Saturday, April 22, 2006

Psalming the tomb

I just completed my thirty minute vigil over the tomb of Christ in the chapel, where we all take turns coming in all throughout the night and chanting psalms over the mock tomb in the middle of the chapel before Pascha. It's one of my favorite times of the year. You're there in the crisp morning air, in the austerity of a wood floored chapel, with nothing but a candle to illuminate the darkness, reading the ancient prayers of God over his entombed body, making alive once again the sorrow of feeling that all is lost and the one whom you thought was the messiah is dead, but also awaiting the resurrection that makes all things new.

I was especially entreated since I entoned the Psalms 10-25. There are some real gems in there, especially 22. For some odd reason I connected more than normal tonight with the sinner in need of penance. I guess this year has, if nothing else, made me comfortable with my identity as a forgiven sinner, while a sinner nonetheless.

Entoning prayers is so different from 'saying' prayers, and never more so than when one finds oneself alone with only the ancient Psalms and the still presence of God, before the dawn has broken through the dark, surrounded by candle light.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Values Enshrined in our tale

Sorry to my usual readers for the lack of posting this week. It hasn't been for lack of ideas, but Orthodox Holy Week is all this week and we're busting it here at the seminary for hours a day. It's cool though. Rather exaughsting, but one begins to acclimate somewhat.

Anyhow... so I was reading about the riots in France a week and two weeks ago over the labor law. For those who are aware, the French attempted to pass a law that would allow much easier firing of young employees.

Now this might seem like a harsh idea, but in fact the government was trying to encourage employers to hire more young workers. France has difficult firing laws that put a lot of onus on employers to find big time rationales before they can legally fire someone. So, they tend to not want to take chances. The losers?

Young people with less experience and less to cushion their resume. They're untried products...

But, the young people weren't having it. The idea of entering such a capitalist ideal was unthinkable. Many signs in the riots read "We Demand a French Solution, Not American!"

Now French solutions are all well and good, but I found two things very interesting:

1. It seemed unthinkable that a French government could offer an entirely "French" solution that was, indeed, quite capitalist.

2. The ground level fact is that the value of security and convention was picked over the value of accessible employment.

Now contrary to what many would like to think, Western Europe is on the brink of a fairly real crisis - they have a mushroom population. There isn't enough young population to sustain the social benefits within budget as they're accustomed to receiving. Simply put, their parents had fewer kids to give each one more resources, but there are now not enough kids to support both themselves and their substantially larger parent generation into retirement.

It occurs to me that the problem is that non-competition and a certain cultural notion of "stability", where jobs are gotten and expected to be kept whether they are utilitarian or not, is precisely what the students say it is - The most definitive French value. It's woven into their narrative of personal identity in the same way "rags-to-riches" is woven into the self-identity of Americans.

Let me say that in English: An essential part of being "French" is the value of job stability over the value of competative (cutthroat) capitalist economics, just like part of the essence of being "American" is that, despite the deck being stacked against you, you are capable of gaining or losing a fortune if you work hard enough and are a little bit lucky.

What we see are more than simple stories, their that's not strong enough... they're dreams. They represent the highest aspirations of the people involved, and perhaps the people are right not to give them up in the face of facts.

Sure, the French will eventually have to manage their tax/benefits shortages, but can we really blame them for not capitulating until the bitter end? Might it not be more French to say that they crashed and burned trying their damndest to fulfill the ideals they were born with?

Likewise, Americans will eventually have to face (ironically) the socializations of some very primary systems, namely medicine (which is already proto-socialist in construction anyway).

And yes, since I can never leave my own nation out, Christians should be at the forefront of sensitively understanding people who stick to their guns in spite of the evidence. How can we criticize anyone for insisting on the impossible when that is exactly what we preach?

