January 6, 2013

The Other Side of Anger





Notebooks of banality
litter my mind.
Months of scribbling,
spurred by a visionary dream;
and no other kind.
But I can’t even read them.
I never could read
the millions of words
that I wrote in pain or psychosis
in the lonely  and somber,
ferocious darkness
of our luminous America.
I threw most of it in your garbage can.
I have no faith in any of it, and
Nothing comes close
to the actual truth;
an awful tease;  and
an incurable disease.
No more dreams
or stories, please.
Take me away,
far from here;
Or let me stay
another year.
Do you  see?
Seventy two of them
made no difference to me.




That is what depression feels like to the author of this blog. Why am I telling you? You might be even worse off. I don't know why. Communication? A cry for help? Something to write about? Why go public with it? I know that I won't be depressed forever. There are ups and downs. Maybe I'm looking for sympathy, expressing self-pity. Maybe it is true, that I really have no talent larger than this. Lamentable. The possibility makes me want to exit the planet. After all, I am old enough. Don't need a passport to leave. Who knows if there is another border up the line? Sooner or later we all must board a train, ticket or not.

How does it rate as poetry? I don't know anything about poetry. I try in all I write to pare words to reveal essences, not always successfully. I drop adjectives, nouns, compound verbs, adverbs, indefinite and definite articles, and pronouns, mercilessly; chopping apart the texture of my woody, over-worded, tipsy wordpile. But in this thing I came to Mexico to write, I went the other way for a change.

It was--is--about a vision I had. I'm indecisive about the tense, because I don't know where I am with it; do I want to continue what seems now like a losing effort? Is this blog the only thing in 50 years of writing that I will ever publish; leaving a legacy of mild interest to some future psycho-historian of historical blogs?

"Here's one, a perfect example of a writer who never developed his talent but published the most-intimate and embarrassing details of his life. He had X number of readers, X number of comments, and never published or had an appreciable effect on anything. Let's find out what happened to him and put it in a footnote of the Study."

"I don't know why you bother with these old things of the Earth People. They exterminated themselves centuries ago. That's how we managed to settle the planet. If they had still been here, we would not have been able to establish a colony."

Maybe I should try writing science fiction.

Maybe I should quit writing. After 50 years of it with no success, either I am very stubborn or very stupid. I don't know. Third person writing is tough for me. But I did have an idea, a vision, and a story. Here is a sample:



The Ruins of the Ruins



The sound in Bill Butler´s brain buzzed like a beehive. He heard it with his mind but not his ears, for the door buzzer had not worked for years, and cars outside passed normally; he could hear the Elevated J train clattering on Fulton Street at 20-minute intervals as always; and somewhere in the house someone was walking. But after a time the buzz dominated and suppressed other noises and he knew it as B-flat. He felt that he was in another world. He sat without lamplight in a swivel armchair with dusty blinds closed one mid-morning in sunny July.


He felt shaky, and wondering what was happening to him, thinking that he might be dying, he rose and walked to the middle of the room and knelt, staring at the tan Venetian blinds, and then a vision burst into his brain like a television program, and he could see it as plain as a movie, and it was the worst thing that a human being could ever see.


He gazed from above at a band of fragile old men and women, unsheltered from weather, in a gloomy desert ghetto; a circle of skewed stones, which were the ruins of a public building or temple; a place that was utterly ruined, with only some faded inscriptions and worn splines on broken, supine columns to prove that men had crafted them at all. The locale was sunless, gray, and windless beneath a low, cloudy sky, and it had been ruined and ruined again, as if an aggressor, unsatisfied with pitiless destruction, had returned repeatedly to guarantee that the work was done. But it was not, because there still were living people about, but only wrecked derelicts, waiting for a merciful last breath.


They were naked and friable and covered with ageless stone dust that made them all the same complexion; a pallid, gray group of damaged men and women past fecundity, with skins stretched taut and thin with the opacity of lampshades over visible skeletons, like x-rays, set with the immobility of rocks, or prostrate, in parched postures of despondence and resignation to damnation in a living, waterless and food-less hell. Their bellies were shrunk to nothing. The barren women’s teats were desiccated shrunken pouches; and there was no progeny, for there were no children. There was no future to contemplate or anticipate.


A fleeting thought informed him that this was the last redoubt of a ruined city where they had found insubstantial shelter, which had been assaulted even again, and it had a name, but he could not remember it later.


