Is there a cure for history? You will need lots of rags to soak the blood. Perhaps a harpsichord for the raft. Meaning for the sake of meaning. Narratives for the brain.
As we descend the river, we see a theater of the stars floating in the unknown. Exotic luxuries embarrass us with their arms and planetariums. Morning arrives in a fire of golden light. The perfume of a thousand flowers exhausts our senses and leaves us feeling the full weight of being alive.
What happened to the people that painted the horses and bulls and cattle and bears in the caverns of Lascaux? Who were they? What did they look like standing in the dark, holding stone lamps of animal fat? They looked like any artist absorbed in what they’re doing. Amazed by what they do, frustrated by what they cannot do.
What did those mornings and afternoons feel like in Rome circa 411 AD? Were the streets full of garbage? Beggars? The disdain and disconnection of the rich? Was it chaos? Noisy? Blow jobs in side streets? People shitting anywhere they felt like taking a dump? What did it look like after the Goths got done killing and maiming the population? Were the streets littered with corpses? What did it smell like?
And who, exactly, were the Goths? They were a northern people from Scandinavia and East Germany. There were two main branches, the Visigoths and the Ostrogoths. They spoke a language that is now extinct but whose roots were East Germanic. They wore brooches in the form of eagles encrusted with gems. Iron helmets with decorative gilded copper skinning. Lamellar armor: overlapping metal plates sewn together.
The population in what is now called North America was roughly 112 million before the first European contact. The population of Native Americans now (May, 2017) is roughly 2.9 million. Indian youth have the highest rate of suicide among all ethnic groups in the United States.
The empire is falling. The collapse is evident. The president is a thug, a criminal who daily breaks the laws, who doesn’t read, who doesn’t attend briefs, who chooses to live in a luxury penthouse in midtown Manhattan rather than the White House, driving up the cost of security. Security for the Trump family is roughly 183 million per year and includes protection for his son and daughter to go on ski trips to Aspen.
Meanwhile, 43.1 million Americans live in poverty. 17 million homes are food insecure.
Why does it seem that time moves forward? Why do I have that sensation? That a chronology moves forward, evolves, develops, matures? Is this an illusion? Is time an illusion? Does time even exist? My clocks seem to think it exists.
The roar of the gardener’s chain saw trimming the building shrubbery adds to an illusion of progress, improvement. Nature goes wild but we hire men to come and shape it into orderliness and pattern, formations pleasing to the eye. Things are done in sequence. There is a pattern to the way the objective of the gardeners is achieved, pattern leading to pattern.
There is the combined smell of gasoline and freshly cut shrubbery. I don’t see them, but I hear them, and know there is work being done, and that the work is being performed efficiently. How do I know the work is being performed efficiently? I have no idea. I just do.
When the day is over, there will be a series of events left behind all with all the tree branches and detritus in the bed of the gardener’s truck. Food eaten, words written, ideas exchanged, plants trimmed, dishes washed, movies watched, noises heard, showers taken, faces shaved, legs shaved, cats fed, laundry done. Phenomena, for all its complexity, turns quickly to memory in the same way fine particles of earth turn to silt in the bottom of a river. Much of it is lost. Sensations are felt and usually dismissed, if they enter into our consciousness at all. It’s hard to catch a phenomenon in the act of being a phenomenon and getting it written down, described with the fumbling implements of language. Phenomena is always in flux. It comes in a cluster of subtleties and nuance that is so exquisitely singular that it will never be repeated. It comes in waves. The reflections in the sand are memories. You can write in the sand with a stick. When the events are small we call it a thing. When the events are big we call it news.
Today in the news tempers at a town hall meeting in North Dakota boiled over when a man confronted Representative Kevin Cramer demanding to know whether the rich would benefit from the repeal of Obamacare. He tried shoving a wad of cash into Cramer’s shirt collar and was restrained and escorted out of the room by police. Trump, meanwhile, spoke at a Christian evangelical university, lashing out at critics as “pathetic” and describing himself as an outsider besieged by what he calls the “fake news media.”
There is never any one history. How could there be? There is a general coherence to an overall narrative, some of which is true, some of which is not. Some of which is exaggerated, some of which is omitted. There are symbols and flags, monuments and cemeteries. There are paintings and movies, tyrants and myrmidons. Ceremonies and massacres. Palaces and barbed wire. That’s history. Screams and explosions. Medals and dead children.
What is left of virtue? The highest virtue in the United States is work. The lowest is intellect. Intellectual work is considered an oxymoron. Wealth, power, and property are valued above all else, including compassion, charity, and leisure. People in the United States have an odd relationship with leisure. If leisure is squandered on television or golf it seems to be ok. But if it is spent reading a book suspicions rise.