19 February 2017

Rehash of dubious views

Here is an image of a mirror between two things that are bound by a border. It looks familiar to me because the border is from some decorative paper that I’ve included in an image here before, but I keep reminding myself that this here is a wholly unique indignity.

Dear diary,

I don’t feel like writing anything today – I’m in one of those moods where writing seems bootless – so I’ll write some trash. I wish I could stop obsessing over churchy stuff. All I’m thinking about right now is the same old, same old unanswerable obviousness.

He had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength. [Revelation 1:17]

Those who preached from the pulpit of the old Baptist church that I used to attend would, at some point in every sermon that I heard (they held services three times weekly), half warn and half hearten the congregation by assuring them that Jesus would VERY SOON return to our planet. Additionally they preached that the obedient believers would, at some point, get pulled up into the sky (literally) to be with God’s son, before the rest of the globe’s population got to meet his hospitality or wrath. They referred to this up-sucking affair as the rapture. And they also proclaimed that all those unsuspecting folks who are to remain behind—that is, those who miss the glorious meeting in the clouds—will face, for a spell, great tribulations here on Earth.

That same congregation holds as its official doctrine that the King James Bible is a book that was authored by God. What does it mean to say that Fate or Destiny herself actually composed a volume of poetry? Is this Good or Bad Luck?

God invites you to mansions of peace,
and guides whosoever He will
to the path that is straight.
For those who do good
there is goodness and more,
and no blot or disgrace
will cover their faces.
They are people of Paradise,
where they will abide for ever.
But those who earn evil shall be punished
to an equal degree as their evil,
and they will be covered with shame,
and will have none to protect them against God:
Their faces shall be blackened as though
with patches of the night.
They are the people of Hell,
where they will abide for ever…

Why did I quote this? No real reason. (It is Ahmed Ali’s translation of verses 25–27 of “Jonah,” the tenth section of the Qur’an.) Or I guess I wanted to think about the fact that different scriptures assert different things about the future; the last days; the final judgment. I wonder what will truly happen. These outcomes either WILL or WILL NOT occur, right? All we earthlings can say is: X hasn’t happened yet. And since there’s no precise date affixed to the upcoming inevitability, devotees can taunt us with “Although it didn’t happen today, who knows: it might happen tomorrow!” I hate that stance – I find something cowardly about it. That’s why I respect any cult that actually announces a specific day on which is supposed to occur their extravaganza. There was a sect whose leader marked on the calendar and announced with clarity and confidence that “This is when the LORD’s day will occur”; and then that day came and went like any other: completely apocalypse-less. Now I want to console that congregation, even their prophet who has incontestably been proven false – I like that they gave it a shot. Also those cults whose congregations all decide to take poison at once. I know it’s not the proper thing to say, but I kind of admire their commitment. But of course it’s always best to remain alive and healthy, and just to enjoy the sunshine.

Easier said than done, however. Just try to eat drink and be merry when your mind keeps swarming with thoughts of religion and war. (Fears of both; annoying worries.) I tried to take a break and so began reading in the second part of the second book of the long poem Paterson by William Carlos Williams:

    In its midst rose a massive church.   .   .   And it all came to me then—that those poor souls had nothing else in the world, save that church, between them and the eternal stony, ungrateful and unpromising dirt they lived by……

And then on the very same page occurs the following observation that I wish felt archaic and silly, as the problems of the past, but instead sounds to me like it could’ve been written today:

I see they—the Senate, is trying to block Lilienthal and deliver “the bomb” over to a few industrialists. I don’t think they will succeed but   .   .   that is what I mean when I refuse to get excited over the cry, Communist! they use to blind us. It’s terrifying to think how easily we can be destroyed, a few votes. Even though Communism is a threat, are Communists any worse than the guilty bastards trying in that way to undermine us?

The one comfort I get from this is the knowledge that… Actually, I don’t get any comfort from this. And I’m continuing to read Gore Vidal’s novel Burr, and it’s continuing to fascinate me. Below are a few sentences from the part that in the story is called “An account of Lieutenant-Colonel Aaron Burr’s Military Service at the Time of the Glorious Revolution.” I’m reminded, alas, of our modern, foreign scheming – where now in our bad era the U.S. has expanded to fill the role that in Burr’s time was performed by… well the parallels are obvious—I assume that’s the attraction of the book. (By the way, when Burr mentions Washington, he means the man George.)

