Sixer comes within ten feet of him. Forget about running any interference. So Dirk drains the first one, all net, and starts screaming and beating his chest like a fucking insane person, stares down the closest Piston or Sixer, who won’t meet his fucking eyes, okay? and he’s shouting right in this kid’s face “Game over! Game over!”—shouts it roughly eight or ten times, I’d say—and then he closes his eyes and nails the second shot. Mavs win.
Mavericks Conditioning Coach: That last season, he just had this real tenacity in the weight room, I remember. One time finished a set of extremely heavy military presses and actually hurled the bar into the mirror. Completely shattered it, obviously.
Opposing Scout: We never took Dirk seriously as a physical presence—sure he could shoot the ball a little, but put a body on him and he disappears. Doesn’t have the stomach or heart or whatever for contact, for physicality, for dirty work. Some guys just don’t. Until he comes back with the bowling balls for arms and the nasty—nasty—attitude to boot. Off the record, I’d always felt the steroid question ought to be looked at a little more closely. But he tested clean—so what can you do?
At this time I began to ponder a question that had troubled me for some time:
As my stature in the Association swelled, I grew accustomed to hearing the assembled American thousands thunderously chanting my name, causing it to reverberate from the rafters and shake the foundations of the arenas in which we would compete —
—Yet increasingly the cheers failed to satisfy. So that inescapably I began to ask myself, Well, Dirk: What is it you want? Did you not come to this country to pursue that somewhat vague referent that you privately shorthand The Great? If a throng gathered to witness your performance and as one call out your name is not evidence of The Great fully attained, what is? What would be? Did I feel that until a championship banner hung from the highest rafters I would somehow not have earned those cheers? Perhaps this is the satisfying explanation. Except if it was truly a personal sense of merit and accomplishment I craved, not external validation in the form of those rapturous cheers, then why did I bother to perform? Might I have been satisfied making cabinets? Baking cakes, pies, and assorted pastries? Sculpting? Fishing the Chiemsee? If I am not so much concerned with the acclaim as with deserving the acclaim, is it not possible to do away with the acclaim altogether? Let the merit be all?
And yet I knew that this, too, was untrue. What man does not crave adulation? Appreciation, due recognition of worth. Acknowledgment of success that has been earned. So what did I really want? Did I want to arrive, finally, at a point where I no longer needed to hear the mobs chanting my name? Or did I want to attain, once and for all, the ultimate, earned cheer? Or was it neither of these things? Did I want something different altogether? If so, what did I want? I found myself increasingly plagued and exhausted by the question. What is it you want, Dirk? What are you after? What are you striving for? What do you want? So that at a certain point I determined the question to be irresolvable, or that I would at the very least never answer it by looking inward. So that I then began to look elsewhere. For answers.
Former lovers on Dirk:
H——: Well, for a guy who’s seven-foot tall, his cock was actually surprisingly average.
B——: I always found Dirk to be a tremendously caring, tender lover. He would sort of gently cradle me against that mountainous body of his, stroke my hair almost how you’d like pet a kitten, and just say these really gentle, really just sweet, loving things. I would always mark the calendar for Mavs road-trips to S—— and sort of count down the days till he’d come. I was always sad to see him go.
C——:Then one night back in the early days in Dallas, we’re at one of the guys on the team’s mansions—and I don’t throw that term around lightly, “mansion,” by the way, I’ve personally been in my share of extravagant private residences, I’ll just leave it at that—and I think his little buddy, the point guard, Steve Nash, he's with one of the girls somebody’d brought in, in one of the many bedrooms, my god, you should have seen the beds in some of these rooms—a couple being actually literally bed rooms, in terms of being rooms that were basically just one giant bed, you pull open the door and what you’re looking at is, wham, just this huge sort of bed-pit, spread with satin or silk sheets, depending on which room, all kinds of music, but especially jazz, soul, funk, hip-hop, some of the better-known symphonies of a number of classical composers, including Wagner, in honor of Dirk was the impression I had, coming from I assumed speakers hidden in the walls, since I never saw any, speakers, and also just lots of moaning and giggling, the odd slap and what have you, and so Dirk—who by this point is completely fucking splashed, just crashing and I guess you could call it reeling from room to room, picture this huge clumsy German lurching into doorjambs and walls, banging his head on low-hanging lamps, sniffing constantly, that epic nose now almost literally like stopsign-red—and so anyway the funny thing is, he keeps trying to get me to come with him into the room where Nash and some other chick already are. Saying "High time for all." Picture him saying this with the ridiculous German-inflections, this being back when the English wasn’t so good. Steve and him have a friend understanding, he goes. Tells me I should meet Steve, I’ll really enjoy Steve, he keeps saying. I’m thinking: No shit, yes, I will like Steve Nash. And keep in mind this was before he even went to the Suns. Still. But so I don’t think he even knows what he’s saying at this point, you know? What kind of understanding’s this supposed to be? But he keeps insisting, trying to convince me to go in there, actually getting a little flustered the longer I sort of drag my feet. So finally I said what the hell, and we went in.
