Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Do Not Dare To Look Beyond

This is an essay about GRATITUDE, Dude….

I was up late, thinking about THE GOVERNMENT, paying bills & watching Thomas Hardy’s JUDE THE OBSCURE, & somehow OWNING every character’s shame and/or defeat:

In it there’s an old man a young woman does a kindness she later becomes indebted to, & thereby regrets & thereby learns to loathe him. Ouch! That hurt!
A man & woman, cousins of equal age, who loved each other & demanded their union have, & be recognized for, its own sacredness outside the law & church, were scorned & reviled & driven from town to town. Do not dare to go outside the norm. Got it.

The man is tricked into marriage by a woman who says she got pregnant by him. They divorce. He’s refused by church schools because of his low status & menial job. His true love, his cousin, the daughter of an artist, distresses him with her sensual and iconoclastic sense of life. Gradually he comes around to her way of thinking. They become outcasts, rebels and kindred spirits, but then his first wife gets him again, by guilt & trickery, & coldly watches him die. O wait, I know this one. It’s the triumph of the ordinary, the custom, the system, the numbers, the law, especially the law of averages. The daily drudgery, the same old, same old corrupted and dull things that make money, the people who bring us wars for all the wrong reasons and never have to say they’re sorry. That wins. NORMAL wins. And all that is all too human, feeling, young, open and aspires to be more than flesh, and especially, spiritual; loses, big time.
Yes, old man Hardy could really rack up the bitterness of love’s defeats, couldn’t he?

The conscience & desire for truth outside of social norms the woman free spirit begins with, turns her against marriage, and then back to it (& back into the hands of the old fart) in penance, after her children die.

This happens a lot, ridiculous as it seems on its face: 60’S RADICAL, CATHERINE ANNE POWERS WAS THE DRIVER IN A BANK ROBBERY TO GET MONEY FOR THE BLACK PANTHERS. IN THE PROCESS A GUARD WAS SHOT & DIED. SHE WAS AN ACCESSORY AFTER THE FACT & FACED MURDER CHARGES. SHE WENT UNDERGROUND & WITH A NEW IDENTITY SHE MARRIED, HAD A CHILD, RAN A SUCCESSFUL RESTAURANT. AFTER 29 YEARS OF THIS THE CONSCIENCE THAT DEMANDED HER PARTICIPATION IN A ROBIN HOOD ACT, DEMANDED SHE TURN HERSELF IN. THE GUARD’S FAMILY DEMANDED VENGEANCE, AND THE JUDGE THREW THE BOOK AT HER. CASE CLOSED. JUSTICE WAS SERVED. 29 YEAR OLD STEW, BUT TECHNICALLY NOT ONE DAMN THING WRONG WITH IT. Which one of those people had a bigger, more harsh social conscience than her? I’d like to just take a look at THEIR lives, especially the lives of that self righteous, sermonizing judge & prosecutor, see how THEY stack up. I’d like to take a look at the justice system that presumes to be the keeper of absolute truth and morality instead of just an instrument for arbitrating human disputes.

They hated her, because she escaped, because she dared to look beyond, because she said your arbitration is arbitrary, your bright lines are drawn on air, your system is corrupt top to bottom, your identities are all assumed, so I’ll assume one and just run with it because this is all bull shit. EVEN THOUGH she was led to an abstraction called THE LAW by a nose ring rasping through her bleeding superego and submitted herself to sadistic wordsmiths with whips meant for their puritan selves, she DARED to SMILE in court and got the equivalent of a life sentence for it. They would rather have executed her because they thought that would give their lives meaning. Sorry that may be the sop the law & the profits offer you but it doesn’t work. Not really. Not ever.

I watched the movie and paid bills until 2.

Bills to credit card & power companies, my cell phone company owned by Red State Republicans, bills to my family,

Bills to the truth, myself, the facts, the clock counting the last minutes & pennies, bills from what I wanted to look like in my own mirrors to the verdicts of the camera, & other people’s & society’s mirrors

All night I paid bills & in the morning was broke.

I believe in failure, artistic & personal, in never being afraid to fling myself against the walls of the world, the wall of idiots & the cold hard facts. It’s not how we fail but how we get up from it that defines us. “And I’ll get up from this.” (Just another one of love’s bitter defeats, you don’t need to know the story.) “I’ll get up by doing.” I said, rummaged thru the bill stack & picked up a petition to close Guantanamo from Amnesty International, signed it & wrote them a check. Paid THEIR goddam bill too. They’ll send it to the White House where I’ll be put on a list of people to punish when the time is right….maybe with an IRS audit, or harassment or detention, doesn’t matter. It was just something at hand, just to begin a new self on principle. The way we are always beginning again, picking ourselves up, placing one stone on another in the smoldering ruins.

I dreamed all the characters in the novel were laughing at & mocking me as I tenuously climbed up rooftop after rooftop, higher & higher, to a church steeple. Then I was stuck there, couldn’t go up or down, just sat there straddling a peak in the dark, listening to the harsh voices below.

“There is something beyond us,” the woman in the novel said, “something that says,

‘You shan’t.

‘You shan’t learn.

You shan’t labor.

You shan’t love.’”

And I would add,

“You shan’t look beyond. You shan’t look ‘You shan’t.’ in the face.”

I paid the IRS. I paid the bills. I paid other people’s mirrors. I paid on my debts to friends. I work hard. I do good work. How much more can I owe this fraudulent society?

But if we didn’t have custom & law . If we had to depend on the still small voice of individual conscience that has served as a rudder to the ship of state as it sailed the myriad seas of human history, polluted as they were by public persona, ego & denial, why….why…..there’d be CHAOS. At least this way, we have ORDER. Tell it to the family & friends of Indymedia journalist Brad Will shot to death in Oaxaca by five Mexican cops who got away with murder because of a deal between the Bush administration and Mexican oil company PEMEX. The whole system may be corrupted, top to bottom, but at least we have an orderly society.

Always gotta remember to be thankful for small favors.


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