Christ tells us that, in spite of everything we see around us, true power is found in self-sacrifice and denial of our own independent life value. Can we say that lines up with the facts around us?, or are we, much like French and American secularists, insisting that any solution which is not a Christians solution is, in fact, no solution at all? Are we not insisting that wordly cares simply cannot eclipse our ideals, and that we will hold our ground to the last man, even if it utterly destroys us?

Christ is certainly no model of selling ideals short to avoid annihilation of our lives...

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Moments, paradigm, and expectations

I dream in moments and snapshots. It's impossible for me to dream in long stretches. Always my mind dwells only in the smallest measures of time. Not that I'm unrealistic about the intermediate time, but I can happily blow it without remorse.

Somehow this same snapshot mentality encompasses my attachment to people. Looking back objectively on who I've spent time with and when I did so, I come to realize that many of the attachments that lasted quite some time are, in fact, relatively non-meaningful to me. Contrapositively, I have a deep attachment to some people who have shared little more than a moment with me, but a moment that is still imprinted.

In turn this affects my visions of the future. My dreams of adventure, romance, and daring-do manifest not in daily situations, or even time spent, but in moments of extreme power. These moments form paradigms - lenses through which I read the significant of other points in my life. Transformational moments that organize all of the other moments around them, imbuing meaning where I wasn't sure meaning existed, or depriving some circumstances of meaning where I felt sure there was a bond. Life isn't a steady process, but a punctuated equilibrium.

Perhaps this is why I cringe at people who have been with their b/f's or g/f's for years and years. Perhaps it's also why I'm so blastedly unforgiving about power lapses in judgement. I would do no such thing... I cannot accept that my interactions with a person are not their paradigmatic moments... that I'm simply one of the other events that is given meaning or not by another, quite unconnected event. Powerful moments, deeply ingraned, of which I cannot let go, and I cannot understand the mind that can put them in the past. Beautiful icons can only gain value, not dust. The icon can hurt, but it is there, deeply impressed.

Much of what i've learned the past couple of years has stimulated this kind of thought, or at least helped me to quantify it. But, I don't experience anything I never did before, I can just vocalize it now. an entire life is only a few small narratives, repeated over and over in various amounts of pertinence.

It's why I love songs; and why I listen to the lyrics. It isn't enough for me to 'feel the beats' without trying to feel the writer through the lyrics, exacerbated by the music. But they almost always paint a picture of something small and tangible. Small parts of life which have impressed themselves on the writer. It allows me insight into what they're really like, beneath whatever they're doing at this time or that.

And so my expectations take the form of moments and glimpses. When I think of something I can taste, touch, or whatever, it's not the joy of the intermediate moments that get to that moment, but the moment that helps me see the intermediate moments necessary to get there. It's not the school work, but the graduation. From there I can fill in the gaps. The gaps themselves are boring.

Like an icon, or a photo, you can see the static picture. From that picture you can feel all that is around it. The looks on the faces belie this feeling or that. Some of these moments are just stuck there... eternally captured at this point, and all that went into them and came from them, however non-obvious, can be encapsulated here... viewed, sensed beneath the surface tension.

I get more incoherent by the day.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006


Throughout my academic career I have taken notes on what makes a good writer. Why is it that when some people use the same words that are in my vocabulary they become literary magic, while my constructions consider infantile.

At least where my favorite authors are concerned, and this goes for scholarly and literary figures, I like a succinct writer; one who can convey their thoughts as directly as possible.

Most especially in fiction I find myself attracted to old pulp stories from writers such as Robert Howard, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and HP Lovecraft. The sparsity of adjectives creates an austerity that hones in on the adjective they do select like the mind centers on certain enigmatic attributes in a dream. You barely remembe the figure in a dream other than their broad outline or ascribed identity, but you remember a cloth around their neck... or a gun in their hand. It's when the rest of them is made patently unremarkable that the lone item can convey so much... black shoes, white shirt, black hat... and a sword - the dangerous man. Lethal - the grin of violent arrogance, begging you to make the first move towards your sheath. So much with a wink and a weapon, and no need to go further.

