Category Archives: Distracted

We’re Upstairs…

We’re upstairs the other day in the little room at the back of the house.  Just me and her.  We catch a show on the tube.  I can’t remember what the hell it is.  It doesn’t matter.

When it’s over she says she’s going downstairs to take care of some business and maybe we’ll catch another show in time.  Fine, I figure as I follow her down.  We’ll reassemble in a while.

I tell her I have a couple of things to do myself.  I say I have a wash to do.  I’m downstairs now saying this.  The clothes hamper is in our bedroom. The bedroom is directly above where I am saying this.  Upstairs.

She goes into the family room where I had left the vacuum cleaner a couple of hours earlier.  The day before I figured I would vacuum downstairs on this day, so I’d gotten the thing out of the closet early in the morning.

Her desk is there, and she sits at it to do…whatever.  I see the vacuum and remember what it is there for.

I turn around and leave, walk down the short hall to the stairs and begin to mount them.

Then I stop a few steps up.  I just stop.  And I think, or try to think, why am I climbing the stairs?  Oh, I think finally, I’m going upstairs to vacuum.  But then I think I can’t remember if the vacuum is upstairs, or still in the closet.  No, I remember, it is in the family room where I put it only a little while ago.

And, I turn to go and get it.

As I reach the bottom of the stairs and begin to walk down the little hall to the family room to get the vacuum I remember the wash I said I wanted to do.

I stop, turn and return to the stairs, climb them to our bedroom, get the hamper, take it to the basement and start the clothes washing.

I spend a lot more time on the stairs than I used to.

The floors got vacuumed after the wash was done.  We got together a bit later in the day and watched another show.

Revoltin’ Developments

No one likes a spoil sport, and it begins to look as though Washington, D.C. has become a town full of boys and girls who are just that.  The playing field is empty.  Everyone seems to have taken their ball and walked off the field to slouch around on the sideline, kicking stones and dirt and pointing fingers, calling names and trying to convince the helpless spectators (Us) that everyone else is at fault.  But they?  They are not to blame.  Well, in a game this important, everyone not playing, everyone not willing to come out on the field and get it done, is in some part to blame.

What is really galling, though, are the attacks on the fans. You know what I mean?

The progress of events since this began is what I’m talking about: the barricades and closings of public spaces, even of the ocean, and the petty harassment of old and young is at once laughable and pitiful to witness, humiliating to live through, as if a close family member was a public drunkard, a child or dog beater.  The venal attempts at humiliation of opponents, the snubbings and the kind of petulant silence masquerading as imperial, above the fray behavior on the part of the president haven’t been seen since Nixon, and surpass even his worst.   To what good end are open spaces shut against men and women who have sacrificed much in service to the rest of us?  What example does it set for our young people who most desperately need education and example in honesty, mutual respect, goodness and duty?  Why are people offering services to hungry or tired travelers on federal roads prevented from doing so?  Is it not just good for business?  Does it not aid safety and could it nor be looked on as a work of charity?  There’s Progress and Change that might bring real Hope to a bewildered and increasing frustrated and angry body politic..

But, the evidence so far suggests that no one inside the beltway really gives a tinker’s damn about anyone outside of it.  It seems in some, or in all, of these cases that the “shut down” government has turned against the people whose government it is.  It’s as if a kind of auto immune disease has infected us, or that DC is a tumor in our gut.

I am old enough to remember when we were shown the example of leaders such as Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Lincoln, the two Roosevelts, Wilson and Eisenhower (by God), and others, guys like Tip O’Neill, John Mc Cormack; men who pledged their lives and sacred honor to the life and honor of this once wonderful place.

Now what have we?   We have a leaderless mob in government as out Chief Executive sits in his palace (when not somewhere playing golf) and refuses to come out to play…unless they use his ball.  He refuses, even, to play unless he’s given a win before the game starts.  Who plays like that? Caesars.

He is an intelligent man, I suppose, but he isn’t behaving as an intelligent man.  His failure to “engage” with the other side on any level is more indicative of the behavior of a sulking child than an adult; a sulking child who wants his way in all things.  One wonders if he actually indulges in infantile tantrums.  It doesn’t take much to imagine him hurling White House china against a White House wall, kicking the dog, ripping up pictures of his political opponents.  It probably hasn’t happened, but one doesn’t need much to imagine it.

