Saturday, April 29, 2017
I remember a World Lit class I took in college. We studied Lau Tzu, Dante, Socrates, Markus Aurelius, Aquinas, and others. It was a great class. There were lots of opinions on a surprisingly small number of issues that kept coming up over and over again across the centuries and spanning borders, languages, and cultures. It made one feel that, on some level, we are all asking the same questions. We're all in the same boat. All the same questioners questioning from different directions.
So. For the final. Classes have final exams, after all. We were given our tests, which contained one question. Just one. You are at Charles D'Gaulle airport in France. There is a freak snowstorm, grounding all flights. You find yourself in a lounge with some other stranded passengers. These are: Socrates, Omar Khayyam, Confucius, Leo Tolstoy, and Thomas Aquinas.
What do they talk about?
Wednesday, April 26, 2017
Today I went out to do a couple of errands, pick up some things at the grocery store and stop at the pharmacy. On the way there I passed a man by the street side with a sign: Please help. Veteran. It was a surprise because I haven’t seen too many people asking for help in this part of Connecticut.
On my way back home I pulled up to him. “Good afternoon, sir. I hope this helps.” I handed him a bill. He looked surprised. It was no more than I would pay for a six pack of beer. “Oh, thank you,” he said. “You’re welcome. And thank you for your service.” “You’re welcome. And God bless you.” I drove off.
I could smell the cigarette smoke on him. I can get that from forty paces. I couldn’t know if he would spend that money on booze or whatnot. I didn’t care. His government had shit on him and the enemy had shot at him, probably after being trained and funded by that same government. He could spend it on crack for all I cared.
There’s much division in this country. The so called Left and the so called Right hate each other. Speakers at universities, once stanchions of free speech and anti-war protests, are shouted down and their lectures cancelled, when we are not blaming foreign, evil governments for what are essentially our failings. Our own evil overlords are perfectly happy to keep us at each other’s throats or blaming the modern day Emmanuel Goldstein in the Kremlin. Don’t waste a good two minute hate, after all. Everyone knows he does bad things. Why? Because he’s evil! How do we know that he is evil? Because he does bad things! A nice and tidy circular package.
And in the meantime our republic sputters.
Friday, April 14, 2017
Jesus sat in his high house looking down on the world. "Such a wretched place," he said. "Why would anybody want to live there?"
His Prime Minister, Satan, stood by. "You know," he said. "You could intervene. Send an envoy? Establish a diplomatic mission? Maybe if we had a cultural exchange we could lift them up."
"I don't know," said Jesus. "They seem so... I don't know. So backwards? So evil? They are made of clay and they seem determined to grind each other back into clay again."
Satan paused. And thought. "I have an idea," he said. "Say we go to them. Say we give them a choice. You can either be clay in the ground or you can be stars in the sky. Your choice."
Jesus thought. "You'd go down there?"
"Sure. I'd talk to them."
"And tell them what?"
"Well. Pick and choose. Which do you want? Here or there? Good or evil?"
"That's fucked up brother. Clay? Choose?"
"Ya, well. What are we gonna do?"
"Nothing, I guess."
"I suppose. Dad won't be happy."
"So, if we go down there and interfere with their lives, what good will it do?"
"I don't know. We won't know until we try."
"You are just so sentimental."
"Ya, so? You are just so spiteful."
"What do I care about..., what are they called? Carbon creatures? Isn't that what shit is made from?"
"And trees. And kittens. And people."
"Whatever. Why do you care, anyway!"
"Because they do. Have you ever stopped to hear them sing? Or pray? Or make love to the day?"
"Like I would bother."
"Well, I've bothered. And I want to bother some more."
"OK. So what do you want to do about these human carbon singers?"
"I don't know. You're right. There's not much there. I just can't help feeling that there is more there there."
"Wait. You sound sentimental. Really? They are just mud creatures! Barely alive! And hardly aware. You know they are just autonomous creatures, right? Robots? There is no there there!"
"I suppose you're right."
"Of course I'm right. Let's just plow over the whole clay swamp down there and be done with it, eh Stan?"
"Still, what if? What if we gave the clay people a chance? One chance to be? To be a living, breathing and thinking, feeling creature? Capable of love and laughter and light?"