The imagination has to fill in everything else. The savage picts come upon our hero in the wilderness painted "as savages do for war, in their primal ferocity." Yes! No see my mind can work with that. I enjoy the effort of creating subtle distinctions in my mind. But then there is one with a skull helmet... the leader, surely this will be a fierce battle ^^

Even in textual criticism there is a certain beauty to the prose of a few authors which others lack. Even reading the most absurd literary criticism by Harold Bloom offers an insight into the mind of an arrogant literary genius; certain of his abilities as a wordsmith, even to the point of challenging the facts with the power of his narrating presence, and daring the reader to prefer the facts to the aesthetics. Or Jacques Barzun, who freely flows with bold opinion and undeiable facts, weaving one long narrative of 500 years of Western culture, bringing the reader into the history that was, and the history as he presents that it should have been - and I take the bait willingly enough, if only to follow this Kid Durango of linguistic constructs and austere beauty into his beautific vision of a world that was... or at least should have been.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Et tu BBC?

Generally I consider myself slightly more high-brow than your average bear, partially by virtue of my choice in news selection. I try to maintain a wide variety of publications from various parts of the world. I'm consistently digging through English translations of Al-Jazeera, Deutsche World, BBC, Christian Science Monitor, and here on campus the NY Time and NY Sun (need to get both sides).

That being said, the BBC is typically among my favorite publication. So it's with a little dismay that I must expose a piece of bad reporting in my prefered news source. It deals with the "Gospel of Judas" - A third century document (which some are claiming to be a mid-2nd century document) which takes a sympathetic view of Judas as a necessary catalyst for Christ's saving action. Lets look at some key portions:

The Gospel of Judas, a papyrus document from the 3rd or 4th Century AD,
tells the story of Jesus' death from the fallen disciple's point of view.

Alleged to be a copy of an even older text, it casts Judas as a
benevolent figure, helping Jesus to save mankind.

The early Christian Church denounced such teachings as heretical.
The 31-page fragile document, written in the Coptic language, was discovered
in Egypt in the 1970s.

First of all, we have plenty of wacky theological treatise from the 3rd and 4th centuries that represent strange Christian sects. Almost by definition the heretical groups were against the bodily aspects of the Christian faith, viewing the body as a prison within which the spirit was trapped. Also, they viewed Jesus' mission as freeing people from the dominion of a Demiurge - a false God with an inflated self-ego who created matter. In the Gospel of Truth, written by the heretic Valentinus (we think)the Genesis account was reversed and the serpent was made the good guy, helping man come to know good and evil against the wishes of the demiurge. Judas is hardly more of a stretch in literary metaphore.

As for "The early Christian Church" - which one? By the time textual decisions were being made the heretical groups normally dubbed 'Gnostic' had pretty much collapsed under their own weight. They'd been de-normalized by lack of self-propogation in both conversions and reproduction (often a result of their theology). Normative Christianity naturally didn't view Judas in a positive light, but we should not mix up the ox and buggey: The early normative Christians believed Judas to be a traitor, therefore they would have rejected sillyness to the contrary, it's not that they rejected a book and thus were misled by not hearing Judas' side of the story. Clearly the book is a work by a person or group with a different First Principle of what the Christian message was. Books don't mean much if that isn't established.

The sands of Egypt are also reknowned as being repositories for preserved heretical writings. Lonely monks. And we have no clue who actually wrote this.

For 2,000 years Christianity has portrayed Judas as the treacherous apostle who betrayed his divine master with a kiss, leading to his capture and crucifixion.

According to the Bible, Judas received 30 pieces of silver for the act, but died soon afterwards.

For 2,000 years which Christians have said this? That's anachronistic. 2,000 years later we can say that the Christian group who taught that Judas was trecherous was the group which later became normative and who took on the current Biblical story as their own, but that's a very different statement from the one above. But the article is inverting the situation: The Bible did not precede the group claiming that Judas was a treacherous disciple.