Were he mine (my child that is) I would take the strap to him, and make him stand in the corner…or perhaps spend an hour or two in a bare closet. This is not an evil man, or a bad man. This is a spoiled and wicked child. I wonder, now, whether in years to come…when I will, God willing, be dead and finished with such stupidities as his (and everyone else’s in DC)…I wonder whether someone who saw him day in and day out will write about the dishes he broke, the furniture he tore up, the dogs he kicked during his childish and cruel snits. What a lamentably poor example he gives us of a “leader”.

Perhaps, and I have no way of knowing whether or not this is the case (and even less do I know if someone is smart enough to have thought of it), perhaps part of the Republican strategy included showing the venality and mean-spiritedness of the Obama Administration (and of the man himself). If so, they have done a masterful job of it. Open air war memorials, private business in or near public parks, the ocean(!!!???) closed or threatened to be closed. Religious services to the military forbidden and priests and ministers threatened with arrest. Tourists threatened with arrest for “trespassing” on public lands, among whom are elderly, frail and crippled veterans who may not live to get another chance to visit a place. Food stores on military bases closed. Sports shows to troops in combat stopped. These actions make Richard Nixon seem like someone’s kind and loving Grandpa, a seat of wisdom and cause for joy. It borders on totalitarianism.

Of course there is more than enough of stupidity on the other side of the dispute in this case, and more than enough arrogance. But no matter how one may wish it, that does not make it so that the Obama Administration, and ultimately the President himself, are not the ones responsible for such ill willed practices as I mentioned above, and for no reason it seems other than spite and a kind of vicious contempt. They are, and he, ultimately, is, no matter how cool and distant he appears to be, playing the hand dealt him by others he’d like us to see as slick gamblers and cheaters.  That makes him a fool.

What does it advance to do those things? Who benefits? I’d rather a few golf courses be closed than food stores on military bases; a few lunch rooms in government buildings shuttered and cooks sidelined than houses of worship and their ministers threatened with jail, a few art museums locked than memorials to dead and living heroes blockaded.  I suspect the majority of the people in the country would readily agree.  This has become a worldwide embarrassment.

I am not on the other side of this thing. Neither Republican, Democrat, Liberal nor Tea party am I. I’m just one of the gob smacked millions wondering what the hell is going on down there, and not a little appalled by what we see. There ain’t nothing “masterful” about telling the truth.  And truth is, Pilgrims, that truth is a commodity in short supply on the shores of the Potomac.

Oh, yes, and while this goes on, and the Chinese prepare to foreclose on our mortgage and dispossess all 350,000,000 of us, including illegals, Benghazi, where an invasion of US territory took place, and an Ambassador was murdered along with three brave men…remains forgotten.

Can Anyone Be That Stupid??? You Want The Truth?

People all over this land are interested in wondering about one thing.  Who let the dogs out?  The dogs in this little piece about getting to the bottom of things are the filthy B***ards who stormed, and are still storming, the embassies and consulates of these Untied States of America in almost every place we have one beginning on September 11, 2012,  yet another day that will Live in Infamy…for an entirely different reason.

How did it happen that we were caught with our pants down?  Hell not only down, but completely off.  How did it happen that no one knew a damn thing about what was coming?  How did it happen that in Libya, a place where we played such a big part in freeing people from a dictator, our little piece of Amurriker was attacked…not demonstrated in front of…but attacked by a well trained and coordinated group, and we knew nothing about it?

You will remember, children, that in order for peace to prevail among nations, they have been in the habit of sending representatives one to another, to live in each other’s countries and to help in the conduct of the business of life in a dignified and peaceful fashion.  The persons so sent and the places where they live and work are considered to be sovereign and are placed under the protection of the hosting nation so guarantees of safety and sovereignty may be assured.  or, something like that.

OK?  OK, then.

So, what happened just a few days ago?  Well, if one believes the current fabulous tale being spun out of the our Capitol and throughout this land of mine and yours by the minions of truth, justice and the American Way, what happened was that some small time film maker made a film out in La-La Land which was never really completed, and never shown in a theater, and never released directly to DVD and never appeared anywhere except in a terribly disjointed 18 minutes long  “trailer” on You Tube, that well known location for blockbuster film premiers and whacko attempts at God-Only-Knows-What-But-It-Certainly-Ain’t-Cinema.

