The Whirlwind

The Book of Job, like Ecclesiastes, like The Brothers Karamazov, looks askance at the world, at God’s world, at the evil in it, pervasive and possibly needless, and waits for the logic in the whirlwind. “I cry out to you, God, but you do not answer,” laments Job. When the whirlwind answers, or the world-wind, what does it say and what does it mean? “Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm.” God goes on, “Would you discredit my justice?” And elsewhere, “Who then is able to stand against me? Who has a claim against me that I must pay? Everything under heaven belongs to me.” This sounds, I think, like no theodicy at all, but the brute assertion of power mingling with a veiled threat: I can kill all of you without blinking

Recall now what God said to Abraham: “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love so much, and go to the land of Moriah. There on a mountain that I will show you, offer him as a sacrifice to me.” How bloodthirsty, yes? And more than bloodthirsty, cruel; it commands a father to kill his only son, “whom you love so much.” Yet we know the ending of that story. It was a test of Abraham, not a revelation of any bloodlust in God. Perhaps with Job it is the same: when God speaks in the whirlwind, it is not a revelation to Job, nor a theodicy of brutal voluntarism, but merely the final trial in the bet between God and the adversary. It is the worst of suffering: suffering in a maltheistic cosmos, a cosmos created and forever ruled by an evil God. Job is tested with the desolating inversion of the beatific vision: suffering without meaning, nor hope of meaning, and faith made ugly by a malicious God. Will Job “curse God” even here? No. He shows deference, loyalty, faith, even when, I think, he shouldn’t have. 

God won the bet in the profoundest way. The adversary had raised the stakes, incrementally decimating this and now that in Job’s life, but God raised the stakes to the maximum, to maltheism, thus the adversary’s loss counts as a total and irrevocable humiliation. Yet this divine move may be merely a move, not a revelation to Job, nor to us. What is a storm or whirlwind, if not an obscuring event? It is not clarity, light, open sky, but debris, darkness, cloudiness. The metaphor suggests something is hidden, not revealed. What is hiding is the God behind-the-trial, the God with higher purposes, whose nature is neither indifferent nor brutal, but good. This good nature is revealed elsewhere in the Bible, but not here, and not in the moment God asks Abraham to kill his son; and all that, we should think, is by design.

Hibernacle

The “hibernacle” is a winter retreat, a refuge; also, the place where hibernators hibernate. My spirit critter would aestivate, not hibernate (since summer is my suicidal season), but my spirito-animality isn’t my focus today. With some of the hottest winters on record, where is your hibernacle this year? Retreating like the ice, I assume. North eventually zeroes out into a singularity. Where’s the human species’s hibernacle? Where in the dark era? Where in forever’s frosty frazzle? 

There are various flavors of refuge. Original Flavor—that’s soil, i.e. total decomposition. Extreme Cheddar—God’s lactation, i.e. heaven. Paprika—something foreign, maybe German (Valhalla, et al.). Low Sodium—(I consider it a flavor) offenseless hesitationism. There are too many to catalogue here. My current favorite flavor is a home-made concoction I call “zenithism,” which hits somewhere between Zesty Ranch and Flamin’ Hot Polytheism. My hibernacle is Flamin’ Zesty. 

What was it that Pascal wrote about our infinitesimally small hibernacle? Ah, yes, this: “Let man, returning to himself, consider what he is with respect to what exists. Let him regard himself as lost in this remote corner of nature, and from the little cell in which he finds himself lodged, I mean the universe […]. What is a man in the infinite?” Oh dear we, our grand universe is merely “the little cell.” Deck it with holly as we may, the weather outside is frightful. Ad infinitum. 

Mallsoft

Is the musical genre “mallsoft” the genre of the blackpilled? How internets is that question? Mallsoft, loved ironically, echoes all the troll’s ironies; it is the sound of Wojak’s weeping. A subgenre of vaporwave, the vaporware of music (that sounds informative, but isn’t), re-wombed with the 80s-90s nostalgia of the indoor mall (think: Mallrats, et al.), the song of soulless commercialism forced to dance with our soul (how we make the ugly beautiful, the horror cinematic, the sad cathartic, etc.). We revivify the kipple. We dance with mannequins. A Sam-Goody animism, under a Pacific Sun, pretzel’d out with Hot Julius and Orange Topic. 

Nostalgia is a pain, say the etymological prescriptivists. A pain for home. A pang that cries: Volver, Volver! Nostalgia for indoor malls, food courts, commercials—isn’t that pain perverse? It feels perverse (that may be one of its attractions). For some latchkey kids, perhaps it isn’t so perverse; the mall-home had it all: food, clothing, bathrooms, entertainment, friends, and, of course, an absolutely perfect climate: that unnoticeably perfect temperature. Mallsoft, music of the tiled-and-neon hearth (and wishing fountain). 