But the Gospel of Judas puts Judas in a positive light, identifying him as Christ's favourite disciple and depicting his betrayal as the fulfilment of a divine mission to enable the crucifixion - and thus the foundation of Christianity - to take place.

1. The Gospel of Judas puts Judas in a good light? Nooo!
2. They're not appreciating the thoelogical value of these books. Many groups penned their own stories to support pre-existing theologies. It's a war of ideas, not books. Luther wasn't even an unfertilized sperm for another 1200 years; it won't do to think of this as ancient Bible wars! Rather, the article should ask what the theology is that's taking place: Why portray Judas in a good light? Is it a polemic against the existing Christian Gospels? If so why? Why is it in Egypt specifically? What is the vision of salvation being put forth in this book? etc

This view is similar to that held by the Gnostics - members of a 2nd Century AD breakaway Christian sect, who became rivals to the early Church.

Which ones? There wasn't a "Gnostic sect". Gnostics were a variety of sects who didn't necessarily agree with one another. They certain were not "breakaways". They were just different First Principle-based understandings of the significance of Jesus. They were fundamentally different religions both from what we now call normative Christianity and from one another.

They thought that Judas was in fact the most enlightened of the apostles, acting in order that mankind might be redeemed by the death of Christ.

As such they regarded him as deserving gratitude and reverence.

"They" didn't think anything damnit! Some of them probably thought that, but many definately didn't. IT's NOT ONE SECT GET IT THROUGH YOUR HEADS!

Gnostic writers are believed to have set down their contrasting account of Judas' role in Greek in about 150AD, and some believe that this manuscript may be a copy of that.

"Gnostic writers" set out contrasting accounts of darn near everything for the better part of three centuries. And, they made up all new crap as well.

Records show that the leaders of the early Christian Church denounced that version as heretical in about 180AD.

OK - that's just unredeemable. There's no saving this comment. There was no "Christian Church" in 180AD, there were "Christian Churches" at best, and if we're looking as early as 180AD the Gnostic sects and MArcionites and everyone else under the sun would all have claimed to be "The Church". What would later become normative Christianity lacked the size, organization, official recognition, weight of numbers, and internal unity necessary to "denounce" anything. That would require a Council, which would require being an imperial religion... the Imperial religion was still killing them at this time. This idiot is fantasizing a Pope, St. Peter's Cathedral, and 500 Cardinals back into a time when 'the Church' was a scattered and loosely related group trying to follow whatever they'd been preached about Jesus Christ. They met mostly in house gatherings around snippets of OT Scripture and a local leader. What a moron.

also, what "records" is he referring to? Does this igit honestly think that before 180 AD Judas was a folk hero? Matthew wasn't penned at a Council of non-existent Roman bishops in 180 you know! According to the best contemporary scholarship the writings that are now the Gospels, which were written after the Epistles, were all probably finished by ~75AD, plus or minus ten years, with only John finishing later (~90AD). So even John would have pre-dated this hogwash by a good century. UGH! Idiocy kills me. They really need a religious consultant.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Movies in old black-and-white

I just love some of the old black and white movies. For a long time I couldn't figure out what it was about them... something is there besides cheesy plot lines and over-the-top acting. Finally I beleive that it makes sense: they present the world as its supposed to be. Somehow our hopes and dreams are intertwined with the early movies, before Hollywood felt that it had to start representing the more 'gritty' pseudo-reality of our world; messed up characters, deifficult decisions, broken people, addiction, sexual liscensiousness...

In black and white movies the sides are obvious, and conclusions conclude something. It's all so blasted clean. In fights you can win or die, but never any maiming. There is death and there is glory, there are beautiful virgin maidens and they're always waiting for the good guy in the end (no 2 divorces, the kid & accompanying relationship baggage). Everyone understands themselves and noone is going through medicated psychotherapy. Standards are both assumed and obvious.