Some enterprising artiste dubbed the thing in Arabic, a language spoken by a goodly percentage of the world’s murderers, and things hit the fan. So, it’s really all our fault.  Time for the sad music and another apology.  And, it all happened too quickly and too quietly for anyone to know about before hand, or believe you me steps would have been taken.  We have promised to do so in the past, haven’t we?  How many times have we promised to take steps?  Anyone?  Anyone?  Bueller?

Well it is starting to become clear that this is not, erm, the truth.  This happens to the best of my ability to figure out, about a month or so ago.  You will read in this article by a reporter named  Caroline Glick that originally appeared in an AUSTRALIAN newspaper that some Mooselimb TV station in Egypt runs the film a whole month ago.   The “film” itself is finished a whole year ago.  Nobody really does a thing for w while.  Are they waiting?   These guys who run the thing are Salami Mooselimbs, or something like that, intellectually and doctrinally the rough equivalent of the snake handlers down in West Virginny.  But, by God, they know blasphemy when they see it, and know what to do.  I am sure you can imagine the Rev. Joe-Jim Bob Haystacks from East Mudgulch organizing an attack on, oh, say the Albanian Embassy here because some Albanian said something ugly about JEEEZUZ?

Yeah, neither can I.  Yet, that’s what happened, even after we apologized for it and said, “Please don’t hate us.”  Well, that’s what they want us to believe happened.

This thing appeared a MONTH ago?  Really? Yep, a month.  And to top it all off,  we knew something dangerous was this way coming.  We had been warned, we had been told, we’d heard it staid

Then we had time to get ready, right?  So you’d think.  Instead we went out for lunch and played a little golf, the weather being good for that.

AN IMAGINARY CONVERSATION INSERTED AS RELIEF FROM THIS TEDIOUS INTERNATIONAL TERRORIST STUFF

“Hello, Madame Secretary.  This is Ambassador Stevens.”

“Why yes, Ambassador.  I was just talking with the President and Secretary of Defense about you.  September 11 is coming up and…”

“Funny thing, that’s why I placed this call.  I’m in Geneva now, and I just got word from Under Secretary Blivot’s team at State that the Freedom Fighters in Benghazi are planning an attack on the Consulate down there.”

“Of course they are, Chris.  You don’t mind me calling you Chris, do you?  We heard all about it yesterday.  The place is going to explode.  Well, what can you expect?”

“Oh, cool.  I thought I’d get a couple of guys together and fly down to get killed, take one for the team, so to speak.  You could blame it all on that idiot out in California, apologize once again…we missed last month’s apology to Islam…and make a lot of points with the voters for our irenic response to irrational provocations from whacko film makers in California, a place we stole from the Mexicans.”

“That’s great, Chris.  Barry was just wondering if you wouldn’t mind doing something like that.  We’ve got the press all primed for that story.  That idiot Romney will do something Republican about swift (I hate that damn word.) response and forceful measures, and we can take the high road.  It should give us a really good poll bounce.”

“I’m happy to. Hillary. Say,you don’t mind me calling you Hillary, do you?”

“Nah, go ahead.  You won’t have long to do it.”

“Good.  Then this is goodbye.  Have fun.  Oh, I’ve already voted.”

“Great.  See if you can get the guys who are going to die with you to stuff a few in there for us “White Hats”, ha ha, before they get blown up, willya.”

BACK TO TEDIUM, SERIOUSLY

Now, that conversation never took place, of course.  But it certainly seems no other conversation ever took place either; like a short one saying, “Get the hell out of town, quick.”  Or, like, “Duck, because in about a minute we are gonna bomb the hell out of everything around you.”  And, that can only be due to the fact that the phone lines were down and all communication was cut off between the US and its embassies.  Or, maybe it is the fault of Congress and the Republicans who have refused to raise the debt limit and let Uncle Sugar pay his bills and keep the phone working.  Who knows.  It can’t be because they are all criminally stupid.  Can it?

