The Question? [Short Story]

for Hamlet, My Brother, My Likeness;

and for my special friend Oscar

A man would certainly have to have a heart of stone, as Oscar had said, not to laugh at the Devil Himself in Hell. The fault of my fate–our fate? What fate? Whose? This fate, socially and politically, of course, is not in our star politicians, but in our need to dwell in our caves. And I do need to live in shadows, my shadows, our shadows, I walk with my shadows, absent from myself as I find me sometimes. Can you walk beside yourself, in search of you, I might want to mean, to be mean? To be me? What does it mean to be mean being me, or to be me being mean? How are they different?

I love my shadows, to be surrounded by them. I do not prefer the light of day; I prefer the dim world of my social caves. Ah! the personal caves are the most–Tiresias is blind, I remember.  I know.  I have met this blind prophet before.  I do not pity Tiresias his blindness. Blindness is different in antiquity than today. I am not though going to pluck out my eyes as did Oedipus, but then I did not murder my father as did he, kill him, really, it wasn’t murder. I don’t have the courage of Oedipus. I still imagine courage in youthful ways. I imagine I am more like Odysseus than Oedipus. It makes sense that someone like me would imagine thus. Imagination not yet gone, is it; I still have the power to imagine, don’t I?

Odysseus seeks Tiresias in the underworld. Oedipus in the horror of his enlightenment makes himself blind like Tiresias, but as a self-inflicted punishment for how he did not see the truth when he had his eyes. Oedipus was paying retribution. I am not sure what Lear’s blindness paid for–and Cordelia’s death is horrifying, although, like the Greeks, Shakespeare keeps it ob skena. No greater obscenity, is there, in all of Western theater, Lear carrying dead Cordelia. I am re-reading The Odyssey; I wanted to re-read Ullyses. It still stands on my shelf; another comic masterpiece–do we believe in such things, or have we succumbed to the determinism of social forces affecting literature, usually politically tyrannical, mostly white people keeping people of color down, or some such mantra you will hear from one or another idiot undergraduate at America’s most prestigious universities, almost invariably some white totalitarian bourgeois capitalist liberal apologist speaking in the pseudo-third-hand Marxist drivel of some Post-post Structuralist Professor who has made a career out of critiquing the white bourgeois capitalist establishment while supporting it, helping to maintain it so to become an entrenched member of it, no less full of shit than any of them have been for as long as they have been full of shit . . . and I am not bitter; if I were, I’d join the American Jacobins and guillotine some of these fuckers in a remote forrest after kidnapping them, video recording it, and uploading it onto the internet with polemical voice-over manifesto.

Odysseus seeks Tiresias in the underworld because he wants to know, he needs answers. Oedipus has his answer, the solution is retribution, would any I have his courage, any of us in another convention? And it is courage, I think I believe, say so, at least, that anyone needs to see the truth, to find Truth, and yes I do try to hold this idea, however insecurely, that there is a capital ‘T’ Truth. What are these eyes for? Questions breed questions I used to say in other words. It is next to me in a transcendent reality. There will never come a time in the future when I will be closer to transcendence. I would like to know–or so  I assume–but then I have grown accustomed to saying this, posturing myself as if it were true without any of the organic actions or reflexes I might associate with humane living–humane action–what the hell am I saying? To say something or not to say something, this cannot be the crux of seeing, can it? There is no human without the humane. Is this not clear? Clarity of prose has always been an issue for most critics writing over the last thirty years or so, mostly less, but not by much.

I imagine myself dedicated to knowing–what to know, how to know it, when and where might be equally relevant. Even if at the same time I am convinced that knowledge is impossible–and I do think this most of the time–that knowledge is impossible. Yes, doubt now having become the highest wisdom, a doubt not at the beginning of my inquiry into what I  know or what I can know, but one placed at the end, where I am then self satisfied in my ignorance because I have determined that there is no ultimate Knowledge, no Truth, no absolutes anywhere for anything or anyone, any me. What then must I do? I mean, what’s it going to be then, eh? As you will see again, hear again, repetition becomes motif. You do now that Absolutes are compass headings. You also know that having discovered that all metaphysical categories are constructs does not invalidate the categories anymore than proving that God does not exist invalidates the Gospels of Jesus Christ.

So, what is it that anyone means by fate, by anything deterministic? There is no ultimate determinism except for idiots, and I am not trying to be cruel, or mean, or rude, or condescending, or arrogant, or belittling in any way you might imagine because it is imagination that you must use, should be using, could have understood was where you had to be situated when making the observations you made leading to the conclusions or interpretations you then built. To make or unmake, undo, redo, remake, retake, what then am I saying? L:et’s shoot this shot–this scene again. I am that I am herein as I have been might be will be could have been otherwise.

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A Short Neck Among Giraffes [A Short-short Story]

[A text is one that speaks to us, we have said. A text has something to say and all we have to do is listen. I also imagine that this is naive. This is a kind of passivity in the manner of interpreting? What is it that we hear when we listen to a text; what is it we hear when we do not listen appropriately?  I do not agree that texts are categorically distinct from archives; just as I do not imagine that anthologizing is not a form of archival collecting. What it is you take away, understand, listen to or listen for–neither one nor the other is the other not the one. I guess I cannot control everything; my intention is not the matter, here. I do not imagine that Shakespeare directing Hamlet would be the definitive production. I am wondering if you, my reader, will wonder what the differences between italics and roman type are in this text, in any text. ]

A diatribe by an angry citizen in the cause of defending liberty and democracy against the Monied and Power elites that have created an alliance with the Media elites to control and subvert the cause of the People in their own defense, re-forming them in the image of a State-serving Public heeling at the table of government for some of the scraps the elite are only sometimes mindful enough to toss to them, US. Remember, all information is In Formation; the people informed as a public is an abdication by effect of the people’s responsibility and obligations to themselves as The People, Jefferson’s We the People. To be informed is to be in Form, theirs for us serving their needs, our shape to fill a lack Power knows, and that lack for Power is Control. Our re-formation is creating a shape to fill that lack. You do understand that we are at a place where we are about to abdicate our responsibility to freedom and to democracy; and this has been made stronger by our persistent delusion that there are real, tangible ideological differences between Democrats and Republicans, made more palatable by Donald Trump’s representation of the Republicans, another Minstrel Show by Power, this one in White Face worn by White Actors. One represents the Oil Gangsters and the other, the Wall Street Banking Gangsters . . . kind of like choosing between Bugs Moran and Al Capone. And how many liberals there are in America who imagine Les Jacobins were wrong is astounding.