"And how do you propose to do that? They're just dirt!"
"I don't know. Go down to them? Pick out two. Set them aside. Maybe in a perfect setting. And give them a perfect choice.
"Give them a test. You can have this perfect knowledge. But to do so you will lose this perfect bliss. Choose. Go back to clay. Or come here to perfection. You stand in the middle. The road backwards or forwards is long. And both impossible.
Jesus pondered these words. "Nice speech, brother," he said. "And what part will you play?"
"The one I always play. The one with the awkward questions. The one who asks why and why not."
"You were always an iconoclast."
"I never saw a monument I didn't want to knock down."
"OK. I'm in. What do we have to lose? Two clay blobs vs. infinity. Bring it on!"
"OK. So, you up for a little wager?"
"If I get those clay creatures to come alive, you take them up to us. Here. In our world."
"Like that's gonna happen. And if you lose?"
"Pffttt. I don't know. I'll eat them all?"
"You already lost."
"How do you figure?"
"They're roaming around, mindless."
"Except those two. Here. I will take them. And put them in a garden."
"So? What good will that do?"
"Watch. I will make a garden of absolute delight. And a tree. Two trees! A tree of knowing and a tree of life. Two trees of fruit and the fruit of the tree of knowing gives one an idea. An idea that one is not immortal. And one is not divine, either. Indeed, that one is not part of the eternal. But leaves, in its aftertaste, the desire to be those things. And the other tree. The tree of life. Its fruit tastes of immortality. Of not knowing past or future. Me or thee. Only now. Only everything. Only eternity.
"And I will tell the clay people that they must not eat of the tree of knowing, for it will break them away from their dumb existence of animal clay that does not know the difference of day to day and that does not anticipate the future and knows not of its own death.
"Choose. Bliss of ignorance or horror of knowing!"
"And if they choose?"
"Then you will guide them."
"How will I do that?"
"Improvise! Make it up as you go along."
"If I agree to do this."
"Which you already have."
"If! What's in it for me?"
"You can create the next world."
"Brother Satan. You were always the clever one."
Monday, April 10, 2017
An old man sits on a park bench feeding the pigeons. “Coo-coo,” he calls to them while he scatters seed. “Coo-coo. Chuck-chuck-chuck. Here, birdie.”
A young woman, a girl, walks by. She’s on her way to who knows where? Another world. Another destination. Just a road on the way. He pauses, smiles, and gestures her to pass. He’s doing nothing. Just feeding the birds. Don’t let me get in your way. She can’t hurt his revelry. Indeed, she is just another bird to cross his territory. To make him smile for a bit. Nice birdie. Pretty birdie. A smile for the birds. Coo-coo!
She continues. Further on. To the next crossing in the park. To the next garden, the next stream, but stops. And looks back. And sees the old man and his park bench and his pigeons and his kindness and his coo-cooing. And something else.
She walks back. For a moment they look. She smiles and reaches out her hands to him. And the old man stands up and takes her hands back. And they dance. To a tune. A waltz. The Birds in the Arbor by Offenbach. Tales of Hoffman. An old march. The Doll’s song, so they say. Old man and young girl. Dancing together. One on one. In hands together and hand in hand. In pirouette and enfolded in each others’ arms. Flung far away and rushing back together in embrace. They dance. No, they Dance! For once! As neither had danced before! It was a dance to be danced, not just to dance.
And once. Far down. Below the pigeon bench and the scattered seed to where they had first come together. The man and the woman come together again, neither young nor old. Just they. And pause. And hand in hand. At arms length. Eyes together. And come together. He takes her in his arms and pulls her close, as does she him to her. And they come close. Oh, so close. So close to. A kiss. Oh, so close to a kiss. The man dreaming, dreaming. Of the young girl in his arms. An old man dreams…
And the music starts again and they fly apart. Arm in arm. Hand in hand. Beat and pulse to the music. One and two and three. The beating of bodies beating as only bodies know how to do.
And so they dance. The Doll Song. Two lovers playing a song of love. A song of yearning. A song of wanting. A song of…
And they come together, once more, at the end. He kneels before his dreamed love, takes her hand and kisses it. She bows to him and recognizes his love. In her dreams.
And they part.