As evidence that sanity reigns in Washington and throughout the government I offer the words of our Ambassador to the United nations…a place which wouldn’t exist without you and me pick up most of the bills… who is on record telling one of the suits on something called “This Week” last week that,..well, you go read it for yourself.  I can’t type it, because my attorney tells me that if I do I might become a part of a conspiracy to spread stupidity across the country, and during the past four years we have become more than sufficiently stupid to get us all killed.

An Humble Suggestion

Acting on reliable information that a group of atheists have petitioned the SOG (Seat of Government) to create a position within the Chaplains Corps of the Armed Forces of these Untied Sates for an Atheist Chaplain I first went to my dictionary, then Wikipedia for some guidance as to what, exactly, an Atheist Chaplain would be.  I found none.  But, there must be some mold into which such a thing may be poured, and that being done, there must be something it, well he or she, could do once so conformed to type.  If precedent is followed, it means there will be created, at least in the Armed Services, regular Chaplain led Atheist, umm worship?, services on a day regularly set aside for such things.  Muslims already have Friday.  Jews have Saturday.  Christians, I hope, still have Sunday, but nothing’s guaranteed.  I’m not sure but I think Wiccans and Pagans and New Agers have whatever day looks good.

Perhaps Atheists will take Monday, for Moon-day.

Anyway, in the spirit of welcome from the already worshiping multitudes I have been thinking this morning of offering atheists a framework for a regular , umm, well sort of worship service, and struggling all the while with coming up with a name to call it.  It can’t be anything like Mass because of course that word means meal and what is eaten is the Bread of Life which brings salvation and Everlasting Life; two things in which no self-respecting non-believing atheist could possibly believe.   How odd that sounds now that I read it, but how true.  Any atheist worth his/her salt believes, actually, in nothing.  Creation?  No!  From what, how, why, they would ask.  And, don’t dare mention the word Who.  Good?  Evil?  Heaven?  Hell? Truth?  Beauty? Love?  Hate?  Virtue?  Vice?  At the best, a smart atheist would probably finesse each question by saying, “It all depends.”  This was, essentially, the answer Sartre gave to everything; I meant to write existentially, of course.  “It all depends”, and “Lemme get back to you”, atheists and siding salesmen, separated at birth?

Anyway this morning the thought occurred to my mind as I said to offer them something to do during the time set aside for them to gather as a group of non-believers and witness to the absence among them.  Well, that’s an odd sounding construction, too; on a par with that bit about non-believing believers above.  The possibilities are positively Hellerish, as a professor friend has already noticed.

Perhaps it’s better put in this way: witness to the non-presence of…  No, that doesn’t work any better, and Festivus is taken.  Anyway, I’m sure they’ll come up with something to call it.  Atheists, I have heard, are smart folks; which says a thing or two about mere human intelligence left on its own.

Having put aside the problem of a title for what atheists will do on their day, I’d like to offer them my thoughts on exactly what they may do.  Since I am a Catholic the form of, err, worship for want of another word, I’m suggesting is based on the one I am most familiar with, the Holy Mass in the Latin Rite.  I don’t wish to suggest they actually use Latin which may upset the traditionalist Atheists out there…  Funny, the concept of a traditional atheist yearning for a return to a Latin atheist , umm worship, service had me laughing out loud just now.  But, atheists are big fans of what is pleasantly called Sacred Music if you must know the truth, most of which is sung in Latin.  Attend a concert of such music and half the wet eyes in the audience, I guarantee you, will be atheist eyes.

Anyway, feel free to tweak the following if you think of something which will help these folks get their act up and going.  Make any suggestion that comes to mind as you read by which they may be helped to meet and give thanks for and praise to…to…err, each other?…for…for…well, umm…stuff…and, and…each other?…to, umm…well, whatever… for the greater good of…ahhhh…you know?

We start with a song.  We’ll not call it a hymn, and you know why; too many negative associations.  So, let’s call it The First Song.  I’m thinking something along the lines of “We Didn’t Start the Fire” by Billy Joel would be great here for it’s denial of responsibility and simultaneous celebration of random and chaotic successions of events, perfect atheist non-theology.  It establishes a theme based on the “It all depends.” fall back position, a sort of “Quien sabe?” kind of thing, a kind of devil may care insouciance that epitomizes the best atheist response to existence.

