THE RUBAIYAT’S CADAVER

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This post, just moved here, is more of an essay than a short story.

The Rubaiyat’s Cadaver

Jorge Luis Borges, within his essay “The Enigma of Edward Fitzgerald” (“Borges A Reader, Monegal and Reid, Dutton, 1981) informs us of how two men who lived eight hundred years apart, thousands of miles distant, and separated by several cultures, collaborated on a poem. Borges, in his own style, implies that this could be the result of both men being separate momentary faces of God. Just as quickly, Borges turns the reader around by suggesting “a beneficent chance” as being equal to “conjectures, of a supernatural sort.” He abandons both suggestions without supporting either. All while stating that the poetic collaboration of the Persian mathematician/astronomer and the English writer (neither of them well accepted by their own culture) could not have occurred without the discovery of a “[yellowing manuscript] with purple letters” at the Bodleian of Oxford University.

This writing by Borges is more of a short story than an essay. That is typical of him; writing a non-fiction and making it sound fictional, or, writing a fiction and making it seem to be non-fiction. Borges continually plays with our minds; in this case suggesting “universal histories”, “Platonic and Pythagorean Doctrine”, and even throwing in Avicenna and Alfarobi (World Eternal and Universal Form Beliefs respectively).

Another author (and editor) treats the same story quite differently. That man is Christopher Decker and he calls his book “Edward FitzGerald, Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, A Critical Edition”, University Press of Virginia, 1997. Decker approaches the story with the exactness required of a scholarly editor. The given reason for this book is the “careless editing” that has occurred over the years since Edward FitzGerald interpolated and translated Omar Khayyam’s original work. Adding to the confusion is the fact that FitzGerald ran across several manuscripts that may have been dubiously attributed to Khayyam. Also, FitzGerald could not stop re-writing his introductions and adding newly discovered and translated verse. These versions number seven and span the years 1859 to 1879.

Decker had his work cut out for him and approached it like a surgeon; or more exactly, like a coroner whose job it was to identify how the body (of Khayyam’s and FitzGerald’s work) reached the final state   –    the final edition of 1879.

And so Decker autopsied the Rubaiyat with exactness and laid the beautiful corpse on the cold stainless steel table of academia. Member by member and organ by organ he dissected the gorgeous body until it no longer resembled what it once was. He was, however, able to show us each era of her beautiful life; versions one through seven. He was even able to compare each version line by line, idea by idea, thought by thought, letter by letter (for those who enjoy such disjointed things).

After having read Borges’ story and Decker’s inquest there remains a doubt (in my own mind) whether I really understood the poem. I therefore, by my own set of rules, must re-interpret and re-record the Rubaiyat as I see it. This may or may not be the way that Khayyam intended it or FitzGerald interpolated it. It may or may not be the way that Borges and Decker understood it. Over the centuries I am sure it has been read a thousand different ways by a million different people. But this exercise I must do for myself.

The Rubaiyat was written in quatrains (four lines of poetry) with the first, second and fourth line rhyming. The third line was left free for the poet’s embellishment. Each quatrain is numbered.

I write it in prose for my own understanding and simplicity; sometimes one sentence, sometimes more. Miraculously the Rubaiyat became clearer with each sentence that I recorded. As the clarity grew so did my understanding of Omar Khayyam.

He had been living at his Vizier friend’s pleasure on a government payroll and at the expense of the province of Naishapur. Therefore he did not have the day to day worries as most of us have. He was not concerned with earning wages or saving for retirement. He had an advantage of living life to the fullest, day by day, and thinking about humanity. It was almost as if he were on permanent retirement (much like myself at this very moment).

And so, Omar Khayyam’s viewpoint of life was “Live for today, learn about new things, and do not take theology too seriously. Also, by the way, your life is slipping away bit-by-bit, day-by-day, and year-by-year.”

What follows is “The Rubaiyat” (rob-eye-yot) of Omar Khayyam of Naishapur, Persia (10?? AD) as interpolated by Edward Fitzgerald of England (1872) and finally simplified for my own simple mind (2011) in 101 verses of prose.

1

It is early morning and the stars have started to disappear. The Sultan’s tower is a shadow amongst shadows. I attempt to waken you.

2

I sit here before the sun shows itself and wonder why, when the Temple of Life calls for enjoyment, mediocre worshippers do not enter.

3

As the rooster awakens their early Life they wish to partake     – but –   realize the church will call them away.

4

A Spring festival renews the call to Life’s enjoyment but those who follow the popular ideology or theology think of Moses’ snowy hand and Jesus’ healing powers.

5

Theological beliefs are faint but the enjoyment of Life can be clearly seen in a vined flower and plants growing by a life-giving stream.

6

Languages of people change but not the song of the Nightingale. The red wine of Life awakens ones mind, ones ability to think.

7

Enjoy your renewed Life with new ideas, throw away your ideological and theological cloak. Your Life is flittering away like a bird on the wing.

8

No matter if your Life is large or small, glorious or bitter  –  it is disappearing drop-by-drop,  like the leaves of fall.

9

Everyday Life grants you new experiences and new ideas. Embrace these; and discard the invalid ones as you wish.

10

Do we owe allegiance to the old ideas, the old gods, the superstitions? Why should we follow them?

11

Walk with me along the divide between theology and Living Life. Let us see who is remembered. Let them stay where they are.

12

We may find a nice shade tree, read a good book, and then discuss it. We will enter the “unknown” and exit a “paradise of ideas.”

13

Some live for human glory, some live to enter heaven; but enjoy what you have today and do not borrow from tomorrow.

14

Enter Life with glee, gain knowledge, sprinkle it on others; then leave life happy, knowing that you have contributed.

15

Those who once had great ideas are relived by the common man. Those great ideas may not apply today but we keep on digging them up.

16

Old hope is the kindling that will turn to ashes. It is an April snow that disappears with the sunlight of new ideas.

17

The caravan of Life, measured as each day goes by, brings new ideas and experiences; and the old fade into the twilight.

18

The reigns and territories of kings have turned to sand where animals roam. The hunter’s grave has turned to dust where the hunted remains to trample on it. But nothing has changed.

19

Glorious leaders reflect glorious ideas. These ideas may remain to have merit. They are the gardens where new ideas grow.

20

This garden grows delicately on the waters edge. Be careful not to trample on the new ideas that spring from it.

21

Clear my mind of regret and fear; for those culprits of the past and the future do not hold the potential of tomorrow in which I can be myself.

22

The most loved and best of humanity have had their drink of tomorrow and now they are gone.

23

Now we are the current holders of the earth and we too must, at some point, make room for the new holders of ideas.

24

So make good of all your potential before you descend into the earth as dust; without Song or Wine     –        for eternity.

25

Those who spend their time preparing for today and tomorrow shall be called fools.

26

Even the saints and sages are dead; their words stopped by the dust of time.

27

When I was young I studied under doctors and saints but my mind kept a place for my own thoughts as well.

28

I learned from them and on my own I expanded that growth. I gathered a flood of knowledge and created a whirlwind with it.

29

I became lost in my knowledge and it kept on flowing; but I knew not why I chased knowledge or what to do with it.

30

I did not ask when I would die. I did not even think of whether I would die. My conceit brought me to the insolence of not asking these questions.

31

I thought I had arrived at the seventh heaven, sitting on Saturn’s throne. My knowledge solved several puzzles of our solar system but not our Universe.

32

I saw that there existed a door (or veil) of Human Fate but could not unlock it. I thought of myself and some god. Or was it two forms of myself?

33

I knew He was there; somewhere in the seas or heavens. But as if being subjected to the magician’s tricks, all I could see was the night and morning.

34

I found You within me through a dim light. And the vision became fainter when you scolded me for my conceit.

35

Then You revealed the secret. Fill the cup of Life to the fullest and drink to the last drop; before you die.

36

At times I could not find the answer to Life (which of course, had to exist). I persisted and found Life would give and take; with a joy for both.

37

I have seen Life creating Life, forming it into shape, like clay. Pray, remember we all return to earth.

38

We came from earth and were given the name “Mankind.”

39

As we drink from the cup of Life we may toss a few drops on the earth; with a reverence to those who can taste it no more.

40

In the morning of your Life do you wonder about the cosmos as if it were the inverted cup? The cup of Life has the stars and the moon etched into its bowl.

41

Have you ceased to wonder about Man and God? Have you become disoriented in the hurricane of Life? Has all meaning slipped through your fingers?

42

Then say “Yes” to Life, learn and do what you can, see how you can exceed the self that you were yesterday and the manner of man you can be tomorrow.

43

Then, as Life comes to its end, you will not be sorry for what you have omitted.

44

Likewise, your soul will shake the dust and travel lightly, even if your body is held by the earth.

45

Death is a short stay for the soul. Those whose soul rises, leaves behind a simple body.

46

Do not worry, when we are forgotten, for the contributions of our lives are passed on to Mankind.

47

The world will exist far past the time of our death. The impressions we made are like a small pebble cast into the ocean.

48

We may like to believe we are somehow more than others; however, Life is only a temporary stop. Life’s caravan is circular and returns to where it started.

49

Life’s fortunes, the difference between truth and falseness, the separation between life and death, is as thin as a hair.

50

If these differences in life are so minute, how can we find the single Character that is the truth?

51

Every thought we have about these secrets torments our brain. We recognize that, from the fish to the moon, everything dies; yet the Universe goes on.

52

We get a glimpse of the Universe but its clarity is always poor; and then it disappears completely.

53

We scour, from heaven to earth, for these secrets. How are we to think of them once we are dead?

54

Maybe it would be better if we did not waste the precious time of Life chasing these answers down. Maybe we should just enjoy Life as Life gives it to us.

55

I gave up the logic and reasoning previously used in contemplating theology. Now I just enjoy Life.