The Last Angry Citizen speaks:

I have noted with increasing rapidity over the last decade the number of times reasonably educated and liberal-minded people betray a willingness to abandon a traditional commitment to freedom. Any publicly expressed defense of rights is usually met with disinterest or derision from members of whatever crowd I find myself among. Any time an individual openly takes to task a representative of any government bureaucracy, or any individual representative of any institution, for violating one’s rights or conspiring against civil or constitutionally protected liberty, the person taking to task becomes a pariah among others in the vicinity; co-workers will scatter like roaches once this happens in a work place. We must be convinced of the necessity for docility in face of bureaucratic encroachment of our freedoms, or the abuse of authority granted members of city, state or federal police agencies, or in face of the arbitrariness of any bureaucrat anywhere in decision making, and the complete disregard that bureaucracies in general have for the people they pretend to serve, and the maddening diction and rhetoric of evasion that virtually all of them use all the time. And yes–all of the time here is not hyperbole. 

We even say things like the Second Amendment has no relevance today, that it is an antiquated remnant of an age that holds little validity for us as a model for faith in the cause of eternal Liberty, or as an example of how to react to a long usurpation of our freedom, and any person’s pursuit of happiness. We no longer warn our leaders that we are a people within whom exists the spirit of resistance. No people can long withstand such usurpation of civil liberties as we allow today without either exploding in rebellion or being crushed in oppression. And we do allow this usurpation of our liberty, gladly, for a little of what we call peace. The Patriot Act is one such example of how we will barter liberty for what we perceive as peace, security. But again–at what price is this peace paid for? I have to stand with Thomas Paine and what he knew was common sense–although, what was common sense to the generation of our founding fathers, yes, fathers, is not all too common now. I know that there are too many of you Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives here in America who are confused by what I am saying and how I am saying it–part of the problem.

Our leaders have become our rulers, letting the rich get richer, at the same time carnival barkers like Obama sell us the idea that rebellion is never necessary, that fierce criticism of the elite is not what we need, but that what we must do is support Wall Street and give them money to save us from being poorer than poor. If we have not come to see that Obama has been the hand-puppet of the bankers then we are blind. Could anyone say with any degree of accuracy that Obama became the bitch of the bankers who helped him get elected–Goldman sending thousands of minor donations to deflect from its overwhelming support of Obama, who had no cache in Washington and so owed Wall Street in a way not even Bush W. owed the Oil Gangsters. He was an oil gangster so paradoxically had more independence, as sick as that is. His father had cache.

Obama is also an adversary of Truth when he designs to play hop-scotch with the truths of our society to acquire the correct spin. He is thus an adversary of the people and favors all of us becoming state serving publicans–but then this is in part what the job of President has been for a long time coming; what it has always in part been. He does defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic–the people are always in part suspects.

This does not put me in the camp of the Republicans who are able to be as heinous as I perceive them to be only because Democrats like Obama have shifted right of the the metaphysical political center. Obama is a defender and supporter of the power elite no less than Bush was making him thus an adversary of liberty and not a representative of the People. He stands opposed in his deeds to all the founding principles articulated by Jefferson and Madison in his efforts to make power more powerful and money more monied, supporting a Federal Reserve enforced impoverishment of the People.

Obama is as much an opponent of liberty as Bush or Cheney; he is even a greater threat to the stability and security of the United States and its people. He clearly dropped the ball on ISIS as he had on Benghazi. He is as he has been for the duration of his two terms a foreign policy nightmare. And yet, we believed Obama would stand for the little man, mostly because he was black–another indication of how endemically racist we are as a populous. Perhaps he tried to help the simple separate person more than has been apparent; however, he has been pulled by the strings of the monied elite, and that’s not something we should equivocate about saying just because he is African-American. Our refusal to take him to task is our media’s inability to handle race truthfully and organically, and only symbolically, through media formed signs and media delivered soundbites; the medium does become the message.

We are in love with flipping coins in America, as much as we are with political and rhetorical ping pong or a game of hop-scotch with Truth. Obama has also been as big an opponent to greater democracy as either Bush junior or Clinton before him, but then the Republicans and their maniacal conservatives are not the answer to Obama; but then, the heinousness of the Republican party aside, I can’t seem to run for cover under the leadership of Obama. Democrats and Republicans both serve power; they both are at the beck and call of the monied elites, at best, before they respond to the people; at worst, they respond to the latter not at all.  And if you imagine, in whatever delusion has subsumed you, that Trump is an answer, or that he is the solution, or that he will speak for you because you are a white, catholic former blue-collar citizen of this great land, in other words, narrow-minded, ignorant and bigoted, you are a bigger imbecile than I imagined you were . . . Oh! I’m sorry. Have I insulted anyone? Have another beer, you lonely drunken troglodyte . . . I should be kinder–I know. I cannot help it sometimes, the way I see monkeys seeing and doing, one simian gesture after another, words that one monkey says repeating another monkey saying what yet another chimp must have heard someone somewhere saying what you and I know was composed as a slogan or soundbite by liberal or conservative pundits serving the Media elite serving the Power and Monied elites being protected by the administrative elites in government. Everywhere, every time by every one of these . . . a resounding  Fuck the People.

We assumed Obama was going to defend the common man, that he would champion the everyday citizen, and I do believe he tried more than those who say he did not try at all. We did believe in the Obama hope primarily because he was black. Again, we are endemically racist, only not in the way the media likes to message we are. In matters of race and all isms related, we can only flip a coin. In the Serengeti of American Politics, Liberty is a short neck among the giraffes.