After this warm up, this loosening up, there ought to be something similar to an opening prayer, which is just plain silly for a group of atheists.  No one prays to themselves.  But, I think we could do something along those very lines.  Here the Chaplain would say: “Let’s stand tall and think how nice we just sounded, and how nice it is to be here in this, umm, big room right now.”  Then he or she could read something from Garrison Keillor’s Poem for the Day thing on NPR.

Getting right into it, two or three people then would come up to the front of the , umm, congregation in the , uhh, big room and read selections from….  Well from anything, really, anything that would help them, or make everyone feel good about, oh, stuff; a New York Times editorial, a Maureen Dowd op-ed on Catholicism, anything from a Dan Brown, Ayn Rand, Ann Rice or Jacqueline Susann novel, Time, America, Commonweal or the National Catholic Reporter.  Whatever.

When they sit down, the Chaplain gives a little talk about anything he thinks is nice to talk to a bunch of folks about.  I don’t think this should be called a sermon.  Lecture is a better word; the kind of thing any college professor, many of who are atheists, do all the time.  In fact any college professor would be happy to stop by and give a lecture to such a group, I’m sure, and consider it a civic duty so to do; especially if they were social scientists.

After the lecture is done, the Chaplain then invites everyone to stand while he leads them in the Statement of Non-belief.  I am working on one, soon to be posted on this blog as a, err, worship aid.  I thought of a very simple, “NOPE!”, but discarded that idea as not being properly liturgical.

After the recital of the S o N B there will come a period when all gather around a common table to share in a communal feast of Dry Sack, water crackers and two year old  aged cheddar; a brief refreshment and opportunity to experience the closeness of people who don’t have anything in common with one another except their non-belief.  One or two people, not a choir since that would over power the conversation, could sing something like “Bring in the Clouds” softly in the background.  Either that or a similar song would be wonderful for the ambiance, so necessary in gatherings of this type.

As this winds down, the Chaplain draws everything to a close with a simple, “Well, I guess that’s about it.  Don’t forget to think about yourself this week.”  All respond, “Yeah.  You bet.”

On major, I can’t call them feasts or holy day, how about “Big Deals”, “Special Days”, or something like that, the form of dismissal could be along these lines:

CHAPLAIN:  “Go forth and be the best you can be; whatever best means to you at this time and place, however you conceive being to be for yourself alone, careful not to impose on however anyone else, if they exist, is in being with you.”

ATHEISTS: ” You bet!  You really bet!”

The last song?  “My Way” of course.

THE GUYS I HANG AROUND WITH

I report here on a conversation which took place a few days ago on an e-mail list to which I belong.  It began when another member sent a link to an op-ed piece in the Wall Street journal by Peggy Noonan, who used to write speeches for Ronald Reagan among other things.  Another fellow replied that the article’s first half had elated him while the second half had disgusted him.  Do read it.

In passing he mentioned me, and suggested that I might be thinking, “Well, Satan is real.  Evil exists.  Get real.”

I thought about that before I replied.  My first reaction to the “Satan is real” sentence was, “Well, Du-uh!”.  Then I began to think further on what that might mean for us today, and the mess everyone but the editorial board of Playboy  the CEO of large corporations thinks we are in.  This has been coming on us since the end of the Second World war. The 50’s prepared us for it, a prosperous time where we as a country produced 2/3rds of the products made in the whole world. The 60’s accelerated it as we began to believe what we were telling ourselves, “We really are the best thing since sliced bread.” More-so, we could indeed have guns and butter, and no one had to work hard at anything. We could turn on, tune in and drop out…the functional equivalent of eating the forbidden fruit. The 70’s cemented us in that position, though there were danger signs and rumblings over the horizon in Vietnam, first, and then in Iran. But, we had that old dinosaur to lead us through the 80’s, Reagan, who believed and helped us believe in us. It all began to fall apart in the 90’s when Clinton proved a clever liar is more successful than an honest man; well here, at least. Now the Malls are full of fools and liars, and so are the halls of academies, corporate HQ’s, the Pentagon and Congress. The Liar in Chief inhabits the whitest house in the country, a sepulchre, the burial place of honesty and liberty.

