I feel that ‘man-hating’ is an honorable and viable political act,
that the oppressed have a right to class-hatred
against the class that is oppressing them.
Ms. Magazine Editor
The nuclear family must be destroyed…
Whatever its ultimate meaning,
the break-up of families now is
an objectively revolutionary process.
Feminist and Historian
I want to see a man beaten to a bloody pulp
with a high-heel shoved in his mouth,
like an apple in the mouth of a pig.
“The World According to Waldo” — it would take that title, with derivations of “Wally”, and “Waleye”, and “Walter” and even “Vaju”; almost eighty years to become “Waldo” — he was at work on the seventh chapter of his “A Devine Tragedy” Feb 3, 2018, which maintains, contrary to the American ascetic Chucky Schumer, author of “Positively American” (aka, Identity Politics and Victimhood), that he – Waldo – knows some of the general laws of the universe, those that apply to the species; mankind.
He wrote with assurance.
The sculpting of syllogisms and the linking together cosmic paragraphs did not keep him from feeling a sense of glorious well-being, the cool, deep thoughts that surrounded his consciousness.
In the breaking of his normal dawn, mourning doves hummed raspingly, one to another from an obscure hemlock tapestry. There came – from the valley — the whisper of a mountain stream. Something in the instincts of Waldo, whose ancestors originated from the steppes of CaucAsia, was grateful for the steadfast presence of the water. Below lay the wild flowers and fish; below that ran the rushing Salmon River; above the river spread the beloved hamlet of Owls Head, as bright as Fort Jackson or Saint Regis Falls, like a complex and delicate civilization; and then, the surrounding Franklin County, extending to the very frontier, stretched the Adirondack Mountains (this too, Waldo could feel), where there were not a great many things, yet where each thing seemed to exist substantively and perpetually.
His fingers manipulated the pen without much thought, the arguments, irrefutable, were tightly woven, and yet a small worry clouded Waldo’s happiness. Not the sort of worry brought on by the crippling of America, which was the fortuitous enterprise of the drive-by press, but rather a philological problem connected with the monumental work that would justify Waldo to all people – his commentary on himself. This fountainhead of all philosophy had been sent down to men to teach them all things that can be known. Interpolating Borges’ works, in the same way the priests interpret the Bible, was the demanding task that Waldo had set before himself. History will record few things lovelier and more moving than this Old White Man’s devotion to the thoughts of a man separated from him by language, decades, political boundaries, miles, opinions and frontiers. To the intrinsic difficulties of the enterprise we might add that Waldo, who knew neither Spanish nor German, was working from a translation by Norman Thomas di Giovanni.
Years before, two doubtful words had halted him at the very portals of adulthood. Those words were “liberal” and “conservative.” He had come across them years earlier, in the fifth year of his teens; no one in all of Owls Head could hazard a guess as to their meaning. He had poured through the pages of Jorge Louis Borges, compared the translations of di Giovanni and Andrew Hurley – and he had found nothing. Yet the two arcane words were everywhere in the texts of politics – it was impossible to avoid them.
Waldo put away his lined notebook.
He told himself (without conviction) that what we seek is often near at hand. Therefore, he also put away the manuscript of “Borges’ Selected Non-Fictions,” edited by Eliot Weinberger, and went to the shelf where the many volumes of the constrained sanity of Fredrich Nietzsche, edited, audited and translated by a dirge of American philosophers, stood neatly aligned. Of course, he had already examined them, but he was attracted by the speculative pleasure of turning their pages – without concern – for he was gathering context and not facts. He was sidetracked from that bookish pause by a unique dialog outside of his cabin.
He looked out through the door; there, in the level grassed lawn which once served as the railroad bed, summer-tanned boys were at play. One of them was clearly portraying the local minister. His eyes half closed, he was reciting the morning vespers, “There is only one Waldo.” There was another boy, standing motionless and holding the minister by his shoulders as he berated him; thereby interrupting the vespers much as Nietzsche interrupted God. The third boy, kneeling on the grass, was the singular flock. The game did not last long – they all wanted to be the minister, no one wanted to be the flock and surely none had backbone to be the Nietzsche. Waldo listened to them arguing in the unrefined vernacular of Franklin County.
Waldo opened Ayn Rand’s “Anthem” and thought proudly that in all of those states that remained united (perhaps only the central states remained united — surely not the coastal states) there was no other copy of the perfect work – only this one that had been hidden — sent to him by a closet conservative from Toledo, Ohio (named after a city of weapons in Andalusia). The name Toledo reminded him of the traveler Italo Covino; who had recently returned from the invisible cities. Italo was to read his book to Waldo that evening at the home of Kublai Khan. Italo claimed to have reached the nations of The Far East. With that peculiar logic born of rivalry, his detractors swore that he had never set foot in The Far East and that he had blasphemed Chango of the Oyo Empire by not mentioning Africa.
Waldo hurriedly went back to his work on “A Devine Tragedy” until dusk.