Dirk discussed on Bill Simmons' internet podcast:
—Speculation of course being rampant: Does he miss the dunk on purpose? Maverick fans probably not about to forgive him either way. —Nor should they.
—I think he plans to miss.
—Or at least chooses. Midair.
—Well, you watch the frame-by-frame, and tell me you don’t see something bizarre happen to his face, midair.
—You’re referring to the abrupt relaxation of the facial musculature.
—The infamous dropping of the scowl.
—The shift in demeanor.
—To sheer calm.
—While still aloft.
—His team down by one, keep in mind.
—The final seconds ticking from the clock.
—Right: he’s absolutely calm. Just before he blows the dunk.
—A two-handed dunk, he was attempting. Uncontested. Keep that in mind, too.
—Yeah, excellent point, Hal. Who the hell blows a two-handed dunk?
—That would have won the game, the series, and the Mavericks their first championship in franchise history.
—A perfect calm attained on the way to ultimate failure.
—The abandoning of the snarl.
—Giving up the ghost.
—Or the demon: the competitive demon.
—Right, okay, good. So now point blank: Does he miss the dunk on purpose?
—Well, can we really move beyond speculation, Bill? Realistically? In the end does the placid expression reveal anything?
—All right, look: let’s say you’re Nowitzki. All right? You’ve failed just about every conceivable way there is to fail by this point in your career. You’re already pushing the envelope, in terms of varieties of rejective experience. A couple seasons back, recall, you’re voted League MVP the very week your top-seeded team gets bounced from the playoffs.
—With you so far, Hubie.
—All right, so now here you are, a failure in every sense of the word, a gigantic let-down, to your friends. Keep in mind your best friend, sort of a mentor to you, fellow foreigner, confidante, etc., Steve Nash absolutely thrives as soon as he’s traded away from your team, and you don’t think that hurts Dirk, at some really deep level? Nash being like a sort of adoptive older brother to Dirk, in addition to his closest friend… Where was I?
—Gigantic let-down to family and friends, you were saying,
—Right. So you’ve let down your family, your fans, your teammates, the organization that traded for you after you were taken with an extremely high—I believe it was the eighth?—
—Thanks, Bill, the ninth pick, Mark Cuban having really put his neck on the line as an unproven owner in terms of grabbing an equally-unproven Euro-prospect at a time when they were considerably less in vogue, recall, and then let’s not forget, maybe most painfully of all, you’ve also let down your friend and mentor, Holger Geschwindner, who’s worked with you since you were a gawky German teen, who you’ve come to think of as essentially your father—
—I’ve actually heard him call Gesh “Dad.” In interviews.
—and so, all right: here you are: mid-air, the basket’s unprotected, you’re about to undo, in one fell swoop, as it were, every instance of shortcoming and weakness and incompetence and inadequacy and just basically not being good enough… all’s about to be redeemed, in short. And you don’t think it’s remotely possible to let all the thrill of anticipation cloud your concentration for just one split second? Enough to blow the damn dunk?
—You kidding, H?
—Two hands on the ball, Hube. He’s not blowing a two-handed uncontested dunk, even with a little concentration lapse. Not possible.
—Unless he wants to.
—Less he’s at least partly afraid of the other side.
—Fears slipping free of failure’s grasp. At long last.
—Isn’t sure who the heck he’ll be. If he’s not losing embodied. Who’ll he be without his failure? What sort of Dirk, if he’s no longer the Dirk who always loses. Losing’s in his blood, in his bones.
—Wants to blow the damn thing.
—At least on some level.
—Cause he sees it lurking or waiting for him. Something dark and unknown.
—Right there, he sees it.
—High above the court.
—Soaring on an uncontested trajectory for the game-sealing slam.
—Sees something somehow worse than failure, waiting for him.
—With gaping jaws.
—Why turn away from what he’d been chasing all his life?
—Why now, when it’s literally in his grasp?
—When all he has to do is flush that ball home?
—Nothing but a few collapsing feet of open space separating him from sweet, total victory?
—Who can tell?
—Who knows what lies in the hearts of men?
—Gentlemen, allow me to interject here.
—Your podcast, keep in mind.
—Just happy to be here, Bill.
—Appreciate that Gary. Was that Gary?
—How many of us you got on here, Bill? By the way. I may have lost count.
—Just feel like we may be verging on, ah, philosophical territory, with the sorts of questions that frankly can’t be answered satisfactorily, plus might also be pretty boring, for our listeners here, potentially. No offense of course.
—None taken, Bill. You’re calling the shots.
—Should we shift gears?
—I assume you won’t want to go into Mark Cuban’s suicide.
Irate fan contributes his two cents on an unofficial Mavericks fan-site comment-thread:
My personal opinion is the [expletive] steroid-shooting Nazi [expletive] spent a whole decade biding his time just to [expletive] us over. [expletive]
Dirk reflects on his immortalization in fiction:
Of course that initial reading of the particular passage(1) I have already cited marked a particularly seminal or watershed moment or me—or rather I should say it illuminated for me precisely which attributes of a moment I had suspected must have been seminal or watershed but had not been quite able to identify or articulate for myself had conduced to the moment’s being so seminal or watershed.