So, yes, Satan is real, as my friend said I might say, and evil does exist; though we would rather not, like Scarlett, think of those things. However I would not add “get real.” I would add “Get over it.” “IT” being, specifically, the stupid notion that we have a snowball’s chance in hell of making the world and/or ourselves safe from or for anything. That is the seductive bait we have swallowed since Mac Arthur inked his name to the document of surrender on the fantail of the USS Missouri, and we chose to forget, ignore and be embarrassed by another old general fifteen years later on who suggested there were a few things we should be chary of getting ourselves involved in…

And, now?  Now we are hooked, being reeled in.

Left to our own devices we have always screwed up. We’ve been doing it since babel. Read the Old Testament if you want to know what happens next, because next is the destruction of the temple (read that as whatever our contemporary society holds sacred…and it certainly ain’t any notion that there is a God in heaven) and our exile in some latter day Babylon. As we are being led off into captivity of one kind or another turn around and look for the “remnant”, the faithful few who did not put their trust in “other gods”.

They will not be saying, “I told you so.” They will be begging God’s mercy on all of our sorry butts.

I ended this by writing, “I give us twenty years to the end.”  I had in mind a few things I’ve read lately about China, looming across the Western Sea.

The fellow who sent in the Noonan link commented that some of the stuff I wrote reminded him of  the situation in that science fiction classic from the Fifties, “A Canticle for Leibowitz”.  If you haven’t read it you should. If you have not read it in a while, do re-read it.  You’ll like it.  The author’s solution to the problem was a familiar one; right out of the Bible…flee into the wilderness.  If that captures your imagination, and gets you thinking about “life, the universe and all that” so to speak you may want to continue your studies.  In that case pick up an author by the name of Michael O’Brien, and begin with his first novel, Father Elijah.  He paints a similar picture, but points to a different solution.

This gentle man who started off everything among us had bemoaned the fate we’d prepared for our grand-children. Our poor grand-children, and theirs, indeed.  If, that is, we continue going the way we are/have been for the past fifty years at a steadily accelerating pace.  We are in a cart, a coach and four to some who choose not to see, being pulled by seven horses.  Can you name them?

That was the point, I think, of Noonan’s surprising essay which I finally read after coming home from the Vigil last Saturday.  I say surprising because she was an acolyte for the last True Believer to occupy the position of President.

I was thinking this morning how nice it would be to hand over the reins to the Chinese, and let all of those professional worriers, perfectors of the world for humanity and hand wringers inhabiting that marble and glass slab on Manhattan’s East Side move to Peking; how nice it would be to let Germany, France, Spain, Italy and their etcs. pull their own weight; how nice it would be to let Mexico and everything south of us depend on Venezuela and Brazil; how nice it would be to let everyone in Africa make a meal on their own….even if it was each other.

It won’t happen, of course, because the guys who really run things, the foundation guys, the think tank guys and the corporate guys have “interests” all over the place, and these interests produce compelling reasons for keeping, or trying to keep, the lid on.  It’s become like a tangle of fishing line, I suppose.  My final thoughts were of a scene from the film “The Gladiator”; poor Marcus Aurelius up there on the Rhine trying to stem the tide. He was successful in the film, of course, but that’s Hollywood for you.  We know what really happened, of course.  It’s the reason we speak what we laughingly call English instead of Latin…for as long as we may have it around to speak.

There was another article sent for our amusement, a kind of follow up by an historian named Kaiser.  I decided to read it after reading one of the comments posted about it.  I found two things mildly interesting:

“Two centuries of the Enlightenment had convinced mankind that the application of science and reason could improve their lot.”

“The second is the destruction of the rationalist ideal in the humanities. English and history departments no longer acknowledge the existence of objective reality. Language, many professors will now tell you, cannot mirror objective reality, only the feelings and interests of individual speakers, or of their gender, race, or class. In short, they have destroyed the Tower of Babel that had been built up over the past two centuries, enabling us to use a common language to speak of the common good.”

I was very much amused by his “Tower of Babel” reference and wonder, now, if the whole thing was tongue in cheek.