How inventive. How clever. How whatever it is we have in words to say that what has been said, however it may have been said and to whom, has a sharp and quick intelligence, as if it radiated visible light . . . how can speech radiate light? But it does, doesn’t it. No? In this way it becomes clear how the word energy, or the Greek energeia, was originally a word from Greek rhetoric, then borrowed by science.

Who he is, is not important. It is he herein. He is not she; he is not we, except in the way that everyone is we, as in each of us being We the People. Only in this way of every one of us being We the People is the idea of We the People valid. It is not about totalizing, this We the People. Each of us is macrocosm to the totality of all of us; only then can We the People function as a concept of liberation.

Nativity [a Short Story]

for James Baldwin

 

I cannot fathom the depth of character, of mind, or of soul that is necessary for compassion. I have mastered the art of appearing to be compassionate, when in turn of fact, I am anything but understanding in a degree that qualifies as compassionate. A society bred on the idea that package is as important, or now more important, than product, cannot understand the distinctions between passion and emotion, or how depth of feeling is opposed to the appearance of having felt . . . I am stretching for excuses. I will always find something in my experiences to blame for my choices, a part of our past to use as a rationale for what I do, have done, will become. A native son infers lineage. I do hate as much as others hate, resent others as often as others resent someone else.

I was raised Catholic, even if mostly only nominally Catholic, so it is as it has always been for me the Passion of Christ and not the Emotion of Christ. Passion Week, you know; Holy Thursday through Good Friday, Holy Saturday, Easter, the Feast of the Resurrection . . . How could anyone think otherwise? Passion and emotion? They cannot be synonyms; they do not share even the thinnest synonymy–connotations can touch while denotations remain distinct. This should be obvious to anyone who wants to think outside of cultural boxes–I can think outside of them, even if I use them to frame my errors in judgement.

The frames that contrary metaphysical systems put over our view of reality;–ah, yes, big words on big ideas on capital letter notions we used to have no problem thinking or knowing in a way were Absolute and Transcendent . . . you do not need to be Catholic to get what I am saying about the differences between passion and emotion. Compassion is one thing, commotion a quite distinct other thing. So, to say emotion is not passion would be redundant here, but repetition can be motif, if carefully paced. I understand this; I know this; I fail at this miserably. You see it in the words, no? Their form, trace their form, follow their line, the sequence of letters. Sound them out; listen carefully to how you say them, speaking can be listened to carefully without tripping yourself up.

Why I think public confession is better than private confession–do I? Not really. But I pretend to because everyone else in this grossly debased culture thinks so; the excesses of democracy lead us into the temptation of an excessive drive for equality that eventually crushes all individuality? The silence of the confessional offends who? Or so I say because I believe–what do I believe? What do we? When do we say what we know, what we think, what we imagine, what we know to be fiction, what we intend to be lies.

Com-passion is not com-motion or e-motion–I am repeating myself. You must see what I am driving at here though. It should be clear even to a devout atheist. We were expected not only to understand the differences between emotion and passion, but to manifest the distinctions–who are we? I and you, but then, who? I and they are we.

Emotion has traditionally been reserved, socially, as the provenance of women, for men have always understood just what the limitations of emotions were in any pursuit of the human. Women were emotional was a mantra made for men to follow and use to control women by imposing a nature on them. The choices of culture confused for nature. Women have opted for this. Women say with pride, I am more emotional than a man. God help us.

I am not suggesting that we live without emotions, nor am I suggesting we do not follow our hearts, as we like to say; but then this thing heart we like to use in reference to the feeling person is as much a part of passion as it belongs to emotion. This tradition of women being more emotional than men has been used to harness women and provide them with a circumscribed role that precluded them from assuming the role of thinker or passionate actor in their interests or the interests of others. Emotion are often passions confused by misguided thoughts, by fears which are often the product of thinking too much, or machinations of the mind let go on auto-pilot. I will return to this.

Emotion without reason, without rational understanding, without the purpose of passion, is just what anyone would suspect it could be, once more, com-motion; a wayward moving about. A giving up of the head for the heart and the heart alone–chickens at their butchering come to mind. I am all of a sudden not so sure that letting go with the heart alone is to be avoided always.

I am answerable for our humanity as I am for my humanity or for our or my lack of it. I am referring to how in my first days at university, the scales we used to weigh our nature were tipped on the side of free-will. I am not as certain that our guiding ethics today teaches the same, whereby I am almost certain that those same scales have been tipped on the side of determinism, determinism not singular, but plural.

I was answerable for the human I chose to be, the humanity I formed by my choices. To choose or not to choose the existentialist Hamlet says. I am Hamlet, I have said, meaning what by this I could not then have said, nor now say, to say what I mean by what I have said would require me to be more than anyone is often willing to be about how he acts talks thinks out loud makes desperate excuses for in a hurry after the fact.

I knew this, what? I accepted this, how? I carried this with me through our consequences. And there were consequences, always consequences.

Who is our? What is mine?

Choice, choice, choice; how are there not always everywhere choices? Why life at all no one seems to get to? Why ask the most revealing question concerning our living? How we live? Why we live? To choose or not to choose is a choice, no? We cannot avoid consequences is simple enough to say; obvious we know, I know; what is too close to read cannot be read. Put the newspaper to your nose and leave it there. Now try to read the lines. You cannot. Now you know why you cannot see what you imagine you should have seen after the fact of not having seen something you keep insisting you do not understand why you did not. Reading our loved ones; reading our lovers.Those who are able to gain self-distance might be able to with others? But not often, not always, only sometimes, rarely? My boy, my boy, a kingdom of understanding instead of what we have at times perpetual discord, I remember the cliches about patience and love and patience again and more patience after that.

I have assumed. What do I assume? Where then do I imagine I have come, knowing now that I have not seen, have not understood, had not the intention to stand under what I needed to hold, to carry, to embrace . . . how many misunderstandings were rooted in dis-understanding. The sun rise this morning has dispelled the darkness that seemed to envelope me last night.

I could not equivocate, cannot. Hesitation causes most accidents, I remember my father having said I could not count how long ago.

