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“You Must Do the Thing You Think You Cannot Do” … by T J Viola
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Help Center. Exchange offer not applicable. New product price is lower than exchange product price. Exchange offer is not applicable with this product. Exchange Offer cannot be clubbed with Bajaj Finserv for this product. Please apply exchange offer again. Your item has been added to Shortlist. Yes, the book is about Original Sin and Redemption. Basic American Lit tropes, right? Pynchon sees the roots of our vices in the vices of the hippie era. Forget about the plot. You can catch up when you read the book for the second time. A private eye would not be conventional unless he has a nemesis within the police department.
Celebrity is all, eh? Yet drug usage has always been at the roots of detective fiction. He chain-smoked, but he could also instantly identify different perfume. Some one-lines are pure s nostalgia: Two can score as cheaply as one. Or is that a prediction of Nixonian legacies? Bad Penny! Rudy Blatnoyd is a drug-dealing dentist. A Japanese greasy spoon that offers the best Swedish pancakes in Los Angeles, for another.
I got heartburn there, I swear. The jellyfish teriyaki croquettes? Vietnam is compared to your mother doing smack? A building in Los Angeles that is a six story high golden fang? The paranoia of a gated enclave inside the already gated community? A California blonde with store-bought teeth?
And purple pork rind that glows in the dark? The bikers who roll past in military precision? I read Thomas Pynchon because he's fun. Pynchon is shameless in his joking. Look for wonderfully silly names and goofy acronyms. There is also graphic sexual activity within the book. At the same time, his concerns are important, and his statements about the political underbelly of America have helped make his books sell, yes, in the millions.
Yes, there is plenty these days to giggle over. Get used to it. Bad enough the cctv follows you around the room … does your smart phone know where you are? And for whom is it recording this data? Ever been profiled by the TSA? Wanna be patted down? Do you know who can access and has already accessed your medical records?
That someone unknown is manipulating for reasons unknown. Princess Diana spoke of the Gray Men of the Palace. Conspiracies are a narrative fun, as long as you can abandon them. But we live now. If only …. That makes a nice bumper sticker. There is more, of course, that cascades from that turning point in our evolution.
American naturalist writer Stephen Crane wrote the following doggerel:. I imagined you, God. You are a palimpsest of all the imagery my ancestors and family and culture could have imagined before me that they all slathered onto me like butter on bread. To be solutions to our desperate straits. As a sidebar, imagining the Divine validates us. We become real players by being seen by the Divine. I have self-esteem because You see Me, Lord. That this conceit is so one-sided, so vain, well, why should that be a problem? We are creatures of the Herd. I am a social creature. I network. Without the Herd, we are lost in the white noise of our own tumbling thoughts.
We are lost in our solitude. Being Human, we suffer from chronic loneliness. Comes from being up an acacia tree on the beige savannah listening to our kin being eaten by lions and hyenas in the night, I suspect. I always wondered how much of our imagination grew out of us being omnivores and not carnivores for all those millennia on the beige savannah. After all, omnivores have imagination. When you can eat anything, the possibilities are endless. And doubt and fear hold hands like children lost. Solitude is dark. Being Human, we are scared of the dark. The beige savannah at night was always filled with monsters that could see and smell us.
Hyenas, for instance. Human hairs were recovered from a ,year-old clump of hyena dung found in Gladysvale cave, South Africa. Hyenas have the strongest jaws in the animal kingdom. By the way, listen closely tonight. Hyenas signal each other with what most observers say sounds like an asthma attack.
A lioness hidden in the long grass selects her target, leaps, attacks and kills a zebra, her sharp teeth crushing its windpipe as the animal is hauled squealing and suffocating to the ground. Then the lioness does not move: the impassive brutality of the carnivore. The abyss looks back at us. She waits to dine. She has plenty of time until death comes. In mid-November , in the Maralal safari area north-east of Nairobi, Moses Lekalau, a thirty-five year old Kenyan herdsman, was jumped by a lion.
He fought off the beast and killed it with a spear in a grueling half-hour long battle. But then, the poor man exhausted from his efforts, died after being attacked by a pack of hyenas. Wildlife experts point out that it is very rare for hyenas to attack people; hyenas eat leftovers from other predators. Mister Lekala was one such leftover. Want some good advice? The kind of advice that has helped you and me and our species survive the past four or five million years?
