Not a word. No response after all this time. More than a month, almost two.
Many (including myself) may doubt the efficacy of prayer, but the smart money knows what works: forbearance, euphemism, silence, shunning - if it won't fall through a crack then sweep it under the rug. It is even tacitly acknowledged in our justice system (in an upside-down kind of way): the prisoner's right to silence, a trump card - but that's another story.
So. ... Please consider this small section of Matthew chapter 18: three verses - 15, 16 and 17, here they are approximately as they appear in the King James Version:
15: Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.Verse 15 presents a simple prescription, a vision, for resolving human tangles: If you have a problem with your sister or brother, cousin, colleague, co-citizen ... speak to her, speak to him, directly, and work it out - and if you do there will be a BIG prize in it for you.
Not rocket science.
Verse 16 is a bridge, a small hedge, a fallback.
And then verse 17 turns it around and shuts it down. Whammo! A glimpse followed by a brutal repudiation. Comparable to Paul's inexplicable method for loving your enemies (here) - heaping burning coals on their heads, not a way of loving to be found in any Kama Sutra - but that too is another story.
As some of you know I used to sell windmill parts to the Mennonites and Amish around Waterloo and in upper New York State. It was a labour of love. Not to say that commerce is not always fraught with issues of advantage. The joke among outsiders such as myself was, "A Mennonite is someone who can buy from a Jew and sell to a Scot and make money." I got stiffed once or twice but kept at it for a number of years. It's a long story ...
... but fat old farts do like to tell stories. Here's a short piece of it: One evening, after a long day when a colleague of mine and I had finally been scooped in a transaction with an Amish gentleman by an unscrupulous Seventh Day Adventist, we stopped to eat at a local diner - home-cooked meals, Elmira I think it was, border country. The waitress overheard our conversation. She came and sat right down at our table and wanted to know all about it, wanted to know the names of the people involved, all the details. So.
Another bit of gossip I picked up in those years is that these very verses in Matthew are somehow fundamental to the strength of these communities. Communities which have resisted for so long (and so successfully). That they continue to exist at all might even relate in some curious way to the vision I am trying to get at here. Or, just as possibly to the severity of the penalty to be paid for disobedience laid out in verse 17. I'm not a Mennonite, can't say.
That's all really. Either you see it or you don't. That's the way it is with visions: either you wonder enough to plant the seeds and see what may grow, or you don't. It's all good.
One more clue for y'all, from Blake this time:
A Poison Tree (aka Christian Forebearance)Again, the first verse about says it all; and one question for wonderment (beyond distinguishing friend from foe if you are able, if you read this far ... &c.) is: What (on earth!) is the connection between poison & forbearance?
I hope this may be the start of a conversation as we finish up with one year and set out into a new (and very dark) one, as we pick up and carry on after Gerry's death - a new beginning, possibly even rejuvenating this broken & dysfunctional family. And through it, our neighbourhoods, communities, countries &c..
PS: You may hang up on the fact that this communication is not even symmetrical with the few verses I am quoting. What is this JUNK fer gawd's sake!? This is not one-on-one! This is just some idiot wingnut ranting on the fricken' Internet! If you think this way ... well, fill your boots! The devil, as they say, often quotes scripture.
PPS: You may also imagine that you will keep mum and it will all blow over, or that your time will soon end and it won't matter anyway. You could be right. I hope you are ... but I don't think so. In the context of this family's particular & specific disintegration keeping mum may work to a degree, paper over the cracks ...
... but waddabout climate change and the unfolding environmental apocalypse? Waddabout the looming end of civilization (and all related 'economies') and the possible/probable extinction of H. sapiens herself? There are a growing number of minds, well more eminent than mine, asking these same questions (if that makes any difference). Waddabout mortgaging the future of every child, born already and yet to be born, to our (very own) insatiable and unstoppable incontinence?
I trust it is evident to all that there is no remedy (wise or otherwise) forthcoming from any of the most highly developed institutions humankind have come up with in two million years or so of evolutionary presence (aka 'progress'): schools, churches, governments, the UN ...
And evident too (without the fear of contradiction) that there is no sufficient 'movement' afoot to properly toilet train both our politicians/leaders and ourselves before the fast approaching planetary 'best by' date.
No. No one 'else' is gonna solve it. Every human being bar none is personally complicit. Alas! It comes down to what a handful, or a few, or ... two, can accomplish among and between themselves.
And ... I believe forbearance, silence, unwillingness & inability to engage & relate, is exactly the stick-in-the-spokes, the stoppage in the process, the constipation, the failure.
Easy enough to change it though. ... In a twinkling eh?
PPPS: There is another usage of 'forbearance' stressing lenience, not being provoked &c. but I don't think that is what Blake had in mind. I am taking what the OED presents as the primary meaning: The action or habit of dispensing with, refraining or abstaining from some action or thing.
PPPPS: Of course this is all crazy talk. Ignore it. Forget it. Just some exhibitionist wanker, a creep making principles out of his incapacities. Eat and enjoy your Christmas turkey and your New Year's ham. Sorry I brought it up. What ever ...
It used to be, "Excuse me for thinking differently ..."
Now it's, "Excuse me for thinking ..."
Friday, November 8, 2013
Gerry was some man. He didn't fade when the odds were long. He saved my life once so I guess I have a right to speak now.
He often used to say - this was back in the 60's and early 70's - "Love is just a four letter word." There was a pop song at the time by wazzername ... Joan Baez. (It was actually written by Bob Dylan - but you know, he never sang it himself ... and I wonder about that too.)