I have done nothing but equivocate; vacillation upon vacillation on vacillation again vacillating perpetually, day-in and day in once more. Addition without subtraction; the weight of the world we carry, imposing as we do, as I do, each of us adds to the weight of the world on one another.

Are we the best judge of the person we are? I cannot believe anyone else could be. Who is the best judge of my condition, of any condition that is mine, not only mine by whose it is but how I am under it, pressed down upon by it; or mine by choice, by my choosing, having chosen, yes, this and not that.

I have paid for my life–everyone pays for his life or her life, their lives–and very, very, very simply–as simply as everyone else does has will do–with the choices I have made, my choices, these choices and not those. Our choices are always these and not those? What we make we keep with us. To what choices am I referring? Which one do I cling to hold fast to keep close? Does it matter? It could if you expected one thing from this; it could not if you did not expect that which would permit you to think you were not provided with enough here to satisfy your thirst(?) for story, beginnings, middles and ends; or for a story anyone could tell with relish–I do not like relish on my hot dogs. I boil them in water with beer, only good beer, only beer I would drink. You cannot cook with wine you do not drink. Your thirst for a traditional or conventional story comes from where?

To tell a story or not to tell a story might be a question to ask, to answer, to give response to even if not an answer. I am what I say I am, how I say I am, when I say I am, where and what and why and for whom, to whom, with whom, by what other methods of madness to indicate this Self of selves I could not possibly reveal to you in all.

No?

Yes?

Maybe.

Perhaps, how so . . .

How little thinking has gone into what I do sometimes astounds me to realize.

 

Faith and Belief [Essayistic Fiction]

Polemic is a mask to wear, as is critique of any kind, as is diatribe, tirade, letter to posterity, essay, personal, literary, critical . . . every essay is a work of fiction, one kind or another;things made, we understand, but also in the way all theories are in themselves fictional in more than one sense of the word. I wear have worn will wear many,many masks.

I.

I have faith in God, one man says; I have faith in the non-existence of God, another man might say but does not. There are devout monotheists; there are devout atheists. Both are persons of faith. A picture falling off the wall signals an impending doom, someone’s downfall, the demise of something, I’ve been told. The superstitions of my youth I no longer believe, but then, neither can I disprove them. To believe in the veracity or the falsity of this falling picture as a harbinger of doom, or of any superstition, shoes on tables, hats on beds, rocking rocking chairs with no one in them, all of these are based on faith–one degree or another is not essential. Any belief in them is a matter of faith. It’s interesting, though, how anyone of a particular faith can have so little respect or reverence for the faith of another when that faith is other than the one the former holds to be true. How God-like we become in our faith for God, in God; we do trust more than God, though. We trust our faith, although we carry a marked infidelity to that particular religion that holds our imagination. You do need imagination for faith, firstly, and to maintain it imagination must be engaged.

I suggest you read Sir Thomas Brown’s Relgio Medici, that is, if you are disposed to reading 17th treatises on religious toleration, particularly, in my opinion, because he makes more sense and says more intelligently what everyone needs to understand, particularly the Pakistani Muslim children in my building complex  who must have been taught by their parents to have no respect for western Christians or others because these children openly taunt and mock  western women and girls for how they dress. And this I do find disgusting as the children follow them with impunity, this horridly narrow minded orthodoxy, an example of intolerance–yes, Muslim intolerance–that cannot be tolerated–no hypocrisy in that. I cannot accept Fundamentalist Christian intolerance either. This current brand of Islamic Terrorism (not political terrorism that happens to be committed by Muslims) may or may not be the flip side of Fundamentalist American Christian responses to Pro-Choice issues like the right to choose a safe medical procedure when a woman wants an induced miscarriage or homosexual men or women want to legitimize their union with marriage. I do not actual ping-pong; I certainly do not like political ping-pong, or the ping-pong we play with religious dogmas, the result of which becomes deadly in the grossest and most grotesque manner when the metaphysics of these ping-pong playing religions meet.

Returning to the above childish outburst not so childish in its subtext or its origin–its cause. I do ask these children when I see them and hear them if that’s what their parents teach them to do, follow women down a street, if their parents teach them how to taunt western women for how western women dress?  I ask them if that’s why they left Pakistan, to colonize and force conversions on western Christians and Jews? And I do ask them this, to their plain  horror and trepidation at anyone fearlessly opposing them because there is virtually little to no tolerance for other in any Muslim society–Pakistan included. Any minority of other (or majority when the group is Muslim women) is always put in an inferior role socially, and tolerance is offered by Muslims in Middle Eastern societies so long as Christians or Jews or women or others do not have the effrontery to ask for or assert equality.

We have to try getting news from other than Al-Jazeera or the American Zionist Media in the cause of Israel Uber Alles in the Middle East; but then, this might be very, very difficult. I have little patience for the ping pong played by Al-Jazeera or Zionist Media;hop-scotch with the truth is another game we play in our media. To pay attention to them is like trading in diatribes or polemics, whichever one suits the sensationalist needs of the moment.

This fore mentioned opposition to Christians is even true in Muslim societies allegedly friendly to the United States like Morocco (although to a lesser extent than in other Arab Muslim countries), but certainly the rule in Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Jordan. Is it true in every instance everywhere in these countries? I would not suggest it is only because it would appear to be poor rhetoric. Christians have been brutalized in Pakistan and in other Muslim countries, repressed–this you could find in a media not controlled by the likes of Al-Jazeera or the Ashkenazi-Zionist controlled media in America that wants the image of Jews and only Jews beset by a horror as grotesque as the Nazis.

The virtual neo-Nazism perpetuated in Arab Muslim countries with their anti-Jewish curriculum in their schools, breeding from childhood an anti-Jewish subtext to virtually all social and political gestures and policies, is clear enough to anyone who wants to be honest that one of the biggest enemies of Arab Muslims in the Middle East is their own hatred of other, and their own penchant for corrupt politics that they cannot continue to blame on the west or former colonialisms. Do not imagine that ISIS is anything less heinous than the Nazis.