Moreover, the world still contains uncharted lands, monster-infested waters, pirates of the seven seas, the market place in old Algiers and the pyramids along the Nile. Somewhere beyond the map lies Skull Island and the Lost Continent. Beyond us Mars stands ready to invade us with superior technology with only the Thunderchild rushing out to heroically challenge the tri-pod war machines.

And of course, beautiful one-liners are still rewarded with ooh's and ahh's. "Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn!" "We always have Paris." The women were definately women, but oh man the men were men. Who can't love Bogey with a cig in his mouth, plotting against the Nazi's. The men's fashion was just plain sexy. Even shooting on the range was an opportunity to dress nicely. It's basically like Indiana Jones before that was cool.

I wonder if the head honcho and I can work something out where I can live eternally in black-and-white flicks?

ok enough for tonight, let's turn it over the jimmy Buffett

Well now they're making movies
in old black-and-white
with happy endings
where nobody fights.
So if you find yourself in that nostalgic rage
honey jump right up,
and show your age

Well I wish I had a pencil thin mustache
the Boston Blackey kind
A two-tone Ricky Ricardo jacket
and an autographed picture of Andy Devine

Oh I could be anyone I wanted to be
maybe suave Errol Flynn of the Sheikh of Araby
If I only had a pencil thin mustache
Then I could do some cruisin too... -Jimmy Buffet

Great story!

Couldn't stop reading this one for some reason... it's stream-of-consciousness, but then I tend to like that method.

A. J. McKenna
Old Ghosts

It is Jim Brennan's birthday. He wakens on this humid August morning, startled by birdsong echoing across the garden outside and, for a long time, he stares in confused remembrance towards where the swelling orange sun is burning the faded floral wallpaper across from his tumbled bed.
'It's my birthday,' he finally realises. 'I'm seventy-six today. Where did it go?'

Climbing painfully from a sore mattress, standing in striped pyjamas by the window, Jim stares gardenwards. There's much too be done. Later. Much later. These days it's all weed killing, backache and wishes. Outside in the sunrise garden roses are already awake, clematis climbs like a growing child and all the border marigolds are on fire.

'It's my birthday.'

Next door's dog barks. A cat scales a glass sharp wall and drops beside its shadow under an apple tree, stalking anxious sparrows with the first sun. Under the broken birdhouse a mouse plays with a nibble of yesterday's bread. Shadows shrink in bright shyness against all the garden fences and the last star melts into dawnrise. There's heat in the breathless August day already.

Jimmy Brennan, seventy-six, sitting in his kitchen. Silent. The house, holding its breath around him, the roof heavy and oven baked. Jim's thick veined hands brush toast crumbs from the plastic tabletop and when he moves his faded slippered feet dust dances giddily on the sun patched carpet. He listens to the awakening of the new day: the clock on the dresser ticks hurriedly and the letter box snaps awake.

Jim walks to the hall and picks up bills and ads that promise discounts and holidays abroad. Jim has never been out of Ireland, never crossed the sea. His tired eyes examine the envelopes at arm's length. There are no birthday cards to sigh over - these days who would know?

Returning to the familiar kitchen he slides a knife along his letters, slitting out their folded information. It's better than nothing. Even if the electricity is red and overdue. At least, they keep in touch. No longer absorbed in his letter opening task Jim looks at the sunlight shining blindly on his glazed, brown teapot and then, laying the bad news aside for later, he pours more lukewarm tea. He sits and thinks about birthdays back then. Cakes and ale, songs and celebrations and the long dead who cared. Back when.

'Time flies,' he says. He's talking to himself most days - who else will listen? Up in the still shadowed parlour a clock chimes the hour and Jim rises tiredly and prepares to face the day. When he turns on the wireless the news assaults his soul. The world is littered with dead children and pain. Bad news amuses while the ad men slip in a jingle. The world has gone mad with cruelty and nobody seems to have noticed. He turns a dial and foreign voices cackle urgently in the ether. Talking violence in tongues, telling of the rapes of children, no doubt. The media loves abusing the innocent with their excited updates and urgently breaking stories. It was different back then. It seemed quieter and children could play on the streets. Back when.