Maybe it was, and maybe, also, what the fellow is saying is that we’ve become too smart for our own good?  Convinced as we have been since, oh 1750 at least in the West, of our brains and sure of our purpose and destiny, our bright future, we built many versions of that tower all over the place.  A lot of us have worked away inside of them for forty or so years believing all the while we were making the world safe for democracy, or serving Truth, Freedom and the American Way…or something.  The fruits of our labors, and proof of our theories and beliefs was of course a chicken and two cars, along with 500 channels and one small step.  What more could an honest man want?

He thinks, that we may turn around.  We may do it with God’s help.  But, He only helps those who ask for it.  I do not see anyone seriously thinking of doing that, aside from a little fellow in a white cape.

As someone might say, “It’s not the economy, stupid”; nor is it rationalist ideals.

Never has been.

Now comes a new thing.  Two fellows deep in the Pentagon have written an essay calling for us to to re-think what we’ve been up to all over the place for the past nearly seven decades.  They appeared on an NPR talk show yesterday called On Point and spoke about their thesis that we need to get less muscular and more subtle.  I particularly liked what was said at the end by one of the men.  He spoke about being a newcomer to DC and what he’s seen and heard there.  According to him almost every article of the Constitution is discussed by people interested in the rights attached to it/them. He continued by saying he has never heard anyone mention the Preamble, though, the bit which articulates the reason for it, and the reason why there is an Untied States of America…oops did I say UNTIED?  I mean United States of America.  Then he said he specifically never heard anyone pay any attention to the last phrase of the preamble.  You know the one which goes “…and secure the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity”.

Anyone?  Bueller?

As a certain old Yankee catcher might say, “It’s deja vu all over again.”

The Saugus Review of Literature and High Art

The Saugus Review of Literature is a little known, but precedent setting and prize winning scholarly journal making something of a name for itself publishing reviews of and the actual works of writers and poets on the very edge of their genres.  Its scholarship and style is at once challenging and of impeccable quality.  I have been a subscriber to SRL since I discovered a copy on the seat next to me one night on the Red Line coming home from a Celtics game at the old Boston Garden.  I recommend SRL to any one of you interested in reading good works and expanding your knowledge of the many exciting things taking place these days in the arts and scholarship.
I know the Editor-in-Chief, Salome O’Hara, and it is from her that I received permission to publish here on this blog a review of two short poems by the  Alsatian poet Jean Flhond.  The author of the review, Prof. Seamus Moulinis is Emeritus Professor of Recent English Literature at The Catholic University of Highbridge, Sacred Heart College in Pinewood, NY.  The article follows:
“Jean Fhlond appeared in print for the first time several years ago in a little magazine published by the Brothers of Eternal Depression, a group of men devoted to doing what they could to help those who have discovered, as Peggy Lee sings in her famous song, that there is no real answer to the question “Is That All There Is“, but to keep dancing.  Fhlond’s work is a courageous and ground breaking exploration of man’s confronting that truth in all its many dimensions, with all its many challenges. 

He is a little known pre-post modernist, a student one might say of Rimbaud; a man claimed by the Germans because he spent much of his writing life in a particular beer hall in Munich, Das Grosse Beir.  There he carried on an unrequited relationship with one of the waitresses Dollie Braunwurst.   She was totally German, but with a truly Gallic heart; enjoying his attentions, but enjoying more spurning them.

My aim here is to show how Flhond is in the tradition of the better known French modernist poets, and not only that influences a large number of recent European poets.  I will limit myself to analysis of two of his most recent published works: “struggle” and  “end”. 

A word, before we examine the text of each poem, about the titles themselves   One observes first the absence of any upper case type in the titles.  Though Fhlond was a master typist, it is known that he was quite aware of the tides of style.  The lower case titles are an homage to a.a.commungs, the American poet of the early to mid-twentieth century whose whimsicality and originality in structure and word formation did much to free others from the strait jacket of classical form, grammar and  sense.  Commungs was a poet for the people and about the people in every time and place, especially the American West, as can be seen in his most popular poem, “anynight down inna little kowtown”, at once a satire on life in a frontier town and a homage to the Asian-Americans who worked on the Trans-Continental Railroad.  Now, to the works themselves…