56

I have erred in measuring Life with the tools of the surveyor and the heights of the stars; I now realize that I should have been Living Life.

57

People say my new calendar was invented for logical reasons. Not so! I was simply attempting to reconcile the falseness of yesterday and fear of tomorrow against the truth of today.

58

As I grow older I have a sense that someone (or something) is showing me a vision of a Carafe of Life; and encouraging me to drink in each and every day.

59

Why should I listen to seventy-two different religions when I see that the chemistry of Life can turn leaden existence into Golden enjoyment?

60

Mahmud, fierce defender and conqueror for Allah, has scattered the East Indian people before him.

61

Our theology has been changed into a weapon of will. Who has done this?

62

I reject this form of theology; my trust of it has turned to fear. Maybe there is a better way.

63

The promise of heaven and the fear of hell do not give me longer life. The only true thing remaining is that all existing things eventually die.

64

It is strange that none of the departed have returned to tell us what really lies beyond death.

65

After all the prophets died, the devout and educated told us interesting stories but then the stories were forgotten.

66

I thought this through and decided that I am responsible for (and make) my own heaven and hell.

67

My heaven is every fulfilled desire, my hell is when I have erred so pitifully that it haunts me. Why have I learned this so late in Life?

68

Life is like those balanced and painted lantern shades that spin on a pin. We are the painted figures that Life spins, day and night, for Life’s own show.

69

Or is Life simply a game of checkers, white for day   –   black for night, in which we are moved until slain; and then cast aside?

70

Or when the game of Life is played with a ball there are no questions allowed. He simply sends you down the field wherever He wants you. He knows clearly where He wants you to go.

71

And if Life is a writing, no matter whether you are witty or devout, what is written is written in stone. You can not go back and edit it.

72

Or if life is an inverted bowl and you are captured below the sky and above the earth, do not ask It for help. It is part of The Plan, just as you and I are.

73

What was first created already had a total plan. Man can not change what the Plan for Life is.

74

Drink up Life’s experiences, for you can not change them. We will never know how or why we exist; so just experience it and enjoy.

75

When Life started, even the most brilliant men were thrown aside. I know all that remains is the grave and the soul.

76

The spiraling vine and the whirling devil can capture my soul only if my basest instinct allows it to happen.

77

I would rather be consumed by Life’s love or wrath than to miss the truth of Life by believing in another’s theology.

78

Why should I allow anyone to set rules that threaten a perpetual hell? My rules of Life’s enjoyment are as valid as their rules of self-denial.

79

Why pay with the Gold of Life for something we never bargained for?

80

Although Life has strewn my path with evil, my will avoids precarious decisions. Life did not put me here to fail.

81

Even though some men are of a baser instinct (we all make errors) give forgiveness and accept it as well.

82

When I departed this earth I found myself surrounded by others who originated in the earth’s clay.

83

They were of all sorts. Short, tall, keen, dim, great and small, some talked incessantly, some spoke well, and some not at all.

84

One said “I hope that I was not created (in vain) from the earth’s clay simply to be crushed back into earth.”

85

A second one said “Even the peevish Boy of Life would not destroy us; those that He made and watched over.”

86

After a short silence a cripple spoke. “Why was I created? So that people would sneer at me?”

87

A talkative theologian then said “What is all of this talk about being made of clay? Who created us? Who sells us? Who buys us? Are we simply clay pots?”

88

Another spoke. “People say that we who are damaged will be thrown into hell. He who created us certainly would not do that!”

89

The last one spoke. “Whosoever makes or buys us will find that I am quite dried out. If they would only give me a little Life I could make a total recovery.”

90

As they all talked some saw the sign of a new beginning. They nudged each other and erroneously said – “Now we can get back to business.”

91

When I die please anoint by body and bury me near a busy place where people will come and go.

92

In such a place my reputation and soul will remind the Living of who I was.

93

Some of the things I believed in were held in error by others. This ruins my reputation and minimizes my Life.

94

Earlier in Life I sought repentance for breaking other people’s rules. When I started thinking for myself repentance was a thing of the past.

95

My enjoyment of Life has robbed my honor in other’s eyes. But if Life can be so full what is it that could possibly bring those others to joy?

96

When I die the book of my Life dies with me. But the eternal language of the Nightingale sings on. And Life continues somewhere else.

97

I hope that someone walking near my grave picks up my thought and brings it to Life, like the new Life that Spring brings to a herb.

98

May my ideas, through some miracle, live on. But let them live on in greatness (if not  –   then obliterate them in totality).

99

The future will search for us; off and on, seeking the meaning of Life. Maybe we can rid ourselves of our errors before they attempt these new meanings. And then let the seekers determine their own path.

100

A new era will occur. New seekers will appear. Some will look for me.

101

And when they find me please turn a bowl upside down so that I may contemplate the Universe and Life; once again.

EPINETUS AND THE LACHRYMOSE

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A Supernatural Story

The story of Epinetus Birdsall has been fragmentarily written in several official books. That is typical of those who do not write of themselves. Others write their stories for them. The writers do this in such documents as the United States Census, the Chenango American newspaper, the records of the county poor farm and a variety of town, county and state histories. The story you are about to read is what I know and have surmised about Epinetus.

Henry Birdsall, Epinetus’ grandfather, moved his family from the New York/Connecticut border to a beautiful piece of land in the township of Greene, New York. The year was 1814 and the wagon trip via the half-finished Susquehanna Turnpike was miserable. The trip took three weeks and two fingers from the left hand of his oldest son. His grandson, Epinetus was not yet born. Henry was accompanied on this move by two sons, eight-fingered Henry Jr.  and Horace (who was more artistic than physical). There were also several daughters, and his wife, Abashaby.

Henry’s family cleared their river flat along the banks of the Chenango River. The upland part of their parcel remained virgin forest except for a few oaks which Henry had selected as beams for the home and barn. They were a Quaker family and lived by their own culture. One other family lived within walking distance from them; the Abram Storms. Abram had moved into this newly opened “Indian Territory” a few years previous. Although Abram was not a Quaker, he and Henry formed an immediate bond.

In the following ten years they were joined by two other families; that of Jean Guilliame de Besse and that of Dewey David. Jean Guilliame de Besse was a well educated man from France who had spent his youth in Spain and a few intermediate years as an international shipper. After several episodes of being pirated de Besse had lost his business and his fortune. He settled on the banks of the Chenango with his books, his wife, his beautiful daughter, and a deep love for trapping and fishing. Dewey David seemed more intent on building a fortune as a farmer. David’s namesake son, Dewey D. David, was the workhorse that the elder David used to reach his ambitions. Young David never had a childhood to enjoy.

Horace Birdsall married Triphosia and had a daughter and one son; Epinetus. The Chenango Canal was built in the early 1830’s when Epinetus was about ten years old. The canal cut through the properties of all four families. The elder David saw the canal as another method of making money. Henry Birdsall saw it as an intrusion upon his culture and his property. Henry’s vision was not disappointed. The canal-men brought vulgar language and habits with them. He was mortified to have his children exposed to this lack of decency.

David opened up his home (as a makeshift inn) to these men and the concubines that seemed to always be in tow. Young David was exposed to this raw part of humanity. Young Dewey David observed these faults of basic-man and they eventually formed a scab on his sensitivity. His childless past had already erased his ego. Young Dewey D. David’s only joy was wringing the necks of the passenger pigeons. His father made him net them in large numbers to be sold in Binghamton.

Epinetus was entering puberty when his Grandfather died. The Quaker culture of the Birdsalls had faded; some of it due to exposure to the canal people and the rest due to lack of strong-willed leadership.

Triphosia and Horace allowed a relative of Jean Guilliame de Besse to take Epinetus on a trip to New York City. It took a few days to make the trip up the canal to Utica. A subsequent short leg on the Erie Canal put them on the Hudson River. The next day they landed in New York. The de Besse relative had some business to tend to in the financial district.

The following Sunday (before leaving New York) the de Besse relative took Epinetus to visit a newly-built stone cathedral. A high mass was scheduled and the two sat quietly and listened to the beautiful organ music which was a prelude to the mass. The entrance hymn was played and Epinetus was entranced by the procession of the priests and alter servers. The mass continued through the readings and Gospel. As the communion was about to be served the organ master played Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s “Lachrymose.”  The choir joined in and the music, step by step, reached a crescendo that Epinetus could never have imagined. Then the music suddenly dropped an octave in tone and a much slower pace. The music then picked up its tone and its volume; step by step until the crescendo seemed to reach an even higher point.

Epinetus had no idea what was happening to him and neither did the de Besse who was watching over him. Epinetus’ eyes rolled upward into his skull, he fainted and fell to the floor, smashing his forehead onto the oaken pew in front of him.

It was quite some time before anyone could waken Epinetus. They had carried him to the back of the cathedral and laid him on a Hudson-Bay blanket. When he awoke, a stained glass window with the impaled body of Jesus was staring down at him. Epinetus stayed motionless until he was able to gather his wits. The de Besse and a few of the congregation, once assured that Epinetus was over his spell, allowed him to get to his feet. Young Epinetus and the de Besse relative walked toward the dock. They were just in time to catch the boat for the first leg of their return trip.

Neither Epinetus nor the de Besse ever mentioned the fainting spell that occurred during the performance of the Lachrymose. There appeared no need to worry Epinetus’ parents about the single occurrence. Neither de Besse nor Epinetus realized the deep effect that the music had on his soul or his extra senses.

A few years passed before Epinetus was to hear the Lachrymose again. It was a beautiful fall day. Epinetus sat on an old log that lay in the dark woods at the top of the hill overlooking the family farm. He was entering manhood and as he sat there he wondered about the changes he was experiencing. The woods were calm and peaceful.