Essentially, I encountered or perceived or arrived at a truer vision of myself as I really am, or could be, in these pages than I had ever been able to come to on my own. A startling experience, to be sure—but also an intriguing one.
Excerpted from an interview with author Jonathan Callahan:
A: No, I wasn’t personally ever obsessed with Dirk Nowitzki. But I did perceive in Dirk fairly early on, uh, the, I guess you could call it the possibility for obsession.
A: Well, look, I’m sorry. That’s the best I can do for you just now.
A: Allen Iverson.
A: Just liked his style, most of all, I guess. Plus he was small, too, you know? I mean, not as small as me, obviously. Few people are. No it’s all right. I’m honestly not nearly as sensitive as I used to be, I don’t think. But guess I always have admired plus also envied little guys who found a way to get it done.
A: Fine, yes. The subject is still sore.
A: Do I believe in god?
A: No, I heard you, I just, uh... Look is there any particular organizing principle to these questions you’re asking here? I don’t really see the—no, I mean, of course I don’t believe in god, certainly not a “merciful” one, as you put it. How could I? But I don’t exactly believe in, you know, us, either. So I mean... What’s a person to do besides head for the hills? Or the moon?
A: Or write a book about it. Ha ha.
A: No way I could get another cup of coffee or something in here?
Simmons revisits the seminal Game-Seven collapse:
—Let’s revisit the seminal Game Seven collapse. We’ve had all sorts of speculation with respect to possible explanations, and I’d say it’s never going to be resolved unless we get something from Nowitzki himself, and let’s be realistic. : it doesn’t look like that’s in the cards.
—You’re saying you think he’s, he’s not coming back then.
—Look, there’s of course no telling. Best we can do is indulge in a little speculation. Obviously.
—But when a guy drops off the face of the planet. Disappears without a word to anyone. Vanishes into thin air. One night he’s slumped at center-court after blowing the biggest game of his life, next day he’s just gone. When a professional athlete of Dirk Nowtizki’s stature just poof, exits—
—Then I think you have to be pretty skeptical, in terms of believing there’s any chance of good news coming down the pipe.
—You’re suggesting he took his own life.
—Hubie cuts through the crap.
—One of the things I really love about the Hube.
—Just the absolute chase he’s always prepared to cut to.
—Well, all right. Sure. That is what I’m wondering, guys. You take into account the obsession with seppuku in the months leading up to the finals.
—The photographs depicting all varieties of suffering purportedly plastered across his locker room alcove.
—The obsession with Daniel Plainview of cinema.
—The refusal to meet with the press a month into by far the most successful season of his career.
—Which was of course all the more surprising, the success I mean.
—Coming as it did after the self-imposed hiatus.
—Following the latest in a series of playoff collapses that left him pretty vulnerable to questions of character and personal will to succeed.
—Right, but so not saying so much as a word to the increasingly-fascinated media as he racked up otherworldly stats, not to mention the greatest regular season record in NBA history, for the Mavericks.
—Who’d failed to even make the playoffs without him.
—The previous year.
—The incredible rise in every measure of productivity on the court.
—The steroid question of course therefore having to inevitably come up pretty frequently.
—But the NBA countermanding its own pretty strict policy and releasing tests demonstrating pretty conclusively that whatever was different, it wasn’t steroids.
—Whatever it was, something was different.
—The guy was jumping a good eight inches higher, easy. Watch the tapes.
—Plus his arms went from that sort of floppy Euro-look to specimens of preposterous, just absolutely monstrous, muscularity.
—Shoulders the size of bowling balls.
—Or at least softballs.
—Bigger than softballs I’d say.
—So one way or another, Dirk comes back from this hiatus ripped, springier, more powerful, shooting the ball absurdly well. Which was a forte to begin with, mind. You guys I’m sure remember, but I mean, people forget so easily, the guy was shooting a percentage that was out of this world.
—Ridiculous accuracy that year.
—What was it, ninety-percent? eight-five?
—There was that arc spanning the foul-line extended where I don’t think he missed a single shot from the whole damn year.
—And of course steroids alone, if you’re even willing to brook the steroid speculation, wouldn’t have been enough to account for the shooting percentage.
—Valid point, Bill. But then keep in mind he also just starts dunking the heck out of the ball.
—Like a man possessed.
—Ramming it home.
—Throwing it down in people’s faces.
—A lay-up-less year, practically. From a guy who, recall, at seven feet was known for putting of these pathetic little softy lays just way too frequently.
—But I for one can’t remember a single drive or foray into the paint that season that didn’t result in a dunk.
—Frequently a tomahawk.
—Two-handed thunder, as the Dallas press took to calling it, in a coinage of not exactly overawing descriptive ingenuity. Although it does sort of stick, doesn’t it.
—Violence masquerading as two points.
—He’d put his head down and rumble for the rim with malice—
—Oh, lord, the malice!
—In his eyes.
—Broke poor Dwight Howard’s arm at the wrist.
—Bloodied Yao Ming’s eye.
—Andrew Bynum lost a finger, don’t forget.
—Oh my god. Bill, tell me you saw that live, you were at that game, were you not?
