.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Lost in Tulgey Wood

"I warn you, if you bore me, I shall take my revenge." J.R.R. Tolkein

My Photo
Location: Canton, Ohio, United States

The essence of all art is to have pleasure in giving pleasure --Mikhail Baryshnikov

Friday, September 16, 2005

Jesus, I'm Not Made of Stone

Pleased to meet you
Hope you guess my name
But what's puzzling you
Is the nature of my game

Last night Doc and I watched the President on TV. We had tuned in to watch a rerun of CSI, but discovered it was pre-empted by the Commander in Chief. Out he walked from the City Hall on Jackson Square in New Orleans wearing a blue dress shirt and Dockers. He strode across the grass, past a statue of Andrew Jackson on a horse, to the presidential podium, took hold of the sides, looked straight into the camera and apologized.

Doc asked me if it was necessary to watch this. I said that yes it was, since I knew the President was going to apologize. In my mind, I thought it would be great fun to watch him eat crow. But I stopped myself from letting schadenfreude take hold, Alice. I wanted to listen objectively. I wanted to hear what he had to say without applying any mental filters on his words. I figured, if he was going to apologize for something then I will do him the courtesy of listening without prejudice.

As I listened to him describe how we were going to rebuild New Orleans and the surrounding areas and build it better than it was, I thought, yes, he'd better rebuild. The people of the region deserve that much, after their shoddy treatment. As I listened to him describe all the work and money he was offering evacuees and local governments, I had this image of a truly penitent man. Here is a guy who is going to leave no stone unturned in his efforts to rebuild a city that, through his typically laconic response to emergency, he helped to destroy. I tell you, I was moved, Alice.

And he offered an apology. Here was this Average George American, just like me, apologizing and pledging not only to rebuild but to rebuild better. He intends to city-plan the economic disparities right out of existence. He offered federally owned land for free to people who want to return and rebuild. He listed plan after plan about how they would rebuild the region just as we rebuilt Chicago after the fire and San Francisco after the earthquake because we are a nation of people who care about each other.

He described the heroism of the people involved in the disaster. He moved Doc and me to tears with the descriptions of their acts of selflessness and courage. I turned to Doc and said, "You know, he's doing the right thing." He was truly penitent and in a selfess act of atonement, he pledged to mobilize the country towards rebuilding such a unique and special city. And we would all pull together to support it. We would be a model for the world of generosity and democracy in action. Everyone would realize that we weren't so bad.

He had me at "I apologize."

He then lost me when he implied that this type of disaster would be better handled if there were "greater federal authority and a broader role for the armed forces, the institution of our government most capable of massive logistical operations on a moments notice." How about following the existing laws that require you to hire qualified people to run all federal posts? I'm just saying. Also, I died a little bit inside when he announced the decision that an internal team would investigate the poor handling of the disaster instead of an independent one. I was truly disappointed, though not surprised by both of his demands. I had a familiar sinking feeling when I listened to him.

Having had our fill of naked power grabs, Shawn and I shrugged our shoulders, put in a DVD of M*A*S*H and called it a night, feeling somewhat secure in the hope that the democrats would temper his plans, both for the outrageous amounts of money he wants to spend and the volumes of power he wants to stuff in his pockets. And we can sleep safe with the knowledge that nothing has really changed.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005


Lately, I've been thinking about anger. Just like you, Alice, I give myself very good advice but I have difficulty following it. Anger can be as delicious as a pile of hush puppies but just as disasterous to your soul as hush puppies are to your diet. Self Discipline is in order here.

If you only knew, Alice, how closely Rage is to me at all times. I'm not exactly sure why he is such a close companion. Perhaps it is sleep deprivation, maybe it's the pressure I'm under to keep everything afloat. Maybe I'm just being tested. But I like having him close by, I do. I fear him most, you know. I can count on one hand the number of times I've given in to him and let him course through my veins like electricity. And when that has happened I have felt less like a human and more like a beast.

So, when I resist rage, I feel almost like a monk under sacred vows of silence. I can feel Rage burning; he shows me images of the possibilities of the kind of damage I could do if I just picked up a hammer. I get a preview of the rush of bloodlust I would feel. But I stop. I don't speak. I continue to go through the motions of what I am doing, even if I am not accomplishing anything. Eventually, I calm myself with other images and words. Maybe this Psalm: "May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight, Oh Lord, my Strength and my Redeemer."

This calm reverberates through me. I am given over to rote movements; someone else is in charge. A calm nurse of the soul takes over and bathes my spirit and I am helpless but to comply. Eventually, I am able to stand under my own power again and begin to move through life, navigating my own path. But there he ever stands by the side of the road, leaning on a split rail fence, chewing on a strand of hay, asking, "Don't you hate it when people cut you off in conversation..." I put my index finger to my lips and draw it down across them, silencing myself.

I have a feeling that my resistance is holy somehow. I feel holy afterwards. My mind becomes focused on the mundane in front of me. My concentration is sharp. My task feels like a duty to God. Maybe I am a monk. Maybe I'm missing the point. Is the passionate life worth more than the placid life? Is it better to be able to have a knock-down, drag-out fight and release that angst into someone else or into the universe? Is a spirit bath from a soul nurse enough? Will I get cancer if I don't release my rage?

It used to be a very rare occaision when I felt angry. I think I was too young to notice. Now I notice and have the presence of mind to have an opinion on things that happen in life and am able to discern down to the atom the degree of fairness or rightness or unfairness or wrongness of an act. What should I do with this information? To rage or not to rage, that is the question.

I think I know the answers, Alice. I prefer feeling like a monk than a monster. I also prefer the company of monks than monsters. At this point, I don't care if I get cancer. The hangover and fallout from rage are too costly. I prefer to remain self-contained. I prefer to hand myself over to the angels until I'm ready to resume. I don't want to say things I might regret, do things that are undoable. Perhaps I am by-passing the chipotle-hot peppers in the buffet of life.

Some believe that we must choose our battles in life. I ask you: should we ever do battle?

Free Hit Counters
ThinkExist.com Quotes