The next day, at his cabin in Owls Head, others joined Waldo. The conversation moved from the unremarkable virtues of governor Cuomo the Younger – Little Prince Andrew — to those of his brother the left-wing reporter. Out in the pine grove, the talk was of fishing. Cuomo the Elder (having never caught a fish) said there were no fish like those which inhabit (and some even pay taxes to) the boroughs of New York City. Cuomo the Elder was not to be constrained by truth; he observed that the learned Lee Wulff had described a superb variety of trout which lives in the streams of Sullivan County and whose scales, of a deep crimson red, exhibit letters that spell out “The fish you release maybe a gift to another, as it may have been a gift to you.” He added that Waldo must surely be acquainted with those trout. Waldo looked at Cuomo in alarm. If he said yes, he would be judged by all, quite rightly, to be the most malleable and utilitarian of sycophants; if he said no, he would be judged a very poor teller of fish stories. He opted to say that nature held the keys that unlock hidden things, and that there were things on earth that were not recorded in nature. Those words belong to one of the first quotes of the works of Isaac Walton the Master Fisherman; the words were received with a reverential murmur of approval from the pine grove.
Puffed up by that victory of dialectics, Waldo was about to declare that Walton was perfect with his words, and mysterious. But Waldo, prefiguring the distant arguments of an ever-problematic Cuomo, interrupted himself.
“Is it not more difficult to accept an error in the learned Wulff, or in the field and stream magazines,” he said, “than to accept that the rivers and streams bring forth fish when one studies the pools, currents and eddies?”
“Precisely. Great words and true,” said Cuomo.
“Some traveler, I recall,” mused the poet Ezra Pound,” speaks of a tree whose watery roots put forth green fish. I am pained less by believing in that tree than in fish adorned with the alphabet.”
“The fish’s color,” said Waldo, “does seem to make that phenomenon easier to bear. In addition, both fish and roots belong to the natural world, while writing is an art. To move from leaves to birds is easier that to move from fish to letters of the alphabet.”
Another guest indignantly denied that writing was an art, since the original Book – the mother of all books – predates the Creation, and resides in paradise. Another guest – who lay outside on a bed of pine needles – restated an old opinion of Waldo’s; “Cyborgs are made of various substances. These can take the form of man or animal; an opinion which appears to agree with that of the people who attribute, to the Cyborg, two genders; Incuborg and Sucuborg.”
Waldo then led a long discourse on this unorthodox doctrine. “The Chisholm Trail Voyager”, he said, “is one of the attributes of Father Molestario, and may even be a Duo-inity; a minor form of the Trinity.” He had copied the book, pronounced it with his tongue, and memorized it in his heart; however, while combinations of the alphabet and futuristic signs and writing are the work of Waldo, The Indecent Decent is irrevocable and eternal. Waldo, who had written a clarification of the cosmos, might have said that the origin of that missive is similar, in a way, to Verdant Palaces, but he could see that imagination was one subject utterly beyond the grasp of Young Prince Andrew Cuomo.
Others, who had come to the gathering (word had been spreading throughout Owls Head that a meeting of the minds was occurring), urged Waldo to ponder and state a tale of curiosity.
“In the future, like now, the world will be horrible to some men and wonderous to others. Daring men will wander through it, but so might victims; victims who fall down simply because they have been told they are victims. My future memory is a pair of opposing mirrors — future acts of cowardice – without an end. What story should I tell? Besides, the guests demand marvels, but the marvelous is perhaps unutterable; the women of Owls Head are not the same as the women of New York City, but they wish to be described with the same words. He who wanders through both hamlets and cities sees many different things worthy of belief. This, for instance, I have only told once before, to Ivan Turgenev, whom I had met in the Pocono Mountains. It took place in Gouldsboro, where the Lehigh River spills into several small ponds and lakes.”
Lee Wulff asked whether the Lehigh created many rapids and waterfalls.
“There are vast forests between them,” Waldo responded, with unintentional overconfidence.
He continued “Forty miles must a fisherman travel before catching sight of all its waterfalls, and another forty, Turgenev says, before the chasm stands before them. In the Poconos I know of no man who has seen it all — or have I ever met the man who has seen it all.”
For several minutes the spectacle of the infinite forest and total seclusion was described by Waldo.
He looked at the symmetrical pine forests that surrounded his cabin and this meeting place. They were planted by the Civil Conservation Corps.
He then realized that he was old, irrelevant and possibly illusory.
Then Wulff spoke again, “One evening, the politicians of Chateaugay took me to a house of logs in which many persons lived. It is not possible to describe that house, which was more like a great room, with rows of cot-like contrivances, one atop another. In these places there were people sleeping. There were other people drinking and sitting on the floor as well, and also, around a stone fireplace. The people were playing poker and cribbage, that is, except for some fifteen or twenty who wore crimson painted masks and prayed and sang and conversed among themselves in some unfamiliar language. These masked ones appeared imprisoned, but I could not see bars, chains or bondage. They soon departed, upon horses, but the horses were invisible. They waged battle, but the weapons were of yew-wood. They suffered, died and were buried; yet they walked again.”
“The acts of madmen,” continued Wulff, “are beyond that which a sane man can imagine.”