—Just a horrible, horrible sight. A sight I will truly never forget.
—No, afraid not. Long as I live.
—I shudder to think of it.
—That’s not a figure of speech. I’m literally shuddering here, Bill.
—So but my point being, who’d of ever thought?
—Didn’t you used to get the feeling that nickname, the Dunking Deutschman, was sort of a mean-spirited jab? Seeing as how the guy really didn’t dunk too often?
—“Soft” was a word in pretty heavy circulation.
—“Soft” was bandied about.
—I myself said it a few times.
—Sure, who didn’t?
—Nothing to feel sorry about.
—Dirk before the hiatus, or sabbatical—
—Or vision quest.
—Or mystic performance-enhancing regimen.
—Or journey into the heart of the silence, the light.
—Right: this prior Dirk being, we can agree, a totally different Dirk.
—Pretty drastically different players. Different men, I’d go so far as to suggest.
—And in the end?
—Same result. What a [bleep] tragedy.
—Whoa, whoa. Easy, Hube. Let’s not give our already-over-taxed editing staff any extra work this morning.
—I apologize, Bill. Listeners. I apologize. Won’t happen again. No offense intended, I assure you.
—Moving forward. But so is he really gone this time?
—Will we ever see Dirk in the League again?
—Will we ever see him, period?
—Of course you’ve got these internet wack-jobs publishing their theories.
—Yeah, although there is the one set of pretty-widely-circulated photographs that would appear to be depicting Nowiztki, longtime guru–mentor Holger Geschwinder,
—And someone else.
—And a third figure, right.
—Who’s the third figure?
—Can we say without a doubt that, (a) there definitively is a third figure, and, (b) that if there are three figures, they are conclusively Nowizki, Geschwinder, and this mysterious third, in a brown mantle, hooded?
—One answer to the third man question being provided on, ah, let’s see, it’s called Who Is The Third Who Walks Always Beside You dot blog dot net. Have you read this guy?
—Haha. Of course! Linked to him, couple columns ago. Looney but fun.
—The premise of this site being, for listeners who might not read the thing, that the blog’s author is the eponymous third figure.
—That he was with Dirk, on this second reclusive flight from the world.
—Claims Dirk’s still alive.
—And coming soon.
—As I said, I linked to a couple of recent posts sometime last week. Or basically “rants,” is what you’d call them, maybe.
—Yeah, who is this guy?
—Hmmm. Can it be plausibly argued that Dirk’s coming back?
—People are hungry, Bill.
—You can feel it in the air, Bill. The people want something. There’s yearning everywhere you look. It’s palpable.
—A palpable yearning or hunger or need.
—An empire failing.
—The people crave a light to guide them through the darkness, Bill.
—What’s that sound high in the air, Bill?
—Maternal lamentations, is it? Would you say?
—What, are you guys quoting something?
—Cracks and reforms,
—Bursts in violet air.
—Towers falling everywhere you look.
—If so, any particular reason? Forgive me, I was not in top form for most of my lit classes, back at the Cross. Most of them having begun before nine in the morning, for some reason.
—Have we, I’m sorry, have we exhausted the topic of Nowitzki? Fellows?
Dirk examined exegetically:
Stanford University’s A. Horowitz rejects Litgenstein’s essentially Oedipal thesis, viz.:
We can no more readily presume Nowitzki’s ambivalence to stem from the “maternal lacuna” than we can suggest that the savor of a pretzel derives from the absence of sugar withdrawn: the notion preposterously reduces and self-serves.
Ebstein on “mirroring”:
Certainly the mirrored lives become intertwined, beginning particularly with Nowitzki’s self-imposed exile, increasing with astonishing rapidity—and to an almost preposterous extent—thenceforth.
The two real-world figures, Nowitzki and Callahan, proceed to engage in a preposterously surreal pantomime of behaviors first enacted by their fictional counterparts in the novel (note: Several commentators have argued persuasively for a strong autobiographical link between Callahan and King, the fictional figure’s notorious “staged suicide” notwithstanding; see in particular “The Mask Matches the Face: Memoir Masquerading as Fiction in The Consummation of Dirk [The Once and Future King], Browne, Edna, 20—, Columbia Press), some of which behaviors, when charted chronologically, seem necessarily to have to have been initiated before the novel’s publication—so that the possibility of consultation—or even collaboration!—becomes almost too enticing to resist…
Green, Franklin, et al. on how to approach the Callahan–Nowitzki case:
One necessarily approaches the Callahan–Nowitzki case with caution. Dare we write off the possibility of coincidence or chance? Is it beyond the realm of the plausible to posit the similarities might be circumstantial, merely? Nevertheless, given what we have on record from both figures, the parallels may prove too enticing to resist:
So that in a preposterous confusion of fun-house reflections (2) , it may even be possible to assert that while Nowitzki first influenced the material assembled in the novel, that material has in turn influenced Nowitzki’s life, subsequent to the events obliquely described in the novel, which subsequent Nowtzkian life has in turn influenced Callahan’s actual life, twisting it to more closely resemble that of his fictional doppelganger, Dirk King (once the real-life Nowitzki came to more closely resemble his fictive counterpart), whose seemingly farcical narrative arc either influenced or predicted or was influenced or predicted by the real-life narrative of his author, whose real-life relationship to the actual Dirk Nowitzki has been no less obsessive and strange than that of his fictional character’s with the fictive Nowitzki—recent on-line pronouncements on the newly christened Kirk’s messianic qualities, for example, having reached such a fever-pitch as to render the pseudo-suicidal protagonist’s antics rather quaint or tame, in retrospect.