Epinetus did not realize that young  Dewey D. David was also in the Birdsall woods; seeking to kill whatever wildlife he could. The pigeons were not migrating and young David had no necks to twist and break. But he did spot Epinetus sitting on the log and was anxious to shoot at something. David decided that Epinetus would suffice for this urge.

As David stealthily stalked him, Epinetus was unaware of it. Suddenly Epinetus experienced a very strange feeling. Then, oddly enough he heard, as clearly as if he were in the New York City cathedral, the organ playing the Lachrymose, as well as the choir accompanying it. Note by note the music reached its crescendo. The volume of the choir and organ increased in lock-step with the ascending music. Then – – – that dreadful pause that Mozart had placed on mankind – – – followed by a lowering of the tone and the timing; only to repeat the triple  crescendo of timing, tone and volume once more.

Epinetus’ eyes rolled back into his head as he experienced the Lachrymose for the second time. He neither heard the “crack” of David’s rifle nor felt the pain of the rifle ball that tore a hole in his scalp. Epinetus awoke at dusk. His hair was matted in blood and dead leaves were glued to it. He was able to get to his feet and make his way down the hill. As he approached the family compound he could hear his family calling for him. Luckily the ball grazed his skull and he would survive. His blood-soaked shirt belied the physical damage done to him. It did not lie about the psychological damage.

The truth never emerged about what young David had done to Epinetus. However, over the years people assumed what they believed to be the truth. David’s reputation was born out of known facts. He was involved in several horrible acts of violence that had occurred in 1849 when he rushed to California seeking a fortune in gold. This was followed by the murder of his wife and brother-in-law upon his return to the township of Greene. David saved Chenango County the cost of a murder trial by killing himself.

Epinetus carried on his life encumbered by his experiences and the unexplainable reoccurrence of the Lachrymose. The Birdsall compound was his refuge and he never wandered far from it. It was four years since he had been shot.

One late winter day he heard a deep growling noise coming from the river. He left the barnyard and walked over a small knoll to where he could observe the water. There was no water to be seen. The Chenango River was covered with thick blocks of ice that had broken lose upstream and floated down. This occurred due to an early thaw. Mixed in with the ice were several large trees that had been ripped from the river bank. The ice blocks churned and ripped at the trees. This is what had caused the growling noises that Epinetus had heard. He watched for a long time, mesmerized by the force of the water and ice.

That night the members of the Birdsall family took turns watching the river. The ice had created a dam and this caused the river to rise; threatening their homes. In the morning the river level stabilized and slowly fell. The thaw ended as fast as it started and the river ice froze in place. The trees were captured in the forceful grip of ice.

Later that week Epinetus walked down to the rivers edge to inspect his boat. He had forgotten about it and started to worry that the large ice blocks may have damaged it. Luckily it had been pulled high enough up the river bank and the ice had not reached it. This boat was Epinetus’ connection to the Terwilliger family who lived across the river. He had not seen his boyhood friend, Peter, since the beginning of winter. Epinetus returned to his home and told his father, Horace, that he was going to cross the river-ice and visit Peter. Although his father was anxious about the ice he was happy to hear that Epinetus wanted to get outdoors and away from the family compound. He agreed to Epinetus’ wish on the condition that they checked out the strength of the ice together.

Horace hung on to one of the trapped trees as he tested the ice close to shore. The ice was frozen solid. He directed Epinetus to hang on to the branches of the trees as he walked across the river. Epinetus was smiling from ear to ear; as only a young man would when on an adventure. He was about ten feet from shore when he heard those fearful and dreaded notes of the Lachrymose.  A loud groan escaped from the ice beneath his feet. The whole river shook and moved at the same time. The ice dam was breaking up.

Horace yelled to Epinetus “come back” but it was too late. Epinetus’ spell of the Lachrymose had overtaken him. He had fallen down. The ice started tumbling in various parts of the river. The piece under Epinetus revolved, ever so slowly, and trapped his legs against the tree. Epinetus’ coat snagged on a branch and it kept him from being dragged under. Even in his semi-conscious state Epinetus could still hear Mozart’s black music rising in tone, volume and beat. The choir voices seemed clearer than ever. The music blocked out the pain of ice tearing at his legs. And then that dreadful pause that the genius Mozart had injected occurred once more. Again the voices and organ dropped and restarted, deeper than before. Strangely the escalation of volume and beat that brought the music from darkness had transformed it to a glorious and beautiful height.

Horace realized his son could not help himself. Leaping onto the tree he quickly worked his way out to where Epinetus was trapped between the branches and the ice. The father grabbed his son by the belt and yanked his legs free from the ice that gnawed at his son’s flesh. Once Horace had the coat free from the branch he was able to balance himself on the tree trunk and drag Epinetus back to shore.

The blood from Epinetus’ legs dripped from the tips of his shoes as Horace carried him toward the house. Horace normally did not have the strength for such a task but found a reserve as he half-ran, half-stumbled on the pathway. The crimson trail of fresh blood on the snow went unnoticed until later in the day.

Epinetus suffered no broken bones but had several deep gashes on his legs. One kneecap was exposed. Grandmother Abashaby and his mother Triphosia tended to the wounds with herbal compresses and boiled linen rags. It was early spring before Epinetus was able to walk in the fields and woods again.

Over the years Epinetus had several other brushes with death and each time they were immediately preceded by the dark yet glorious Lachrymose. Epinetus never talked about the phenomena with anyone; not even his parents. The years passed and Epinetus’ physical health had deteriorated from these near-death traumatic experiences. His mental acuteness remained but he became overly fearful.

That particular branch of the Birdsall family eventually dissipated due to the lack of males to carry on the name. Epinetus’ aunts moved to other villages and he could not care for himself. The Chenango County home for the indigent (Preston Manor) took Epinetus into its care in the late 1880’s.

One winter day Epinetus was sitting in the great room of “The Manor” when an aid came in to tell him that he had a visitor. Epinetus was pleased when he saw that it was the same Mr. de Besse who had taken him to New York City fifty years ago. They talked for some time before the subject of the cathedral came up. It was Epinetus who raised the subject.

“Do you remember that time when we went to New York City and I passed out in the cathedral?” asked Epinetus.

“Yes I do” responded de Besse. “Even though you were the one who passed out that was the strangest experience I ever had.” Continuing on he said “When they played that song, which I later determined was Mozart’s ‘Lachrymose’, I felt myself becoming very weak. I still think it strange.”

“Well, Mr. de Besse, you will think it even stranger when I tell you my story” responded Epinetus.

And with that Epinetus launched into the lengthy tales of his experiences and the Lachrymose. He related the Dewey D. David story, the experience when caught in the ice flow and several other similar experiences that I was also privaleged to hear. However, I simply keep them to myself because they are too dreadful to repeat here.

Mr. de Besse kept an eye on the large grandfather clock that stood in the corner. He was mesmerized by the Epinetus’ stories but he knew it would be getting dark in a few hours. The clouds foretold of snow and de Besse had a long trip home to Berkshire. His horses and carriage were in excellent shape but the darkness and snow would double the time his trip would take.

“Mr. de Besse, would you have a cigarette that you could give me?” asked Epinetus.

“Yes. Of course” replied de Besse. “Let us go out on the back porch to smoke. We may bother others” lied de Besse. His real reason to move to the outdoors was for a breath of fresh air. Preston Manor had a large population of people with incontinence problems.  De Besse was concerned that he might not be able to stomach the odor when mixed with the smoke.

“Thank you” said Epinetus as he rose from his chair. He led de Besse through a hallway to the back door. When they had reached the outdoors de Besse removed a silver cigarette case from an inner coat pocket. He opened it and held it out in an offer for Epinetus to take one. Epinetus did so and de Besse took one for himself. De Besse fumbled for a match in a compartment on the side of the cigarette case. He finally removed one and struck it on the side of the metal case. The flame lit up Epinetus’ face. At that very moment both men heard the first strains of the Lachrymose. De Besse saw the fear in Epinetus’ eyes. Epinetus reached out to hang on to de Besse’s coat for support. Both men lost their footing on the ice that covered the top step.

The music played while they hung on to each other and, as if in slow motion, they spun a full half-circle. Their feet seemed to dance as they sought firm footing. Slowly the two men went down together, elbows smashing on the flagstone steps, then their heads bouncing off the sharp corners. Slowly the music played; then sped up note by note until it reached that Mozartian glory, accompanied by the cathedral choir.

When they reached the bottom of the stairs the bright red blood spread out over the ice coating. De Besse’s head was cracked open and gray matter was exposed. Epinetus had blood streaming from his ears and nose, one arm twisted grotesquely under his body. Their music continued for two more refrains and ended only when their hearts, in unison, stopped beating.

I had been watching them from the window of the great room as they had departed for a cigarette. They were discovered some hours later; after darkness had fallen. It was only then that I arose from my chair and went to my room. The music was too beautiful. I could not leave any sooner.

 

 

© Copyright – Waldo Tomosky

MYOPIA

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Another of my short stories that I am moving

to this blog.

You, dear reader, are no longer the reader; you are the author. I am now one of your readers, or more exactly, at this point, your only reader. You may be asking “How are we going to do this?” To be perfectly frank with you I don’t really know, so let’s get promptly started.

You, who are now the writer, should start off this conversation even though we will be simultaneously active.

“OK. This is not my first time writing but it is my first time at authorship. I hope you, new reader, do not get ‘reader’s block.’ If you do we may be here for a long time. I would hate to spend eternity (and the rest of my life) stuck on one page of paper. Of course I could always write something like ‘THIS PAGE IS NOT INTENTIONALLY LEFT BLANK’ but that would only get me to the next blank page. It would help if you could give me some type of signal or sign as you read along. That way I may be able to stay just a few words ahead of you. That would work and we could progress without too much difficulty. Here we go.”