“They were not madmen,” Waldo had to explain. “They were, a shaman told me, presenting a story.”
No one in the entire gathering understood, no one seemed to want to understand.
Cuomo the Elder, in much confusion, veered from the tale Waldo had been telling them. With an inept explanation — aiding himself with the waving of hands — Cuomo said, “Let us imagine that someone shows a story instead of writing it – the story of the Seven Somnambulists of Endicott, for example. We see them enter the industrial caverns, we see them pretend to work while they sleep, we see them work with their eyes closed, we see them shrink while they sleep, we see them awaken after three hundred sixty-five days, we see them hand the priest of personnel a coin, we see them awaken – but too late — we see them awaken and weep; they have squandered their lives. It was something like that which the boys on the sodden lawn showed us yesterday morning.”
“Did these persons speak?” asked Waldo.
“Of course they did,” said Cuomo the Elder. He had now become the apologist for a political faction that he barely believed in and that had worried him considerably at the time. “They spoke and sang and gave long boring speeches!”
“In that case,” said Waldo, “there was no need for twenty persons. A single speaker could tell anything, no matter how complex it might be.”
To that verdict, they all gave their nod. They extolled the virtues of conservatism – the language used by men when they instruct women when they – as a group — become hysterical.
After according ‘masculinity’ its due praise, Waldo dismissed some of the others who — had engagements to speak in Albany or New York –; these others clung to urban images and Staten Island vocabulary.
“Obsolete”, he called them.
He said it was absurd for a man whose eyes, had at least once, beheld the wide Hudson River to compose gender protection laws upon men – meanwhile – enrolling women into a league of victimhood. It was time, he argued, that the old metaphors be renewed.
“Back when we offered gender blindness in the workplace,” he said, “the result was amending – but four decades of approbation has worn it very thin.”
To that verdict, which they had all heard many times before, from many mouths, they all likewise gave their nod.
Waldo, however, then fell silent.
At last he spoke, not so much to the others as to himself.
“Less eloquently,” he said, “and yet with similar arguments, I myself have sometimes defended the position of liberalism and social justice. In Owls Head it is said that only the man who has already committed an error — and truly repented — is incapable of that error a second time. To be free of an erroneous opinion, I myself might add, one must at some time have professed it. I say that, in the course of my eighty years of anguish and triumph many is the time I have seen laws trample men. Like an old blind politician, Pelosi says that these gender laws no longer make men effeminate. One might reply to that objection in many ways. First, that if the purpose of the laws were to stand, life would be not measured in years but in centuries, or millennia, or perhaps even infinities upon infinities. Second, that a good politician is less a legislator than a creator. In praise of masculinity, it has been many times repeated that men are capable of understanding that the beauty of the stars appearing in the evening sky are like appealing yet formidable women. With that being true, it proves that the image is crucial. The image that only a political man can shape is an image that interests no man. There are infinite things upon the earth. Any one of them can be compared to any other. Comparing stars to women is less arbitrary than comparing men to fish. On the other hand, every man has surely felt at some moment in his life that love is powerful yet – at times — awkward, innocent yet human -oh, so human. It was to record that feeling, which may be fleeting or constant but which no man may escape experiencing, that my thoughts were created. No one will ever say better what I have said here. Furthermore (and this is perhaps the essential point of my reflections), time, which ravages fortresses and great cities, also destroys political leanings. At the time gender protection was composed by those in Washington, my politics serve to bring together two images – that of the conservative and that of liberal; it does not serve to recall true equality and to conflate our own current problems with those of our ancestors. The image of the party system had two terms; today, it has a singular one which is an amalgamation of the two. Time widens the circle of the political leanings, and I myself know some speeches that are, like music, all things to all men. Thus it was that many years ago, in Vestal, tortured by memories, I soothed myself by repeating the thought which an imaginary friend — Wahynakina — spoke in the hemlocks beside the Chateaugay to me;
‘You also are, oh friend!, On this soil – foreign to you — a remarkable gift to me, the gift bestowed by nature.’ These words spoken by a king homesick for his Abenaki people, served to comfort me when I was far away from Vestal, homesick for everything.”
Then Waldo spoke of the first politicians, those who in the Time of Ignorance, before conservatism was reinstated, had voiced all things in the endless language of liberalism. Alarmed (and not without reason) by the inane voice of Barney Frank, he said that in the constitution all poetry be found, and he condemned as illiterate and vain all desire to think of the constitution as a ‘living document.’ The others listened with pleasure, for he was vindicating that which was logical.
The impromptu meeting continued through the night.
The loons were calling the fishermen to the lakes at first light when Waldo entered his cabin again. (In the barroom, the dark-haired girls had tormented a blond girl, but Waldo was not to know that until evening.) Something had revealed to him the meaning of the two obscure words; liberalism and conservativism. With firm, painstaking single-stroke gothic, he added these lines to the manifesto:
“Carter and Obama gave the names ‘tragedy, new normal and shame’ to the United States and the names ‘lethargic, identity politics and community organizer’ to their satirical administrations. There are many admirable tragedies and comedies in the congress and the laws they pass; we do not need to add the executive branch to those categories.”