We are fickle in our faith. The lack of proof may have something to do with this. How can something we believe without proof maintain itself indefinitely? It can’t, can it?; or can it? It does. What would one have to have in order to hold fast to one’s faith indefinitely? A man or a woman need faith to survive a relationship, no? Trust of the kind necessary in love is in itself what the best kind of faith is. Without faith, which is what feeds the kind of trust we talk about when we say relationships need trust–there are no relationships worth speaking about. What is there without faith, personally, socially, politically, diplomatically? I think we see the results in the world. Yet, is there ever a time when faith is foolishly squandered?

The more we learn, the more we understand what we do not know. The more that we know we do not know only necessitates degrees of faith to continue living normally. Faith breeds trust. Trust breeds respect; mistrust is disrespect. With trust we see again the person we love; we see the love once more, gaining a view of not only who we love, but why we love. With trust born of faith we continue to engage life even though we do not know the future and cannot know the future. However, faith without reason is not even faith. A parrot parroting what has been spoken to him is not an act of faith, belief or reason.

It’s faith that Daniel walks into the Lion’s Den with. It’s faith that Job holds onto through his trials and tribulations. I don’t know if it is faith with which the Hebrews enter the partition in the Red Sea–the parting of the waters is proof. No one needed faith. Faith is necessary for belief when reason should raise doubt, at least doubt and not anxiety yet. But faith, once more, must not be allowed to displace reason. Is it faith that caused Muslims to raise the sword at their beginnings of Islam? What allowed Islam, of all the world’s religions, to be born of a militancy no religion in the world has ever had the audacity to begin with? No leader of any religion at its inception anywhere in the world ever raised the specter of death by the sword as did the Arabs out of the desert in the cause of their revelation.

He who lives by the sword–a baptism of blood that neither Judaism nor Christianity were born in. And this is not hyperbole, but litotes. And it does resonate in our world today for too many convinced of their own truth as the Truth itself. There are clear differences in what it means to be devout in each of the three great monotheisms born in what we used to call the Holy Land.

Do you condemn 1.6 billion Muslims for this? That would be absurd. Does the west have faith otherwise?  Do I have faith that the opinions of most Jihadists are not lurking in the hearts of most Muslims, although unsaid because they do not feel themselves secure enough to speak openly? I am still asking myself this question. I did not see enough opposition to Isis from Muslims before the resent Paris attacks–and that was dearth I saw absent in  Al-Jazeera. If there had been so, Al-Jazeera would have broadcast or published this as a means of garnering greater sympathy and support for Arab Muslim causes in the Middle East. Al-Jazeera, when it comes to news about Arab Muslims is the flip side of a Zionist Media and neither the twain shall meet in reason or rational newscasting.

Do Muslims have faith that the west is not set against them? Likewise, should I have faith that Islam is not set against the west? The latter seems pretty naive to me sometimes. My faith for this wanes quickly. As a Christian, I should live in peace with others, but I am not the man who turns the other cheek. Do I have faith that our President Obama is the right man to handle this cause for freedom and democracy–I certainly have no faith for the Republicans whose support from Christian fundamentalists makes me understand how religi0usly reactionary we are, which feeds right into how reactionary Muslim fundamentalism is. Yet again, I am waiting for a mass of Muslim moderates to speak out and I do not hear it, not enough of it for me to have faith that Islam is not set against the west.

Would we have had faith that the Soviets were set to live in peace with the west? Out of mutual survival we managed this peace. Or should I say, we managed a world scenario reduced in open conflict? That would also be absurd. There were no conflicts that did not have the stamp of Soviet/American conflict all over them. Has Islam replaced Soviet-Communism. Totalitarian Communism set against Totalitarian Capitalism now set against Totalitarian-Islamism. Gira, gira, the world goes round and round.

II

Faith leads to a kind of knowledge; ths knowledge is arational in as much as it re mains apart from proof as any positivist would agree is proof. However, the knowledge that proof leads a person to is not a rational knowledge in itself. The inferences of faith are rooted in the evidence of things not seen, if I can paraphrase Paul. Again, we are not talking about rational proof; rational proof in itself is material for knowledge, not in itself knowledge.

We must acknowledge that the atheist disbelieves in God on faith as well. He does not have proof of the non-existence of God. His so-called rational proofs for God’s non-existence are rooted in faith-based reason. There are always leaps in any atheistic logic when it comes to God. Aristotle’s prime mover does not have to be God or a god or gods; nor dos it have to be not-God. Any argument against infinite regression does not have to equal a creator. Yet, neither can the atheist reductio ad absurdum himself to an uncreated universe.

Faith is complete trust; faith is necessary to perpetuate belief in facts. Facts do need belief; all beliefs need faith. But in response to the Muslim children mentioned above who felt, who believed they could act with impunity and collectively openly taunt and mock and insult young women for how they were dressed is indicative of what a society ruled by Sharia Law would be like–I have no illusions that it would stop with childish insults, not when those childish insults could not have come from their supposedly innocent minds. Sharia Law has no place in America, anymore than does Nazism, fascism or Jim Crow. Sharia Law is not for America, nor is it for Americans, any American who wants to live in an open, tolerant, free and democratic society (but then neither is any form of Soviet bred politics for America or Americans). And yes, I do know that the Germans voted for the Nazis, which is what anyone choosing Sharia Law would be like.

Muslims are welcome, but their Sharia Law in place of or next to the Constitution of the United States is an enemy impulse, and if the President were serious about his oath to defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic, he would address how Muslims could live in peace in this society, which would be to address how Sharia Law cannot persist when it denies free and unimpeded access to the Laws of the land and rights guaranteed by the Constitution and/or Federal and State laws. Misogyny is not a religious freedom protected by the First Amendment.

Do I have faith in the Constitution? Yes, I do. But I also have Reason, and yes my post-post Structuralist friends, that is an enlightenment idea when raised to its upper case value. If we cannot speak of the once common idea that there is a universal human nature, because there is nothing natural to humans that is not culturally derived, then we can still speak of universal human rights irrespective of culture, otherwise we are speaking of a conflict of civilizations that are brought to the fore by a conflict of metaphysics which always have the result of a social or political matter and anti-matter meeting. Perhaps I need to have faith that American power will prevail in the cause of our Democratic Liberty through the barrels of our guns. Yes, my friends, ISIS cannot and should not be contained–it needs to be annihilated, not merely defeated. There must be no tolerance for any support of ISIS from any quarter of the world.  I have faith that dropping the gauntlet is necessary. We must make our cause clear and that calls for us to call Islamic Terrorism Islamic Terrorism, and not play hop-scotch with the idea that ISIS has more to do with Islam (which means submission, not peace) than we would like to admit in our most insipid political correctness.