Solitude is not part of the Herd. We have been culled, you and I, even if we did it to ourselves. Even if we took it up ourselves to move away from safety and security. That we did it to ourselves will not help us. Being alone drifts into loneliness and sometimes into fear. As a species, we saw our faces reflected in the waterhole and realized that we stood apart from the Great Scheme of Things. We were sentients aware of ourselves.
We had a Theory of Mind, and we saw our own mortality and were scared shitless. The abyss is mesmerizing, and we do love being mesmerized. The abyss suggests we all have an appointment in Samara, or rather, an appointment with despair, the goddess of empty rooms. The abyss is about death. Wanting to face death, well, you must be a refugee from something worse, right? Something worse is … being alive.
We must sympathize with our suicides. Being human, we love being in control. Being human, we love being competent. The abyss threatens both illusions. Chaos is uncertainty, volatility and anxiety … and fear. The uncertainty of an afterlife creates anxiety. What will happen to me? For that reason alone, we need to have imagined a conscious being to have created us for His?
You mean, for Our Purposes? Either way, the alternatives are frightening to contemplate; they give us vertigo, as if we stood at a great height with a stiff wind at our backs over an never-ending abyss. Who will protect us? Yet this concept was not unique to the ancients. When the great Renaissance sculptor Michelangelo was alive, most Christians believed that Saint Michael the Archangel holds the scales that weigh the soul after death.
He is the bridge between Life and the Afterlife. Be amazed! Be astonished! The gods care about US. Not all the human souls combined into a gigantic blog, but each individual soul individually. Death has a sidekick, a Doctor Watson to chronicle his adventures …? Generally speaking, Mot served a lot of community needs.
He was the god of sterility, death, and the underworld. In one hand he holds the scepter of bereavement, and in the other the scepter of widowhood. His jaws and throat are described in cosmic proportions and serve as a euphemism for death. As far as most humans see it, the greatest battlefield is between Chaos and Order. As long as people go to work together, today there will be no revolution.
The Herd is a Cosmic Force, too. When the Herd is restless with too many obsolete ideas, it can stampede into revolution at the slightest noise. OTOH, human beings are basically lazy. This is not said in the derogative. Once we get past survival and the sexual replication of ourselves, we should enjoy life. Ordinary life is supposed to drift by. They would treasure that we take all their hard work and sacrifice for granted. We treasure continuity. Complacency is a biological luxury, mostly. Sloths pull it off with classic panache. That a sloth can grow moss on its belly from upside-down inactivity haunts me, I admit.
With a mossy belly, even I would feel guilty. Oh, I can get over it in time …. We avoid choices. We vote for the incumbent. We never question the faith of our fathers. Abraham did question the faith of his fathers; look where it got him. At the age of 99, he prowls the tribal tents at night, a bloody flint knife in hand, an old man bleeding at the crotch, looking for new converts to his new monotheism.
A blood-drenched lunatic, Abraham became the common root of Jews, Christians and Muslims. Why do I have so much trouble with him? Why is he so terrifying? Being basically lazy and passive, we accept the default choice. We do not like to take matters into our own hands. We do not like to change our behaviors.
Inertia then dictates our behavior. We stay the course. We thus take things for granted and assume somebody else will keep the machinery maintained for our listening enjoyment. We have income tax deductions taken from our paychecks. We have social security taken from our paychecks. We want to be automatically enrolled in that Radically New System that Improves Our Lives without us asking for or filling out an application. Yet the cosmos is not intrinsically random. The mechanisms replicate themselves in regular ways. The fluctuations themselves are random; the rules, once triggered randomly, then seem to work in orderly ways.
In evolution, for instance, natural selection, sexual selection, mutation, genetic drift, gene flow, all contribute to these changes in human beings. Some triggers are infinitesimal in what changes happen, while others occur on a gargantuan scale. Some are successful, while others produce dead ends. The abyss is inside us. It is not external. It is the fear that death brings nothingness. The Divine helps us keep the abyss at bay. The Divine is our imaginary friend. We imagined the Divine so we could cope with solitude. Solitude is unsettling.