Here was a man with blank black eyes staring vacantly at nothing, his forearm resting on a bony knee; beyond energy or complaint, his hand drooped from the wrist as without enough life even to tremble. Another, flat on his back, eyes closed to the approach of merciful death; no one to bury him; they all were as close to death as one could be and still breathe; they had no breath to waste on speech; and there was nothing left to say. Another was draped across a dull boulder as if flung there like an empty sack; and yet another and another, all the most bleak and desperate of refugees in postures of despair, abnegation and unacknowledged surrender, unable to move, much less resist, and resigned to the inevitable.


The buzzing was gone. It was wholly silent in solitude that only the deaf can know.


Humanity had returned to its aboriginal state; a small band only, with bodies shriveled, starved, cadaverous, stark naked as they were before animals had provided their nutrition and clothing, now poor beyond poverty, sicker than sick, beyond pain, paper-thin,  skeletal, bloodless, translucent, and suffered to breathe only to contemplate an irreversible ruination; they were pitiful and past hope, barely alive and barely breathing in the ruins, which had been blasted over and over; and they were wise with the knowledge that no help would arrive to rescue them, that there would be no pity, aid, comfort, clemency, pardon, or food, water or sympathy forthcoming; forevermore.


With a feeling of deep despair he comprehended that he was seeing what Jesus had seen from the cross, when he had contemplated with a carpenter's wisdom the hard-hearted tableau of a ruthless mass crucifixion with himself as the top draw. He had himself constructed crosses.


For the first time in Bill Butler´s life real awareness dawned, igniting a spark of true compassion in his mind. He viewed their stick-like forms with horror and realized that, despite appearances to the contrary, this was the true condition of mankind; despite all the persuasive proofs of clever humanism, the train of destiny transporting human events had arrived at the last station of its itinerary: Doom.


It was the final scene of a dramatic tragedy which had played itself out over millennia of slavery, class-ism conceded as civilization, and with unrelenting warfare; a drama of superstitions, of unnecessary poverty and privation, of ignorance and injustice, and the torture of millions, that no man ever had or could or would write or otherwise depict, because it was beyond the power of art to imitate or describe; and there were no more aficionados to appreciate it. Not only had they destroyed each other, they had taken the planet with them.


He tried to leave the sorrowful vision but could not, and was overwhelmed with weeping. Salty tears flowed over his cheeks and into his mouth. The crying stung his eyes, and brine obscured his sight and soaked his white beard. No man could have such a vision and be unmoved, he thought, and he realized that he had been spirited there specifically to see the truth. It was The End, and whether it was near or far, probable or possible, or whether it had already happened, he couldn´t tell; however, he knew that it was a spirit-vision and a discovery that he had sought as he had bounced around the North American continent like a Ping-Pong ball, searching for he knew not what; searching for vision and a proper understanding of why he lived.


It was certain that no one would see it without seeking, and no one would be shown it without a stubborn impulse to know the truth; for that was his only strength, his only credential: his stubborn persistence in the surety of failure. The revelation that mankind was committing suicide and choosing Hell depressed him so badly that he went to bed to wrap himself in a sheet to cry silently, because there were two other men in the house. He could have howled in misery but withheld.


Through a silent, tearful hour he was absorbed in the mournful scene. But as compelling as the vision was he viewed it objectively and felt how special it was to see it, knowing that in his mind a curtain had been parted to reveal the “Paleolithic pall” [1] of humorless doom.


He became certain that one could not return from such sorrow unchanged; he would never be the same. It was a raw wound to his Psyche. How could anyone see such dreary circumstances and return without compassion? Immediate with the thought he felt the strengthening of compassion, and saw that there was no preventing a hateful extermination without love; and that love without compassion was impossible. 

Salvation in the absence of love was impossible.


He fell asleep but dreamed that he was awake. He slept only briefly though and arose thinking about the vision and made coffee, wondering; why him?  The coffee was hot and soothing. As the vision resumed unabated the black liquid glowed with astonishing colors. Negotiating with the steaming cup to the big leather-armed desk chair, he thought that he was in two worlds simultaneously.