Circus Bread, a Polemic [Flash Fiction]

History, like time, is an ocean, not a river, it never goes from point A to point B.

We do imagine we are more compassionate today than in the past because like most ages, we believe ours to be the best of times, even with as many problems as we envision for our age. If we do not see ours as the best of times, we might just opt for the flip side of this and conclude that it is the worst of times, another way of saying the same thing as the best, superlative conclusions seemingly opposite really only ever side by side. Flipping coins has been one of our favorite past times; heads or tails, opposites on one coin, a single minting, the same metal (mettle?).

Flipping these or playing ping pong has become a favorite past time, but do not allow the extension of ping pong in distance when compared with flipping coins fool you into believing they are different when they are the same, in their paradigms, anyway. But you can see how we do this day in day out, flip coins, skip from box to box in hop-scotch, in the ways we carry on our personal conversations, by the ways we inquire in order to avoid getting answers; in the ways we avoid questions by talking endlessly and senselessly about what is supposed to be the most important things in our lives, socially, politically (exchanging sound-bites the best we offer); or in the ways we allow the media to speak for us, to speak authoritatively to us, the ways we look to the media to find out what we think and why we think it. There is no society more intricately controlled than ours; no society in history better managed by bread and circuses.

What we think of as history is another illusion, one nearly equal to believing we are actually settling ideological differences in our Presidential elections. We do imagine that history is progressive, which is what we infer by thinking ours is the best or the worst of times; progressively better, progressively worse. If ours is the worst of times, this means history is degenerative, which means it can become progressively worse, which is not something I have disbanded with in my belief, but I simply have disbanded with the notion that there has ever been a Golden Age or that this Golden Age could be now. I certainly have disbanded with the idea that a Golden Age could be in the future, which is really at the heart of every communist revolution.

 

Waiting for Myself (A Non-Utilitarian Reckoning by an Anonymous Reader Alone?) [Short Fiction]

I wear many masks. I have worn many. I will wear many, many more; I will have worn and re-worn uncountable many by the time I die. Who I am not as important as who I will have been? Remember Solon, my friends, if not, reexamine your Herodotus; it’s early on.

I

It does not matter when Samuel Beckett was born, nor does it matter where he was born, or how or why he was as he was when he was . . . his name, Samuel Beckett–no, just Beckett, right? What we call him, do not have to call him by any other moniker? I do not understand this litany of does not matter anymore than I do the litany of how much these things do matter to understanding what a writer wrote or who the writer is. I have never gone to biography when I wanted to write criticism in college. I never did agree with what has been said about authorship these last several decades either, particularly Foucault’s notions about authorship. I am the author of my work whether I have been published or not. Whose authority is there over the text, especially when it has not been published and there is no editorial license taken over the text by others who claim authority to say something because they think they see something? Could it be that I am the author of my text until it is published and thereafter only the writer–all writing being revisable or able to be edited–editors are a dime a dozen in their numbers, but great editors only ever a handful among too many?  Authority having to be usurped is still authority?

Do I recall when Becket died? In fact, I do. It was near to Christmas back in 1989. Where was I? In my life? At the time, the day, the hour of my finding out. I recall seeing a photo of Bill Packard on a copy of The New York Review one day hanging in the window of a shop that sold journals and magazines. It was on the corner across from French Roast on Sixth. The shop was diagonally across from The Jefferson Market Library. I was walking to Bar Six to have a pint, I think, with lunch. I used to like their BLT lunches. He had died–Packard–and I was shocked? Was I shocked? I was saddened, for certain, but does the death of anyone shock me. How can the inevitable, and the often unexpected way the news of someone’s death . . . I was shocked anyway. Back in ’89, I was attending Bill Packard’s playwrighting workshops–I recall Bill insisting that we understood the distinction between the words wright and write. And they were?

We were to know that wright in playwright was not an older form of write, but was an old English form of builder or maker, in fact, what the Greek word poeta meant in Ancient Greece. Aristotle’s poetics of course discusses at length, writing for the theater. We were to read this–Packard quoted Aristotle frequently. Probable impossibilities before possible improbabilities, and all that about making what you were wrighting integral to the play. It did not matter if what you were building in your play was possible in the world, but was it derived from the parts of the play, was it integral, was it within the confines of the play, probable.

Becket was dead–that was all. I read it in the Times. I did not run about in a thunder storm carving in a tree that Becket was dead as Tennyson had carved in tree after tree the night he heard of Byron’s death. I was sad, of course, oddly meloncholic, but I won’t make more out of this than is necessary. No hyperbole about one of my favorite playwrights–I couldn’t say favorite, I still had Shakespeare, Strindberg and Tennessee Williams. But there you have my four favorites–what then does this say about me? It says what it does for me and what it does for you and what it does for yet another and another and a another, each of us creeping in our petty ways until the last tolling of the bell, every syllable spoken clearly, annunciation was important. I used to think you could tell everything you needed to know or would ever want to know about a person by what he read. I might still believe this, although how important this is for you I cannot say.

I do recall the first time I read Beckett. I was an undergraduate in a seminar on modern drama. Professor Pearse was an amiable and engaging enough professor to have made the course lively, intelligent and sensitive. The play we were reading was Waiting For Godot, of course; at least I imagine I could say, of course. But then the nothing new I had felt from what I had read that semester turned into the something highly unique. I didn’t really know what it was at the time; I’m not sure I do today or have at any time between since. I was hooked.

I still believe that Endgame is the better play, and sometimes I like Happy Days as much, but I do see importance in the play more than current relevance critiques can muster, or seriously disguised American anti-intellectualism levies against it. Utility in art is just what the divine Mr. Wilde (as one of my Professors called him [and the Professor was not gay]) said it was. Art must remain useless. Ah! To be completely non-Utilitarian; this has been my dream.