Panic-inducing sometimes, too. Look around. What do you hear? Well, Silence is not sensory deprivation. We imagine the Divine as our companion in order to have our fear of solitude dissipate. Be quiet! I am listening to God. Hey, I can get the Divine to walk with me; the Divine is my bodyguard, my safety, my security.
Watch me. Please watch over me, Oh Lord. As the fear fades, we may abandon our fears and gain a sense of frustration at how the Cosmos ignores our little bleats. Which brings us back to Stephen Crane. See above. We are made in the image of God. He looks at us to see Himself acting. We made Him who He is. Consciousness is ultimately personal; to paraphrase the British author Ian McEwan, we enjoy contemplating our brain.
Consciousness when viewed from inside feels like a Las Vegas neon sign in the desert twilight: it feels brighter than it is. Consciousness lives within the bell jars of our skulls; we think more of it shines out than actually does. That may be why I treasure the time alone with my thoughts. Cell phones were made to interrupt us, to distract us from being alone with our thoughts. Throw them out of your car!
Some of us shine and light up the night. We can be seen from Space also means we have usurped the Divine. We have his vantage point on ourselves. Better than looking in a mirror, eh, Bunky? Another reason what that Apollo 8 photograph of the blue and white ball of earth floating in black space is so wonderful. Us looking at ourselves; our first step into stellar narcissism.
The Apollo 8 photo is our largest mirror. Our greatest self-portrait. What comes second is our footsteps in the moon dust. Our computers have lengthened our central nervous systems. Now we can reach out anywhere and touch everything, even if anything and everything are actually only virtually here and now.
As we grow more global, as we evolve, will the Divine be more virtual yet more personal? Boredom is the downside of having nothing to do. I need stimulation. No, I cannot sit still. We are not yet adults in this Cosmos. On the beige savannah, part of me is always on alert for the beige lion moving through the swaying grasses. No kidding, beige savannah is the most popular interior house paint in the world Four, maybe three million years we lived there.
I live in my living room. I have a tan sofa and matching armchairs. The supernatural overwhelms the rational, and the abyss is the chasm between them. But where the hell is the bridge? Faith is the Bridge. Just sprinkle the sand and then step off. Faith helps us walk the bridge we cannot see. We are the bridge; the bridge lies inside us.
Without faith, without belief, we feel the phantom pains of the amputee. We know something is missing, but maybe not what it is. We have lost our grip, His hand to hold, our tool, our weapon against the Long Cold Night. We cannot walk that bridge so well. Let us also tell ourselves that wrestling with God is searching our hearts for wisdom and the courage to go it alone without Him.
Without a night light. Out of Chaos comes Order. So … In God We Trust. Or the gods. Or the Goddess. As a night light. The Divine is evolutionary technology. A weapon. Or a tool. The world assaults me. Hell is other people.
Death comes like a cough in the night. But I may be barking up the wrong tree. I am human; see me fear. The Terror is the anonymity that comes with the abyss. Who among us wants to face it? Save us, we beg the Immortal Divine. But no one returns from the Undiscovered Country.
Trust in God on this one, okay? The Gods care about us on a one-to-one basis. The Jaws of Death, eh? I vant to be alone. But being lazy is also being passive. Oh, I can get over it in time … We avoid choices. A lot can be said for paternalism. Our Father up in Heaven … Love Me! Serendipity is a goddess. She brings Order to Chaos. Same as her sister Entropy. I hate being alone.
Sensory deprivation is too close to being thrown into the abyss. Our hostility is often incoherent. What god will we dream up next? We would fall forever.
The abyss is bottomless. America has been unimaginably lucky. Some of our Presidents were great writers, and some were great speakers. Martin Luther King, Jr. Check out his Letter from the Birmingham Jail. He wrote it on whatever paper he could find in jail. Read it aloud. Feel the rhythms on your tongue and hear his voice. See how wide-ranging his intellect was. The depth of his arguments. See how persuasive he was. And the breadth of his empathy for humanity.
