I painted this one first - just a little over two years ago:
and this is the version I polished off today:
Here's what I think.
- The Salesman is my Magician for a few reasons - first, because it's a role that's similar, they both turn bullshit into money. More or less. Charm, ease, confidence. Conman or Salesman - they turn bullshit to money. That's the purely mundane, secular relationship between these two. Second, because they both convey a sense of interior power. A mastery of the self and the self's internal impulses. These are people who are able to form their best perceptions and sense of themselves and then use that - that compressed diamond within to create... Something. A conversation, a ritual, a plan, a transaction. In either of these cases these are people with limited tools - language based tools, who can transmute by skill - those tools into power & the exercise of power. In both cases these are figures who have an undeserved dominance - because in both cases these are people who have formed themselves into a tool - useful only to themselves.
Here's how I read it.
- The Salesman has a powerful internal identity, a drive from within that comes from equal parts strength and flaws, he's a realized avatar of the Self - and internal identity that sometimes can have dominance in the self. By no means the complete man, nor the perfected man, the Salesman is a powerful man that derives from an inward drive and sense. So where the Student conveys a total lack of awareness - the Salesman represents a hyper-awareness but only of the internal self. Of his capabilities. He's uncertain of the world - but he does have the confidence and the power he needs to try and exert some dominance over the world itself. He is a man of will who gets by with a few accoutrements and little else.
The Pen, the Phone, the Money and the Cup - he's got the minor arcana, the symbols of the estates and the elements and the humors - he's got those spinning in the air, tools, toys to him. He has them and uses them - but may not quite appreciate their influence. He's self aware and understands their value to him - but may miss their function in the larger world. The Salesman masters himself, not the world - he's effective in the world but not the ruler.
He relies on the written word and the spoken word, on symbols and language. These are the effective centers of his abilities. He has a name for his qualities, and is good at equivocation, at reasoning and at persuasion. Words are his power - they're a thorough expression of his inner self - which is a manifested identity- to the outer world which may have no distinct identity. He's like Adam then - he names the creatures of the field. This is a source of power in him.
This time around I'm being more deliberate about my application of the hexagrams of the I-Ching. Here, you have Pushing Upward - Sheng - The breeze from within the earth. Pushing upward is a supreme success - Fear not - one must See the Great Man. This is a sign of the man who sees, clearly, the best in himself, and struggles to express it outwardly. Now- whether this really is the best in himself, is not truly manifest - it's a sign though, of what we hold dear about ourselves, and what we have within us, that makes us content in ourselves.
I wrote a story about it.
“Here I am again under the lights.” he thinks. The day's started, the samples are all in place, the world is beginning to align in lighted forms and shapes. The objects on the horizon become distinct – cars and buildings and trees – cast in deep shadow from the rising sun. He drinks his bad coffee from his foam cup, it's burned and tastes burned and hot and burns his tongue. He flattens the wrinkes out of his suit and preens in the mirror. He looks fine. “Here I am again.” He says. “Under the lights.” He says this into his mirror, he's sure that he could say something more, something that would mean everything, that would change something for him today. He can't think of what though. He feels a certain shame, a certain restlessness and a certain anxiety.
“They're almost here.” He says. Customers, is what he means – prospects, marks. Someone he'll pitch. He tries his pitches out. They come clumsily to his mouth, he's burned his tongue, it's swollen against his teeth and he feels unready. He's always been unready. If he'd prepared... “If I'd prepared more, I'd be doing something else.” He thinks this, remembers his college friends who learned engineering, who learned law. “Lack of preparation.” He's learned, that he's not the prepared type though, preparation doesn't agree with him.
“At least I'm resourceful. It's better to be resourceful than prepared.” He says this to himself and he's sitting down by the door now, watching the lot to see if a customer will approach. He's coloring in the scuffs on his shoes with a marker. It looks fine, he's together. If he didn't shine his shoes today, that's more time he had for better things. If he didn't prepare by shining his shoes, at least he's resourceful enough to fix the scuffs with marker. He realizes that he's a genius. He drinks the coffee, it's cooled now but his tongue's gone numb. He looks at the phone – there is a list of people he needs to call today. He's good on the phone even if he doesn't like using it. People don't answer enough – sometimes they're angry that he's calling. He's good on the phone – when he can reach them. They come in, one out of twenty, they come in and of those one out of four will buy. He's alright, as a Salesman, he's alright, but just alright. There are better. “Always better.” He says. Thinking about it ruefully. The old man in sunglasses, the young kid that everyone seems to love and pity. The preacher, the highschool football hero. There's always someone better. But there's always someone, each day, who's the best. Who's the best is a matter for daily reckoning, something calculated by the sudden quirk of fate that grants vision and strength, the suddenly possible realities that emerge out of seemingly nothing.
