Wednesday, July 29, 2020
Tuesday, July 28, 2020
In Camera, In Perpetuity
A "famously obscure" philosopher once said that anything that can be said can be said clearly.
His funeral was a simple affair. His remains were elsewhere. Its centerpiece was a set of ten nesting boxes. The largest box was the size of a steamer trunk, the smallest of a lady's jewelry box of the 19th century.
Each box had a padlock of corresponding size, but, by a feat of forgery, a single key could open them all.
All but the smallest box was locked. The smallest box held the last remaining such key. The nine others were melted in the same forge in which they were cast, into an image in miniature of the philosopher's family crest, in bas relief in the manner of Saint-Gaudens.
The crest resides with him in perpetuity.
Monday, July 27, 2020
Sunday, July 26, 2020
Perfecting the "Spin and Roll"
In the old movie and TV Westerns, the guns were always blazing. One wonders how all of those .45 calibre bullets made the trek from the armories of Springfield to holsters in Wichita and Deadwood and Abilene, Texas.
You knew right away who was going to "get it." The drunk who cheated at cards in the saloon. The cattle rustler. The two guys hiding behind a rock by the trail, ready to ambush the buckboard carrying our hero and his sweetheart out to a picnic church supper on the river bank. Anyone who pistol-whipped our perennial sidekick Gabby Hayes. And all of the desperadoes who rode into town together yesterday morning, grinning and spitting into the dusty street.
The six-gun was king, only on the rare occasion bested when raw fury and chivalry and ingenuity happened to coalesce, as in Woody Guthrie's all-but-forgotten tale of the rise of Pretty Boy Floyd,
.... On a Saturday afternoon
His wife beside him in a wagon
And into town they rode.
The deputy sheriff approached him
In a manner rather rude
Using vulgar words of language
And his wife she overheard!
Pretty Boy grabbed a log chain
And the deputy grabbed his gun
And in the fight that followed
He lay that deputy down!
But on the screen, not in the vinyl grooves of the dustbowl days, not one of the bad guys ever was shot in the face, nor ever were his intestines splayed all over the street. Once in a while a bad or a good guy might get "winged" in the arm and have to wear a simple white sling until intermission, but no one, 20 years after the great battles of the Civil War, ever got gangrene; shot guns were sawed off but the wings never were!
And so the rise of the choreography of the stunt man and the body double, showing exactly how it was to take a bullet and get killed. The bullet found its way to your vitals immediately. You had only time to spin 270 degrees and roll to the ground, stone cold dead. (If you were on a horse, you might tick tock a little in the saddle it's true before falling off and rolling to the ground, stone cold dead.)
Soon I will take my own bespoke slug in the torso, likewise off center as is fitting and just, and that final pirouette will be my last chance to show any elegance, any grace at all, before the posse puts me under.
"The Sweep of History"
It's not the sweep of some field marshal's glasses over the broad battleground this time. It's more like the forearm of a deity, both angry and bored, wiping the entire chess board clean. Indeed, the god that we have made in our own image and likeness is not the Great Actor here; He may instead be one of the fallen pieces.
Friday, July 17, 2020
2:40AM is taking on an almost mystical significance. A flashback to daily Mass at Byron and Horace Streets in East Boston. A dim little chapel. Brother Dennis Cox, S.D.B., supplies the spare musical accompaniment in a pure and confident voice, his bargain-basement organ sounding like a plastic harmonium:
Oh taste, and see that the Lord is good!
Happy the man who places hope in Him.
Then a gentle, comforting, sleep-inducing rain. But in time it builds to a Paraguayan rainy season crescendo, hostile and insistent. I fall back to sleep nonetheless and awaken finally unrested.
Tuesday, July 14, 2020
Sunday, July 12, 2020
The Bible Reconsidered
With the players on the stage, up to and including Jesus, taking on relative unimportance.
Three things of real importance. (I might have said three "words," but one of the things is the word "Word" itself, so that would have the snake biting its tail.)
In order of time, the Word, and then the Light, and then the Garden. In the Beginning was the Word, the Vibration. And the Word was God. And God let there be Light, and the Light shone in the Darkness, and the Darkness grasped It not.
Adam and Eve found their paradise not in a gold-walled cave, nor in a castle on the mountaintop, nor in a cabin on the shores of Lake Tahoe. They found it in a Garden teeming with life of all kinds -- bacterial, fungal, grub-like, deciduous, reptilian, mammalian ..., and all to a greater or lesser extent sapiens.
That life of all sorts, including yours and mine, is One, it emanates from the Vibration, and it resolves into the Light. That is the hidden story, one that may be laid comfortably over any Buddhist cosmology like a transparency in an old medical text. And the rest? It's just folk and fairy tale.
Monday, July 6, 2020
July 6, 2020, the First Wholly Theoretical National Holiday
All days having blended into one, and the country having proclaimed itself unworthy of celebration.
My dreams in the night were full of violence and terrorism, in a small Islamic country. In one I ran towards my home in a posher section of the capital, only to be beaten repeatedly over the head into unconsciousness. In another, a boy of seven or eight stood at an intersection with an AR-15, gleefully taking in a cornucopia of tempting targets, including me. But in a third, I had the charge of a female toddler, not my daughter. By mistake I placed her on the shoulders of a strange man who was watching a football match. She enthralled him with precocious conversation, as if I were a ventriloquist and she my dummy.
Friday, July 3, 2020
I want to awaken one of these days to find myself transformed, not into the giant roach of Kafka's signature nightmare, but into Robert Goulet, a little past his prime, entering stage right to the opening strains of "Ohhhhhhhhk!-la-ho-ma where the blah blah blah blah blah blah blah! …" Brimming with exuberance and energy and basking in the crowd's adoration that is. Timing is everything.