Waldo felt sleep coming upon him, he felt a chill. His mind unwound, he looked at himself in a mirror. I do not know what his mind considered, for no historian has described the forms of his thought. I know that he suddenly disappeared, as though annihilated by a fire without light, and that with him disappeared the cabin and the unseen chasm and the books and the manifesto and the mourning doves and the men who attended that meeting and the trembling water at High Falls and the forge at Popeville and the blast furnace at Tahawus and French Louis and perhaps even the Chateaugay River; not to mention the entire Adirondack Mountains.
In the preceding tale of Waldo, I – the author of this manifesto — have tried to narrate the process of failure, the process of defeat. I thought first of the equal rights amendment and laws created in the 1960’s, that set liberals the task of proving that we could legislate equality; then I thought of the conservatives who failed to legislate a guest worker program (for those who wished to legally work in the US and then return to their homeland); then, of the vain attempts to make an triangle from a square in the political processes. Then I thought, “a more pathetic case would be a man who sets himself a goal that is unaccepted by other men but is not forbidden to himself.” I recalled Waldo, who, bounded within the circle of self-acceptance, could never know the true meaning of the words conservatism and liberalism. Above, I have told his story and as I did, I felt what Bukowski must have felt – the man who sets himself the task of creating logical thought out of politics or religion ends up disappointed. I felt that my work ridiculed me, thwarted me, hindered me. I felt that Waldo, trying to imagine what logic is, without ever having suspected what art is, was no more absurd than I, trying to imagine Waldo. Yet with no more material that a few snatches from Borges, Nietzsche, and Calvino, I had channeled him.
I felt, on the final pages, that my story was a symbol of the man I had been as I was writing it, and that in order to write that story I had had to be that man, and that in order to be that man I had had to write that story, and so on, ad infinitum. And, just when I stop believing in him, “Waldo” appears.
No common thread binds his work together. This should shame him, but it does not.
He has allowed me to make a few statements about his youth and later life. They are irrelevant at this moment. However, the picture will become clear very quickly.
As a young boy he spent his time on the river banks and forests. Waldo was attracted to any logic that appeared humane. I am not speaking of petty or brilliant ideas. I speak of ideas that are different than most. Some had logic, others where layered in humanity, a few had the depth of history and they all appeared to gain in their attributes when sprinkled with thought.
He worked as a laborer, a tool and die maker, a programmer, an educator and system analyst. His favorite locations were the Adirondack Mountains, Puerto Rico and Germany. He had two favorite rivers; one for his youth and another when he matured.
He closed out his life of labor as a licensed amateur bone hunter, a shovel bum for an archaeology department and a delivery driver for a four-county library system in upstate New York.
As an adult Waldo continued being attracted to the unique. These were not the logic of his youth. These were unique personalities and events. They had to contain depth, breadth, integrity and then gained in their attributes when sprinkled with fiction. His mind, unconsciously, collected them in their beauty and totality.
He placed this logic on the window sill next to his experiences. Nothing happened to the logic. The experiences, however, appeared to combine and change. Some became laced with horror, others with philosophy. What surprised me were those that Waldo became emotionally involved in. As a laborer he could not foresee literary fiction or essay. And how was he to know that there were two faces of religion? Was this his deepest burden?
No. His deepest burden was to know that he would start out a sentence with the word ‘and’, or that he would create run-on paragraphs or at times end a sentence without properly closing out the noun (aka, the dangling participle). This did not keep him from writing in the manner that he wished, despite all the advice that he was tortured with. Waldo believed his style and the unique way he looked upon life will bring to tears or laughter, joy or sorrow and eventually to wonderment; most of it basted in allusion and eeriness.
I have put the bookmarker between the pages of Calvino’s “Invisible Cities” and closed the book. My mind swirls in the whirlpool of thoughts, ideas and allusions that he has left behind.
I damn Calvino for where he has abandoned me; half way between reality and fantasy, half way between myself and his self, half way between logic and emotion, half way between a dying king and a traveling dreamer.
My mind spins in an ether of half-thoughts, half-ideas and half-emotions; none of them yet fulfilled. My half-intellect says “Stay here.”
My half-human rebuts; “Turn on the television — escape this unsettling madness — avoid thinking.”
I succumb to my thoughts, my madness.
The foggy ether of this mental confusion is disrupted by a slight breeze; not a real breeze but rather a Calvino breeze somewhere in my own mind. It whisks away half of the fogginess. I see something whirling, spinning, turning. The breeze stops and the fog returns. I see nothing.
Then a bit of the fog lifts and the spinning whirligig returns. It does not hang from the ceiling or wall but appears to be on my own plane, my own level. It slows – – – and then slows some more. The rotational speed appears to have its own half-life. And then I hear a half-voice, here, yet at a distance.
“Do not dismount until we come to a complete stop.”
