I do not often write until I am certain—or self-deluded into thinking—that what will come out will present my thoughts clearly. When I gush, I feel embarrassed that I am using anyone’s time with an indulgence of self when others deserve a reader’s time more. I don’t deserve a reader’s time just because I’m here on a soapbox. Feel free to move on …
Sometimes I am confused. Are there are too many soapboxes in this world and not enough people reaching out to help people up and expand understanding, or are there too few soapboxes from which to proclaim love, describe help, and attempt to expand understanding?
You already know what took place today in Paris. The fact of a soapbox was addressed with state-less mass murder. It was a terrorist attack on the right to write, to publish, to think, to feel, to love. The right to be jerks, which the cartoonists who were killed today declared for themselves. Each of us, if we wish to claim it for ourselves, has a soapbox from which we can expand understanding, even by expressing shock, revulsion, confusion.
Today is not a day for pretty sentences and confidence in metaphors; it is a day for assuring one another in plain terms that there is a right to write, a right to love, a right to be shocked and confused. A right to hate hate.
The idea that an idea, a clever cartoon, a spoken sentence, is to be met with bloody murder is one that can only be addressed with more ideas and sentences, because the attack is bizarre proof of power of the written word. Murderers are murderers, but murder is not an idea. It is not a political statement. It is not criticism. It empty and totalitarian. Anyone who believes that their God demands blood to defend him/her/it does not understand their own God, and any God that truly can not defend itself from a mere human’s verbal insult isn’t much of a God.
The universe is indifferent and entropy is a reality, but alongside entropy, the universe possesses—or was given—creativity. There is no indifference in creativity. Totalitarianism, of whatever stripe, pretends to be political, but it is a political declaration of being pro-entropy, which is an untenable stance.
We live in an increasingly neurotic era, globally. America, my home, has spent more than a decade (some would insist the number is more like six decades) attempting to strong-arm the world into agreeing with our own self-regard. No one will be taking me and my cane from my desk for typing that sentence and hitting publish.
Murder is murder. It is not an idea. It is a vacuum, and vacuums are totalitarian in their lack of purpose. History teaches us that ideas fill the vacuum, the murderous vacuum. More ideas, please. Love is stronger than hate. That’s one.
The photo-cartoon above is by a Chilean cartoonist named Francisco J. Olea. I cried when I saw it. The caption, “A tomar las armas compañeros,” can be translated to, “Grab your weapons, friends.” More ideas, please. Write them and draw them and hit publish. More ideas, please.
The Spanish poet Federico García Lorca was murdered during the Spanish Civil War by soldiers on the nationalist side, the Francoists. In “Fable and Round of the Three Friends,” he foresaw, in his surrealist fashion, his own end:
When the pure forms sank
under the cri cri of daisies
I understood they had murdered me.
They searched the cafés and the graveyards and churches,
they opened the wine casks and wardrobes,
they destroyed three skeletons to pull out their gold teeth.
Still they couldn’t find me.
No. They couldn’t.
But they learned the sixth moon fled against the torrent,
and the sea remembered, suddenly,
the names of all her drowned.
More Lorca for a sad day:
City That Does Not Sleep
In the sky there is nobody asleep. Nobody, nobody.
Nobody is asleep.
The creatures of the moon sniff and prowl about their cabins.
The living iguanas will come and bite the men who do not dream,
and the man who rushes out with his spirit broken will meet on the
the unbelievable alligator quiet beneath the tender protest of the
Nobody is asleep on earth. Nobody, nobody.
Nobody is asleep.
In a graveyard far off there is a corpse
who has moaned for three years
because of a dry countryside on his knee;
and that boy they buried this morning cried so much
it was necessary to call out the dogs to keep him quiet.
Life is not a dream. Careful! Careful! Careful!
We fall down the stairs in order to eat the moist earth
or we climb to the knife edge of the snow with the voices of the dead
But forgetfulness does not exist, dreams do not exist;
flesh exists. Kisses tie our mouths
in a thicket of new veins,
and whoever his pain pains will feel that pain forever
and whoever is afraid of death will carry it on his shoulders.
the horses will live in the saloons
and the enraged ants
will throw themselves on the yellow skies that take refuge in the
eyes of cows.
we will watch the preserved butterflies rise from the dead
and still walking through a country of gray sponges and silent boats
we will watch our ring flash and roses spring from our tongue.
Careful! Be careful! Be careful!
The men who still have marks of the claw and the thunderstorm,
and that boy who cries because he has never heard of the invention
of the bridge,
or that dead man who possesses now only his head and a shoe,
we must carry them to the wall where the iguanas and the snakes
where the bear’s teeth are waiting,
where the mummified hand of the boy is waiting,
and the hair of the camel stands on end with a violent blue shudder.
Nobody is sleeping in the sky. Nobody, nobody.
Nobody is sleeping.
If someone does close his eyes,
a whip, boys, a whip!
Let there be a landscape of open eyes
and bitter wounds on fire.
No one is sleeping in this world. No one, no one.
I have said it before.
No one is sleeping.
But if someone grows too much moss on his temples during the
open the stage trapdoors so he can see in the moonlight
the lying goblets, and the poison, and the skull of the theaters.—translated by Robert Bly
The WordPress Daily Prompt for January 7 asks, “A sanctuary is a place you can escape to, to catch your breath and remember who you are. Write about the place you go to when everything is a bit too much.”
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