Content 18+ I have been reading a lot lately, but this is not uncommon for me. The best of it has been courtesy of a new correspondence (she's in America, I am in Bulgaria) -- from which a mutual level of understanding appears to have emerged. Cyber ‘friendships’ are tenuous at best, so for now let’s call it simply a ‘meeting of the minds.’ Part of our sharing has had to do with the experience of loss.
She is long in years, ageless in spirit. Her husband and soul mate (not always the same thing) was with her for 57 years until he died a couple years ago. She is suffering. I can only guess how the loss of such a companion, cherished for well over half a century, feels because, aside from my present condition of nuptial bliss, which has ravaged on like a forest fire for 10 years, either my ‘partner’ or I was always heading for the exit after about five anniversaries.
But I saw my mother endure a kind of grief that seems similar to that of my new acquaintance who for now I will refer to as C. My mother’s ordeal ended only on the day when, instead of just leaving flowers by my step-father’s grave, she left herself there as well..
C. -- an immensely cultured person who has good friends, accomplished music, and books full of all the wisdom the world has ever accumulated at her disposal, is struggling to find reasons to go on living. It sounds like what Caitlin Thomas (wife of the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas) called in a book she wrote she wrote following his death: Leftover Life to Kill. The sincerity of Caitlin Thomas was not rock solid, but my friend’s is. Out of her suffering -- and I hear suicidal murmurings beneath the surface of her joyful, vivid, plaintive recollections, has come the gift of her expression. The gift of herself.
For F. Scott Fitzgerald, “in the real dark night of the soul it is always 3 o'clock in the morning”.-- and so it has been for C. Except that with her, the sun has often shone brightly at that hour. Her mind is like the flowing body of a young ballet dancer gliding across the enamel floor of a studio when the room is still cold from the night. She is 78. .
I feel reassured, as I read, that I am not entirely alone while I navigate through my own nocturnal forests. Her letters restore my senses, so that I can better smell the tall pines and taste the sap of the wind, and submerge myself entirely in the woofing and yelping of my hounds. Even in the grayest winter weather her ideas come like rays -- rays across the great impassive cemetery of human destiny.
It is therefore like a cold shower or a cup of coffee made bitter with salt instead of sweet with sugar, splashed with sour milk and not fresh, that I turn from these letters to other articles, posts, blogs and whatever, in which I usually -- and increasingly -- see only contentious argument, inflexible polemics, shrieks of victimization, self-righteous accusations and the metronome chanting of trendy jargon, the assigning of various labels, tedious agendas, and, in some cases (yes, 'progressives' I am referring especially to you here), doctrines outlining some empty, sterile, uniform 'Utopia' to which I must go either as a ‘free’ man or a prisoner -- my choice.
This vision of this Utopia is as comforting to me as that of a modern day medical ghoul in a white lab coat marching into the room where I wait amid spidery tubes and shiny pipes and pumps, and consulting not me, but the chart that contains my ‘symptoms’. All this in the ER of an urban hospital as big as a metropolitan airport.
Such is the difference between the plaintive humanity of C. and the doctrinaire ‘humanity’ of the Woke and their manifos. Such a contrast. From the former, whose dying world yet resonates with life, and whose pain generates love; from a latter, portfolios of ‘caring’ and ‘compassion’ expressed in martinet-like trumpets that sound more like war than peace, and hatred more than love.
For such is the message of the current Social Justice Warriors and the Woke. In their attempts to reduce all human experience to questions of ‘identity’, race, and gender, -- and to define them in ways which would thwart every ‘heretical’ emotion and reduce human history and experience to a test of whether or not it fits their narrow agenda (and burning it in the fires if it doesn’t), they succeed, not in conquering the injustices of the world but merely promoting and perpetuating them.
Not since the period of the Viet Nam War have I ever seen America so divided. And like then, rational discussion and the notion that somehow ‘we are all in this together’ has been drowned in a growing tide of schism, finger pointing, and scapegoating.
The real problem I have with the progressives has less to do with the programs dictating acceptable behavior that they would impose if they ever came to power, than it does with their poisonous collective mentality. (For some reason I keep thinking of Robespierre and the French Revolution.) They would force this Utopia of theirs on us all. That’s the problem. If they were in charge, I can assure you that there would be no escaping their Utopia.
