How the Character Sketch of a Man Fighting Off Pessimism Can Show You How to Engage Your Next Meditation On Death

[What the man says he sees, he sees as he says, and so says surely he sees it, thus why he says what he says how he says it when he does.]

the Character Sketch of a Man Fighting Off Pessimism Can Show You How to Engage Your Next Meditation On Death

I see a portrait of Magdalene at the Met in her Memento Mori pose. Georges de La Tour, I remember, as I have seen this portrait of the First Witness of the Resurrection before and its sister portrait at the Louvre . . . Mary called Magdalene sitting alone in a dark candle lit room, circumambient dark, and with a skull in her lap to contemplate death, contemplate decay, loss, the ephemerality of life, Yorick’s skull is there, as again it appears in Hamlet’s hands telling Horatio that there is certainly more in heaven and earth than could be dreamed by anyone. But the one at the Met, the painting of the penitent with a skull in her lap as she sits at her vanity table with lit candle before the mirror and with baubles strewn haphazardly, all surrounded by a circumambient darkness, black around the edges of the canvas—yes, all fades to black, as the perimeter in a film by Lang with cinematography by Toland, who worked with Welles on Citizen Kane, who did the photography for Wyler’s Wuthering Heights, the photography for Ford’s The Grapes of Wrath.  Fritz Lang the most baroque of all film directors, as was Toland the most baroque of cinematographers; but then, Germany in the 20s …

What more is there to say about Magdalene, about light, about space–what else is there to say about de La Tour. What more in the matter of intellectual and emotional weight—or the weight of the matter of what I think, what I say and what I know—can I bring anything else to this experience with a painting, one from the age of the Baroque—need I question myself, thus? The philosophy of doubt has not overtaken me as it has subsumed so many of those I have worked with, do work with, know, went to school with, I mean college, university for those who cannot understand that they mean the same thing in our common parlance. who imagine we are thinking when what we are actually doing is randomly passing images or words—not even sentences or paragraphs—in the mind. We do play hop-scotch with words. No, I see that doubt has not become the highest wisdom in me as it has in our culture . . . and the daily affairs of living do take precedence over remembrance—what the hell is that supposed to mean to this here discussion of this painting at the Met? I do go to see every time I am at the Met for whatever reason–I must see her,this memento mori Magdalene. I had a dream the other night, and in the dream I dreamed I met Mary called Magdalene, but I do not remember much else, and I am not even certain if anything else happened after having met for I think it was at this time in the dream I awoke . . .

I cannot remember film, going to the movies or seeing movies whether I went to the cinema or not without thinking of my dad, I watched movies with him a lot at home and have a special affinity for movies from the thirties because of him. I would not even know where to begin talking of my dad and his relationship to movies and his relationship to me with movies, watching them, talking about them, detailing them, getting the idea that you could watch a movies more than once and for different reasons, having each time a distinct focus.

It’s been how long since I last watched a movie with my dad, how long had he had the dementia before he died of a stroke . . . the anniversary of my father’s death passed recently without anyone in my home realizing it until nearly a week after. It was I who noticed we had missed it, but I did not say anything to anyone in our home. Our kid was back from college. It was among the last days he was home before he would return to school for the spring semester. The needs of the living have always taken precedence over the mandates of attention to the dead. My dad would have understood, I think I said to myself then. What should I have said–I really do not need to know, but ask as if I should because I want to see how it might feel to think that I should think of this, ask this, imagine that it is important for me, for everyone to think and speak and write and say this way, for you to imagine that I am this kind of man, but then this just about puts that to sleep. I am very aware of how I should act, how I should think, even though I often dispense with this knowledge in any way that would allow me to accomplish the facts I am sure of socially.

Again the saying and the telling and the knowing and the understanding—how much more is there and how much of any of them do I do we do when we attempt to say something or when we tell a story—to tell or not to tell the tale, the tell, all tales told. The whole entire everything everywhere history of it, this or these, they and them here and there and what is it that lies between here and there, mutually, reciprocally as I like to say and repeat many, many times, all of it in the between, we like to say in between without noticing what we are saying.

Taps were played by the Marines at his funeral, signaling the end of a universe and the opening of another . . . I think it was nice, I felt that it was nice when it was happening, the Marines in their dress blues folding the flag I still have, why would I not still have it? What do I know about trumpet sounds, trumpet hailing, heralding, Ave Maria Plena Gratia, Gabriel says to Mary . . . the womb is the universe; the universe a womb. Gabriel the herald angel, the trumpeter angel. He must have blown his horn to announce to Mary–yes, Gabriel, the Angel of the Annunciation–and I heard nothing but cacophony in my father’s hospital room the morning he died, the sun through the window almost on his face. It broke, the sun, through the clouds, just before he expired; the clouds that had hung around all morning as he lay dying, clouds from the night before when flurries all night left a couple of inches of snow, too much snow for the pig priest of the church in the parish where M— Hospital is located in Brooklyn—scum bag piece of shit, maybe too busy fucking boys to come and give last rights to my Dad, or so I said to myself in anger. The Pope owes me an apology, I imagined. And fuck the Church if I don’t get it, I also imagined saying. How can you say that? I hear her ask, she asks so many questions in that impossible to bear annoying fucking way she has of asking questions rhetorically, especially in my head, making me only want to hit her over the fucking head with a blunt object–I never will–but I do imagine it, or, at least I might, if I let myself think that good people are the one’s who are content to day dream what wicked people practice. But I cannot always get there always having had the fortune or misfortune of having had Catechism at Saint Therese’s before Holy Communion and again before Confirmation. Love is never having to reach for the butcher knife when you are angry enough to kill your spouse.

Yes, the Gospels and Jesus were a big reformation of Plato. But let anyone who is without sin cast the first stone, of course, I am supposed to think this believe this know this act this but I do not and instead I want to–never mind what I want to do, have wanted to do because I do not any longer think about doing it. The way he was treated in the hospital he died in, the culture of death is upon us—and particularly if you are Catholic in an Orthodox Jewish hospital, I said after having heard one Puerto Rican woman say the same to me as her husband got second class treatment, she insisted, from a hospital only a few blocks from where she lived among all these people as she said in what was apparent disgust. I was going to say more, I was going to lay claims, but I have decided not to. Fuck them—there will never be peace in the world; we will never be one; you can’t even trust everyone is like you, certainly no one is unlike you. I can feel this as true as you know the sun is shining on your face when it is shining on your face.

Another song sung in a tone deaf world–at least for my inflections, the color of them. I will sing alone–no one in this world would listen even if I did sing loud and clear with perfect diction. But then this is my disappointment, my discouragement–and who am I to have these? I should know better? I should be stronger? I still do not know what that means, at least not all the time, and only sometimes to imagine that I do, think that I can–can is knowing how to or being able to or being allowed to, and they do not share absolute synonymy, any one of the three with any one of the others . . . everyone is other, and each unto his own oasis in a desert of no one being another.

[Do not look for any more here, you greedy little grubby bastards, as if the title reader entitled you to anything else than what you are given.]


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