Now he realized that the abysmal truth was something he had long suspected and known was possible but improbable, that he had acknowledged it only intellectually, with his logical mind  and he had powdered it with coating of imitated feelings, that he had simulated and pretended in order to prove to himself and others, as a Christian in heart if not in fact, that he cared for men´s fate, and condemned the un-alleviated torture of beings, and that he was one of the enlightened, who deplored and had even tried to alter those conditions; without a success worth mention.


He realized that the compassion he had presumed to own for people, especially the poor and diseased, had been only a concept, a confused man-made concept, a way of thinking about the awful condition of some but not all of mankind, and a pretense. 

Now he knew that it was the human race, the last of the species itself, which squatted like hopeless refugees in the ruins of the ruins, bereft, naked, and sick, and that compassion until now had been only a word, which, due to the inadequacy of speech, defined but ultimately obscured, concealed and even denied the reality of the suffering which he had seen; had witnessed without a doubt, because the vision was more real than the room in Brooklyn, where life went on day to day; life hectic and argumentative, life dull and half-lived, life without real living or understanding of the priceless gift of life on the roller-coaster path of seasonal human time, unto the stone-strewn yards of graves.

He wept, cradling the cooling coffee with his hands until he could weep no more, as one might be supposed to weep mournfully from Hell. Finally, he stopped crying and drank the cooled coffee.


This was the real thing, Bill thought; the raw material, the essence of the problem, the end of the line and the ultimate reality, which had been mercifully-obscured by his illusions; he had never perceived reality and never had imagined that humanity could cease senselessly to exist without the sun exploding, or an atomic war,  or a collision with Mars, except as a remote possibility, and that it was this blatant proof of the wretchedness of humanity which had made the crucified man so sad, while he had bled and despaired from the pain, and felt such an terrible sense of abandonment that he had lost his faith and cried, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”


Butler was humbled. He felt genuine gratitude for the revelation even as it oppressed him; a revelation which in no way had been of his own volition. He had been transported to the doleful stage with a force mightier than anything he had experienced, which had simply entered his mind and taken over the controls in order to show him, him specifically, that human beings, the top shelf of creation and pinnacle of the food chain, on an abundant miracle of a planet, were being crucified without mercy by their own verifiable stupidity, willful selfishness, and brutal injustice; tortured, brutalized, and murdered for nothing; a virtual mass-suicide.


It scorched his soul. It was the truth of truths. Shakespeare couldn't do it justice. Aristophanes couldn’t make it funny. It was a scene of absolute horror and abhorrence. It torched away the last foolish vanities of his existence, and presented him with the key which he had long sought, while not knowing what he was even hunting for.


He might have wound and wended his way across the continent a thousand more times and never stumbled upon it. A hundred preachers could have argued a hundred years and not taught this. He saw in a moment of perfect clarity that the only preventive, the only cure, was love, and as he realized it he saw that with the knowledge came also a command: “Love thy neighbor.” 

He saw it dispassionately, knowing that he did not love his neighbor; in fact he hated him. 

His logical mind told him that his feelings about the other sick person in the house, and his own  self-estrangement from society was false and defensive as well as impossible, and that was why he had been shown this particular abomination. He really did despise one of his housemates.


But besides compassion he felt genuine humility and gratitude for the gift-feeling of real compassion, and the revelation of love as a magnetic force, the only binder of all matter and spirit in the universe; the compelling, universal, solidified atomic glue holding everything together, and that with love everything is possible, but without it nothing is. 

There was no doubt remaining, it was installed in his logical mind as if by a flash drive which had launched and loaded a program into a hard drive. No doubt was possible. He had seen it with his own eyes. To deny it was Hell. There was only one possible salvation. 

The command was to love. But he could only see Love and not return it. All his loves were unrequited. All his love had amounted to zero.


And then he saw Hell and Death...and Death was not a grim, shrouded figure: it was an impenetrable stone...






[1] Malcolm Lowry, Under the Volcano 

 
I don't know any other writers. None who ever cared to read or edit my stuff, anyway. That's my weakness, I suppose. It's a psychological-environmental thing that goes back to when I felt like a posse was chasing me to California in 1957. The only three groups I ever volunteered for were the Marine Corps, a camera club, and the antiwar movement. I had to swear an oath to only one of them. All kinds of obstructing stuff happened, some of it of my own making, which distanced me from others and made love impossible; because I am impossible. 

I am not sure that I should have posted this. I've always been rather reckless. It is probably the defining element of my, character.


Don't click on my self-portraits if you don't want to know me.






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