Put yourself in jail, in his place, and imagine the best you could do under those same situations. He began writing his famous letter on strips of paper slipped to him in jail. America should be grateful a man like Martin Luther King lived, even if for such a short while.
He gave us so much that has had such a great impact on our lives, on our national identity, even the direction our future might be taking. In fact, we Americans are very grateful that MLK lived. That is what the national holiday of his birthday is about. On the eve of his assassination, King put aside his own doubts and fatigue, cast off threats against his own life, and rallied the crowd to the cause he had taken up so many years before. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. I may not get there with you, but I want you to know tonight, that we as a people will get to the Promised Land.
Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord. As David J. You ought to believe something in life, believe that thing so fervently that you will stand up with it till the end of your days. Power that cannot be found in bullets and guns, but we have a power. It is a power as old as the insights of Jesus of Nazareth and as modern as the techniques of Mahatma Gandhi.
In this united-we-sometimes-stand nation, we need, for instance, to keep reminding new generations of Americans that hundreds of white Tulsans burned and looted the black Greenwood section of that city in , leaving an estimated 50 whites and to blacks dead in their wake. No one was convicted for the murders, larceny or arson. The Tulsa riot was not the only such event in this country. Similar episodes happened in Wilmington, N. Louis in , Chicago in and Detroit in Now add the sordid history of lynching in post-Reconstruction America. This mostly Southern pastime claimed the lives of nearly 5, people, the vast majority of them black, between and — an average of one lynching per week.
The rationale provided by apologists of this atrocious act, in which participants were known to mutilate their victims and keep body parts for souvenirs, was that outlaw blacks needed to be controlled for the safety of whites. Much of who we Americans are stuck with and wish we could get over with started with Chris Columbus. Yes, racists were and are thieves ripping us off. By in the state of Georgia, the white elite owned slaves at several hundred coastal plantations.
The Governor and the Lieutenant Governor together owned 12 plantations, 50, acres and slaves. Statewide, there were 15, Africans. Later on, after the revolution wherein all men were created equally, the glorious symbol of America, the US Capitol Building, would be built with. The anguish still lingers. Racism is a system of oppression. It has its own history and its own logic. It is self-perpetuating. Its goals are to dominate and to subjugate. In the USA, sex and race have always been the major issues, the major categorizers, and then comes social class.
Sex gender discrimination is fairly straightforward and often more easily understood and recognized. Easy seeing how one could dominate and patronize the other. Harder justifying it, of course. The more we try justifying it, the weaker our argument becomes, and the goofier we sound. Now we are all paying the costs of that racism. In the same way, America was founded according to social class. In the earliest days of America, you needed to own property to vote. Racism is a social construction. It is political. There is no consistency to racial issues.
In the past Europeans saw themselves as white, but at the same time Greeks were Orientals, while dark-skinned Spaniards were white. Where one race ends, another begins. Race is amateur biology. Which is hogwash and nonsense. In the United States the whites define who is black. In the United States, our views on race relations are very rigid, while in Brazil race relations are much more relaxed. Unless you are dark and live there, of course.
Racism has a long history of being used to rationalize or justify how the wealth has been distributed.
The Chronicles of Shiverdark
Contrary to the historical amnesia and revisionism of Congresswoman Michele Bachman and her BFFs, most framers of the Constitution were from the merchant class, were land owners and land speculators, and slave owners. They liked slavery; they got rich off it. George Washington was well-known as the richest man in the colonies. John Marshall and John Adams were slave-owners. He had inherited slaves.
More slaves imported in the colonies would lessen the value of his property. When he died, he had his slaves sold to pay off his creditors. Except his mistress and his children with her. Can a slave be a consenting adult? Sally Hemings remains a slave. Or did profit enter in? What a great idea! Sell off the evidence of rape and go to church on Sunday with a clean heart. Yes, racism is also an integral part of our religious heritage in America.
After all, Christians can be slave-owners. Check out the runaway slave in the New Testament book of Philemon. Using that text to build upon but also many others, back in the very early 18th century, slaveholders were told that, yes, they should convert and then baptize their slaves into Christianity. Luckily, the Pulpit Bullies said, the black slaves will have an equal but separate salvation.
Oh, the slaves will go to heaven. Just not OURS.