“It's all chance.” He says, and knows it. “Today's my day.” He doesn't really believe it, but repeating it helps.
It's after ten when the first customer comes up. He goes straight to him. A strange man in a crumpled suit. Trendy, nice – but it looks like he's slept in it. He goes right up, no hesitation. He manifests within himself a feeling - “This is where I want to be.” That's what he tells himself and walks right up.
“Sir.” He says, approaching. “Good morning sir, you're well?” He extends his hand, the man takes it.
“Ah, I been better, but not often. How are you doing fella?”
“It's a beautiful day isn't it?” He's suddenly realizing that it is. The ice has receded. He isn't feeling the cold – there's no wind now. It's warm and the sun is out. He shouldn't be doing this, but he's looking away from the customer, the prospect. He's got his eyes shaded and he's looking at the sun, rising up.
“It is isn't it. You're right. Listen, can you tell me about this one? I come by here all the time and I keep seeing this guy, I want to know about it, I been wondering.”
The Salesman looks at the unit, it's a nice one, but not the nicest. It doesn't seem like it will match the man's style, but the man's style is peculiar, now that he's noticing it.
“We can go inside and I'll show you all the literature, come on in.”
“Nah, nah, I'll stay out here and smoke – you wanna smoke?”
“A little. You want some coffee? I'll get us some coffee and we can talk out here.”
“Nice plan, sure. No sugar, light cream.”
“Be right back.”
“Not going anywhere fella.”
It's the kind of thing someone says when they are planning, in fact, to go somewhere. He realizes that. But also, he feels a great confidence. A lot of people come by just to look, like they want to know about the units, about product. A lot more people come by just to make small talk with a Salesman. Old guys, lonely. This one? He seems like – well it seems different, to the Salesman, it seems like he's interested, genuinely, in the Salesman himself. He gets the coffee out of the waiting room, brings it back – two tall foam cups.
The prospect, he offers a cigarette and a light. They stand there, drinking coffee and looking at the sun rising.
“So you like this work?”
“Not always, but today it's good.”
“What don't you like about it?”
“The uncertainty.” The Salesman doesn't hesitate.
“What do you like about it?”
“Hah! How you figure that?”
“heh, well – it's like this. I can't count on a customer coming up, and if one does, I can't count on them buying – so it's uncertain. But I can count on them liking me, and remembering me, and I can count on knowing my product and I can count on having a conversation. I like that, so that's what I can count on.”
“So you're uncertain about everyone but yourself.”
“That's it. I like that. I'm out here, just me, and that's all I can count on, and I like that. Counting on myself.”
“But if you really counted on yourself, wouldn't you think you could close every prospect?”
“Oh, now - I can say that I can, and I can believe that, but I don't know that I can. That's different. Believing and knowing.”
“What makes the difference then?”
They sip coffee and smoke a while. It's not yet time to talk, the Salesman has to think about it.
“Well – so I know I'm right handed – because that's the hand I use to write. But I believe I could get myself to write with my left hand, if I had to.”
“So you know you're good, but you believe you could do better.”
“If I needed to.”
“So why don't you need to?”
“Do better? Well... I hadn't thought about it really. I mean – if you had to write southpaw, you could do it, but only if you knew about writing in the first place, you know where you want to get to. So you believe you can get somewhere you already know about. But think about this – I'm talking to you, and I don't know you, or if you want to buy, or even if you could buy if you wanted to. A lot of people don't have any money, or they can't get financed. A lot of people. So I don't really believe I can sell you, but I know I can talk to you.”
“So you talk.”
“You don't mind?”
“I'm here ain't I?”
“You want to look at this unit?”
“Yeah – tell me about it.”
“Top of the line, in its time, it's pretty good still. Here's an old brochure – literature – that's what we call it.”
“Literature. Words. Talking. Words. Pitch, Slogan, Jingle. Words.”
“That's it. Words.”
“So is it just words, that turn a prospect to a customer?”
“And a conversation into a Sale. That's right.”
“So tell me about that, words.”
“Funny you should say that.”
“You laughing at me?”
“No, myself – you know, I think about it. Are there magic words? Alchemy – they used to have alchemists right? They turned lead to gold. Now, we've got Salesmen, we turn words to money.”
“Top of the line you say?”
“In it's time, it's still nice though, still strong – it's got character – see, look at this, and here.” It had character, that unit.
“I get you. So why should I buy it?”
“Well, because you can, and because I want you to.”
“So what makes you so important?”
“It's because this is my day. It's my day to be the best.”
And the prospect gets out his wallet, hands over the money – words transmuted to currency – right there on the lot.