Ring- a- ring- a- rosy!

Jim smiles and finds Mozart and the morning is saved by Cherubino. Then he dresses and walks, cane and cloth cap, to the front door and checks the windows and the bolts and all's secure. When the nighttime house creaks with its own age, Jim thinks of burglars and imagined violations and trembles in case they invade him.

What a world!

Jim swings open the front door and sees Ellen Kelly stands there, smiling like sunlight. 'Happy birthday, Jim.'

No longer astonished, Jim smiles back and sighs because Ellen isn't really there.

Ellen Kelly, fourteen last week. He's been seeing Ellen a lot lately. She walked behind him all the way to the hushed library yesterday and when he sat to rest in Carolyn Park she was standing under a tree, waiting in its shade.

'I didn't forget,' Ellen says.

'I know, I know.'

'Will you come out to play?'

'I can't Ellen. You're dead.'

The sun slides down the street and settles on Jim's house and Ellen fades like a startled shadow.

'Poor Ellen,' Jim whispers sadly. 'My poor dead darling.'

Jim avoids the supermarket. It's too complicated. Grim checkout people urgent to get home. Kids breathing asthma. Babes bawling immediate needs. Bald headed young men pushing forward, rings in their ears, rape in their shiftless eyes. Never stare back. Girls demanding more. Car parks cluttered with stress earned money. Housewives hurrying, car exhausts, liberated women with little freedom. The exhaustion of super markets and too much choice. Too big, too modern. Too lonely for Jim.

He goes to smaller stores, chats with familiar people and gets milk and eggs and a small loaf of fresh bread. Further along, outside the charity shop, Mrs Barret from number twenty-nine nods an inquisitive greeting.

'How are you keeping?' she asks, looking past him at the bargains in the window.
'Grand, thank God. Yourself?'
'Couldn't be better.'
Life is strangled with polite lies.

Jim walks home through the heating streets towards sanctuary at seventy six.

In his armchair in the parlour looking out on the road. Hearing the parlour's ten time chime and the long day stretching ahead like a dreadful eternity. The terror of ten a.m. Nothing to do and outside bright girls hurry through the morning, sun on their heads, time on their hands. Feet clattering, black tights, skirts just short of sin. Making promises.

I'm glad I'm not young anymore.

Jim despises this time of day. Already too hot for the garden and nothing to fill the mind until making something at lunchtime. Light sustenance for the long afternoon lengthening drearily ahead like an empty road going nowhere. Jim tries to read but even in glasses the words are a blur.

'Ellen,' he whispers and her name rings in his head like a tolling bell.

Ellen Kelly, Kelly Ellen, Kellen Nelly.

Jim plays with her. His eyes close. He becomes delirious with dreaming and hears distantly the brass handle under the Brassoed letterbox clattering once. Jim shuffles down the hall and when he cautiously opens the wide door Ellen is there, fifteen and lovely, framed in the sun like a miracle. Ellen Kelly, budding with womanhood and childfresh happiness. 'Will you not come out to play, Jim?'

From behind, a different ghost in the dark hallway, Jim's mother, smiling.

'He's got to do some shopping for me, Ellen dear.'

Jim, sixteen, between women, inter Ellen's, adolescently happy.

'I'll come along with you, then,' Ellen, always agreeable. 'We'll go to the shops together. If that's all right? Mother agrees, loving neighbour Ellen like the daughter her grey age longs for.

'Of course it's all right with me, darling.'

Jim and Ellen walking down the path with mama at the door, waving like a mother, waiting until they are beyond the gate, forever worrying about crossing roads and unsuspected illnesses. Tuberculosis, Pneumonia. Polio. Measles. Mumps. You name it. Young people often died young back then.