To survey an emptied mall, today—liquidated, abandoned, becoming our ruins—isn’t that the deceleration and derealization of mallsoft? The haunted home. Here dies Main Street, once more. Everything dies too fast, so let’s slow it way down—make all voices deep, like the unhurried moan of humpbacks. Some of us, lost in our living rooms, have become neon humpbacks swimming backwards through ruins coming back online. The internetz is its own meta, and can make a heaven of mall, a mall of heaven. 

The Last Good Thought

I’m overwhelmed by life. I don’t know why, though I sometimes think I do. For the last two years, I’ve been on a daily dose of 20mg escitalopram, an antidepressant. But, let me stop there; I don’t want to write about myself; I don’t think I’ve been helped by others writing about themselves. Let’s assume you’re over it too. The medicine works, or doesn’t, and the memoirs inspire, or don’t; in any case, you’re overwhelmed too, and you don’t know why, though you sometimes think you do. 

Yet something lives down there in your lowest with you; the last good thought, sickly and stripped down. Without it, your enamel would scrape against a gun barrel. Your last good thought is extremely weak, and may vanish any day now, but while it’s there, you’re there; in that respect, the last good thought is like Descartes’ I think, therefore I am, but the last good thought is infinitely more important.

If anything is religious, the last good thought is. Perhaps your true religion is your last good thought. Perhaps not. That question is irrelevant to you, isn’t it. What would it help you if the word “religion” were always strictly used this way or that way? Who says or thinks anything strictly? All that dies off down there in the lowest, like a botched joke.

Waving Goodbye

Get in. Never mind the night around us. The night swim to end all night swims, now. Steel yourself. Never mind the cold (you’ll soon overcome it; forget it; know nothing of it). Yes, beyond the waves, but first through them; collision of blind water and body, then depths, perfectly indifferent, but lurkers in it. At any moment, a terrifying mouth. At any moment, the loss of up and down, and breathing water, and drowning. 

When I was a child, eleven or twelve, I think, and while visiting my dad in San Diego (for the weekend, as I did every other weekend), I asked, in the late evening, if I could go to “Children’s Cove” (a cove in La Jolla), to swim (and snorkel). My dad, a San Diegan since boyhood, and extremely comfortable with the ocean (under his influence, I was also extremely comfortable with the ocean), agreed to take me for a late-night swim. So, at 10pm, or 11pm (we were both night owls), I swam into the black ocean by myself, while my dad watched from the shore. 

I felt no fear, as with so many young animals, especially the predatory ones, the powerful ones. I swam fearlessly, heedlessly, wildly in a pitch-black wilderness of seawater. Then I saw it, clinging to submerged rock, rayed in moon-silver, my size, if not slightly larger; three or four of its tentacles were floating in the slow currents; the others spidered across the rock, suctioned in place. Again, no fear, but a simple sense that I ought to avoid this large (glowing grey!) octopus, so I paddled a u-turn and swam, without hurry, back to shore. That was the last time I swam the night ocean alone. As I aged, fear crept in. Thus it was—three or four tentacles waved goodbye to my naturalness. 

Tiramisu

This is the ninth post of my Hephaisteion, and, as aleatory as my blog has been, a little commentary on its purposes may help my reader(s). Hephaisteion is a forge for my experimentation; to hear that published sound; to discipline it, and myself; to let go of discipline, too, if the mood unravels; to make fools of sentences. What are the purposes of play? Those are mine. When was the last time any of us played naked? Swam naked? Out of fashion, literally. 

But a private show isn’t as satisfying as a public performance; or, in my case, open to the public (the chairs are set up, at least, and the doors unlocked). An empty sheet of paper, displayed to the audience, suddenly fills with words, meanings even, and strange meanings, strange magic. What unseen hand writes on this blank page? What headless mind holds these thoughts, here materialized? “Charmer! Sorcerer!” The crowd cries out, seeing that the words now appearing are curses. “I hex all who see these words,” stains the page. 

Why should this audience be cursed? They came in good faith to watch our magician?—you may ask this, and perhaps having no good answer is the curse. Or, maybe, it is a favorable hex; must all curses be dismissed as unfavorable, especially in the long term? But here is my opinion, at last: the devil wrote these words, and he likes to frighten. He thinks writing that frightens is superior to writing that soothes. Perhaps his curse is just this: you will fear his curse. He loves to laugh, this devil. 

Pantomimus

Much of him blames, but part of him forgives. Reflecting, much later, most of him forgives and part of him wishes he could never blame, but ascend and embrace, as an all-pathologizing god, the person’s whole life, worldline, fullness. Do I blame myself for blaming? Who do I say I am? I am a pantomimus, as all divinities are—as you are. No, you say? You think we are not gods? Or, if gods, together only Tlazolteotl, the deity with feces in her mouth.