The command is obeyed and my muscles freeze waiting for the spinning mass to halt. Finally, in rejection of its own half-life, it stops. Children jump from it and run around the circular mass seeking an exit while excitedly hollering;
“Mommy – – – can we do it again?”
The fog completely clears yet my mind is only half-functional. I hear but do not see.
Dazedly I sit here; one, two, three or more minutes. A whistle is blown, a small bead in its bowels spins to give the whistle a shrill and deafening staccato. My mind’s eye opens and I find myself standing in front of a carousel. The children have disappeared.
The staccato whistle blows a second time. A decision must be made; the carousel starts with a spasm. I jump aboard and desperately hang on to a shiny bronze pole. The pole is attached to the floor and then disappears up in the canopy.
As the carousel gains speed, against its own half-life, a base drum beat begins; unaccompanied. The carousel accelerates yet the drum beat remains the constant. Then, suddenly, a crash of cymbals makes me grasp the bronze pole tighter. A set of snare drums joins the cacophony of percussions. I wish to cover my ears but am afraid to let loose of the bronze pole.
Finally, an old circus organ joins the percussions to make a bearable sound. All is more peaceful except for the wheezing old bellows that make up the lungs of the half-circus half-carousel organ.
My mind, on its own volition, decides it wishes to conjure up new thoughts. I release my grip on the bronze pole and leap up on a wooden horse. Nothing new occurs to me. The horse is stationary except for the circular motion of the carousel. I see other thought-horses that look more promising than this circular half-motioned one.
My eyes seek a more energetic equine as I dismount. I see one to my liking, put my foot in the stirrup, and take to the saddle as the horse rises in the air.
My thoughts explode as my new ride rises up and down. The automaton band appears and disappears with regularity. The master of the carousel keeps a close eye on me as he holds up his whistle. He appears to threaten that he will curtail these thoughts that I seek.
And so I ride the Dionysus horse as fast as possible. I cajole and take the strap to him. However, he appears set on one pace; his own. The automaton band takes on a Doppler effect as we travel nearer to it then farther from it. The wheezing of the bellows seems to belie the healthy sound of the organ.
Then, unexpectedly, on the horizon, through the caged fence that keeps the children at bay, through a sparse stand of maples, beyond the border of lilacs, I see a train. It travels on one of two tracks that divide my home city into two halves.
The Dionysus mount gallops on at full speed. I see my first love. She meets me in the dark. We hold each other tightly, almost afraid to let each other go.
I see a man offering me an excellent job in his factory; second shift. I accept it. The carousel continues its circular path to nowhere. Another vision appears; I leave work early to see my first love. I see, instead, my nemesis exiting my first love’s door. The fog overcomes the carousel once more.
When it lifts, I remain astride Dionysus. He gallops forward to show me a second love; one that I keep physically close but emotionally at bay. I cannot bear to view my nemesis a second time. My second love draws nearer; I wish to draw away, to retreat from memories, avoid possible pain, to escape.
As my mount, Dionysus, comes around full circle, for what appears to be the thousandth time, I find myself in uniform. I am in yet another half-city. In one half the soldiers are marching and practicing with their weapons. In the other half some airplanes take the soldiers to war while the remaining planes practice with their weapons.
I have foolishly escaped my second love.
Dionysus carries me between these four half-cities; the two halves of my hometown and the two halves of the city of war.
With precise regularity the carousel master shows me his whistle. Once again, I dig my spurs into Dionysus. He surprises me with a flight into the air. Below I see the two halves of my home town. I see an adulteress on the northern half-city. I see myself approaching her. We meet. She seems unconcerned.
“He works nights” she says.
Dionysus turns his eyes away as we get to know each other’s desires. We part as we met, not knowing or caring about each other.
Dionysus whinnies and shudders his flanks. We take to the air once more. This time we fly over the southern half-city-half-home town. I see another adulteress. I see myself approaching her. We meet. She seems unconcerned.
“He work nights” she mimes the first one.
Again, Dionysus turns his head to avoid the vision of my failings. I take leave of the adulteress without caring and she returns the favor. Yet something haunts me. I find myself astride Dionysus. My stallion carries me through the fog. I pat the wooden horse on the neck to thank him for his service. A tear rolls down his cheek and washes away my fog. A shriek escapes my throat;
“I have become my own nemesis.”
The carousel master blows his whistle. I have begun to hate its sound. The mechanism comes to a stop long after the automaton has stopped playing its music. I ask the carousel master if I may stay on.
“All must exit and then return” he states.
I hurriedly jump off the carousel, exit the gate, run the half-circle around the cage, attempting, but not yet wishing to, shove some of the children aside, to ensure I get a horse on the carousel. I find the entrance and am successful. The carousel master smiles wryly at me and motions me aboard. The base drum booms, the carousel moves, the cymbals crash, the snare drums rattle and the ride starts anew. The automaton band plays to a different tune while the bellows continue to wheeze.
I jump aboard before the carousel reaches full speed. The floor is made of eight sections of boardwalk; forty-five degrees each. As I glance toward Dionysus he looks the other way; choosing not to make eye contact for fear of being exposed to any more debauchery. I understand that he is embarrassed by me.