Jim and Ellen, heads tilted, magnetic affection drawing them closer, talking, laughing, a pair apart from others. In love. Ellen's raven hair curling around her tiny, elfin ears. Ellen, quiet and reliable as the moon.
'Will you love me forever?' Jim asks.
'Forever and ever,' Ellen assures, squeezing his hand.

On the way back they short cut thorough the August woods. A long short cut. Still talking, their words tumbling like thistledown on the hot butterflied silence. In the deep green they settle in shade and kiss among fernleafs, innocently. They kissed like that for years.

Life, a summer holiday until seventeen. Then. Jim goes to Cork with his father. A business trip. Magnificent Cork and boat bobbing, cathedraled Cobh and then the Metropole Hotel. Swanky. Dinner and desserts. Black ties, brown cigars. Gin and tonic with a twist of lemon. Now Cork is always dry gin and a twist in Jim's fading memory. Bitter lemon.

Jim with father's friends. A party and the talcum smell of sex. Dad leaves early with a friend. Dad feels only half married. Winking a man's signal. Permission to sin. A bird in the bush. Jim dancing until dawn with necklace and pearls. Back at her oak roomed upstairs house she says her parents are away and Jim is still not sober.

'Let me help you to bed,' he says, learning the rules of the game and when to cheat.

Sixteen Ellen smelled of love and roses. This girl is twenty and slick with gin. Pearls in her ears, stones in her heart. Bath naked she drips rich. Jim falls into her and is devoured. Ellen, sweetest sixteen, gave him everything except that. Her tended flesh is reserved for the marriage bed. Jim wanted more. Pearls before swine.

Mea culpa, Ellen -mea maxima culpa!

The blonde one came to Dublin with the snow, passion pursuing Jim all grown up and knowing. Blood on snow. Seventeen Ellen, discarded, like a toy wound down, broken and useless.

'Don't you want me anymore?'
Tears on Ellen's bitten lips. Eyes red with pain. Soul seared. Ellen goodbye.
'No. I don't want you.'

Jim brave and final, cruel as winter. Abandoned Ellen, quietly waiting for him to mature. Next year he took the pearly girl away. Holidaying. Not even saying goodbye to pale Ellen, eighteen and alone with sickness teasing her young pink lungs, her heart dark with love. Ellen's innocence like petals blowing on grass, dancing redly away. Crowns of thorns for Ellen's virgin bridehood. Veils of tears.

Ellen ill. On Jim's return his mother greets him with rubbing, folded fingers. Wet cheeks.

'Poor Ellen,' mama whispers. Respect for the dead.

Jim matures. Instantly. Too late. Ellen's black blood on her spitting lips. The flowers on her grave stiff in frost. Brown leaves tumbling, flying wildly in the frozen air, reburying her. No more warm kisses and a heart soaring with love. Ellen nineteen, never twenty. Mama behind the coffin, mama in her own maternal grave. And rain for fifty long years and more, after that.
My darling gone for evermore!

Clock chime. Ding. One. Ding. Two. Et Cetera.

Jim struggles from a dream speaking her name into the listening shadows. 'Ellen? The pitch dark shadows silent as lovewords from dead mouths. Marble graveyard lips, cold as stone. Ivy and moss. Memories haunting his present. Jim shivers and steps into the window sun. Rubs his thick veined hands. Prays. Then he makes lunch. Tomatoes and ham. He dreams the evening away - half out of life. On the radio a woman sings Four Last Songs. You don't have to know the language. Such sweet sorrow. Who said that?

Later, a seat in the garden looking towards the singing sunset. There is nothing to see except blackbirds and sparrows; nothing to hear except the noise of butterflies' wings.

