‘And he brought them out of darkness, and the shadow of death; and broke their bonds in sunder.’
…or younger, anyway.
So JOB was visiting the Dappled Things website, as one does, and he stumbled across this in the “featured poem of the day” department: a little ditty he composed a while back for some M.L. character…
[Image: Gargoyles at Notre Dame, and the Café Grotesque mascots they inspired.]
The time of the first advent was foretold; the time of the second is not so; because the first was to be obscure, and the second is to be brilliant, and so manifest that even His enemies will recognise it. But, as He was first to come only in obscurity, and to be known only of those who searched the Scriptures….
– Pascal, Pensees, 757
They say I wear the scriptures on my sleeve –
Not true. I stitch and sew and scratch my soul
With them – the way that desert winds believe
The shifting sands will move and, on the whole,
That scrub and pine eventually break down.
They break down alright – and count the roll
Of boulders, mountains, and whatever crown
That Empire wears… These, lost on me now, hail
The high song of the wastelands: days that moan
The coming of another. Flies recall
The rhythm, locusts eat the melody
And honey adds the counterpoint. It’s all
The food I pick from barren fields. I see
It building up from wilderness; it comes
To search the slough and sift of enmity…
Remembering my mother’s cry, my dreams
Of distant visits haunt my head. So I search
The dunes of Palestine, obscured by time’s
Redundant landscape – even storm clouds lurch
With fits and starts that always promise rain –
The heavens’ pact with earth: You shall not parch
The grasses growing green upon the plain,
And I in turn will turn the sky to blue.
What thunder cries, a wilderness of pain,
That’s the work of God. I only call you.
Liberalism, as the recent attacks on La Ville Lumière have shown, cannot provide the basis for a sustainable society.
By liberalism, I do not mean Democrats versus Republicans, or the ideology of invite the world versus that of bomb the world. I mean all of it together.
When children kill we wring our hands and cry –
“The kingdom’s here and now and Christ is not
The crucified!” Confused, we butterfly
Our judgment, dissect humanity, gut
The soul and pick apart the truth. We love
Our sins so much we give them tongue to speak….
So heaven’s here and cold as stone above –
While hell’s beneath us. Spatchcock
The conscience, too, o modern primitive!
The temple’s vatic whisper will indict
Though pills become our lusty palliative
And love of death becomes our civil right.
We pay our tongues to serve the talk of peace –
We kill our kids so they can take our place.
I’ve been rereading this 1899 novel by Machado de Assis, and came across this passage, which seems somewhat related to the conversation JOB and I have been having over the last month or so.
God is the poet. The music is by Satan, a young and very promising composer, who was trained in the heavenly conservatory. A rival of Michael, Raphael and Gabriel, he resented the preference they enjoyed in the distribution of the prizes. It could also be that the over-sweet and mystical style of these other pupils was abhorrent to his essentially tragic genius. He plotted a rebellion which was discovered in time, and he was expelled from the conservatory. And that would have been that, if God had not written an opera libretto, which he had given up, being of the opinion that this type of recreation was inappropriate to His eternity. Satan took the manuscript with him to hell. With the aim of showing that he was better than the others—and perhaps of seeking a reconciliation with heaven—he composed the score, and as soon as he had finished it, took it to the Heavenly Father.
“Lord, I have not forgotten the lessons I have learned,” he said. “Here is the score, listen to it, have it played, and if you think it worthy of the heavenly heights, admit me with it to sit at your feet …”
“No,” replied the Lord, “I don’t want to hear a thing.”
“But, Lord …”
“Not a thing, not a thing!”
Satan went on pleading, with no greater success, until God, tired and full of mercy, gave His consent for the opera to be performed, but outside heaven. He created a special theater, this planet, and invented a whole company, with all the principal and minor roles, the choruses and the dancers.
“Come and listen to some of the rehearsals!”
“No, I don’t want to know about it. I’ve done enough, composing the libretto …”
If we imagine that the score is by Schoenberg, maybe the passage will make even more sense!
A fun little jaunt through the last
700 1,400 years of death.
Maybe all week, all year … maybe your whole life.
In keeping to the old prisoner/work relief thread running through this blog, I refer you to theThe Marshall Project’s interview with Anthony Ray Hinton, convicted of murdering two fast food managers in Birmingham in 1985. 29 years old at the time, Hinton was sent to death row. He was released last week after spending 30 years there, much of it in solitary confinement.
In solitary confinement, a lot of people break up. They lose their mind, they give up, they commit suicide. Tell me about your experience. How you were able to hold onto yourself?
I come from a Christian background. My mom was strict. She always would instill in us that we don’t need anybody to actually play with. Get outside and play by yourself. She taught me to lean on Jesus and no one else. And when I got to death row, believe it or not, I witnessed people hanging. I seen people cut their wrist. I seen blood leaking from under the cell. I seen men who hung themselves. And so I became a person that got wrapped up in my sense of humor, and I tried to make everybody that I came in contact with — from prison guard to the wardens to the inmates — I tried to make everybody laugh. I would see a guard come by and I would say, “Hey officer.” He’d say, “Yeah Anthony, what can I do for you?” I’d say, “I need to run to the house for about an hour, and I’m gonna need to use your car. I’ll bring it right back, but I need to go.” And they would laugh.
You have to understand something: These crooked D.A.s and police officers and racist people had lied on me and convicted me of a horrible crime for something I didn’t do. They stole my 30s, they stole my 40s, they stole my 50s. I could not afford to give them my soul. I couldn’t give them me. I had to hold onto that, and the only thing that kept me from losing my mind was my sense of humor. There’s no man who’s able to go in a cell by yourself, and you’re there for 23, sometimes 24 hours a day, and you don’t come out. There’s not a human being that can withstand that pressure unless there’s something greater inside of him. And the spirit was in me where I didn’t have to worry about killing myself.
I’d be lying if I didn’t say that Satan didn’t come up on me and tell me, Well you ain’t never gonna get out of here. When I saw people going to be executed, every man in there would tell you he questions himself — is that ever going to happen to me? And when that little voice comes and says, Well they’re going to get you the next time, I would immediately tell him to get thee behind me, and I would turn on that switch of laughter. And I didn’t ever turn it off. To this day, even though I’m free, I still haven’t turned that sense of humor off. If you could have seen me in those 30 years, you would have said this guy can’t be human. This guy is crazy. This guy laughs and plays like he ain’t on death row. I didn’t accept the death penalty. You can’t make me take the death penalty. You can give it to me, but you can’t make me take it in my heart.
There’s a whole lot more—about the day his mom died, about what it was like to use a fork for the first time in three decades, and the importance of Mark 11:24. Which you don’t have to be in prison to appreciate. It’s there for everybody, and it’s there for you, too.
… like a bat outta …
However appropriate, I suppose this metaphor might seem a little confusing, given the season.
Still, the point is, they made it!!!