A new mount catches my eye. It is a war horse. He is a sturdy mount, black in color except for a white star shape on his forehead. He also sports white spats that attempt to hide his massive hooves.
There is no saddle that will ever fit this beast. He is controlled with large halters of thick reins leather. A soft padded collar encircles his neck. Half of its job is to connect the reins. The other half is to connect the bit. On this collar are two large brass balls, each mounted atop posts above this collar. I have no idea of their purpose.
There is no holding me back. As Bucephalus is lifted up and down by a hidden mechanism I leap on his bare back. He shifts left and right to adjust for my weight. I give him a pat on his wooden neck and he settles down.
The carousel master leaps aboard and walks his domain checking for violators of his rules. His whistle is held high for all to see. This threat of exile escapes no one’s attention. He approaches me and stops. I tense up as does Bucephalus. The carousel master inspects Bucephalus’ general stature. He smiles approvingly at my choice of steeds. Holding his whistle up, for my benefit only, he places it firmly in his pocket, as if to say “You are now on your own.”
With that not said, he leaps off and approaches the music automaton. I lose sight of him. The music stops. I see him as I round the bend. He is changing something. Yes! I see him removing the perforated paper roll that contains the music program. A new roll is held up high; it appears, once again, to be for my benefit only. It is oil-stained and yellowed. On my next rotation I can see him feeding the leading edge into a device adjacent to the wheezing bellows; who at the moment have nothing to sing about.
And then all of the instruments play individually; independent of each other. The cymbals crash, the snare drums rattle, the organ plays off-tune and the base drum beats rapidly, like a heart that has been frightened. Then, slowly, they seem to catch up to each other. All play to the same beat. However, something is amiss. The circus organ only plays two notes; one high, one low. It is interesting, however, I feel the rhythm of monotony.
Bucephalus appears not to have heard or seen what I have seen. Yet, the beat of his hooves match the beat of the music. I lean to one side and forward to peer into his eyes. They remain fierce and determined. I feel safe.
The music becomes a drone, the monotony turns to tedium and ennui. The tone-lessness of it forces me to realize that the organ is no longer playing. Only the crash, boom and rattle of the percussions remain. I check Bucephalus again. His determination glares from his eyes.
Thank God I have Bucephalus.
The fog rolls in. All is obscured from me. My only sense of direction comes from the din of the drums and cymbals:
“BOOM, CRASH, RATTLE”
“BOOM, CRASH, RATTLE”
“BOOM, CRASH, RATTLE”
“BOOM, CRASH, RATTLE”
“BOOM, CRASH, RATTLE”
It is deafening yet comforting to have something, anything, exciting my senses, allowing me to escape the void of the fog that surrounds me.
The fog lifts. Half of the children are gone. It is more than perplexing, it is eerie. Half of the horses are gone; I remain astride Bucephalus. He continues his three dimensional stride; vertical, horizontal and circular. Bucephalus shudders but keeps his pace and then I see what he has sensed.
Half the children and their wooden horses have been replaced by machines; lathes, drill presses, forges, milling machines, planers, saws and even large punch presses that stamp out metallic parts. The brass rods that have driven the horses have been replaced by foot-wide leather belts. Each machine is driven by its own belt connected to a shaft. Each shaft is connected by gears to the central axle which is driven by the rotation of the carousel. The entire mass has become an automaton of perpetual motion.
The din of the percussion instruments has been replaced by the slapping and squealing of the leather belts as they slip on their pulleys. The entire automaton groans under the load; the mimesis of an old wooden ship straining under duress.
“SLAP, SQUEAL, GROAN”
“SLAP, SQUEAL, GROAN”
“SLAP, SQUEAL, GROAN”
“SLAP, SQUEAL, GROAN”
The carousel master leaps aboard and blows his shrill whistle. The remaining children dismount, each going to his pre-assigned machine. The whistle is blown a second time and the children busy themselves, each with his own task; yet in unison.
“LIFT, FEED THE MACHINE, PRESS THE LEVER”
“LIFT, FEED THE MACHINE, PRESS THE LEVER”
“LIFT, FEED THE MACHINE, PRESS THE LEVER”
“LIFT, FEED THE MACHINE, PRESS THE LEVER”
With each rotation of the carousel a child becomes tired. The master observes this slowing of production. He walks silently up behind the exhausted child and blows his whistle. The child, without looking askance, leaps back into production shaking and trembling.
I sense a strong breeze, as does Bucephalus. The breeze picks up into a wind. Bucephalus breaks stride and reaches a full gallop hoping to find shelter. I hold tightly on to his neck. The wind appears to encircle the carousel. The two, Bucephalus and the wind, increase their speed in unison. The roof protecting the carousel lifts off. Heavy rains, a deluge, falls everywhere. The children and machines are swept away. Only Bucephalus and I remain. The force of the rain stings my eyes like needles. I close them.
Much like it started, the wind and rain are abated. I open my eyes slowly, afraid of what they may observe. Unexpectedly I find the carousel, once again, divided in half. Not physically but culturally.