Even later, the clock in the parlour chimes twelve heartbeats. Night comes hot and bothered. Climbing into an empty bed, Jim turns off the sidelight and watches the shadows huddling against the floral wallpaper. Stars look in at his greying face. A hot August moon in the open window. Soft as silence, quiet as apple blossoms falling, gentle as Ellen's dimpled smile. Ellen's same sad glad smile standing there by his bed. Faithful Ellen, waiting.

'Do you want me now?'
Yes! Dear sweet God - yes!
He says 'I can play now, Ellen, If you like. I'm finally, properly dead.'
'I'm glad. I've been waiting for such a long time!'

Jim rising from his bed, leaving his seventy-six years between the laundered sheets. Soaring through the moonlight with Ellen in his arms, the pair of them shooting like comets into Eternity while the clock in the parlour stops. Forever and forever.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

I'm Lit...

Today I ran across a site of all kinds of literature from the UK online. Mostly it's a pile of short stories from various genres with no apparent linking theme.

After all of the years separating me from late teenage readings, I find now that I can still live through them in a very real way. there's something so easy to connect to... characters ascribing to their mundane lives tales of glory and daring-do. I cannot shake the feeling that this describes my life and the lives of most around me; irrelevant but for the value we give it.

But our lives do have meaning to us, and people we meet have relevance. It must be so. We matter inasmuch as we can limit our worlds to something we can grasp. What happens at 5pm in Prague is not a reality to me. It's a faith conviction that there are people in a place with that name, that there is a 5pm on their clock, and that they also have a purpose other than being occasional and improbable characters in my own play.

Hmm, but then again, Could God be so great that we all get our own play? In fact we are Hamlet in Hamlet, and unbeknownst to those who help us or plot against us this is totally our show and we're the only character that matters? Limitless numbers of solo plays, entirely focused on individual characters, lived out in simultaneous moments outside of time, each given complete relevance between its own two covers. Perhaps only I exist this time out, but in another's story there is a facsimilie of me that is only a role concocted to flesh out their singular play. And the one who said goodbye and was no more really is no more... no more unless I choose to re-create what was created for me... to re-encounter and force the author to alter the person slightly so that I can perceive a reality necessary for me to function. So then there would only be people in Prague at 5pm inasmuch as the author is trying to make my story more interesting... to create the flora and fauna necessary to allow me dynamism.

Can I really matter so much? How is it that what I do or don't do can possible matter? The stars above speak of a universe so magnificent in its scale that my piddly decisions and activities cannot really register on the cosmic richter scale. I think Margaret Adams uses the analogy of the termite... to the planet Xelcron-VI do the relative actions of a termite or a Ray really matter more than the other?

I will wake up, shower, get dressed, work a bit on a paper that 0-1 people will ever read, but I will pretend that it matters... I will get coffee and wolf down some Raisin Bran. Then it's off to class. Later will be chapel, then perhaps a jaunt to the gym. And then what? then the author will need to throw some character my way. I will perhaps apply for a job. More characters will be created. The author will need to flesh out a desk clerk... perhaps one with a bad attitude so that the annoying girl in class can play the part... and then there's the sleeping security guard, who is truly homoousios with horizontal rest since he cannot be other than the Sleeping Guard, and his role will pay tuppins to a cameo actor looking for his big break in Hollywood... and who will interview me? I surely need to cause an interview so that the author can create a rounded character for me to interact with. And I'll meet these forms around me, and I'll hear their names, and they will BE after that, in a way they were not before. Adam named them all; mine come pre-named so that I can do other things.

Yes the author bids me to co-create. The more co-creating I can do, perhaps the more I can attribute to my life value... maybe I'll even drive up the price of my book to those who read about it on Xelcron, and they can appreciate the names of the characters, and the feelings and thoughts of one who could not share them in life, but only in lit. Hamlet lived his life but it was penned for me, and he enlivens me while I continue to give him value, and I hope that I can be likewise penned, and my menial success and failures will be the center of someone's sight, if only for a hundred or so pages.

Wow... what senseless babbling.

night :-*