The titles of Fhlond’s two poems contain much more than two words; already we are brought into the poems’ themes and the poet’s ideas about life.  These words themselves tell a story, and demand of the reader his whole attention.  As Fhlond’s work matured, his sense of brevity and compression,; his desire to do more with less became his driving inspiration.  Indeed it could be said that he was the first “compressed poet”, spawning a generation of followers.  His final book,  “Z” consists of one page, with the letter in lower case at the upper right corner of the page.  During an interview with Myles Pynchetown for The Poet Speaks on the CBC program Literate Lives, Fhlond explained his purpose in writing, his poetics, “I am looking for the soul of an idea, an essential telling of experience in which I come at once from the beginning of all concepts to the end.  I believe I have found it in this, my final poem, “Z”, at once the title of a work and the work itself.  The poem was set at the very top of the right hand edge of the page to convey to the reader that it and all it means stand on a precipice and gaze into an abyss.  It is a metaphor of consciousness, and the meaning of existence.”

But that is tomorrow, in a matter of speaking.  The two poems I consider are from yesterday, still valuable as pointers toward the culmination, the completion of Fhlond’s art.

In the first: “struggle”, the poet approaches the universal condition of existence with compassion and deep understanding:

How often do we get up each morning
To find our slippers beyond reach?

In these two lines Fhlond establishes the primordial question Man asks of the universe, and thereby illustrates his confrontation with the limits of his creatureliness which he carries further into a bold statement that things are as they are because that is simply the way of it.  It is at once a summary of theological struggles and a bold recapitulation of Western philosophy:

We often from the table rise with flecks of food
Between our teeth..

He continues, courageously emphasizing the imperfectability of our situation, our radical limitations with the half rhymes of reach and teeth, the repetitiveness of often in lines one and three.  Taken together, the first four lines are a neat recapitulation our condition.  In every circumstance we will find ourselves overpowered by existence.  This is the opening statement of the poem.

In a series of shorter lines which bring the poem to its dramatic and hopeful conclusion Fhlond discovers for the reader the way to defeat life’s war against the living:

These burdens are not our own
Nor should they be.

The lines can be seen as an affirmation of community and an indictment of existence which demands too much of the individual.

We carry weight beyond
Our rated capacity.
All of this the universe knows
And appreciates.

Fhlond acknowledges our contribution to history, and argues for the proper understanding we must have of our place in it.  These lines are at once determined, courageous and hopeful.  Only human beings can know their limits and strike against them a blow which, even to an insensate universe, is worthy of recognition and appreciation.  Before and within a blind universe we are by chance consigned to act.  We must act with determination and grim purpose.  Our only satisfaction, and our fundamental meaning is found in struggle, even when it is a struggle against stiffness upon arising or little bits of poppy seeds in one’s dentures.  In that is found, Fhlond asserts, Man’s meaning and joy.

The second poem “end” is nothing less than Fhlond’s eschatology:

The garbage truck is as regular as the seasons used to be;
The reason I set out once a week for the curb
Dragging the big can along behind me down the drive
To set it there opposite my neighbor’s, near the mailbox
The night before the pickup is scheduled.
We’ve had no snow and it’s mid-December already,
Christmas a week or two away, one pink rose
On a little bush in the back yard, and the daisies look
Almost as good as they did two months ago.
Who knows what time of year it is, but I do know
The garbage needs to be put out every week
On Thursday, unless there’s a holiday.

Fhlond’s contribution here is to put into terms we all understand the laws of thermodynamics operating on separate systems, macro systems like the changing of seasons and micro systems like household waste; each of them related to the other. He has unified, if you will, the physical sciences with there immersion in the material with the Spirit of Man, joined them both and affirmed man’s nature as spirit and matter lifting the latter from mere temporality to eternity.  He has given us a reason to live, to continue, to overcome.

It is also an indictment of man’s impact on the environment and a poet’s prediction of the end, even with the periodic interruption of a “holiday”, a temporary reprieve from utter destruction and loss.  Nothing will prevent the end.  This is, finally, Fhlond’s triumph as an artist, joining hope and despair into one unitive whole.

MY CHOICE

Death came to my door
Neither late nor early.
Death is, if anything, on time
Though I was not expecting him.
The house was unprepared for any guest.
In fact it was in a more than normal mess,
And Death I think soon saw his chance was slim
Of welcome, pleasant visit.  The hour chimed
Behind us.  I turned.  Death smiled, “My hour. Three.”
I smiled, “I should have cleaned.”  I closed the door.