One-half carousel is occupied by the captains of industry, the other half-carousel by politicos. The captains sit behind ornate fruitwood desks. The desks appear to give the captains a sense of power, confidence and legitimacy. The politicos sit all in a row behind massive oaken tables. The tables appear to lend unity to their political goals.
Everything is silent in the half-city of industry. The men sit quietly, hardly moving a muscle, except for one or the other blinking and then attempting to act as if he never blinked.
Four lawyers huddle off to the side mumbling between themselves.
Two of them split off to whisper something in the politicos’ ears.
The politicos give a synchronized nod of approval. The lawyers convene again.
The two other lawyers walk over to the captains and whisper something in their collective ears. The captains nod in agreement, open their desk drawers and hand over large bundles of currency.
The money is collected by the captain’s lawyers and then given over to the politico’s lawyers for a simple handshake and a smile. The money is then deposited on the large oaken table in front of the politicos. There is a mad scramble between the politicos who are trying to grab as many bundles as possible. A few bills fall to the floor. These, with great prestidigitation, find their way into various pockets.
All parties of this half-city leave with a smile of satisfaction.
The fog rolls back in.
When the fog leaves my eyes observe that the city has deteriorated into nothingness. Only the hulks of empty factories remain here and there.
I find myself on an empty carousel. There are no horses, only ornate and empty benches. They are painted with gaudy colors and figures; yellow walruses, blue lions, green fish and heliotrope dogs.
The carousel master motions for me to take a seat. I select the blue lions.
Love has become illusive.
(False Rabies and Fear of Drinking Water)
In the mid to late 1890’s, the forerunner of our printed magazines were monthly newspapers. One such newsmagazine was “The North American Review”. In Volume 151, No. 405, published in August, 1890, pages 167-172 were devoted to an article by A. Hammond, M. D., Surgeon-General, United States Army (Retired).
“There,” he stated, “are very few persons who are not more or less under the influence of ‘suggestion.’ They seem to be endowed with comparatively low powers of original action, and to be moved to an extent scarcely normal by the facts and circumstances that surround them.”
“A woman, for instance, overwhelmed with misfortune and weary of life, commits suicide by swallowing paris green [a toxic crystalline salt of copper and arsenic], and straightway we read in the daily press of other women who have had no previous knowledge of the poisonous effects of paris green, taking their lives in like manner.”
The more unusual the story, the more probability there is that some persons will adopt it.
Doctor Hammond continues, “Several years ago, a man confined in the Tombs Prison, in the city of New York, killed himself by cutting his femoral artery. Within a few days several persons destroyed themselves by cutting the femoral artery”.
Another case stated by the doctor was, “A man who, thinking he was being bled to death while his eyes were bandaged, and a stream of warm water … flowing over his arm, actually died within the normal period with symptoms that would have ensued had he really died from hemorrhage.”
“A professor of anatomy, while making a post-mortem examination of a man who had cut his throat and who had died after several days of great suffering, said to his servant, who was assisting him, ‘Hans, whenever you have a mind to cut your throat, don’t do it in so blundering a way as did this fellow, here is the place to cut,’ pointing to the region of the carotid artery. Up to this time Hans had been a happy and well-disposed man, with apparently no thought of suicide. Yet that night he went home and cut his throat.”
There seems to be, in fact, no limit to the Power of Suggestion with some persons. Objectives can be made to assume any form that the suggestor (sic) pleases.
Doctor Hammond states a case within his own experiences. “Thus, a lady who is a wonderfully sensitive subject to this influence came under my professional charge for some slight derangement of her nervous system. If I told her that a book was a watch, it became, so far as she was concerned, an actual watch. If I put a piece of ice in her hand and told her it was boiling water, she shrieked with pain and declared that I scalded her. If, while the sun was shining, I told her that the rain was coming down in torrents, she at once began to lament her sad plight in being so far from home without an umbrella and would beg me to call a carriage for her. Every one of her senses could be imposed upon in like manner; and I have frequently controlled the action of her heart, making its pulsations slower or more rapid in accordance with the spoken suggestion. There is no doubt that, if I had put a little flour in her mouth, at the same time telling her that it was strychnine and describing the symptoms of death by strychnine, she would have died with all the phenomena of poisoning with that powerful substance; or that, if I had pointed an unloaded pistol at her head and had cried “Bang!” she would fall dead to the floor. All this sounds very much like hypnotism, but this lady was not in that state.”
Surgeon General Hammond then moves on to talk about the Power of Suggestion as it applies to the title of his article in “The North American Review”; False Hydrophobia (False Rabies and Fear of Drinking Water).
“That such a disease as [rabies], with such strongly marked characteristics, should, under the action of the principle of suggestion, be simulated by hysterical or other nervous persons, is not a matter for surprise. Every year, as the summer approaches, the newspapers contain accounts of cases of so-called hydrophobia which, to the practiced judgment of the physician, seem to be entirely due to the imagination of the sufferer. It is clearly important that such a disorder should be prevented, for not only does great distress ensue, but even death itself has not unfrequently been the consequence. As several instances of the kind have come under my personal observation, I may perhaps be allowed to speak with some authority on the subject.”