I still have the copy of Godot I had then. I won’t recollect how many times over the last twenty or more years I have re-read the play. I used to insist to writing students at CUNY that all good reading is re-reading; all good writing therefore was rewriting. Reading and writing were not separate as they seem to be in current pedagogy, but flip-sides of a singularly minted coin. No one reads a text really who only reads it once, even if you read it more than once the first time you read it. There is a way to perform multiple readings simultaneously, or virtuously simultaneously; the levels of a text, inter-text, subtext, how many considerations are there in our reading of anything we read, but especially what I had been taught was great literature. And yes, this can be discerned no matter how many graduate students jump on the critical bandwagon of resentment and anti-Canon diatribes now parading on American campuses for a couple of decades. I could stand under Beckett as I felt I could not anyone else, at least not yet, at least not until then?

Beckett spoke to something both human and grotesquely modern, contemporary pain incommunicable with words, the words that had always served the literary tradition; something mid-20th century, post-war, atomic age, what else have we in words to express the inexpressible Beckett expressed by showing us how language breaks down, or how language needs to be distilled, reduced, stripped bare?

I got arguments from many that Beckett was white and spoke from privilege and had nothing to say to contemporary African Americans, or to feminism, or to theories rooted in theories or hypotheses of gender identity, either revealing issues subtextual to cultural context or issues created to further diatribes as well as the occasional dialogue on identity. I vehemently disagreed. I did not want to succumb to the popular academic or academically popular myopia many on campus needed to suffer. I recall the readings of his prose I performed subsequently then and over the years, even this year. Ill Seen, Ill Said, Fizzles, Watt, Murphy, Molloy, Malone Dies, The Unnameable, How It Is . . . and so on. I will not list herein all the approaches or considerations I could make in reading or more specifically in reading Beckett. I will, though, discuss this idea Becket designs in “waiting.”

II

Beckett wrote Waiting for Godot first in French, then translated his own French text into English. The French title is En Attendant, Godot. ‘Waiting’ in French is a prepositional construction with the gerund, en atendant. Attendant comes from the verb attender which is the origin of the English verb ‘to attend,’ thus all attending in English has as part of its semantic residue this idea of waiting. Whenever I attend anything, I wait as well. We attend the opera, a meeting, the ballet, a ballgame. In this frame of time in a place within its parameters of operating and doing and being, there is this sense and act of waiting, but for what? This for what? is key.

Does what we are attending ever arrive? This French sense of waiting is different from the English idea present in the action of waiting. When we wait for a bus it is different than attending the opera–we do wait for something while attending, but do we thus attend when we wait as we do in English? The bus either comes or it does not come; it comes on schedule, or it comes earlier or later than. Nonetheless, this other waiting which is in effect attending is different. It is the waiting that seems elemental to our lives. But for what; for whom do we wait when we attend, principally and ultimately our lives. En vivant. The preposition is important. En is in. Sometimes it could translate on, but in this construction the better translation is ‘in.’ In attending, in living–there is an inclusion, we are subsumed by the act, brought inside of something.

For Beckett, waiting was the essence of modern life, for almost all of modern life is about divesting the individual of his responsibility, most pronouncedly by taking away from him the ability to act for himself by himself, most assuredly under the pretext of making him more social, but certainly not as an individual, but, as in the words of Fleetwood Mac, another brick in the wall. States love walls, the Berlin Wall was one devoted mistress, that is until the less permeable invisible walls of the international power elite did not need the Soviet Union nor walls of concrete.

Beckett’s voice is the voice of the last free man shouting into the abyss and waiting for his echo. In the way we all wait for something that never happens or comes, more often than we would be comfortable acknowledging, we are also attending, in attendance, we say in English, preferring the inflectionally morphemic suffix -ance attached to the verb root ‘attend.’ We shift from verb to noun, clearly, whereby the French opt for the gerund which is in fact a noun but a verbal too. There is more of the verb’s quality present in the verbal present participle, herein the gerund, which is the present participle used as a noun.

A verbal though is not a verb.

Beckett, Samuel, the Irishman in Paris with Joyce–he was Joyce’s secretary, which tells you everything or nothing, most likely both everything and nothing at the same time. His oeuvres has been a comfort to me, but then I used to read Kafka likewise, for comfort. I find humor in the stories of the German speaking Czech Jew from Praha, and I know many who imagine that there must be something wrong with me for doing so. I was comforted by the worldview of Kafka, if we can say that there is a weltanschauung in Kafka, which I insist we can say because there is a distinct worldview, but then I believe the literary is a branch of knowledge that must be entertained in any serious epistemology.

III

I am not insisting that the one I find in his works is the only one. I’ve read Hamlet five times and know it has not been the same text throughout the successive readings, not to insist that the difference in readings, in interpretations cancel each other or nullify one or another of the others. Multiple interpretations can easily be sustained by great literature and I am not talking about topical and timely writing that expresses a program or attempts to be didactic in a horribly bureaucratically correct way as we see in much of what public school teachers select for students to read, particularly at middle-school when public education has more to do with indoctrination than learning and acquiring knowledge. I do also find comfort in Beckett as I have already said. I find incredible humor in Kafka.

I won’t list what I have gone on to read since Godot. I do sense something primal in his works: all this passing by and going through; life and living, not necessarily the same thing; time, space, position, dimension, coordinately drawn human interaction stripped bare, how well could anyone else draw our lives since the Second World War. His novels, his plays, his poetry; I do understand why he won the Nobel Prize, but I am not so sure there are even many students of literature at a place like Harvard who do.

There was a time I only read writers who had won the Nobel Prize. I have always maintained that bad writing is bad for the soul and mediocre writing is often just as debilitating spiritually, if I am allowed to express a pre-modernist and never a post-modernist or post-post modernist sense of spirit and mind. I return to romanticism, in effect Beckett’s writing is almost an attempt to salvage an idea of the Romantic individual in an absurd universe, a universe set against him and binding him in his isolation.

