Last night I dreamed that my trousers' waist button was loose. Soon it fell off. I held the button in my hand and wondered whether I should save it so as to sew it back on. But my psyche made the decision to cast it away, reasoning that it will be easy to purchase a replacement. And then I woke up.
I will not rate this dream as "vividly dull," because there was nothing vivid about it. Now I'll interpret its meaning:
The trousers represent global hegemony. The button that came loose is the U.S.A. And the replacement button is China.
What is empire, and why does anyone want it? I cannot keep track of my own back yard. Which is significant, because I'm chained to a post here. (I'm homaging Lynch's Angriest Dog in the World.) Yet tho my haunt is decidedly local, I'm attracted to spending my gifts in a way that will transfer them to others and expand all blessing. Isn't that the opposite of empire? Or is it identical?
Maybe the way to distinguish (as I hope you can) between my own stance and the "genuine" article is to note that old familiar boundary that I never stop harping on: body versus soul. The dichotomy of the psychosomatic. I'm all for intellectual empire: world-power gained via poetic persuasion; and I'm totally AGAINST the other kind.
Just since it's on the topic, I'll copy out a passage of text – I happen to be reading the novel Empire in Gore Vidal's series that he called "Narratives of Empire". Here is Vidal's (fictional) character Blaise Sanford venturing a brief question, and (fictional-historical) President Theodore Roosevelt giving an answer:
Blaise was beginning to work out a theme if not a story. "You are for expansion—everywhere?"
"Everywhere that we are needed. It is to take the manly part, after all. Besides, every expansion of civilization—and we are that, preeminently in the world, our religion, our law, our customs, our modernity, our democracy. Wherever our civilization is allowed to take hold means a victory for law and order and righteousness. Look at those poor benighted islands without us. Bloodshed, confusion, rapine..."
This intrigues me because it's the polar opposite of the way that I think. At least I think it's not the way I think. I don't entirely relate to either side: the "benighted" islanders or the "preeminent" civilization. (Why not swap those adjectives?) I feel somewhat of both. So I'll maintain my balance on this fence. The contest's a draw. Unless, apart from the unwitting victims and smug imperialism, there's a third option available for me to side with wholeheartedly: dada-surrealism-pataphysics-mannerism-primitivism-romanticism-(etc.)ism...
All this talk of empire makes me think of another entity that blankets the globe: the super force that St. John's Jesus declares will have its advent after him:
And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. [14:16-17]
It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. [...] When he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. [16:7,13]
I always associated this notion of the Spirit of Truth with the so-called third person of the Christian Trinity, the Holy Spirit. But I'm also won over to the Devil's account in William Blake's Marriage of Heaven and Hell.
It indeed appear'd to Reason as if Desire was cast out; but the Devils account is, that the Messiah fell. & formed a heaven of what he stole from the Abyss
This is shown in the Gospel, where he prays to the Father to send the Comforter or Desire that Reason may have Ideas to build on...
Our reason builds on ideas, which emanate from desire; and this is a comfort because otherwise reason would organize us to blah. It's like throwing bones to a watchdog. Or mysteries to a scientist.
But what did Jesus mean when he spoke of the Holy Spirit? (For the record, I don't believe in Jesus the way that churches believe in him – it's worth repeating this for all the sailors out there who are new to this public-private ship-log of mine, which attracts whole fleets of followers daily – I take Jesus simply as a literary character who acts and speaks in provocative ways that are worth mulling over.) Can one remain an infidel and yet hold the Holy Spirit as this planet's lone benevolent hegemony? What does that phrase mean, even? (I'm asking about "Holy Spirit," not "benevolent hegemony"—everyone knows THAT idea is sheer nonsense encountered only in fairy tales.) It consists of two words:
We know what spirit is: it's "the wind that bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth," as St. John saith (3:8); spirit is thus unseen, unpredictable, and powerful enough to cause both life and death: the former by way of the lungs, the latter by way of tornado (the god Yahweh speaks from out of this type of disaster in the Book of Job; see ch. 38 & 40). Spirit is also a synonym for ghost; which is why, when you expire from overwork, your boss announces on the intercom: "X gave up the ghost"; with X standing for your Employee Identification Number. This yields also the capitalized alternative: Holy Ghost. Hence, because time is money, when you sit around the campfire telling ghost stories, this wasted evening can be written off on your taxes as "studying spiritual scripture," which act, in the U.S., is considered charitable, so long as you are a registered corporation. For spirit = ghost = the Four Headless Horsemen of Armageddon, also known as the Ichabods of the Apocalypse.