Speculation rampant on Maverick threads:
1: My personal opinion is that Dirk or Kirk or whatever the [expletive] he wants to call himself these days is gone [expletive] bat-[expletive] and that he’s gonna need a whole [expletive] of a lot more than [expletive] love to get himself right.
2: I think what Kirk’s come back to say to us is really really important right now. When’s the last time any of us ever thought about somebody besides ourselves?
3: Let’s face it: the dude was on some kind of performance-enhancer, and in the end he just couldn’t accept that he had to cheat to earn his success. Couldn’t live with himself, basically.
4: Go to Sunday school,  and all you other sentimental [expletive], LMAO!!! [Etc... .]
Dirk, who also is called Kirk:
For in those times a great unrest had swept the land, like a plague, like a swarm of locusts or bees, an animus of shadow and blight, an angel of death grimly tolling the knell, afflicting the people with a dread without name, manifesting as doubt, inscrutable horror and fear.
And Kirk, who was once called Dirk, walked again among the people, bearing good tidings of great joy, peace to the strife-afflicted, communion to those who cried out from the pits of their solitude, hope to all who had abandoned hope, and the people received him with feasting and dance.
In sackcloth and sandaled feet he walked the back roads and broken interstates, crossed the vast and barren spaces of this once-great nation, proclaiming a simple message of righteousness and peace.
And, lo, when they came unto him seated on the high modest dais beside the churches, before the synagogues, the mosques, the temples, wards, assemblies, congregations, synods, meeting halls; and also unto the great shopping plazas, strip malls, the great commerce-chains crosshatching the States of this disintegrating Union, flocking to him in great multitudes, clamoring for audience with him wherever he went, when they spoke unto him of the sadness in their hearts, poured out unto him the grief and pity in their hearts, as they pressed their small afflicted hands into his great calm hands, when they sang unto Kirk lamentations calling forth in melancholic splendor all the sorrows of the world, and he pressed their shaking hands between his own and looked into the eyes of those who suffered, and when he heard their cries, Kirk wept.
Together all would weep as Kirk shook with an intensity of fellow-feeling, took into his own heart the pains lodged in this swelling legion of other hearts, and he wept, and cried out unto heaven to have mercy on us, have mercy, o Lord, have mercy on your people, in our weakness and our grief, and to those who suffered and came unto him Kirk spake little, yet the tears streamed from his open eyes as the people cracked their hearts before him, stripped themselves of irony and sneer, peeled away the callused layers, removed their masks, exposed the naked pain, lay their armor down, that armor which guards against feeling and in so doing crushes the soul, for the first time giving themselves over, with abandon, to sheer sadness and grief: for all have lost— and all fall short of the glory of godhood which in our hearts we woefully crave; my people, humble people, nation of venture, nation of insatiable want, nation of the long loping strides across the boulevards of great cities, the desperate pacing from nowhere to nowhere, under the pitiless sun blazing down on the bowed heads of men.
And they asked of him, Kirk, What is to be done? How are we to live? and he said unto them, touch the water on my cheeks, taste this physicality of sorrow, for this is the true sorrow, the one sorrow that is life to bear and salvation to all who would break free of the torments of their own hardened hearts:
for Blessed are those who have emptied themselves of themselves, Blessed are those who would stand before their brothers, before their sisters, before the strange people they meet in the overcrowded cities and towns, on the sidelines of vast suburban playing fields, as the chatter turns heated and ugly and the volunteer coaches are chastised for failing to provide sons and daughters with adequate playing time, in the supermarket aisles laden with the mechanisms of want, gleaming under post-florescent light, in the megachurches where the righteous sanctify themselves, at the entertainment complexes where spectacle thunders and numbs, on freeways stagnant with vehicular clot, in the arenas, witnessing competitive feats, in the hearts of those would soar high into the void,
Blessed are those who pause, who bend to give ear to the plaints of the fallen, who would listen to the cries of an other, taste the anguish of the world, reach out unto those too frightened to beg for your touch, give unto these that which you would have them give unto you: this is the kingdom of heaven.
No greater love has he than he who would give his life for his brother in the full knowledge that there is no life to come, that his reward is no unseen paradise, for death and death only comes to all, and the kingdom of heaven obtains among us, here is the city shining in the hearts of men, no greater love than to dwell in the hearts of your fellow men, for this is the house of the Lord.
Give of yourself what is yours to give, that another might prosper, empty yourselves, o people, and you shall know God.
Kirk walks the land, passing out tracts:
In tracts he hands out to all who will take them as he treks across the benighted land, Kirk cites certain passages of his own particular inspiration, but stresses that each man or woman’s path to comprehension of the light, each individual circumstance of seeing will be unique and unknowable save that it must come from the sincerest desire to know, to apprehend the light.