He goes back to his bench and feeds the pigeons with the last of his seed. She continues on her way. But not before they exchange one last glance.
There is a god. It is out there. It is beyond our comprehension. Outside of our comprehension. Just on the barely visible edge of our comprehension. The event horizon of our comprehension. But a little bit more beyond. Just a tiny bit. And a little bit more. There. There it is, in exquisite non-existence. That point that’s not a point. That thing that’s not a thing. That existence that does not exist. The Is that Is Not. But Is. Somehow.
But I see it. Somehow. Do I know it? No. I can’t know it. I can’t know what something is that is beyond our life experience. Beyond our universe. Beyond our time and space continuum. Beyond…beyond. How do you know such a thing? How do you comprehend?
Yet there it is. Just barely within our comprehension. Barely knowable. And it takes on a name. It becomes a God! A He! Or a She! And we relate to Him or Her. Or Them. God. It becomes plural. Gods! And they are so like us. Or so like what we think of us. Or them. Or the other. Or the not us. Or the people we love. Or the people we hate. But always in constant contrast of what we think we are. The gods of mirrors. The abyss mirrors back.
So there are so many of them. Gods, I mean. So many gods fanning out of the realm of the incomprehensible. The inconceivable. The…
And what do they mean?
So now there is a god, goddess, gods, and they pull the strings of every aspect of our lives. They are like fleas or tics that inhabit every pore of every facet of every gram of every tiresome and timely step of our existence. Really, god? Do you have to soak up my life like dirt under my nails? Don’t you have anything better to do?
No more gods, please. Enough already. Except for that one that is out there, incomprehensible. Unknowable. Stay there, please. We don’t need you. Stay out there.
And in here? I’ll make my own gods for now. They suit me.
God help me.
Wednesday, April 5, 2017
I'll talk to people. They show themselves to be trolls. I want to call them trolls. But I can't be sure that they are. I think that's the mark of a not-troll. This person who has legitimate concerns that disagree with mine. I need to engage that one. In honest discourse with honest people who have their own honest opinions that are contrary to mine. Who knows in what stone quarry I might find the stone of knowledge? Maybe, by rejecting them, I am the troll!
Who am I to tell what is right and what is wrong? Who am I to call a troll a troll? Troll is as troll does, after all. If I fight a troll using trollish behavior, what does that make me?
So. When I engage in discussion with a similarly educated opponent I assume that they believe what they do for the same well thought out and well researched reasons as I. And that they understand, in the vast fields of knowledge and experience, that no single person can know it all. So we all can learn from the all. We can all engage in polite discourse. We can respect and come away enlightened. A little bit. For the all is greater than the sum of the parts. Or we can pretend to know it all. And be a troll.
The soul of knowledge is humility.
And trolls. There are always trolls.
Bashar al Assad gassed last kitten hospital in Aleppo!
By the way, thank God the United States never did anything like use jellied gasoline on civilians in some Southeast Asian country in the 60’s or attach electrodes to the private parts of anybody in oddly familiar looking prison camps in countries with strange names. But work will make them free, so they say.
And Saddam Hussein gassed his own people, the Kurds, which was used to justify the 1990 Gulf war, but that was after he had already used gas on Iranian soldiers during his war with Iran in the 80’s, but that was OK because he was gassing people we don’t like.
But wait. Didn’t Assad gas his own people in 2013? No? It turned out to be the terrorists using gas bombs that were smuggled out of US destroyed/liberated Libya, through NATO member Turkey to the terrorists, I mean, freedom loving rebels, in Syria. If only those war mongering Russians hadn’t intervened with their stealth diplomats to negotiate a legal treaty with Syria to destroy all of their chemical weapons, we could have brought our freedom loving democracy bombs to Syria outside of the meddling of the United Nations and their namby-pamby International Law like we did in Libya. What's a freedom loving country to do!
But world opinion is that we are the bad guys? Imagine that?
But that’s all hearsay. The Monkey Choir at CNN, Fox, and MSNBC will tell us which to believe. They’ll produce the truth out of their dark, trusted sources and hurl it at our faces, alright.
And for that Twit thing:
And for that Twit thing:
And a hash-thingey for our brave journalists embedded in the seat of power. #MonkeyChoir