And the word holy just means something that's been set apart as special: in this case, something supposedly superlative. The best breeze ever. So Walt Whitman is talking about MY style of Holy Spirit in the lines that end section 14 of "Song of Myself" (in which poem I DO believe as the churchgoers believe in their Jesuses – or rather moreso):
What is commonest, cheapest, nearest, easiest, is Me,
Me going in for my chances, spending for vast returns,
Adorning myself to bestow myself on the first that will take me,
Not asking the sky to come down to my good will,
Scattering it freely forever.
But I have two bad habits. One is that I sublimate anything physical. For instance, if a friend were to read the above quote and say to me: "Yeah, it's about free love." I'd answer: that's obvious, but I take the fleshly activities as tropes for the motions of the mind. The truest mating occurs when you read or write poetry. And by poetry I mean just about anything. And here's the other bad habit I can't shake: Ever since I was an infant, I have not stopped expecting the sky to come down to my will. I used to throw tantrums – raging screaming vicious bratty fits, writhing on the floor like a beached minnow – and my mom would say: "Calm down; it's not the end of the world." And I'd reply that it is indeed the end of the world, for there shall never be any more heaven or hell than there is right now. And this was before I could even speak English, mind you.
Now, having mentioned my childish impatience, I should clarify that these outbursts were wholly controllable: I myself drove them and gave them vent; they were not seizures that "came upon me" or anything involuntary. (Don't tell mom.)
This notion of turbulent spasms, breaking the chains and fetters that one has been placed in, even tearing out of one's straightjacket like a famous TV wrestler ripping off his t-shirt – it brings to mind those who are said to be possessed by demons. Chapter 5 of St. Mark's gospel tells a tale about Jesus traveling over "unto the other side of the sea, into in the country of the Gadarenes." Here Jesus meets an "untamed" man who lives in the cemetery. When Jesus asks the man's name, the man answers "Legion: for we are many."
This strange reply fascinates me so much that I'd like to abandon the demon topic and look instead for more name-related passages...
When Moses asks the LORD God what his name is, God answers "I AM THAT AM," and adds: "this is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations" (Exodus 3:13-15); although nobody has ever called him that name, before or since. Yet, come to think of it, St. John, in his gospel account (8:58), claims that Jesus boasted "Before Abraham was, I am." Also I mentioned the other day in these diary pages the BREAKING NEWS that a sneak attack happened to Jacob in Genesis (ch. 32), where an unknown "man" whom Jacob identifies as God wrestles all night with Jacob and "prevails not against him"; then after asking Jacob's name, and Jacob answers "Jacob," the midnight marauder refuses to accept this correct answer and actually repeals and replaces Jacob's name with the unsought new name, Israel, BECAUSE (this reason is given in the exchange over verses 27-28) Jacob's power has "prevailed over God and men." (By the way, regarding those last two nouns: Why use different labels for beings who share the exact same taxonomic rank?) Lastly, when Jacob prays (in verse 29) that this alleged deity reveal his own name, the fiend refuses to answer; so Jacob cannot even implement "an eye for an eye," and rechristen Yahweh as Satan, but must forgo any resistance and let the thug smack his left cheek as well [Matthew 5:38-39]. But since we cannot know the identity of Jacob's assailant, in fairness I should admit that, had he gotten an answer, he might not have needed to change LORD to Lucifer but Christ to Jesus or Dracula to Nosferatu...
OFFICER DE LUCA: "Now I'm gonna show you a photo, and I want you to tell me if you recognize the man you're talking about."
DAVID DOLORES FRANK: "I'd prefer if you referred to him as my 'aggressor', not 'the man'."
OFFICER DE LUCA: "Your 'aggressor', if you prefer."
DAVID DOLORES FRANK: "Yeah, it's important, because he's not a normal person."
That's from the 2103 film Wrong Cops, written by Quentin Dupieux.
I don't like that this entry took the form that it took. Except for the Wrong Cops quote, which I love, it reached a dead-end: the place of my brain where six or seven bible passages impede further progress like a bloodclot. I wish I could have solved the maze and burst into freedom, but I'm out of time already and one can never go back. Even if you invent an anti-gravity mechanism that has the side effect of allowing you to revisit the past, so that you can undo mistakes, right relationships that went sour, and step in the same river twice, any presumed fixes that you attempt inevitably result in even severer catastrophe: because the previous episodes of life that have been rendered erroneous by your future-self's meddling do not simply fade away or get deleted like a file on some politician's computer: no, the altered avenues of every past existence are neither aborted nor full-stopped but swerved aside, thus they endure forever trans-dimensionally askew. Every endeavor to solve any dilemma simply multiplies the total number of dilemmas. You cannot make America great again. You only wind up increasing the sum of evil empires.
I don't like this extra ending either; but it's really time to go. Happy sailing to you.