Saturday, November 26, 2011

Perhaps a Dirge

I wanted to write about the death of a dear old friend, an artist; about who he was and why his loss greys the world of those who knew him.  But I couldn't; I can't.  The invisible child kept coming into my mind, insisting on mediating between loss and faith, or maybe just loss and hope.  Maybe a tribute to Bob Perrault will come later: lord knows he deserves it.  But for now, this is what wanted to be written.

In the land where the invisible child comes from, there is no word for ''forever,'' because there is nothing  to contrast it to.  There is only the word ''is.''  Time exists, but cyclically, one tool in the infinity of existence.  There is life but no death, just different locales and different experiences of life, so that what we perceive as death--finality-- is to them simply one of those differing experiences.  Because of this, the line between what we might call this life and the afterlife is a wobbly one, and quite permeable.  Interactions between the ''living'' and the ''dead'' are frequent and unremarkable.

This is what the invisible child tells the woman. The woman is grieving.  She believes in an afterlife, but one so cut off from this life that she cannot feel her belief, cannot cross the gulf between herself and her beloved dead.  She quotes a favorite prayer: ''lord, i believe; help my unbelief.'' The invisible child cannot comprehend ''unbelief.'' nor can the woman explain it.  What the invisible child does understand is the woman is hurting because her friend is dead. So the child says, tell me about him, your friend.

She tries.  She wants the invisible child to understand, and then perhaps she herself can understand. He was kind, she says. So very kind. And then can't explain. The kindnesses were small: he told people that they looked nice, and he could point to what they wore or how they smiled that day;  he radiated warmth, and melded it seamlessly with gentle, and sometimes not so gentle, irony. And then there were the years of shared silly jokes, and when you hadn't seen each other in a year, the kindness and the jokes were waiting for you, so you felt you'd seen each other all the time, that all the changes of the years were nothing, a little more gray hair, a different job, a new enthusiasm, nothing discomfiting.  She tries to explain the jokes; the slightly lifted eyebrow, the tone of voice, the arch observations.  He was kind, he was funny, you could tell each other old stories from years ago and they were as warm or funny or sad as if this were the first time they had been said, only with the comfort of familiarity. She tries to explain the difference between absence when all it means is you live in different places, and absence when the person has died.  The child nods. She hears what the woman is saying, and not saying.  When she leaves, she turns back long enough to say, When I see your friend, I'll tell him you miss him.

 And briefly, the woman believes.


Thursday, November 17, 2011

happy anniversary, OW!

i shouldn't be here posting right now; i should be at the Charlestown bridge with the marchers. but general malaise and bad weather won, so here i am, yelling 'right on' to the TV and gushing gratitude for the folks hardier and braver than i. damn, they're beautiful!

a friend recently commented on one of my posts, citing the report that local businesses have banded together to protest the protest, which was driving customers away by making lots of noise and being filthy and smelly. his source was fox news, which leads me to believe that, at best, the reports were exaggerated. fox news is a great source of fiction, but if they told me the sun was shining at noon, i'd go outside and check it for myself. when the supposed problems included piss and shit on the streets, i could only conclude that this was invented or imagined---not b/c it couldn't happen, but b/c from all reports i've seen about the occupiers everywhere they have been highly concerned about being respectful of the community, and would have instantly addressed any such complaints and watched out for repetitions of them.

i keep hearing news reports of 'violence' from the demonstrators, and seeing violence from the police on the videos.

today, it appears, a couple of police officers were indeed injured; 3 were hospitalized, as were 10--that's 10--protesters. maybe a couple of occupiers broke their own rules and fought back. but i am reminded of richard nixon's cynical use of police violence back in that famous chicago democratic convention: a dramatic voiceover talked about the danger of these violent demonstrators, while the videos showed violence and chaos. only when you really looked st the videos, it was the police, not the protesters, committing the violence.

sadly, the police seem to be increasingly violent. under orders, i would imagine, since they started off fairly benignly.

so, they have shut down several of the occupations. maybe, between arrests and stealing the occupiers winter supplies, they'll end up closing down all the sites.

and then?

the occupiers have been brilliant--how many of us really believed even the original wall street occupation would last over a week, let alone 2 months, let alone mushrooming into hundreds and hundreds of occupations countrywide and worldwide? does anyone really think the people who could create and expand such an incredible endeavor are going drift off into obscurity? i don't know what their next plans are. i do know that for every one occupier living and sleeping in public spaces, there are a dozen or a hundred [like our republican candidates, my math is bad] of us who support them, who have learned a lot from them, who understand the rightness of their cause. with every foreclosed house, every laid off worker, every hungry kid, more and more people are realizing that something needs to be done, and that something doesn't mean making the corporate-people richer at our expense.

so happy anniversary again to you wonderful, flesh-and-blood people who have subjected yourselves to so much physical discomfort to help the rest of us to see and resolve, in whatever ways, to fight. you knew from the first that this was bigger than any one occupation. i look forward to the next steps you come up with. much as the powers that want to think you're a fad that will fade away, most of us know that until other fads--humanoid corporations, rich ceo's, all the mechanisms of oppression that have kept the 99% down and unaware--until these decade- and century-old 'fads' are addressed and redressed, you'll be around, morphing in the ways you will keep recreating.....

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Penn State Letter

this is a letter written by my friend Bob Lamm that i think says a lot...

You are my role models

I’m a writer and teach at New York University.

This is an open letter to the Penn State students who demonstrated on the streets with signs saying things like “All That Is Required for Evil to Triumph Is For Good Men to Do Nothing,” “Kids B4 Football,” “Joe Paterno Is NOT the Victim,” and “We Are Penn State. We Are Ashamed.”

I saw photos of you online, and you are my heroes.

I greatly admire your courage, compassion, decency and integrity. In this horrific mess, you are the only part of which Penn State should be genuinely proud.

I’m sure it isn’t easy to take the public position you have in the midst of the cult of “JoePa.” Alas, I am too far away to go to Penn State and stand with you. But please know that I am thinking of all of you who have stood up for what is right. Our world needs “good men”— and good women — like you.

I’m old enough to be the grandfather of most of you. But now, you are my role models.

Bob Lamm

New York, N.Y.