Beginning to see the light:
But will we ever reach the light? Does the light shine only to be chased? If we know the light cannot be caught, Who can compel its eternal pursuit?
[Excerpted from The Consummation of Dirk (The Once and Future King), Jonathan Callahan, Smyrna Merchant Press, © 2010.]
However on the far wall beside the lone window and just above the bed’s foot hung only a single poster, its dimensions approximately two-to-three times those of the posters forming a patchwork covering much of the other three walls’ pebbled beige. The image, apparently captured from a vantage courtside at roughly the foul line–extended, would’ve been impressive enough even divorced entirely from context, Dirk had often reflected¬, a certain self-contained majesty seeming to obtain in the depiction itself—lithe body extended just above the glossy hardwood floor, the one jutting knee, the ball securely grasped in the involute palm of a pale flexed hand, the spectatorial tiers aglitter with camera flashes caught in various phases of frozen candescence, eight enormous on-court bodies statued in poses of desperate motion looking on as the snarling pallid airborne figure at stage-center cocks the ball just above the final defender reaching fingertips—and didn’t even necessarily require the additional symbolic heft or weight it acquired when you considered it with an appreciation of certain contextual facts: For example that the defender whose leap is by mere inches inadequate to the task of stymieing a to this point more-or-less-always-stymied-whenever-it-really-mattered Dirk Nowitzki from delivering the ball to the basket for a game-tying two points in the sixth game of a seven-game series that his team trailed three-to-two at the photographic moment and whose (i.e. this defender’s) fingertips stretch up in vain to contest this potentially last-ditch effort belong to one Timothy Duncan, regnant MVP of the Association his San Antonio team is also the defending champion of, and that at least one plausible cause for the disbelief plainly evident on fellow San Antionan Robert Horry (who can be seen sprinting toward Dirk one second too late to have any impact on the play)’s face is that until this very instant pretty much no one in the arena has expected Dirk to do anything other than wilt under the singular pressure of a situation dictating that he either succeed right now or allow his team to be eliminated from competition, win or go home, even the TV analysts sound more or less resigned to the predictable outcome of Dirk heaving up an off-balance, prayer-less shot or else tossing the ball to a teammate so that he can’t be blamed for blowing yet another game by missing the critical shot or dribbling the ball off his foot or in some other way fucking up—and so the chasing Horry’d been as stunned as each of the other players on-court, the lookers-on from the bench, the crowd assembled at the Alamo Dome to witness yet another dismantling of the Mavericks (at this point something of an annual springtime tradition or ritual), television-watchers in living rooms and bars all across this great nation (and also in Germany, where Dirk was, in spite of his myriad failings, a near–national icon and still immensely popular among NBA-fans) and so the point being that you wouldn’t even need to know the whole dismal history of Dirk Nowitzki’s over-hyped and underwhelming NBA career, or even that the desperation apparent in the snarl twisting the Teuton’s features was not merely physical but the equivalent of, say, a smoke-signal sent up from the deep roiling sacred reaches of the soul—none of this knowledge having been strictly necessary in order to apprehend in an instant the physical drama of the immortalized tableau.... But it certainly lent it an additional resonance or depth.
Dirk captured mid-flight, en route, at last, to a chance at that elusive ultimate glory.
[Excerpted from The Consummation of Dirk (The Once and Future King), Jonathan Callahan, Smyrna Merchant Press, © 2010.]
I saw Dirk Nowitzki acquiesce to certain facts about the true nature of desire, about the unmitigated consequence, cost, devotion, sacrifice of self to self; total gratification-as-annihilation, volitional mindlessness, the subsuming pain of true consummation; saw the horror of first knowledge shadow his face as a free throw rattled from the rim, saw him know futility—
Dirk, grasping perigee in its purest absolute, perceiving the unflawed beauty of centripetal collapse into the center of real Want; perceiving the inverted wrongness of all he has understood about pursuit, about life as pumping strong motion—upward outward aching expansion—succumbing to the clear-eyed sadness that accompanies true knowledge of Self-and-Other at its most bleak and Lear-like, embracing the truth unveiled after absolute de-circling, inward orbit-disruption, a plunge into the heart of absolute Need. I saw him know fear. Saw him understand.
Indeed, I saw Dirk, in the penultimate moment, literally enlightened—yes, illuminated, as by hot glowing filament, flaring up from some core-located nucleus of liquid fire that pushed beads of sweated luminescence through the pores of now-translucent German flesh. Saw his backlit eyes glow red, two tiny planets, hovering, the last of him to melt into light, dimming, loamish at the suspended last—twin lumps of shriveled clay—drained nearly of all light; frozen in time, space, memory, barely visible above the supernova that had been his muscle and bone at incandescent climax—exploded, imploded: who could tell?—and, diminishing, began to drip a glistening light that would pool and spread slowly over the charred-black hardwood maple floor.
Saw a crowd of 25,000+ literally enthralled: silence carved along the sudden edge of a violent and rapturous cheer.
[Excerpted from The Consummation of Dirk (The Once and Future King), Jonathan Callahan, Smyrna Merchant Press, © 2010.]
