28 November 2010

Rhetorical Questions. Then Commandment.

from Proverbs Six

A Manifesto for Revolution, if you care to read this chapter that way.  The sculptor of proverbs reminds us of the particular evil of indebtedness and the debilitating power it has over the innocent and the guilty.  One cannot read these lines without considering the still smoldering embers of our shattered economy hovering in the distance, an augury, a warning for future economic catastrophes to come.  When I walk Nathan at night, late, as I often do; or early, as the sun rises above Eastern Parkway, at each interval of darkness and dawn I see men and women digging through garbage for cans and bottles to trade; for discarded food to eat; for cigarette butts to inhale for the fleeting pleasure of smoke, nicotine, and escape-clouds of smoke, magic, making them invisible, however briefly, to their own misery.  This is the country in which we currently live.  It reminds me of the New York I moved to in 1990 only worse--because the unemployment is higher but the illusion for those on the wealthy end of the spectrum shines more brightly.  The blinding lights of escape have sharpened their ability to fool us, transfix us in the image.

Here's an image:  "Give not sleep to thine eyes, nor slumber to the thine eyelids.  Deliver thyself as a gazelle from the hand of the hunter, and as a bird from the hand of the fowler.  Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise; which having no chief, overseer or ruler, provideth her bread in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest."

It's hard not to read this through a Marxist lens.  Workers in our nation have limited access, it seems, to the real means of production.  Capital is so very limited in this economy; yet we are seduced by the illusion of markets rising and falling.  But we seem to produce so very little.  And fewer and fewer people are capable of living lives of true self-sufficiency--of having "no chief, overseer or ruler."  It never ceases to amaze me that Americans are relatively non-violent about their dire economic circumstances.  That is, until I catch a glimpse of someone's face staring at a television or computer screen--the great anesthetizers of our media saturated culture.  We main-line radiant images.  Beats dealing with a guy digging through your garbage can off the front stoop, I guess.

Proverbs author hits hard here.  Takes aim at laziness, sluggardness, excessive sleep.  He hates he who walks 'round with a "froward" mouth.  A depressed person, he charges, opens up a society to the prospect of calamity.  And so the author prescribes morality and chastity, warning against the seven abominable forms of behavior:  haughty eyes; a lying tongue; hands that shed innocent blood; a heart that deviseth wicked thoughts; feet running to do evil; breathing out false witness (so effortless, like breathing!); and, sowing discord among brethren.

What's the counter-force?  The Revolution of Faith and Tradition:  "For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching is a light and reproofs of instruction are the way of life."

What greater reproof have we as a nation than that in which our poor go begging for bread in our public refuse cans?  How low have we fallen than this testimony for the way in which they eat?

But who can hear this reproof inside ears inside headphones inside screens imprisoning eyes made to melt from the burning images before them?

I see you.  Late at night it's just me and my dog and we both see you.  Your faces are blue; your information is up to the minute.   But your precise knowledge misses the man over there, rummaging for his next meal.  "Can a man take fire in his bosom and his clothes not be burned?  Or can one walk upon hot coals and his feet not be scorched."

Note:  these are rhetorical questions.  The answers are *that obvious.*  If only it were that obvious.

We've again begun our Food Drive with City Harvest to do our part.  Bins are in the Temple House entrance at 274 Garfield.  Please do your part.  Thanks.


Mary Morris said...

Andy, this is very beautifully written, and terribly sad. And of course real. A moving evocation of the current state of things. Thanks. Nice seeing you walking the fam to school. Mary

Anonymous said...

This is beautiful, Andy. Wonderfully written and, alas, evocative of things as they are now. Thank you.