The phrase is evocative, poignant, sticks, fetches up with a 'thump' on the shores of your brain because of course it seems to link love - the very best humans can imagine - with obscenity - some of the worst we can imagine. And yet - again 'of course' - we all make the same link, we all know the territory pretty well. Another poet says, "Love has pitched her temple in the place of excrement."
On Friday nights in those days, when the week's groceries had been schlepped onto the kitchen floor, the legs would come off and Gerry and I would open a bottle of London Dock - with orange 'til the Tang ran out. And eventually (just before we passed out) it would be "If I were a blackbird I'd whistle I'd sing, I'd fly to the place where my true love lives in."
Those were the two poles. Still are. And in-between them somewhere maybe there is a bit of light.
In terms of force, effect, power, love is vanishingly small, infinitesimally tiny, wavering, passing like beauty, a veritable not-quite-discovered-yet Higg's Boson - while the final obscenity of death is absolute and inevitable.
As David says, "... what seems like the end is often only the beginning." If such a thought is more than sentimental boiler-plate (and it could be) then I am left wondering (out here in the long grass on the margins of leftmost left field), cogitating, very seriously thinking about ... just how it might actually work itself out? What might it look like?
Thursday October 31, 2013, Eulogy:
Everyone has a story about my father, and I heard many of those the past few days. This is my perspective.
My father was a remarkable man. Born at the start of the depression, he grew up in a St. John's very different from the city we know today. While material possessions were in short supply, the family bond was strong, and dad was soon surrounded by an ever-growing family of brothers and sisters who looked out for one another.
By the end of the war, dad was on the move, leaving home for work that took him to northern military bases in Labrador and Greenland at what seems today an impossibly young age.
At 20, now a new Canadian, he joined the Navy. He spent five years with the military, including a long stretch sailing to and back from Korea taking part in that war. Following his service, dad returned to Newfoundland and went to work for the railway, an employer of choice for a fit and able young man, still restless following his adventures around the globe.
The defining moment of my father's life happened in 1959 when he attempted to board a moving train near Bishops Falls in Central Newfoundland. Thirty years old and a brakeman for the railway, Dad slipped on the mound of gravel from which he leapt and slid under the wheels of the car. Dragged along the track for god knows how far until the massive locomotive could come to a stop, my father emerged from the accident alive, but badly damaged.
For many of us, an accident such as this would be nothing short of catastrophe. Consider that disability in the early 1960s. There were scant accommodations for people with disabilities, no accessible sidewalks, few ramps or elevators. Now imagine the impact on my father. Here was a man who relied on no one, fiercely independent and proud, who was known to be as quick with the fists as he was with his tongue at any sleight, real or perceived. What place would there be for a disabled man with no formal education?
But this is not the end of the story, but the beginning.
Dad spent nearly two years recovering in hospital, most of it in Toronto, enduring the deparavities of mid-century medicine. Skin grafts, gangrene, a pain so severe he became addicted to the morphine that kept the pain at bay. But it was here that another remarkable thing happened. Recovering in that hospital bed, dad met a beautiful young nursing assistant, Mary Lynn Wilson. Only a man as stubborn as my father could have imagined them as a couple.
He, the downtown Catholic corner boy, her the daughter of protestant Toronto. But he clearly knew what the future held, even if she did not. Mom tells me that he pestered her for a date for months after they first met; she spurned all advances. Finally, when he was ready to head back to Newfoundland, he offered his final gambit. "If I come back to Toronto for New Year's Eve," he said, "will you go out with me." Thinking that would never come to pass, she agreed. Sure enough, who knocks on the door on December 31st. Mom ditched her planned date that night and the rest, as they say, is history.
The following years brought to my father everything he wanted in his life; to live in St. John's, to be married, to be surrounded by children, to make and keep great friendships, to make a difference in his community.
He fulfilled all of those dreams and hopes. Do you want to see a picture of a happy man?
There are two pictures on a slideshow we compiled of dad's life that sum it up. The first is him holding his first son, Gerald. Beaming with pride, his smile is as wide as the ocean. The other is him holding Lili, the youngest granddaughter, the expression the same. Those photos span some 50 years, but the smile was enough to melt your heart, because there you can see a man whose heart was melted.
The big heart extended to his siblings, their spouses, all the sons and daughters in-law that were to come, the extended family of nieces and nephews and their children; and his friends, both old and new.
That's the legacy of my dad. A man whose heart was big enough to love us all. And so as we reflect on this tremendous loss for those who knew him, I hope we remember that what seems like the end is often only the beginning.
While a chorous of some kind keeps whispering in the wings:
Great phrases that changed the world:
It's sort of more or more. Are you there?
I grant you pardon.
Then I excommunicate you!
A footnote for those who think they like cryobiological wet-dreams (or Thorium reactors):
It's true! We'll be unfrozen as soon as they discover immortality.
There she is among the sumacs: (Ay papito, ay mamita, qué bien se está en la camita.)
And I do know for a fact (no Gabor Maté relativisms & revisions around this) that their love burned steadily and fundamentally to the bitter end - as does mine, if in a different key - with a belief that carnal knowledge touches the eternal.
My heart is like the autumn moon
pure as a blue-green pool.
No, this comparison sucks.
How can I explain?
Parts of this post have been in the works since well before the Hunter's Moon in October you see; updated to mid-winter solstice it might become:
My heart is like a winter moon, pale as silver on snow. ...
Another repeat (previously in Suicide, sedition, or ... grace? November 4th 2013):
In Korean it looks sort'a like a bird flying into a wall.
Be well gentle readers. There will now be an hiatus of a week or so.