Think of it in terms of 'Heaven', just for example. Assuming there is one (which I very much doubt), what will it be like? Imagine: everyone who ever lived and behaved themselves being crammed into one terrific 5-Star Utopian Hotel and told by the august, booming (actually rather domineering) generalissimo-voice over the celestial loudspeakers that "OK listen up, motherfuckers, you are in Heaven. So Enjoy it ! And remember that you can’t enjoy it Our Way you can be evicted." And so everyone is herded into this ornate ballroom where the band is playing "Happy Days are Here Again !". Where they simply stand and try to figure out what to do next.
Soon the harps come out and a few desultory angels, dressed up in a way vaguely reminiscent of zoo employees pretending to be friendly animals, start circulating among the crowds and chanting, "Are we having fun yet?" Until someone incautiously points out that he always heard that dogs and cats were not allowed in heaven. At this juncture, stern-looking ushers in beige uniforms silently appear and escort him away. No room for dissension, accurate memory, or logic here.
This is Heaven? Utopia? I don't think so.
For me, Heaven would be an early walk in the misty hills with my hounds through bursting dawn until we were almost home, close enough to smell the slab of meat roasting in the oven while the breakfast of bacon and eggs hissed and fried. The fridge would be stocked with cold beer for the football games that would be on TV in the afternoon. My friends would be arriving soon.The panting dogs and I would enter the house -- or maybe it would be a large log cabin full of books and cozy chairs -- and nearby there would be the woman I loved. Her night-robe would fall open and her illustrious eyes would gaze at me knowingly and her voice that always knew exactly how to sculpt words would say Honey as she took me by the hand and led me into the shadows.
That would be my Heaven. What about yours? And would it matter what color the woman was, what political party my late-arriving friends were affiliated with, what breed of dogs I had, what kind of meat was cooking, or who was playing football that day?
Well, I guess maybe it would...a little bit, but then again maybe it wouldn't. The point is that it would be my Heaven and it would be full of the emblems of my soul, and the product of my choices. You could have you own Heaven, and the beauty of it, at least according to my conception, would be that if I loved you, then you would be there with me, but this would not mean that YOU had no power to exclude ME from Your Heaven. Because you could. Sort of like parallel universes in a way, something like that. But we could draw pleasure from each other without infringing on each other, so to speak.
That would be the beauty of it. Nobody need conform or protest, ‘appropriate’ anyone else’s culture, do any ‘micro-aggressions’, or say the wrong thing. It would make for an All Souls’ Chameleon Heaven. .
Frivolous imaginings, I know. But if you put this philosophy of mine to work in the real world, it seems to me that you are opening the door to true Diversity, but with the perfect understanding that such diversity is categorically the antithesis of Uniformity. And Conformity.
For in my view this is precisely where the wheels start to come off when one carefully analyzes the agenda of the 'progressives'. They claim that it's diversity they want, but they don't want a world full of winding alleys and crooked lanes where ethnic aromas abound and different things are sold in all the odd little shops: religious icons in one, cheap souvenirs in another, traditional robes in yet another, strange hookah pipes in the one further down.
No. The progressives want the world to be one large shopping mall where, sure enough, there is a bountiful rainbow of faces and races milling about and popping up behind every counter, but where everyone is basically selling the same thing and where, at the food court all the food is generic and degraded down so that no one can complain that their particular cultural recipe has been ripped off by another. Nor would there be any ‘dominant’ drink, such as Coca Cola. It would be a sort of tutti-frutti water substance with the fizz removed. So as not to offend the anti-fizz crowd.
I have met some of these Utopians in my travels, and they are almost invariably characterized by one disturbing characteristic: while claiming to 'love' the human race, they leave the distinct impression that they despise people. This is always true of fanatics and zealots, and most of the world's religions are chock full of such dogma-chanting police officers of the soul. They are bent on creating the perfect world, the perfect universe, and to that aim they are willing to eliminate people by the millions if they feel they 'have to'.
It's necessary, you see; it's for the common good, you see; the world will be better, you see, indeed it will be perfect, but first we have to get rid of evil, the ‘toxicity’ which we find in all these heretics. You see.
But the progressives are blind -- utterly, hopelessly, and perhaps even violently (so it would appear) blind to their own nasty tendency and compulsive willingness to employ the same tactics against their opponents... that they pretend to abhor in all the fascists and Nazis and Supremacists that they see everywhere (in white men in particular).