“It may be said, in the very beginning of our consideration of the subject, that the victim of false [rabies] can only have those symptoms of which he has knowledge. Unfortunately, the real disease has received so much notice from newspapers and other popular publications that a tolerably correct knowledge of its phenomena has been acquired by the laity. Hence, we find that the picture ordinarily presented by the unconscious simulator is, at least to cursory observation, not unlike the real affection. There are, however, great differences, which the educated physician will not fail to detect, and which will enable him to do what has never been yet done with real [rabies]; cure the patient. Hydrophobia never originate in the human subject at least, except by [a bite injecting saliva] from a rabid animal, and death always occurs in four or five days after the development of the disease .”
The doctor then relates several cases, similarly dependent to the power of suggestion as those above, where people have thought they had rabies (and acted as if they had rabies). Several cases went months beyond the period when the patient would have normally died, yet they and the animals that bit them continued to live. Most of these false cases of rabies were due to another individual casually – or jokingly — suggesting that the bitten person appears a little different since being bitten.
Here is where I depart from the good doctor.
I do not depart from him on the power of suggestion but rather on the symptoms being politically idealistic as opposed to being medical. Allow me to clarify. We citizens of the USA appear to be leaning far left or far right. We argue on Twitter and Facebook about what is correct, what is incorrect, or who is despicable and who is virtuous. We appear to have divided our country into two separate nations.
For this I blame the media – and — ourselves. We listen to the networks or channels that bolster our own views. Ditto for the ‘social media’ and print media. And as The Bard once said, “Therein, lays the rub.” Each side, liberal or conservative, now has ammunition, ready at hand, to attack the other side. But is this ammunition powerful enough to convince the other side? I think not. Most of this ammunition is only the Power of Suggestion and since the other side is not open to your suggestions then nothing occurs other than the possibility of destroying a good friendship.
Those who were once good friends are now “do-gooders” or “socialists willing to destroy their own country.” On the other side are old friends who are now “racists” and “homophobes.” What has happened since the beginning of a new millennia?
In my opinion it is the media who feeds us only what we want to hear. There are the reporters who mime what other reporters of the same ilk have stated as news. It typically is opinion and innuendo. I speak of both sides; liberal and conservative. I do not have to name names. You know who the reporters, broadcasters, channels, pundits and social media contributors are. Each of us listen or read the “news” as reported by our own favorite personalities.
I have nothing more to say and only hope that I have planted a seed that says, “Let’s apply a little more critical thinking.” Let’s not be overcome by “The Power of Suggestion” that cause False Idealism.
However, allow us to have a “Fear of Drinking the Kool-Aid” that we are offered on an hourly basis.
Herr Marx told me, before he died,
That he saw capitalism with an appetite so wide,
That it could never be satisfied.
So he built a philosophy, a social theory,
That was so altruistic; it made my eyes teary,
But woe and alas, the Academy remained leery.
Well, round and round went the interpretations,
Creating worldwide chaos, and revolutionary vibrations,
Shaking both monarchies and industrial nations.
But capitalism remains rampant, to this day,
And 99% of us work for hourly pay,
Are panopticism and surveillance here to stay?
Inner conflicts and strife are a proposed solution,
Tried and true methods, of every revolution,
Experimentation continues in each Academic institution.
So do not engage Capitalistic destruction,
Own a machine, or engage in profitable production,
And tune in to Rush Limbaugh, for daily instruction.
. . . I see an innumerable multitude of men, alike and equal, constantly circling around in pursuit of the petty and banal pleasures with which they glut their souls. Each one of them, withdrawn into himself, is almost unaware of the fate of the rest. Mankind, for him, consists in his children and his personal friends. . . . He exists in and for himself. . . . Over this kind of men stands an immense, protective power which is alone responsible for securing their enjoyment and watching over their fate. That power is absolute, provident, and gentle. . . . It gladly works for their happiness but wants to be sole agent and judge of it. . . . It covers the whole of social life with a network of petty, complicated rules that are both minute and uniform. . . . It does not break men’s will, but softens, bends, and guides it . . . it is not at all tyrannical, but it hinders, restrains, enervates, stifles, and stultifies so much that in the end each nation is no more than a flock of timid and hardworking animals with the government as its shepherd.
Alexis de Tocqueville
He who thinks a great deal is not suited to be a party man: he thinks his way through the party and out the other side too soon.
Human, All Too Human (1878)
Written 1120 A.C.E.
Kublai Khan’s empire stretched wide and vast,
spread out so that he could not visit every last,
territory and village which he ruled far and wide,
age kept him in his castle – – – locked up inside.
Obliged to beg Marco Polo “What was seen?”
“Tell me of things in every city you can glean.”
They spoke different languages, the king bade,
“Marco tell me of those things my people made.”
They spoke rarely in between Marco’s lectures,
Kublai saw his empire via simple conjectures,
the story pictured cities – – quite philisophical,
this story and that story are not chronological.
by W. Tomosky ©