“IT WAS THE BEST OF TIMES YET IT WAS THE WORST OF TIMES  –  –  –  –  –  –

Oh come now, dear author, you can be more original than that. It has such a familiar ring. Let me try reading again. This time just let your self go and write whatever comes to mind (or whatever I read).

“It appears to me that being an author is not something that a person does once; even though he may only author one piece of work. What I mean to say is that each reader ‘sees’ what he wishes or (as Schopenhauer would say) wills to ‘see.’ He actually sees nothing but only remembers things and connects snippets of memory together the way he wills them to be connected together.”

You are doing great. I hope my reading of this interruption does not hamper your style.

“Style is not just the prerogative of the author but also the reader. For example; if the reader favors the style of the author he will continue on with the reading. In fact he may not have ever encountered that style but finds it enchanting (like an exotic female). It may even create new ideas within the reader due to the enchantment of the style. On the other hand if the style of the author is offensive or incompatible with the reader he may lose interest in the work and stop reading.”

You have me there. I remember several books that had to be closed due to the style. One in particular was “Being and Time” by Heidegger. Of course I am not really sure if that book was due to style or depth of material. Maybe I was not up to par for that level of reading.

“As you read along with my writing there are times when you may think I am a little touched. Ask yourself if it is not you that are somewhat daffy. After all, it is your memory snippets that are being combined to form whatever thoughts you are having. Also, (if I may be so forward as to ask) why did you agree to become the reader of this essay? That was more than a little dim-witted, was it not?”

That’s the trouble with all you new authors. Once you get the ink flowing you become (as you say) ‘more than a little’ arrogant. You better hope that I don’t stop reading or you will really be in big trouble.

“There are times when you readers return to open a previously read book. You may wish to clarify a point that the author made. Quite often, after the re-reading, you , as the reader, see a completely different point of view. Books are like that. They are coy, changeable, mysterious and somewhat bewildering. The words become re-arranged, sentences are omitted or added, while whole paragraphs appear or disappear. Yet no pages are lost or added. The book had 237 pages last year and 237 pages this year. However, it is true that the longer a book sets on the shelf between readings the more opportunity it has to make changes to itself. And why not? You, dear reader, had the same length of time and opportunity to make changes to yourself. You have added or deleted or even modified snippets to your memory. Shouldn’t a book have the same rights as you?”

Wow! My reading sure has improved since you started writing. Don’t stop now. I am on a roll.

“And I am very pleased, dear reader, that you are connecting the dots together. Perhaps it is time for me to point out other anomalies of reading. Myopia is not simply a condition where the lens of the eye focuses an image before it reaches the retina. It is also a condition of the mind; a lack of foresight; if you will allow Webster his second definition. It may also be a condition of discernment. But who’s discernment? One man’s fuzzy thinking may be another man’s clarity. One man’s justice may be another man’s vengeance. One man’s eroticism may be another man’s smut. Therefore the same reading by two different men will result in two separate interpretations. Likewise, two readings by the same man, separated by time, will result in two separate findings (unless, of course, the man is a mule-headed person stuck in the box that he calls ‘life’).

Whoa! Hold on there Mr. Author. Those are some pretty harsh statements even if I did read them myself. You know that if I accept your thesis that I can also block your writing. This could be done simply by re-reading your last paragraph several times; and then several times again. I would tell you that I am attempting to see the crux of your idea from several points of view. You would not be able to write anything new until I finished my re-read. You would be the equivalent of a CD stuck on one track of your song. Only after I decided to stop reading would you be able to continue on with your simultaneous writing.

“To the contrary my good reader. While you are re-reading that last paragraph (several times or not) your mind will be bouncing from one perspective to another, from one book to another, from one past conversation to another, from one snippet to another. You see, humans are doomed to this wandering, the random creativeness of thought (whether activated by reading or surroundings). These thoughts are doomed by random perspectives, past cogitations, recent meditations, overall rumination, simple pondering, or a little musing; all this bound together with an ample amount of consideration. So – – – – even though you thought you were concentrating, your mind was off on its own; creating new and different vistas with each word. This backs up my previous argument that each reader (or one reader with separate readings) will glean different perspectives.”

I must admit that you are correct in that statement. My mind even wanders when I am supposed to be reading the gospel in church.

“Well – – – there you are. You finally see the light. Thank you.”

Do you think all of us readers are like that or are some able to concentrate more aptly?

“That is an excellent question. Yes, you are probably correct in assuming that some readers read what they see on the page and not much more. There may be more than one reason for this. For example; the reader may be seeking to be carried along with the author’s thoughts. The shame of this is the same shame as created by moving pictures and live plays. You are not allowing yourself to use your own snippets to fill in the blanks. Oh yes, some directors cut away just as the breathing gets hot and heavy, or, just before the boy is forced to shoot his dog, horse, deer, etc.. In those cutaways you are allowed to use your own snippets. And aren’t those the most emotional and best parts of the movie? Using your own emotions, whether reading or watching, is the joy of written or performance art. I can’t say that the same is true for the plastic arts but I wish not to speak for others. Maybe the voyeurs get all wound up looking at paintings and sculpture; I do not. However, with that said, I must admit that the technical expertise of the plastic artists is extremely good.”

You seem to have answered my questions before I even had a chance to read them. How is it that you can write so fast?

“You have to remember that I am writing this while you are simultaneously reading it. This flies in the face of conventional writing. Normally it is a serial operation where I write and then you read. In our situation the operation becomes parallel. It saves a lot of time, especially if no one else will ever read this. If it is only you and I involved then we can write and read whatever we like. Isn’t togetherness great?”

Yes, but its starting to get a little creepy. Are you sure that you are not simply hitting on me?

“No. Our relationship is strictly platonic; probably even a little narcissistic. But that’s OK. We understand each other better than most readers and writers. That may even be why we can run through this exercise together. Look; I have to go now so maybe I will see you next time I have to write.”

It has been nice reading you. Hope to run into you at the publishing house some day.

“That sounds great. I’ll be looking forward to it. Save room for lunch; my treat.”

Adios

“Ciao”

THE BEST SINNER

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This is short story that I am moving here from another blog of mine.

 

 

The following is a true story. However, due to my sacred vows, I am required to keep the details secret. The incident occurred somewhere in upstate New York. There are three main actors in this revelation; a young priest (with minimal experience), a parish priest (with great experience) and a male confessor who appeared frequently in the confessional booth. Well, in reality, he was not a frequent visitor in the confessional (at first) but he tried diligently to increase his lackluster performance in that respect. Likewise, in reality and initially, he was not an extremely good sinner; but he worked very hard at becoming one. It will soon become apparent to the reader how much effort he put into this goal.

Let us begin the story.

It was about 8:00 P.M. on a Saturday night when the young priest returned to the parish house. The older parish priest noticed that he was quiet and pre-occupied with something.

“How did you do in confessions tonight?” the older priest asked; hoping to start a conversation regarding whatever was bothering the younger one.

“Oh, OK. Nothing special” was the short, but not terse, reply.

The remainder of the evening wore on rather quietly. Something was eating at the young priest but the older one could not seem to break open the conversation. They watched the remainder of a basketball game together and then repaired to their individual sleeping quarters.

The next morning there were two masses scheduled. The young priest was on tap for celebrating both masses and the parish priest was responsible for coming up with a homily and helping to serve the Eucharist at communion. The older one noticed that the young priest seemed somewhat agitated during communion.

The actions of the young priest had bothered the parish priest over the last two days. He thought about attempting to open the conversation again but hesitated to do so. Remembering that the two of them had planned an early tee time for golf on Monday the older priest decided to let it go; hoping that a more opportune time would arise.

They awoke at the scheduled hour and consumed a nice breakfast of bacon, eggs, home fries and English Muffins with butter and strawberry jam. The parish priest warned the younger one “If you are not careful you will look just like me in a few years.”

The younger one joked back “Well, as long as I don’t start acting like you; asking everyone to pledge $600 for repairs every year; I will manage.”

They both had a big laugh at each others expense and that was just fine with both of them. The diocese was amazed at how well the two were getting along. After all, the last six new priests assigned to this parish had all asked to be transferred as soon as possible. One young priest had even abandoned the priesthood when his transfer was delayed for twelve months.

The diocese could not seem to put their finger on any specific problem that may have been causing these rifts between the older parish priest and the new younger ones. The parish priest was one of those people who had been hard on himself and therefore very hard on the new incoming priests. It was that age old problem of one generation not being able to get along with the other generation. The diocese had warned the current new young priest but he indicated that he could find a way to make it work; and he apparently did.

During the Monday morning golf outing the two priests were swinging and hacking and making a terrible mess of the greens (but having a lot of fun picking on each other). An opening came up for the parish priest to quiz the young one about last Saturday’s confessions.

“You seemed troubled last Saturday night. Something was apparently occupying your mind but you were not ready to talk about it. Would it be less troubling for us to discuss it today?”

“You know Tom (of course that was the older parish priest’s name, Tom), I am glad that you asked. Something did happen in the confessional Saturday night and I did not, and I still do not, know what to make of it. Someone could be having a lot of fun with me but I hope not.”

“Bill, (likewise, the younger priest was William) I surely am not asking you to give me any specific names or sins but whatever you can talk about, I am willing to listen to.”

Father Bill opened up like the safety valve on a nuclear plant. He related to Father Tom what had been bothering him.

“I just don’t know what to make of it! It was a typical Saturday night of confessions; kids were telling me the sins of kids and husbands were telling me the sins of husbands. Wives, I think, were making up sins because they really had none. The last person in the confessional, he must have waited to be last in line, told me a deeply disturbing story and an even stranger plan.”