I always saw Beckett to be a lot like Dante, actually, perhaps crazily. Dante inaugurates a great transformation in not only Italian letters and language but also for European letters. However, at the same time, he was trying to salvage a more comforting and familiar metaphysical system, that of Scholasticism. Beckett is almost trying to salvage a metaphysics incompatible with what he gives such poignant expression to in his writing, his wrighting.

IV

We are all of us waiting for answers that either do not exist or remain for-always elusive. Will they come? We were all of us waiting for the end of the world. It did not come; it has passed its usefulness as a means of control, the fear, the ever constant weight on our shoulders, the perpetual worrying. There is no schedule for them who will come or who are supposed to arrive; what is it that is coming. Waiting is always for something not here but should be here needs to be here we want to hear. In Beckett’s universe these yet-to-be-here things or persons are not like trains no matter how much we subconsciously imagine them so, answers taking us away, liberating us, giving us at least the illusion of freedom, like our last vacation.

To attend, as I have said, we do forget means to wait. All students attending school waiting for answers that never come, like Godot. En attendant, je suis. In the French title, there is a comma not present in the English. The en attendant is set off from Godot. Literally, the title suggests, in/on attending, Godot, or, in other words, Godot is waiting, either exclusively or also.

In fact, Didi and Gogo are perhaps waiting for Godot, but Godot does not come because he too is in fact waiting. All waiting has implicit in the action, a locus. One must be relatively fixed in place for what one is waiting for. I don’t wait for a package to arrive at my home by sitting in the park. Waiting for Godot; Godot waiting for something or someone unnamed, each one is much the same as the other. It is the ground that rises to the falling man just before impact; his gravity its gravity, every body has gravity, all of us the gravitas of each other.

My Brother, My LIkeness [Flash Fiction]

Love of country cannot be equal to love of state; that is, no more than the public can ever entirely be the people. In the America I had been raised to love, the government was never your friend, and that was something I was taught by an ex-Marine father who was yet always faithful. He had taught me that in America, the government is just a little bit less the enemy of the people than in other countries, and reminded me that I would not want to be living in Red China or the Soviet Union, where bureaucracy administered proctol exams take place more often and without vaseline. This was a time when we just about had the Man on the run, but just as he turned his back to do so, we turned ours and then he turned back around and hoodwinked us. We have been in his chains, in his prison house, ever since.

In the prison-house that is the State–and there are plenty of analogies to be drawn in the comparison of a state and a prison–the people are the bitches of power. We are all of us punks, good publicans nevermore the people. I keep saying this, I know, about the distinction between the People and the Public. I imagine people in Jerusalem in the third century BCE telling Jeremiah to shut up. The Terrible Forty in Athens did likewise to Socrates, until they forced him to kill himself. The High Priest in the Temple of Jerusalem around 30 AD did likewise to rebel heretic Yehuda Ben Miriam, asking the Romans to try him for sedition after the priests of the temple could not find him guilty of heresy. I am no Socrates, no Christ of any kind. But Jeremiah has been my favorite prophet from the Old Testament. Jeremiads being a forte of mine. America today deserving of them no less than Yerushalayim two thousand two hundred years ago. We still read the story of Cain and Abel. It is part of our collective unconscious, this murder of Abel by Cain. How are we able to turn away from this story and not see Muslim and Jew in Gaza, Protestant and Catholic in Belfast, the Chinese in Tibet, The Russians in the Ukraine, tribes divided by colonialism in Africa subjected to neighboring majority tribes inside newly formed National boundaries and the impulse toward genocide. Genocide in Armenia; Genocide in former Cambodia; Genocide in Darfur and in Congo; Genocide in Europe under the Nazis, by the Bolsheviks, by Stalin, by Milosevich, by the Red Army in Berlin in 1945, by the Japanese in Bataan, in Nanking China; by Muslim, Hindu and Sikh in the border regions of India and Pakistan; by one dictator after another–is genocide really a term defined by arithmetic?

Of course what my father said was unquestionable then, as were many of the received ideas about the world we took for granted and used as our prime rationale for wanting to live in what we called the greatest country in the world. We did beat our chests, as I imagined many good publicans in the Soviet Union did, and continued to do here in New York in one or another ESOL program where I taught and had to listen to the most disrespectful, arrogant and condescending anti-American diatribes, one delusion after another about how great the Soviet Union was, ironically from Jewish refugees who were, out of the other side of their mouths, telling us how awful it was there, how endemically anti-Semitic and how, if they were communists, they were forced to be communists by the very Russians who supposedly hated them and did not trust them. The lies were piled on top of one another in rotting stinking heaps.

I would listen to one after another in a long line of chest beating Russian Ashkenazim who out of one side of the mouth claimed to be victims of anti-semitism and out of the other how much better anywhere in the Soviet Union they were from was than here in shit America or shit New York. Listening to any former citizen of any of the republics of the former Soviet Union or to people from China, I see that coming from the greatest country in the world is available to all people everywhere. When I listen to people from Poland or Italy, Mexico or Chile, Turkey or Algeria, Egypt, Israel or Greece, Albania, Iran or Afghanistan, each is all of piece the same, the best, the greatest, superlatives the same everywhere. Beckett was right, there is no condition that human beings cannot get used to; the abused child protects the reputation and the image of the abuser parent. He or she lies to protect that parent; they will create an alternate story, a fiction for others outside the family to hear.

In Italy, all the criminals are Italian, virtually all of them; in Turkey, the same, Turkish. Black Americans still kill more blacks annually than were murdered during all the years of lynching. Muslims are still the greatest killers of Muslims, as organized crime in Japan is organized by Japanese. Russian speakers sell Russian-speaking girls into prostitution, as do men of all countries sell girls into sexual slavery. Germans in Germany were Nazis; in Poland, the Nazis were Polish. In the concentration camps, Jew betrayed Jew, Pole, Pole, Frenchman, Frenchman. Each to his own. No one more easily disposed to robbing me than another man like myself. Cain is Abel’s brother; and you, my hypocrite reader, my brother, my likeness, I am as you are both Cain and Abel to my Abel and Cain.