We are all well here. Uncle Albert's rheumatism is acting up, but with a mustard plaster on he can still get to the supper table.
A big tree fell in the yard and grandpa is fixing to do something. It is hard to tell what. Never was easy with him.
Didn't get as much rhubarb put up this year, but the peach crop was dandy.
Hope things are going well out there where you live. God keep us all until spring. Granny
Did you ever get a letter like that from your grandma? Raised on a farm, moved to town when she married, been with the same man for sixty years, and never questions much of anything. Solid people. Very boring you thought when you were ten or twelve and your own family moved away to some far-off city for a better job for your dad. It was a long time ago. Would they still seem boring? They have been dead for decades and maybe all you remember is how they smelled, or shuffled.
I am 66 today, halfway up the ladder of my seventh decade; I was mulching the asparagus and it occured to me to wonder what sort of letter I am writing, and why? The letter has become a staple in my life; just sort of grew up and snuck into my days, all unannounced, maybe an orphan that came out from under the porch. My wondering started when I began to get notes from folk who read the letter, and even claim to enjoy it!, people whom I didn't really imagine did much but shoot me straight into spam-filter-hell. My vanity is petted until it shines; I like this, but still, why am I writing this letter?
The Tao idea of defining something by what it is not, rather than trying to pin down just what it is, delights me, but the letter is 'not' so many things.... It is, I am fairly certain, a primer, chapter by chapter slowly evolving, on 'what life is about'. I write it for my children, and even for any errant pseudo-grandkids who can read and have the inclination, to say something about what life seems to be about, to me. It isn't anything you can't find written better, more lucidly, more accurately in other places. The world absolutely abounds with people who write well. I think we are just beginning to find this out with the advent of blogs. As ephemeral and imperfect as it may be the personal touch of father to child seems important to me. So I write this letter.
Questions are layered beneath our feet in inconceivable strata; we walk - we float, on questions. If there were room for a god I would want to be him, so I could know things. I find out a little about something, and I pursue it, bees, mushrooms, or why governments always fail and we work so hard to kill our young. The more I find out the less I see that I know. I read an expert to find out what a lifetime of study has divulged to him. He tells me that he realizes he knows absolutely nothing. Is this maddening, or exhilarating? Both, I think. I write the letter in wonder at how ignorant I am.
Before I die I would like to peek into the void and find myself at home. I think the only home we have is when we finally disperse into atoms just like all the other atoms that exist - or don't, It seems comforting to imagine that the end of all things is just a low hum that would be discernible to our ears, like a cat's purr, if we had ears, if there were air to carry sound, if there were atoms to rub against atoms.
One down and thirteen to go: Pat is missing. The editor-person has been on the Left Coast less than 24 hours, but we are counting - after all, the last time she went there - to that place - Waldo almost died. We don't like to extrapolate from our past nor appear superstitious, but there seems an edge to the air outside this morning. My mind swings from the uxorial to the fantastic.
I have been listening to music, to a genre well-represented in my cd collection: music that celebrates god, mainly the god of the Catholics. Weird thing for me to be doing, but over the years I have kept buying Stabat Maters, Requiem Masses, various mediaeval vocal glorifications. I was listening to Vivaldi's Stabat Mater, the form is an old church poem that several composers have put to music, and I imagined someone asking me: 'Do you like that sort of music?' I guess I would have to say 'No, I don't 'like' it, not the way I like Johnny Cash, but it is close to the bone, an evocative longing from another human voice; a resonance.'
It brings me back in serpentine fashion to an ongoing question as to what sort of government would actually work. In my wildest and most hallucinatory moments I would not offer the least apology for organized religion of any stripe or spot. Such beauracracies have, since the first man had a thought more extensive than where he would next insert his dick, crushed and maimed us all with their layers of rule, power and privelege. All we, the ordinary we, sought was order in a seeming chaos of weather, wild things with claws and teeth, infection, hunger and the blank inexplicability of mortality. What we got were rigid systems: government and reilgion: the heads and tails of supposed-order's crapshoot.
And that, I think, was how we all 'got religion', as they might say in Topeka, and it is also how we got government. The two are not so different. Each is an answer to the same questions, and each is molded and crafted by the smartest and the strongest of the ambitious to put the rest of us in our proper places - beneath the heel of the boot. Do we really deserve to be there? I am not sure; maybe we do. Maybe it is simply our lot to be deserving of what we get by way of who and what we are. We are not suffused with charity, not in general, nor long-sighted, nor particularly considerate of any semblance of life that dares to exist a hair's breadth outside the boundary of our own skin - unless it adds to our comfort and safety. Yes, we do that, we make deals, we are symbiotic and scratch backs with corn and cats and the ocean and neighbors, but it is a negligent symbiosis that we only participate in when we feel that we are going to come out on top, one up, grander than previously seen, maybe a touch further from danger.
One huge difference is what art has managed in each frame of reference. Both systems - government and religion, though they claim to be our salvation, crush and plunder us. But each has left a different watermark on our communal soul. The entirely culpable religious establishments have left us with breath-taking architecture, ritual that can turn us into willing zombies, music that suffuses us like the balm of panacea. How is it that government leaves us with no appreciable art though it has ground us through a similar mill? The religious believer would say it is proof of god's hand in the mixing bowl; I don't see any god in the mix anywhere. Do we need a god that is more capricious than we are? Decidedly not, I say. You might argue the matter with me, and even win the argument on some level, but I would still be unable to believe.
I don't believe in government either. Problematically, I don't seem to believe in us, the us that is all of us wandering the globe in search of order - just as soon as we have secured plunder and postition. Why has the one system left us with art, and the other with obfuscation writ as law? They come to the same thing: we are ruled by those we have asked to assure and even save us. Corruption that starts well prior to the grave.
Almost, as I listen to Vivaldi inject the Mother's Sorrow into my brain like lovely birds in flight, I might think religion offers more promise than does secular government. I know! I know!! Absolute anathema here, printed on this defiled page, but somedays I think I would rather suffer the glad-hand of the ambitious stranger with Vivaldi in my ears than with a lobbyist whispering to me.
The below just in from our intrepid editor, at her desk even from the far-flung reaches of empire:
I've decided that the worst part of air travel is the time spent on the plane. Not the terror and turbulence, but the cramped dehumanizing rows of seats and the tired smell of sanitized plastic. When you go to hell, they put you on a plane and it doesn't go anywhere at all. I find that I'm beginning to like airports. Someone compared them to the temples that encircled the Mediterranean in 150 BC. You couldn't tell if you were in Crete or Corinth. Dulles is an extraordinarily large temple. It took half an hour of brisk walking plus a shuttle ride to get from gate B2 to gateB18, both United docking points. Denver was new and upscale with two stories of shops and both flat and sloping escalators, all within the secure zone. There was a Harley store, 3 jewelers, multiple sweat(shirt) shops and a Wolfgang Pucks. Airports have a large number of long-legged laptop packing ladies talking authoritatively to their cell phones. The business guys tend to sprawl sweatily over two or three butt indentations by the gates, waiting indifferently for the next plane to Carthage. Children scream like they have earaches or practice broken-field running among the old farts on oxygen being trundled in wheelchairs. A collage of our times. Fun to watch....once or twice a year.
More, latter, P
And I will say the same and send this letter along. don and his familiars in familiar maine.