“This man, I think he was quite young, told me that he had studied the Catechism during his years as a parochial school student. He was convinced of the validity of what he had learned during that twelve year period. He had, and still has, the deepest faith in one of our Christian beliefs. That is, if he was absolved of sin, in the confessional, then God would also absolve him.”

Father Tom responded to the younger priest “Bill, that does not seem to strange to me. In fact it is a belief of all of us who partake in confession. You know that.”

“But Tom” continued Bill, “That is not even the beginning of the story. The confessor went on to inform me that after twelve years of Catholic parochial school he attended a college in the New York State University system. During his second year there he read an essay by one Frederich Nietzsche, ‘The Anti-Christ.’  I was surprised that we had not been exposed to this story while we were studying for the priesthood. It seems as though it would have helped me to understand this confused young man.”

“Bill, you should not bother yourself to much about not having that background. The young man will soon find his way through all the literature that is thrown at him. I just wish it was a more balanced set of literature that the University was offering these young people.”

“But Tom” continued Bill (it always seems as though Bill had to use a ‘BUT TOM’ in his attempts to override Tom’s interruptions). “I am hardly into the beginning of Saturday night’s story. The young fellow told me that after reading the first forty-five sections of the ‘Anti-Christ’ he was convinced that there were some troubling questions about Saint Paul. He also stated that from section 46 and on, in that same essay, Nietzsche appeared a little too strident.”

“Listen Bill” interrupted Tom again, “This will not be the last time you get blind-sided in the confessional. These young people are reading and talking about things that neither you nor I would have been exposed to in a lifetime.”

“But Tom” echo-interrupted Bill (on a regular basis by this time) “Hear me out. There is a lot more to this.”

By this time both of the men had put their clubs aside and sat on a bench located at the fourth tee. Other players were building up behind them as they talked. It seemed like a good idea to let the others play through. This would also give Bill a chance (hopefully) to finish the story without interruptions.

Father Bill continued, “Tom, this young man has a good Catholic education and is earning what I hope is a good university education. He thought so and I had to agree with him. However, now that the two educations are, at times, opposing each other on the subject of morality he has a dichotomy of his ‘self’.”

“It sounds like this young fellow is quite the philosopher” responded Father Tom.

“Yes. I think you have hit the nail on the head. However, I think the nail has hardly been hammered enough” responded Father Bill.

“Why do you say such a thing?” asked the older priest. “Is there more?”

“Yes, more, a lot more” answered the younger one.

“Glory be to Jesus! What more could there be?” wondered Father Tom aout loud.

Father Bill continued. “He has also read another of Nietzsche’s essays. This one is called the ‘Genealogy of Morals’. This essay told him that humankind is on the trajectory of a downward spiral. Guess who Nietzsche places the blame on? We Christians; especially the organized church. He claims that self denial is the cause of this degeneration and this asceticism turns humanity’s individualism into anger against itself. This leads to the premise that instinct may be better than morals. Can you see where this young confessor is going with this?”

“To be perfectly frank, Bill, it scares the hell out of me” responded Father Tom. “I hope there is not more to this confession; IS THERE?”

Father Bill continued on. “Oh yes, a lot more. This young man now has to prove his Catholic faith to himself but he is convinced that he has to play the game with Nietzsche’s rules. It looks like an impossible task to me. The young fellow is very logical about the whole situation. Here is his plan; by the numbers.”

“One; Each week he will break one commandment.”

“Two; After breaking this commandment he will make extensive notes regarding:

“how he felt about it as he was breaking the commandment”

“how well he slept that night; this would be an indicator of guilt, if any”

“how he felt about the act the next day”

“how he thought about sin just prior to confession”

“and how well he thought the sin was forgiven in the confessional”

The young priest was not yet done with the story. “In this way he feels that he can judge what was learned in the catholic schools versus what he has learned by reading Nietzsche.”

“But this leaves so many open questions how could he ever make a decision?” blurted out Father Tom.

“He seems very comfortable with his decision to carry this risky plan out to the end” said Father Bill. “He will have tested Nietzsche by avoiding self denial and committing sins. On the other hand he will have tested God by determining if his sins have been absolved in the confessional booth. This puts me in a very uncomfortable position because I know that he is intentionally committing a sin but on the other hand it may stop him from ever committing that sin again. He may turn out to be the best Catholic instead of the best sinner.”

“Be careful Father Bill, be very careful. This young man may be quite unbalanced” said Father Tom.

“Well, if he is, he is also a very good sociopath. He has me convinced that his plan is logical and that he really believes in the test of God versus Nietzsche” answered Father Bill.

“BUT .  ..   …” interrupted Father Tom with one of his best interruptions ever. “You said in the beginning that he wishes to break ALL of the commandments. Did you really think that he meant all of them? God bless both of us if that is the case.”

The younger priest said in a low and very sad voice, “Yes, .  ..   … every last one of them”

The two men finished their game of golf with little discussion, no humor and deeply saddened hearts. Both of them were silent on the drive back to the parish.

The following Saturday evening each of the priests knew what the other was thinking. Confessions came and went that evening but Father Bill was afraid to speak and Father Tom was afraid to ask. Sunday morning brought the same anxiousness for Father Bill. Father Tom knew that the young confessor’s plan had been put into motion.

During next Monday’s golf outing Father Tom was informed by Father Bill of the outcome. “Well, he broke the first commandment. He deliberately had other Gods before him. He built alters to three gods of ancient religions and executed their sacraments. The young man said that two of the gods had no hold over him but the third god awoke some unknown emotion in him. He felt that it was a ‘good’ emotion. He also said it was a strong, almost instinctive, feeling to do something great; almost like he was on the edge of greatness himself.”

“And was he deeply sorry for his sin?” asked Father Bill.

“Well . ..   … he was sorry that he had to break a commandment” responded the younger priest.

“And .  ..   … did you absolve him of his sin?” Father Tom asked rather testily.

“I did” stated the younger priest rather strongly.

“And .  ..   … what is the agenda for next week” asked the older priest quite stridently.

“He is going to ‘make for himself an idol’.”

“And are you going to absolve him for that also?” asked Father Tom incredulously.

“We will see, we will see” responded Father Bill.

I relate this story to you in quite an appended form. You do realize, don’t you, that this process took at least ten weeks. And that is the way it went week after week, the young priest, the young confessor, and the older priest as the second guesser. All three beings of this strange play acted in real human terms, in real human time and real human agony. All of them played their own parts in this hideous test of God versus Nietzsche.

The young man was absolved of “making for himself an idol”.

“But a singer named ‘MADONNA?’ Of all that is sacred why select her for an idol?” asked the older priest.

The young priest shrugged his shoulders and raised his palms upward as if to say “It is beyond me, but hardly a great sin.”  Then out loud he re-stated (as if it were even necessary) “I absolved him of his sin.”

The third week the young man tested “using Gods name in vain.”

He was absolved.

Score; Nietzsche three – God three.

Week four and five; the young man skipped Sunday mass and therefore “did not keep the Sabbath holy.” Likewise he missed his opportunity for Holy Communion. The absolution he had received for “not honoring his father and mother” was wiped out.

Score; Nietzsche three – God five.

No hits, no runs, two errors.

Week six; he stole goods from the university. Absolved

Week seven; he falsely blamed the crime on a secretary.  Absolved

Week eight; he coveted his student advisor’s wife.  Absolved

Week nine; he slept with his advisor’s wife.  Absolved

Father Tom had finally lost his patience with the young priest. “Absolved, absolved, absolved! Have you thought this through? Did you talk to him? Did you council him? Did he seem repentant? This has gone on long enough. Are you going to absolve him of that greatest sin .  ..   …    …. ‘Thou shalt not commit murder’?”

Father Bill was at a loss for words. They completed holes four and five without speaking. Father Bill was three and four over par on the two holes (respectively). Father Tom was six over par on each of the two holes.

Father Tom spoke first. “Listen Bill, this young confessor is on the edge of doing something that will ruin the rest of his life. If he is caught at the crime then he will surely ruin his life. If not, he won’t be able to live with himself.”

“What do you suggest I do?” asked Father Bill.

“With all due respect, Bill, I think I need to take this situation out of your hands” responded Father Tom.

“You can’t do that. Really, you just can’t rip this situation away from me. I have worked on it for ten weeks now.” But this plea of Father Bills was ignored by the older priest.

“I am sorry Bill, but this is the way it will have to be” responded Father Tom. “I do not know if even I, with my greater experience and determination, can handle this one correctly”

And so it was. The next Saturday night Father Tom took Father Bill’s place in the confessional booth. The normal sins were heard from the kids, the fathers and the wives.

Father Tom had to wait for some time before the last confessor entered the other side of the booth. As hard as Father Tom studied the face in the darkness he could not make it out.

The man in the other side of the booth finally said “Bless me Father, for I am about to sin!”

Father Tom thought to himself, “Yes, this is the young man, he is ‘about to sin!”

The priest then said to the young man “You have not committed the sin yet?”

“No Father, not yet.”

“Can we talk about the sin and perhaps avoid this near occasion of sin?” requested the old priest.

“No Father.” responded the voice on the other side of the booth.

And with that the young man aimed a pistol at the priest and pulled the trigger; four times.

The silencer did its job; “Piff, piff, piff, piff.”

The old priest slumped in a pile on his side of the confessional booth.

The young man walked out of his side of the booth.

The church was empty except for Father Bill standing about five pews away.

Father Bill said (quite calmly) “Congratulations on getting your revenge against him for making you abandon the priesthood.”

The young man said “And congratulations to you on your new position of parish priest.”

They shook hands, smiled (knowingly), and went their separate ways.

 

 

 

TWO TALES WRITTEN UPON VELLUM

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NOTE:  I am moving some of my short stories to this blog. This is the third one to be moved.  ENJOY!

vel·lum

1. fine parchment made originally from the skin of a calf.