Think of gods, of the unlimited. Incompleteness is a condition of that perfection, as I see it; it is a condition of the infinite. There is no utopia without plural imperatives, divergent initiatives, new contrarieties, and, tucked just below the heart, a fear of finales and totalities. The god-heart requires the varieties of mundane experience. It is the Renaissance paradox: the imperfection of perfection (and the reverse). 

So, as you imagine my appearance, especially that appearance in the act of writing, please imagine this: three-piece suit: frock coat, waistcoat, and trousers. An immoral amount of chenille pink. Vest of iridescent pink taffeta. Breeches of pink moire. Jabot of silver lace and pink satin ribbons. The surreal baroque glory of Fellini’s Casanova in pink. For I understand us at our happiest: our scent is rose, our grin sunlight, our divinity manifest. God: pantomimus with dandelions in every hand. 

Whitby

On the North Sea, the River Esk through it, enwreathed in the North York Moors, Whitby be, shivery and twee. It is the world capital of my sehnsucht, being now too summer-laden for anything but fantasies of cold cloudy coasts, broodier the better. Ah, I could write my Walden in Whitby (or rather, Thoreau’s darker sequel, Cape Cod). Give me Greenfingers, the old fisherman’s cottage, or any of those Whitby beach huts (blue preferred) with a window on the shanty-mothering sea, a briny lookout for Tom Bowling.

Cure my heat, cold whipping Whitby winds, for the love of jolly Britannia and her trident (and her chippies). I long ago fled the Mojave Desert for northern latitudes, for the Northwest, for the chill, pine, raincloud, but lo and ho, the whole West is seasonally feverish, if not charred. Gone to cinders. Godawful for this chionophile-in-spirit. I need Whitby’s cold compress. A tonic bowl of seaspray and fog. 

Inverness, the Inner Hebrides, Edinburgh, Orkney, etc., I’ve searched these for my lake isle of Innisfree, with those “low sounds by the shore,” and all are beloved, but Whitby—Whitby!—I anchor in Whitby. I endeavor, with Captain Chill, to write of seashells by the seashore: books of seashell philosophy, books barnacled and cold to the touch, books on how I, knowing enough of heat, say that ice is great and will suffice. 

Rejection

No, I don’t think you ought to read even three paragraphs on rejection. Not for you, this writerly phobia, salted wound, the keepers clinking the wrought iron closed. Why should I share what claret we’ve spilled? Don’t you see us sucking the floor for it? The fruit was pressed so sibilantly. Off, then. Off our backs, and back to your harbor in the dawn. 

No, nothing’s reciprocal between us, so nothing’s owed to you, so up your tropical tree, melon. Quite contrarily, we’re contraries—a sort of wintry mix of zero-summers (such puns belong to rejected authors). Welcome to the finitude. Your slice is mine, stolen. Those eyes you win, those readers, I wish them rheumy today; that is a just dessert for preferring your work. What a calamity all this. 

No, you may not partake. You are not worthy of partaking. To you, Argus Panoptes shuts every lid. No mausoleum; a mass grave. No swigs of commemorative champagne; a sneeze. Many little hatchlings and chicks were crushed today, or dehydrated, or chewed, or starved to death. Why, honestly why, ought you deserve better than those innocent bastards? 

Hill of Joy

The old vineyard’s deities have vanished. The support group has disbanded. Now, mouthless in the end, the writer wrestles in a chair. One touch of ink to net an ocean. Do you like the sound of that? We have no good offering; we feel the ocean surging; that’s all. Oh to blow a sour breath of praise. Oh the white eye yellows soon away. My hands—eight, nine, ten years fresh—in silliness pawed a smiling linen moon in the black champagne of space. Oh gripless rushing. Oh bad poetic moods. 

Exquisite friends and funeral guests, all bets are on again. We could’ve been anyone, yet we were us. So has your crockpot had a sincere cry lately? Exquisite friends, crumbs from mother’s cookie, from murk and mania and guessing, curious and mercurial, and gasping, we’ve arrived to gather the fluid of the labyrinth’s eye. Is there a sum due for unsolvable grief? Clap enamel, and muscle move, and whatever’s iced inside warm it. Time to write.

What comical cosmical thoughts I’ve thunk today! All this infinity a single point of slowing light. Webs of raw meat in a wrinkled hunch. What to write, to do, now? A few sentences shy of a suicide note, death’s long surprise, a distance growing more distant, every sun sinking, stained-glass eyes, a libation to a contradiction. I mostly thank you, world, for a bittersweet moment—my moment with you (sanctified, if anything is). Call me your hill of joy, eternal real, but not your mountain.