Dirk, whose post-epic-failure pilgrimage into his own self and consequently away from the League and the Nation in which it stands sent him trekking across the jutting plunging craggy terrain of a dry and perilously-mountained land, coordinates undisclosed, running dawn to dusk—pausing only for natural human processes of in- and egress (sometimes not even bothering to pause)—up near-perpendicular slopes garrisoned with considerable Dirk-deterring flora, fauna, and geophysical phenomena: ledges, overhangs, rockslides, cyclones, concentrated lightning storms, carnivorous Venus flytrap–like plants of a human-devouring scale, quicksand, pumas, pteradactyl-sized predatory eagles, gnomes—and beyond all of which, the ubiquitous sulfuric heat;
Dirk, having carried himself alone to a perceivably central—Centered—place, at the heart of a battered, scarred, murderously-hostile land, on high, which heart beat in the literal chest of an unbelievably sere- and psoriatic-skinned, phantasmagorically decrepit withered horseshoe-shaped wraithish hermit (Ω) who had willed his long-failing corporeal vessel to subsist for untold eons on the single handful of gray dirt he scooped and pressed to his tongue once every 172,000 beats of his heart (which cycle the solitary ascetic intuitively tracked with unwavering precision without the need to consciously count—a process that encapsulated precisely the sort of knowing-without-knowing that the pilgrim Dirk would come to understand as at the philosophical heart of what he’d come to See), scooping the nutritive dirt from a shallow pit he’d ages past finger-scraped into the ground behind the roofless rock enclosure within which he at all other times stood marmoreally stooped against the time-scraped motions of sun and moon and cloud and star;
Dirk, whose breath-deprived near-religious gasps of gratitude and relief upon having reached the destination he’d begun to find himself tormented by doubts about the actual existence of—this very Ω–shaped hermit’s roofless hovel—bending down and prostrating himself in accordance with a decorum he’d sketched out for himself during the grunting weeks of rockface-scaling, silver-sand-pool skirting, clustered- (and somehow terrifyingly accurate, almost as if aimed-) lightning-bolt evasion, bare-handed puma slaying, eagle-beak crushing and -severing, gnome-punting, and general prolonged roiling struggle, since the last man who even claimed to have seen the Ω-shaped recluse was long since dead, and had at any rate encountered a far more youthful r-shaped incarnation of the being into whose pupil-less purple-veined eyes a prostrate Dirk unflinchingly gazed as he paid spoken reverence to the man upon whom he’d constructed a whole cosmic system of Hopes;
Dirk, who after a solid week (tracked via sun-and-moon circling) of increasingly desperate requests and finally pleas for an Answer to what he’d trekked off-map to Know, doubting: at the end of the journey, in the heart of the mountains, in the center of the slightly-raised circle of hard gray dust upon which the hermit subsists, in the very center, a hole: black, temperatureless, bottomless, that travels into and through and throughout all time and beyond—
The hermit circling the hole, spiraling inward, each handful of teetering life-sustaining dust taken from a patch one feeble-hand-length closer to the heart of the circle, the empty space, the silence—
Swirling closer to a point beyond which, within which there can be no further inward progression:
The wraith a crescent closing in on itself—becoming, gradually, imperceptibly, a perfect circle.
In a bizarre sequence of life-imitating-art-imitating-life-imitating-art until it becomes a bit difficult to link eggs to an ur-chicken or chickens to an ur-egg, Lucas King, the protagonist of the novel’s severely-depressed and Dirk Nowitzki–worshipping brother (who has earlier instructed his family members to refer to him thenceforth as “Dirk”), imagines a distraught and broken Dirk Nowitzki retreating into exile following yet another cataclysmic failure in the NBA playoffs—
Which (imagined) example Lucas or Dirk King subsequently follows, sort of, as he stages his own suicide and hides out in the mountains of western O`ahu in the hopes of arriving at some sort of satori-like revelation or apprehension that he might then carry back with him on (triumphant?) return to the life whose rushing pace he has found himself unable to keep, being a grievously troubled, miserably depressed post-adolescent; or else, should enlightenment elude him, actually carry out the previously-pseudo-self-slaughter and dare a God whose voice he’d never heard pronounce his condemnation—
Which fictional path the actual Dirk Nowitzki, having apparently read and admired the book, following the calamitous ‘09-‘10 season seems to have roughly followed: while not going so far as to fake his own suicide, he does indeed go off the grid, disappearing for over a year, during which time no one on the planet can produce evidence suggesting he’s still alive—
Meanwhile soon thereafter the actual Jonathan Callahan, i.e. the author of The Consummation of Dirk (The Once and Future King), also goes missing, just as the media-frenzy surrounding the talented young author’s audacious debut (essentially an orgy of breathless adoration, book-reviewers, critics, and even a few [in general, grudgingly] admiring academics across the country all frantically rushing to anoint and then outdo one another in lavishing worshipful praise upon the twenty-nine-year-old wunderkind) has at last begun to wane or die down, and the author is purported by family members and his few close friends to have sunk into a severe depression that rather surrealistically echoes the depression the desponding, Nowitzki-worshipping Lucase/Dirk King imagined the (fictional) Dirk Nowitzki, in a late passage of The Consummation of Dirk (The Once and Future King), sinking into, just as he was