2. smooth writing paper imitating vellum

 §

The origin of these tales cannot be defined.

Some say the first tale originated in the mind of a dervish and it is the only place that it ever occurred. Others say that it originated in Ternopol. Of course Ternopol sometimes resided in Austria and at other times Germany; now in more recent times, Russia. Possibly the dervish had wandered through Ternopol and that accounts for the confusion.

That is the most detail I have been able to glean from various old deteriorating manuscripts. So we will have to leave the first tale where it now sits; which is in the mind of a dervish who is visiting Ternopol.

The second tale never originated.

That is to say it never had a first existence.

It is one of those tales that you yourself have thought, an Irish priest has thought, a mortician working at his stainless steel table has thought and most important – – – but not lastly – – – a false Pope has thought.

So, you see, this second tale originates in the mind of all men, in all novels, hovels, in all palaces, in all villages, cities, metropoli across the world for all existence, for all time. That is why it has no origination; it is not an original tale. If I were pressed, under threat of death to give this particular thought a name and a place of origination, – – – I would say it was an opus in Opus.

Now that we have a clear picture and a bit of context let us move on to the tale of these two tales.

Oh yes! One more piece of information is necessary for you to understand the complete picture. The tale of these two tales is not a tale, it is a story; a true story that originated everywhere and nowhere. So let us begin our accidental journey.

A gentleman from Ternopol, whose ancestor most likely was the dervish, had two tales that he wished to record. Lacking paper, due to the ravages of war, he had to write these tales on vellum. This vellum had been liberated, by this Ternopolite, from an slaughter house that had been reduced to ashes by one side or the other.

The following is what he wrote on his single piece of vellum.

The first tale on vellum

Ukrainian Bachelors Home

Ukrainian Bachelors Home

The man recording this story on vellum turned it over to determine if the other side of the vellum remained usable.

The first tale on back side

Only the very freshest ink had bled through; mostly on the bottom of the page.

By time the ink had thoroughly dried he would be able to write his second tale on the reverse side of the vellum. He went to bed entirely satisfied with his efforts.

§

The next morning, after writing the first tale, the gentle Ukrainian
from Ternopol woke early. He checked the vellum to ensure it was usable. Once satisfied that it was, he started on the second tale; the one whose origination was both questionable and not questionable, because and since, it was ubiquitous and existed for all time.

This is what he wrote.

The second tale on reverse side

The Bodleian

The gentle Ukrainian from Ternopol, was a descendent of the dervish, if you remember correctly. Well, when he was through writing, he put his vellum manuscript aside for the second night. He went to bed and rested comfortably.

§

The next morning, the gentle Ukrainian from Ternopol who was a descendent of the dervish- – –  if you remember correctly – – – arose and had a breakfast of gruel. It was after that he checked on his vellum manuscript.

He moved his chair over by a window to get a clear view; his eyes were starting to fail. The bright morning light appeared to show that the ink had bled through the vellum quite severely. He moved his arms away from the window and into a darker area. He was greatly relieved to see that it was only the bright sunlight playing tricks through the vellum.

Everything was clear on both sides; each story could be clearly read.

He decided to hold the vellum up to the window to see what the full effect of the sunlight would do to the image. This is what he saw.

Combined Story #1 and #2

The gentle Ukrainian’s belief in mathematics was forever suspect. It was then that he realized that 1 story + 1 story equals 3 stories.

His next experiment was to write the entire bible, both old and new testaments, on the threads of a screw. He then wrote the entire Koran on the bottom side of the threads.

For this was his Lot in life.

LotFleesFromSodom

His goal was to see if both holy books would work as One.

Christians and Muslims revere Lot as a righteous man of God.  According to Christianity, Jesus is a descendent of Lot through David’s great-grandmother Ruth, who is descended from Lot’s son Moab. The Koran does not include any references to Lot’s drunkenness and incestuous relations. He is regarded as a prophet of Islam.

The Zaporozhian Cossacks

Just a little side-note to remind you about those FF who had all that fun writing a letter to the Sultan of Turkey telling him that his battalion of men were on their way home with their tail between their legs.

Rumi

And one more reminder that Rumi’s poems where so good that they transcended national and ethnic borders.

[End of the two tales that ended up as three]

Images and religious comments about Lot are from Wikipedia.

Waldo copyrighted

A TRIPTYCH OF WORDS

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NOTE:  I am moving some of my short stories to this blog. This is the second one to be moved.

 

I had heard the story once or twice before. I believe the first time was on a park bench beside the Red Robin Diner in Johnson City, New York.

Red Robin

 

The second time surprised me because of my location. I was sitting next to an elderly gentleman on a Greyhound bus ride between Malone and Binghamton; both in New York.

It was surely a tale to be heard and then dismissed.

But now I am now compelled to tell you this story because of something that I recently read in an old yellowing newspaper. To be exact it wasn’t called a newspaper when it was printed; sometime around 1865. It was called a periodical; you know, one of those monthly ink menstruations. To my best recollection it was the Atlantic Monthly – – – but please don’t hold me to that.

Ragged Lake

 

I cannot vouch for the veracity of the story. As I have stated, I had heard it twice before and read it once in print. As that old politician Ben Franklin once said; “Believe nothing of what you hear, and only half of what you see.” So with good prudence I allow you to make your own judgment regarding what you are about to read.

It supposedly took place on Ragged Lake in the Adirondack Mountains of New York.

Now what I have written here is not exactly what was written in print, or heard on a bench at the corner of a small decrepit village, or while sitting in an interminable bus ride. The bus trip took me from the northernmost corner of New York State to the far south where New York shares a border with Pennsylvania. As I have stated, the story may not be exact; rather, it is the story that my mind has combined of all three experiences.

Let’s forget about the park bench, the bus ride and the Atlantic monthly so that we may get on with the story.

It seems as though a British soldier who deserted during the War of 1812 (The Battle of Chateaugay to be exact) found himself wandering through those North Woods. He had been able to exchange his uniform with that of a dead US Volunteer; a buckskin clad woodsman.

The Brit was able to survive due to the accuracy of the Pennsylvania Long Rifle that he had also removed from the dead body. However, that did not last longer than a month or two.

Now here is where the three sources differed. One told me that the Brit lost the flint on the rifle. Another stated that he ran out of ammunition or powder. The printed version said that he encountered a group of Indians who absconded with the rifle.

With his rifle gone, the only means for obtaining sustenance was an occasional apple from an abandoned farm or a purloined chicken now and then. The chicken brings into question the assumption of the lost flint. Otherwise, how would the Brit be able to start a fire to roast the chicken? But, once again, I wander.

The Brit, due to hunger and exhaustion, eventually wasted away into a mere shadow of his former self. One stormy day he took refuge in a small cave. It was hardly more than a cleft in the face of a precipice. Tired, weary and out of strength, he slept there for a day or so.

Upon awakening he lay there pondering his fate. He noticed that at the back of the cave, or niche, the stones appeared to be unnatural. Upon inspection he found that they had been laid up by human hands. His curiosity won out over his hunger. He dismantled the stone wall and found that the cave continued far into the mountain.

The floor of the cave was smooth, apparently worn so by an underground river over the eons of time. The Brit had to crawl on his hands and knees for a short period. Then to his surprise the natural tunnel opened up into a dimly lit cavern. He was able to stand up.

His eyes had become accustomed to the dim light. He cautiously walked forward about fifty paces. There, on a rectangular rock, lay a handful of black walnuts. He picked them up and sniffed at them in order to determine if they were fresh. He finally determined how old they were, not by smell but by seeing that the outside husk had shrunk from age. The Brit took a sharp rock and scraped away the husk of the nicest looking nut. The nut looked fine so he cracked it open. It smelled fresh so he picked at it and found it to be delicious.

The Brit promptly finished off all the black walnuts. He saw no other food in his vicinity and wondered if a squirrel or other small animal had deposited them for later. The Brit sat there contemplating his next move.

“Maybe there are more nuts to be found deeper in the cave.”

He proceeded on until he saw another large flat rock. This one had dried fruits laying on it. The Brit became suspicious and halted his progress immediately. He stood there frozen, almost afraid to look around for fear of what (or who) he might find. Like a timid deer in the forest he stood still for an interminably long time. Finally he roused enough courage to walk over to where the fruit lay and cautiously took a bite from one piece.

It was delicious. He finished off all the dried fruits.

Pondering his condition, his flight from the armies of the United States and the British Empire, his hunger, his lack of weapons, and his unholy predicament; he decided to go deeper into the cave.

Up ahead he could see something on the wall. It appeared to be carved into the stone; words or symbols of some sort. He soon came close enough to make out the characters. They were unreadable to him, unfamiliar symbols. He stood there studying this collection of nonsensical scratching.

A thought appeared in his mind; a thought that seemed to reflect the meaning of the symbols.

“But how could this be? I do not understand the characters but I understand the meaning!”

Convinced that he was hallucinating, he sat down for a minute to rest. Finally he had enough sense to look at his hands. “YES, there is the yellow stain from the black walnut husks” he thought to himself. “And I can still taste the flavor of the dried fruits. I am not hallucinating.”

Finally he raised enough courage to look up at the wall of undiscernible symbols. There it was; one language on the wall and the meaning of that language within his own mind.

“You must be ready to burn yourself in your own flame; how could you rise anew if you have not first become ashes?”

The Brit shook from fear as he understood the words. Falling down in deep despair he sobbed like he had never sobbed before. He asked himself ; “What does it mean?”

After some time he was able to control his fear. He decided to determine what he was being told. You must be ready to burn yourself in your own flame. “How or why would I do that?” he asked himself. “No, wait, there is more” How could you ‘rise anew if you have not first become ashes?’

“What does it mean? What does it mean?”

Finally – – – it came to him. “I must repent, but for what? I have done nothing wrong.”