I dislike falling back on dull cliches, but during my long life (and as I near the end of it), I have seen that our years truly constitute a patchwork quilt of almost limitless emotions and desires, and I have met saints with trolls in their hearts and even a few trolls who on occasion reminded me of what a saint should be. I am well-informed that there are 4-Star Generals who are gay, and Popes who want to bugger little boys and staunch family men and pillars of the community who pay for golden showers administered by prostitutes in long back boots with stiletto heels.
Most people fall well Inside that extreme range, but everyone is kind of weird to a degree. Within reason, I celebrate this quirkiness in people. It is the frightened figure behind the mask that really interests me, not the image the mask is trying to project. Progressives, with their doctrines, agendas, and narratives, make no allowances for this real diversity which any artist worth his/her salt must embrace. The true diversity that squirms behind the mask.
One of my best teachers in life, a most rough-and-ready man named Harry Crews that I knew in Gainesville, Florida -- he was a novelist of considerable fame at one point -- told me that most people are willing to live their lives to a level of about 80%, but that there is 20% leftover that they will not visit, not confront, not deal with. Because they are afraid to..
But while most people are content to experience only this 80% of their life-capacity, it is in the other 20% that the genuine artist actually lives. In telling me this, Harry Crews conveyed once and for all the necessity we have for artists.
Progressive politics is all about finger pointing and creating a generic parking lot of a world where everyone is afraid of his own shadow and terrified of going against the party line. Real, true Diversity is not only the transvestite that you see in the street from time to time but the inner turmoil, the comedy and tragedy, the sheer perversity, and craving for self-expression that simultaneously reverberate within the mind, spirit and soul of that transvestite. It is about the stories he/she has to tell you. It had nothing to do with a separate toilet. But something much deeper.
The artist wants the depth; the politician wants the toilet.
Nor should we be bullied or ramrodded into calling her/her/it 'normal. Because NO, in this society he/she/it is NOT normal. Beautiful perhaps. Even 'natural'. But not normal. If I stand in front of the mirror --as I used to as a child and still do occasionally -- and make crazy, weird, distorted faces simply to amuse myself, I am, I would venture to say, acting in a manner entirely natural (at least for a child). If I walk down Broadway making gargoyle faces at the wind, however 'natural' it may be, it is definitely not normal in the context of the society we live in.
Progressives cannot make this distinction. Their ersatz 'compassion' therefore has nothing to do with the real person, but is merely an attempt to reduce that person to a generic ‘inoffensive’ nothing, all the while pretending to proclaim his/her/its 'diversity'. And if this transvestite should up and say, "Hey Guys, I am NOT a normal person. I am a FREAK. I understand that I am a FREAK. But that doesn't make me any less HUMAN than you !" -- the progressives will run away from him/her/it (you see how tedious this is?) like hungry rats from a skeleton that is already picked clean..
The artist will embrace this ‘freak’.
In a lot of ways, the progressives actually remind me of the most militant Pro-Lifers when it comes to the abortion issue. These people scream about the sanctity of the fetus, but then, once the child is born (usually to adverse conditions and circumstances) they bitch about “another parasite on welfare”. I twigged early on in the argument that whereas the spoken agenda is about all life being sacred, and so forth, the real agenda, the hidden agenda is that the wanton bitch should be punished for having sex. “You got fucked, now you’re going to have to show us a baby.”
Progressives are the same. Most of them are far from the action. They know about labels. They know about platitudes. Few tragic-comic anecdotes, but A LOT of statistics. Toilets, not hearts.That is why I leave the political nonsense and go back to my letter from "C". It helps me to regain my sanity, just as surely as walking my dogs in the woods puts me in touch with the higher powers again. This sanity is reclaimed NOT by sanitizing my soul, but rather by diving deeply into its murky waters.
The poet Auden wrote these lines:
Lay your sleeping head, my love,
Human on my faithless arm;
Time and fevers burn away
Individual beauty from
Thoughtful children, and the grave
Proves the child ephemeral:
But in my arms till break of day
Let the living creature lie,
Mortal, guilty, but to me
The entirely beautiful.
Thus the beautiful incongruity and diversity of the total human being.
Christina, thank you for reminding me, however inadvertently, of the difference between being Woke and AWAKE.