at last on the cusp of achieving his ultimate goal of winning a championship—which depression is described (in prose the floridity of which has been rather egregiously given a free pass by the wunderkind-hungry literary press) by Dirk King (who is revealed by this point not to have killed himself, yet) in a brief nested “text-within-the-text,” manuscript composed in a wild-mushroom-induced ecstatic trance: D.K. envisions a scenario whereupon the fictive Nowitzki, on the free-throw line at the very end of the season that has marked his triumphant return to the League, on the verge of at last earning the championship ring that has eluded him for his entire career, realizes in a moment of devastating satori-ish total apprehension—or sight—that it will never be enough, no cheer will be loud enough, no achievement great enough, no ring’s circumference vast enough to encircle his infinite desire, this disillusionment obliquely literalized in the soaring, lyric, if saprophytically-obscured passage (See Appendix B) and then elaborated on or further imagined in a subsequent passage (C) during which the febrile Dirk King imagines himself directly into the mind of a broken Dirk Nowitzki, who has at last achieved the success he’s craved his whole life and nevertheless found himself still empty, still craving more, if anything even less happy than he’s ever been (and he’s always been unhappy), which is why, Dirk King explains, in a lengthy soliloquy (delivered in the disembodied voice of Nowitzki) to his sister (who is understandably unhappy with her brother’s decision to stage his own suicide some thirteen months earlier and then haunt her otherwise-tranquil life at the small liberal arts college she’s decided to attend in order to get away from her tragedy-hammered family’s stolid Christian optimism in the face of sheer calamitous fate) that he decided to give up his pursuit of the basketball stardom he may have been on the cusp of back in Honolulu, (though the narrative implies that D.K.’s impression of his own abilities is drastically, bombastically, pitifully inflated, in spite of his insecurities: i.e. the fact that poor Dirk King thinks he’s in possession of a rarely keen sense of self-awareness and insight into both his own consciousness’s mechanisms and his capacity for self-delusion and therefore uniquely equipped to see through any capacity he might have to inflate his own estimation of himself only makes his still-falsely-inflated sense of his own worth [The book’s front cover depicts what would appear to be a disembodied sneer] that much more tragic and pathetic) and retreat into the mountains in the hopes of attaining zen-like knowledge and peace—
Which example seems again to have informed the actual (i.e. real life) Dirk Nowitzki’s behavior, as, upon returning from his mysterious sojourn into distant regions undisclosed (the author Jonathan Callahan meanwhile still absent) as an absolute on-court machine, Nowitzki pilots the Mavs to the greatest record in NBA history (75–7—four of the losses coming during Dirk’s self-imposed ten days of fasting and reflection, mid-season), and then meeting in the Finals a stiff challenge in Lebron James’s formidable Miami Heat, culminating in the fateful dunk attempt described supra that would have won the whole shebang and that either went awry or Dirk intentionally missed, depending who you want to ask, after which Dirk (the real Dirk) goes missing yet again—
At which point the vanished Jonathan Callahan abruptly reappears, this time as the anonymous author (it is later revealed) of the quickly-immensely-popular Who Is The Third Who Walks Always Beside You web-log which begins as a sort of AWOL-Dirk Nowitzki Speculation-and-Gossip site but quickly evolves into a sort of Gospel-like account wherein the author (Callahan) simultaneously relates the account and casts himself in a John the Baptist–type role, claiming that he is not the light but comes to bear witness to the light, the true light, the light that shines in the darkness and gives light to all men, and that basically Dirk will return—
Which is of course precisely what Dirk King, the fictional character, does at the culmination of The Once and Future King, as members of that novel’s considerable readership will recall: He returns to his father, the retired heart surgeon, now a broken man, haunted by a crushing remorse over his sense that he has failed his only begotten son, his creation, Dirk’s return bringing the novel to a rousing emotional climax or culmination or consummation at which point the indication seems to be that the new life to be commenced beyond the book’s pages will be defined by other-orientedness, genuine self-sacrifice, escape from the awful confines of solipsism or self-obsession—the implication being that Dirk, having come through the refinery of his personal quest into the deepest recesses of selfishness and, frankly, evil (in terms of having staged his own suicide and left his loving family in grief-wracked shambles), has emerged new and different and whole, having finally learned to love—which is precisely the message Kirk Nowitzki, having taken the new name so as to reflect the deep transformation undertaken in the secret distant reaches he has traveled to and sojourned through in search of understanding and peace with the self and its place in the world, will return one day to preach, the still-reclusive hermit-like Jonathan Callahan claims on his WITTWWABY blog—
At which point the actual Dirk Nowitzki returns from wherever he’s been off the grid and announces he’s changed his name to Kirk, and that he won’t be playing ball anymore, no: what he’d like to do with the rest of his life is learn to give, learn to love and care for someone—anyone—other than himself, to find something greater, who knows what it will be, he’s willing to spend his whole life learning how to do this, only where is a self-escaping man supposed to even begin?