He had not viewed his desertion from the army or stealing from a dead man as anything wrong. But now, with this thought on the wall, he clearly saw his own misgivings.

“I know I should repent, but how, there is no one or nothing to repent to.”

He thought about the phrase “You must be ready to burn yourself in your own flame.”

“What exactly does that mean? Do I kill myself? Do I flog myself? What does it mean?”

Finally he saw a meaning that made sense to him. He must admit his wrongdoing to himself. But he had already done that and it seemed not to renew him. There must be something deeper that he should find. It was not the act of desertion, nor the act of stealing a dead man’s cloths and weapon.

“What must I do to turn myself to ashes?”

He sat there pondering the question. Then the hunger overtook the question and he continued moving forward through the cave.

The Brit found more nuts and dried fruit to eat. Yet he had found no sign of squirrels, bears or any other sign of life. Soon he found another set of strange symbols on the wall.

Still unable to read the symbols he stared at them and they became clear.

“Silence is worse; all truths that are kept silent become poisonous.”

“That’s it!” the Brit shouted to no one. His voice echoed off the walls of the cave.

“That’s it!” “That’s it!” “That’s it!” “That’s it!” “ it!” “it!” “it!” “it!” “it!”

My mind has been silent. I have not admitted my error. I have kept a truth from being accepted by myself. He shouted once again to no one; “I AM A COWARD!”

“I AM A COWARD!” “I AM A COWARD!” “A COWARD!” “coward!” “coward!”

He felt much better about himself now that he was no longer silent to himself. Yet he did not feel that he had risen from the ashes.

The Brit’s trek through the cave continued on for several days. Each day he found sustenance and could not determine its source.

And several times each day he found more of life’s secrets symbolized on the walls of the cavern.

“What is great in man is that he is a bridge and not a goal.”

“I love him who reserves no share of spirit for himself, but wants to be wholly the spirit of his virtue: thus walks he as spirit over the bridge.”

“He who climbs upon the highest mountains laughs at all tragedies, real or imaginary.”

“I have learned to walk: since then I have run. I have learned to fly: since then I do not have to be pushed in order to move.” “Now I am nimble, now I fly, now I see myself under myself, now a god dances within me.”

With each day’s passing the Brit felt more alive, more attune with himself.

Although he did not realize it the next symbol on the wall was the last.

“The lonely one offers his hand too quickly to whomever he encounters.”

“What does that mean. Am I ‘The lonely one?’ Surely I am in this cavern by myself.”

“And why wouldn’t I offer my hand quickly to whomever I encountered? Wouldn’t anyone do so?”

Not realizing that he was coming to the end of his journey the Brit continued walking, looking for food, searching for more symbolic logic.

Then, he saw what appeared to be daylight. Surely it was far off, but it was daylight. He quickened his pace. Upon reaching the end of the cavern he stopped to let his eyes adjust to the sunlight that he had not seen for weeks.

There was nothing of note to be seen; a few rocks, a several small trees, a far-off stream, low hills and no sign of life. Surely this was not the Adirondack Mountains.

He caught a motion.

“What was that?”

“Are my eyes playing tricks on me?”

The Brit stood there motionless so as not to give away his position to whomever or whatever may be watching him.

“There it is again!”

He had detected motion. An eye peered around a tree. Then another from behind a large rock. Then another, and another and another.

Eventually he could determine that these were the eyes, head, hair and noses of humans. He felt great relief. Eventually more and more humans peered out from behind various hides. None of them moved forward. They and he watched each other cautiously. Neither dared make a move.

Finally the Brit took one step forward.

The humans came out from their hiding places but did not advance.

He raised both hands in the air to show that he carried no weapons.

The humans cheered and jumped for joy. More humans appeared. One had a beautiful Arabian horse on a rope. They slowly advanced toward him.

The Brit smiled broadly and took a few more steps out of the cave.

The throngs of humans held out their arms toward him. The man with the horse walked briskly, but not menacingly, towards the Brit.

They were all dressed in very coarse woven cloth. Some had their heads decoratively wrapped in linen. Most clothes were light brown but a few were dyed scarlet.

One person took off his red cloak and covered the horse’s back with it.

The throngs of people cheered as the Brit was lifted up by four strong men. They proudly carried him on their shoulders and placed him on the horse’s back.

The people crowded around him and several touched him with great deference. Others desired to touch the hand of those who had touched the Brit.

There was much joy and happiness in the crowd.

As the horse was led forward the Brit could see carpenters working up on a small hill.

As he drew closer it became obvious that they were constructing a crucifix; just for Him.

 

Quotes on the cave wall were from the collection of Zarathustra; F. W. N.

 

author1

THE PLANK

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NOTE:  I am moving some of my short stories to this blog. This is the first one to be moved.

This story takes place in a lagoon village near San Juan, Puerto Rico. The village disappeared over seventy years ago; but the memories have not.

(A wooden plank that leads from my home to the planks that lead to all other homes.)

It is the church where I pray. It offers me solitude.

I am unaware of things outside of me.

 

It is my nature-land. I can feel the breezes that bring fresh air.

I can sit in contemplation.

 

It is the path to my redoubt. It leads to my home for protection.

It leads away from my home for protection.

 

It is my mode of production. It is my work-bench that no one else owns.

It is my mode of idleness.

 

It is my strength. It was the strength of my father’s father.

It reeks of corruption.

 

It is the place of yearly battles. See the blood beside the rust.

It has been dismembered and lost.

 

I am not it and it is not me. I am tied to it. I am tied to its existence.

Yet it has no pains, pleasures or thoughts.

 

This is my plank.

 

Old Puerto Rico El Fangito

 

My name is Hector Ortiz. I live in El Fangito (The Swamp, The Mud hole). If you will please allow me. I will tell my story for you. It will not be the story found in libraries.. It will be the story told from one to another. And then to another. And then to others.

El Fangito has a place. It is beside Isle Verde, Puerto Rico. It is beside San Juan. My father and his father lived here. My father’s father’s father was driven from Spain. He was driven by poverty. He was driven by the church. He named the evil of the church. Its name was “The Mesta.”

The father from Spain was a farmer. The Mesta wasted the earth with sheep. That is what has been told.

I have another father’s father. He belongs to my Mamacita. He was brought here from Yoruba. Mamacita says we have people in Yoruba. She knows nothing of them. We have cousins in El Fangito. We are generous to each other. We need help sometimes. They need help sometimes. Nature provides for us. Sometimes nature hides from us. We help each other. My cousins are generous.

I sit on my plank. My feet dangle over the water. High tide gives my feet a salty kiss. It feels good. The tide visits twice a day. It brings fresh water on its first visit. Fresh water to wash and cook. On the second visit the tide brings us guava, avocado and plantain peels. This is mixed with human waste. It attracts the fish.

I fish from my plank. The fish are bright. They are yellow and orange and red. Some are brown or black. The fish are tasty. Mamacita cooks them in the steel barrel. She is very careful. The same oil has cooked the fish for two years. We once had a pig. The pig oil was saved. My plank is a good fishing spot. My friends fish with me.

I work on my plank. The tide brings coconuts. I catch them. We own a big nail. We drink the coconut agua. The coconut is finally broken. The meat is a feast. We own two knives. My father has one. Mamacita has the other one. I use my father’s. The coconut halves become masks. I bring the faces out with my father’s knife. My father also has a machete and a wooden mallet. I am forbidden to touch them.  I color the masks.. Roots and berries give us colors. Mamacita boils them. This scares the color out of the roots and berries.

My father took me to San Juan once. We sold three masks. People come on ships. They buy masks and flowers. Father bought me a sweet drink. He had an awful tasting drink. The place had a grass roof. The place had a radio. We stayed until the sun was not hot. The radio told us about “El Phantasmo del Real..” The men told each other about Quixote. One man was in love with another. His love was named Zoro.

My father and I returned from San Juan. It was a long walk. First on Ponce de Leon. Then on Borenquen. We left the streets for the flat paths. They lead to Laguna San Jose. This is the place of El Fangito.

We first see the rusty steel roofs of the homes. Then the remainder. Walls. Part steel. Part cardboard. Sticks and boards. All held together with wire. Steel wire. Telegraph wire. Electrical wire. But no electricity. As we get close we can see the planks. They lead from the shore to other planks. They divide. This way and that. Silvestro’s house is on the left. Then Fredie’s house. The planks continue like the paths of the birds. They leave footprints in the mud along the laguna. Criss-crossing. There are too many houses to count. I know everyone. Everyone knows me. We shout across all the planks. We shout around the houses.

Freddie’s house is painted with bright colors. Her father paints buildings. Sometime he will paint the other two sides. Then he will give my father some paint.

My father said he may not accept it. He says “there is no use, no future” in El Fangito.

He does not give up. He remembers the last time El Fangito was torn down. The government came with big machines. They had tracks and big blades on the front. They ran over the houses. The poles supporting them gave way. The walls and steel roofs came down into the mud and water. Men with hooked poles tore down the rest. We had no place to live.

It took one day for the fathers to place the support poles back into the mud. On the second day all the planks were back in place. (I found mine. It had rust on it from the steel roof. There was blood on it. Maybe it was from Seniora Flores’ cat.) The poles to hold the walls went up on the third day. On day four the walls and roofs were brought up from the mud and water. On the evening of the fifth day we had the walls wired in place. On the sixth day we were saved from the rain by a roof. On the seventh day my father and his brothers helped other families.

El Fangito was back in place within a week. The governor came by in a fancy car. The police were with him. They had several cars. He told us that the men would be back to crush our houses. Our men shouted from the planks. They did not leave.

This is my plank.

 

It is the school were I grow. It offers me knowledge.

I am aware of things outside of me.

 

Children run the planks. They have no clothes

I am no longer a child.

