Nob 21, 2004

Today at my very rising I am seized again by the anguish upon contemplating the heavy cloud that spreads over Europe, over the entire universe. An anguish that my optimism is not sufficiently egotistical to overcome. Everywhere I see but a promise of death for everything that is still dear to me and for which we live. The threat seems to me so urgent that one would have to be blind not to see it and to continue hoping.

Andre Gide
November 21, 1938
Diary entry

When the news of the seven year persecution of Martin Luther King by the FBI came out yesterday and the day before, I felt rather sick. We live in such a dirty world, and as individuals seem more and more helpless to change it. When I am tired, it all becomes overwhelming like a distant fog that never lifts. Of course, Franco's death the other day had reminded me of the Idealism, the lifting up of so much courage thirty-six years ago in the rallying of youth from all over the world to support the Republic - long, long ago. Then there was still hope and now there is not. Then, before the Nazi camps, we could still believe in the goodness of man. Now man looks more and more like the murderer of all life, animals too - he is the killer of whales and of his own species - the death bringer. Under everything I do there is this sense that there is no foundation anymore. In what do we believe? can we believe? On what to stand firm? There has to be something greater than each individual - greater, yet something that gives him the sense that his life is vital to the whole, that what he does affects the whole, has meaning.

May Sarton
November 21, 1975
Diary entry


Pistons, popcorn, and maybe eighty years

Today, a saturation of the surface. A Sunday (a day a bit more free than most), I'll shoot the keys off while my father prepares lunch and my brother tunes in to more basketball.

Interesting how, if you stay awake long enough or hold a bit longer to the gas gripping your innards, you might catch a moment in a specially illuminating way. For example, last night, my brother kept me glued to the screen to catch a replay of this incident - an "I love this game" moment if I dare say so myself - where, forty-five seconds before the match between the Detroit Pistons and the Indiana Pacers ended, Artest fouls Wallace, foiling a dunk. Wallace turned and pushed Artest with both arms. Everybody on the floor immediately zeroed in on wild-haired Wallace, later dispersed upon each other, full bodies weighed down tempers and arms, while some players from both camps let loose words and threats.

Meanwhile, Artest kept cool lying down on the officials' table among microphones and sheets of paper. A fan threw all his canned beer down the prone Artest. Artest springs up against him, a yellow jersey upon a sea of fans, a spectacle upon spectators. Instantly, the fans become a central sea. Jackson, Artest's teammate, joins in the fray, damn real punches thrown to and fro the deep bench, and it took me some sleep and subsequent coverages to recall the two-dimensionality of the screen. In that instant, the spectators themselves became spectacle, the storm's eye climbed from floor to fans and the trash talk and baited breath coalesced into flesh and bone curses.

They froze the game and the players exit showered by the soda and popcorn of fans extending the moment in their fashion, exploring a sense of power above the super-bloated egos they 'naturally' celebrated in turns, from the performative proximity of the liminal and the convenient distance of a 'will to reality'. A necessary Will to reality, yes, because these stars won't do your laundry, won't fetch your kids or tend to their petty wounds and fend off their silly bullies, or share a gaze on the waitress of the low-end bar, or answer to your wife when the bills accrue and, on top of it, you bought court-side tickets! But, hey, for once - ah a solid once! - our softdrink saliva on a million-dollar face, a superstar fist on yours.

From their end, where a tactical distance was achieved by Pacer Artest from the (equally tactical?) passion of the Piston Wallace, Artest made no such reservations for the fans, the colorful, colored, cajoling, cheering, blank faces.

Later, Piston coach Brown, will express 'sadness', turning a moment that questions and affirms the lines drawn 'by the game' into a moment unlike every moment (except once in a hockey game, a maybe, from Brown). Thus made anomalous, the thrill of more such possible moments from the background of this utterance of a continuous, generally smooth and obedient history (and future!) of the NBA. Brown drowned the whole ruckus in melancholia, a distant tragedy of crossed lines - not an immediate crisis - to make the NBA still possible. The fans were still exalted, the players will still play. More commercials. More cribs. More Sesame Street puppets saying "I love this game!" in their own signature way, the Count, for example, counting "One reason, two reasons, ah ah ah ah ah!" with fat polyester fingers.

Tomorrow, my brother will still have a game to watch. I'll come home next week, everything new once again.

Meanwhile, I'm working on the first set of students' stories, a work I embrace upon other duties for reasons nobody believes ample. My reason is gratitude. One man I wish to thank (and as it is with him as with those people I wish to thank deeply - I'm at a loss how) will celebrate his day in the old grand fashion. Eighty years! What are eighty years for me who respects time but cannot yet know it? What to head to wear for such an occasion? This spurs me to further thought, this thought in itself a mere flush, a fresh decor, still another chip in the baroque woodwork of this, the first week.

Tomorrow, hope, until I hold the luxury of not seeing them vain. And words, more words, big words, jagged words! So that when the sad time comes to swallow them, I'll choke heartily.

Nemo me impune lacessit. Nobody also against them (this I have proved), the nameless, the deceived, the student numbers, the 'children'. Yet, this: they who come after must judge me. They will behold that I've grown old, that 'making do' remains the only wisdom I can fathom, that compromise proves what's left of my imagination and wallet. 'Judge harsh and without fear,' I'll whisper, because youth will wear righteous indignation until they deign to outgrow it. And when they strike me with their green sticks, I'll remember life and acknowledge the few years to be lived out until I'm just a United Fruit Co. 'cipher' Neruda inscribed to enlarge his name.

The only pain I accept are those they - little brave ones - inflict.

Meanwhile, I too am young. I hear and now say, the military hanged a body of a dead man in the powerful hacienda of our land. For those in the know, the number of dead people are seven. For those who know still more, the number is nine. For those in the proximity, they know one, a singular body hanging, swaying to and fro until he is accepted as a warning, until he is written down and his meaning is effaced, hid blood forever dry, a hearsay.

More people will know of the game that 'degenerated' into a brawl than whatever issue or debt became one meaningful body swaying bloodlessly above eight forever 'others'. No, no names.

Only this, what is the worth of 'more people'? What is the worth of what gets known and what - hey, for example - you know? Shall we spoil a weekend, a hearty lunch, good entertainment for little idealists idealizing colorless green ideas until these can only sleep furiously?

Next week-end, more of the red-blooded man-games, one reason, two reasons, ah ah ah ah ah, maybe, a brawl if I'm lucky or a replay at the least, or something like a dead man hanging right beneath my high nose is a capital idea, say, for a sad story?