Considering that the British forces were far from home and considering that there were over two million Americans in the colonies, it ought not to have been difficult for us to overwhelm them in every way. But difficult it was, always, for Washington to maintain an army. The rich tended to be pro-British while the poor were not interested in whether or not American merchants paid taxes to a far-away island. The truth is that except for a handful of ambitious lawyers, there were very few “patriots” in 1775. By the time the long deadly war came to an end, there were hardly any to be found. The best died; the rest grew weary.

Also I recently re-watched Beat the Devil (1953) because a touched-up new digital copy is showing (or soon to be?) in theatres again. I need to chip in my two cents, because all the critics are praising this film too much. When it first appeared, not many people liked it; so now, we all think that we have to LOVE the movie, to make up for those past-folk’s “mistake.” Was it a mistake? I say: Not altogether. The real truth, which is certifiable by the sky god who endorses my claptrap, is that there are fine elements in the picture, due to the fact that all the cast and crew are topnotch, and so are the writers (John Huston and Truman Capote, with the former directing as well), AND YET there’s still something off, something out-of-tune, about its quiddity – I mean its frame, to speak of the movie as if it’s a motorcoach. The mood is wrong; Bogart’s post-release disapproval is on-point, I think: the film really shouldn’t have been so fixed on levity – at least not so frivolously so (can anyone honestly claim to prefer THIS to The Maltese Falcon (1941)?—yet that might be why Huston abandoned the initial idea: perhaps he stumbled from the anxiety of influencing himself). Wes Anderson is FAR better at that type of comedic mannerism – I’m thinking of The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014). These complaints are worth mentioning because what’s good about Beat the Devil is truly good – I love how even the supporting or bit players are as large and memorable as the majors (a quirk opposite of, but as good as, what I call Hitchcock’s nondescript extras) – so the film is like a loaf of bread with diamonds in it. The gems are undeniably attractive, but one can’t help wishing they’d been set in a superior substance.

I’d make a much better film critic than anyone currently practicing that profession. I just don’t feel like spending my time like that.

Plus, too often I miss the plot of the picture, due to daydreaming. Just last night, while my sweetheart and I were at the theater, I was thinking about something other than the movie that was playing – I was contemplating memory. What is memory, I asked myself. It is a marvel that seems to take place in the mind. Then my thoughts moved as follows, beginning with this familiar reflection: When we say “imagine,” we mean something different than “remember.” Now thoughts are considered incorporeal; but the place that contains the thoughts—the brain—is physical. It would be easier if each thought, each imagination, each memory corresponded to its own unique cell; so then we could actually hold a memory in our hand. But the atoms that make up the neurons that comprise the mind fire off in a certain style when they “perform” a memory. Is this mental performance like a dance commemorating the way that these same atoms or neurons fired off when they originally experienced the remembered miracle? And can these atoms retain or acquire such “dance moves” as any organism might inherit tendencies, twitches, or instincts? Maybe an atom that has experienced X and thus learned to perform X’s remembrance dance can haphazardly end up “teaching” aspects of the performance to its atomic neighbors when it inhabits a new brain. Maybe this is why people think dreams are important. Could this be the skeleton key to the riddle of character? And if character is fate, then…

I endured the most powerfully strange dream last night. I remember clearly the feeling, on awaking afterwards, but no details: everything was repressed, like a vault guarded by the imperial host. There must have been some juicy secrets in there, for my consciousness to be so fervently driven off…

And a flaming sword turned every which way, to obstruct the bliss. [Genesis 3:24]

I know it: I can sense it in my marrow: that dream was THE CONUNDRUM IN FULL – at least for me. Yet why is the answer a feeling, as opposed to a message? Perhaps each soul has her own puzzle… or: is her own puzzle. But some part of me hopes that none of this gets resolved; I like the sensation of “almost there” better than victory: All devils know, every climax is an echo of falling from heaven. And we cannot tell if this is a good or bad thing – that’s the accomplishment. It’s like beholding nudes through frosted glass.

If people weren’t cruel, I’d not worry so much about misplacing my spectacles.

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