 

It is where I sit with Freddie. She holds my hand and kisses it.

Mamacita watches from the door-less doorway.

 

Freddie and I pretend not to see the naked children.

But we wonder about each other.

 

Freddie’s father watches from his plank. He talks to my father.

Freddie wonders why.

 

She teaches me to read. She brings me books from her house.

Norte Americanos gave them to her father.

 

We talk about leaving El Fangito. We talk of running away.

We have no idea or means for this.

 

This is my perpetual plank.

Freddie and I visited Isle Verde sometimes. That is where the roots and berries come from. People who live there own land. But not all of it. We harvest nature from the brush. We have no land. That is why we live in El Fangito. I often go to Isle Verde. I find things along the shoreline. Boards. Wire. Baskets. Coconuts.

We found a bag floating in the water. It had three books and a small amount of money. We agreed to keep the books. We agreed to split the money. Half would be for each father. There was a celebration. A chicken was purchased for each family and Mamacita agreed to cook them. We all had a nice supper of arroz con pollo that night.

Freddie and I sat on my plank. We saw the stars in a different way. We held each other. We felt life in each other. Only Freddie had life inside her. I had hope inside me.

The Governor returned with his troops and machines. We have lived without trouble for two years. Freddie and the baby live with us now. We share my father’s house. Mamacita and my brothers and sisters live together. It is not crowded. We stay outside most of the time. My father still has no work. We are OK. The Governor gives us one week. The men talk together. They talk to their wives.

The next day the work begins. When the tide is low the steel roofs come down. They lean against the bushes on the shore. The planks are taken down on the next low tide. They are put on the wooden floor boards.  The walls come down. They are placed on the floor. On the next low tide the men gather in groups at each others houses. They lift the floor. They remove the stilts that hold the floor above the water. The floor becomes a raft. The stilts are laid carefully on the raft. Then the roof is brought back. It lies on top of the stilts. The raft sinks deeper from the weight. Each family ties ropes to their raft. The raft is pulled toward were the sun rises.

Hundreds of rafts move together. Sometimes one will sink low. It will get stuck in the mud below the water. We all help each other. It becomes unstuck. The rafts move on. Our feet stir up the mud. It has not been stirred for a long time. The smell makes some of us sick. The rafts move on. Someone in the back asks where we are going. The question moves forward with the rafts. Finally the word comes back. We find out that we are going to Laguna los Corozos. No one seems to know where it is. Someone says “Carolina.” We still do not know where we are going.

We reach our destination. It takes four days. The children are tired. Everyone who walked the shore is torn. The bushes and mosquitoes ate them. Those who stayed in the water are white and wrinkled. Some have terrible cuts on their feet. Shelled fish and glass could not be seen. Some have cuts from hidden wire. The wire is saved for later.

This is Carolina. This is Laguna los Corozos. It looks vacant. It looks like were El Fangito was. In seven days Laguna los Corozos becomes El Fangito. There are fresh berries and fruit on the shore. We make new paths through the brush. We eat. We are refreshed. We are alive. Most of us. Some children and old people are gone. Night comes. There are tears in the darkness. My father and I are very tired. We sleep. Mamacita and Freddie cry together. The morning comes too soon. The children run around on the new plank paths.

This is my plank.

 

It has been saved from the sea. It has been saved as an icon.

I am aware of another world.

 

Children run on the beach. They sing and play.

I am no longer a child.

 

We have built a life together. We have eight children.

Mamacita sits in her chair remembering nothing

 

The men play dominos, guitars and reed pipes..

We have memories without bitterness.

 

The plank is an icon, a symbol, an allegory of El Fangito.

Freddie wonders why.

 

She teaches me of Vijigantes. She brings me books of the church.

We celebrate Santiago Apostol.

 

We visit Loiza Aldea. We never talk of running away.

We have no idea why.

 

My plank is now my threshold.

 

We remained in New El Fangito for three years. We were not threatened or disturbed. The fishing was sufficient. The fruits around the shore were healthy. Freddie and the children survived very well. Mamacita and my father remained healthy for the three years. The government returned. This time they had an offer. Move to Loiza Aldea or Rio Piedras. Loiza Aldea was our decision. Mamacita said that many Yorubans lived there. Maybe we could find cousins.

Loiza Aldea was a good choice. Rio Piedras ended up with much crime. Loiza Aldea had no big apartments, only small houses. The people there loved art and music. We all learned new things. We learned of the Vijigantes. We learned two stories of the Vijigantes. The Spanish people told how the Vijigantes tried to conquer Spain. They were driven back. Santiago Apostol appeared to the Spanish Christian warriors. The Vijigantes were then driven out.

The Yoruban people also told of the Vijigantes. The Vijigantes came to Africa and captured Yorubans. They were shipped across the great lagoon. Sometimes the grand warrior Chango would appear. He would drive the Vijigantes away. Both Chango and Santiago Apostol carried big swords or axes. Loiza Aldea made a fiesta. The fiesta of Santiago Apostol. They now make the fiesta every year. Our church of San Patrick also takes part in the fiesta. The church bells ring for a long time.

Costumes are made. Over-clothes of bright colors are worn to inspire thoughts of the Vijigantes. My masks of coconut have become tradition. Others now copy my designs and sell them. I show them my plank. I tell them of how I made coconut masks when a boy. They want to talk about El Fangito. I tell them what I remember. Sometimes I tell them what I do not remember. It makes them happy. So I tell them. They ask me about my mother and father. They are both gone now. It makes me sad and I remain quiet. The visitors leave. Others will come during the fiesta.

This is my plank. It has many memories.

It has no words on it. 

 

My plank has many words in it. It remembers my father.

It can see Mamacita.

 

Both of us, my plank and I, remember Freddie.

She was so beautiful.

 

I remember her warmth. I remember her tenderness.

My plank remembers her flashing dark eyes.

 

My children are in New York and Chicago. I am here.

I remain with my home.

 

My plank holds me here.

© Copyright – Waldo Tomosky

SHAMELESS, JUST SHAMELESS I SAY

Yes, It is time for another shameless self promotion of one of my 18 books.

This one is the autobiography of a fictional character created by a dead author. If that is not enough I should be quick to add that he is also a plagiarist; not unlike the one who writes this.

The autobiography is guaranteed to contain nonsense; yet be, somewhat entertaining.

Thank you and may God have pity on your soul.

Go ahead, Click on the book cover for a sample reading.

Look inside this book.

The Autobiography of Pierre Menard by [Tomosky, Waldo]

 

VIRTUE? Post #6: (What would the Greeks say?)

 Greek Life

I am afraid that my mind is getting a little too old and feeble to be original. Therefore I tend to purloin where I can and invent where I cannot.

 

With that confession out of the way I continue with a paraphrasing or lifting of the words by H. D. F. Kitto’s “The Greeks.”

 

A being is identified by his usefulness. A racehorse by his speed, a wagon horse by his strength, and a man by the things that a man is capable of doing excellently.

 

Man can be excellent by his intellectual capabilities, his physical ability and endurance, in is practical sensibilities and of course his ability to build wealth as well as being moral. Arête means the excellent combination of all of these. The Greeks did not think that specialization was a good thing. Specialization was something that a slave should be trained to do. A man with arête was a great fighter, a wily schemer, a ready speaker, a man of stout heart and great wisdom.

 

A man of arête could endure what life handed him without too much complaining to the Gods. He could engage in boxing, throwing the discus, wrestle and run. Not run today’s marathon for that was a specialization which the Greeks would have frowned upon.

 

A man of arête could slay an ox, skin it and cook it and also be moved to tears by a song, play a flute or simply be a doer of deeds.

 

This is why the Greeks were independent and creative thinkers. They had no ideals to follow or chase – except for those that they considered their own.

 

They did it their way – and a man who could do all of those things his own way and do it with excellence was immortalized in prose, poetry and song.

 

This was the arête of the Greeks.

  

End of series on arête.

Waldo copyrighted

VIRTUE? Post #5; (Ayn, the antidote to virtue)

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AYN RAND

 

This concept of arête raises a second question – – –

but definitely not a “secondary” one – – –

it is the prime question.

 

Why did we leave the philosophy of Ayn Rand on the dump heap? Was she too strong a woman? If so, why didn’t the “women’s movement” pick it up and use it as a shield or sword?

 

Why was she invited to give a commencement address to the graduating class of the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York on March 6, 1974? In part, the following was the essence of her address.

 

“[There are] those who seek to destroy this country, seek to disarm it — intellectually and physically. But it is not a mere political issue; politics is not the cause, but the last consequence of philosophical ideas. It is not a communist conspiracy, though some communists may be involved — as maggots cashing in on a disaster they had no power to originate. The motive of the destroyers is not love for communism, but hatred for America. Why hatred? Because America is the living refutation of a Kantian universe (Kantian thought = the physical world is outside our full control and thus we cannot be held accountable for the events that occur in it).

 

“Today’s [overly sentimental] concern with and compassion for the feeble, the flawed, the suffering, the guilty, is a cover for the profoundly Kantian hatred of the innocent, the strong, the able, the successful, the virtuous, the confident, the happy. A philosophy out to destroy man’s mind is necessarily a philosophy of hatred for man, for man’s life, and for every human value. Hatred of the good for being the good, is the hallmark of the twentieth century. This is the enemy you are facing.”

 

Did the leaders of our military sense that something was going horribly wrong with the military establishment? Is that why she was invited? Or was it a reaction to the terrible manner in which our soldiers, returning from Viet Nam, were treated? Did some of this political correctness find its way into the psyche of the 1974 graduating class? Was she invited as an antidote to what was occurring in our universities and colleges?

 

Next Post      VIRTUE?    Post #6:   (What would the Greeks say?)

 

Waldo copyrighted

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