Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Rhapsody on a Warm Christmas

Most folks don't know what a rhapsody is, except a) a thing by George Gershwin that gets played every day on the local NPR station, or b) a thing on the cell phone for, like, getting music. Well, that's not what a rhapsody is at all. A rhapsody is an ode, but one with no fixed subject or form. It's a hodge podge. It's a gumbo, and since "ode" came to mean "whatever," it's a 'whatever' of 'whatever,' with the only rule being that it not stay on any subject for long.

Speaking of which, I can only abide hearing "Rhapsody in Blue" once a year, and not the twice a day that "classical" radio insists upon. I know the people who donate to the radio station like it. I realize that people who don't know Johannes Brahms from Joe Jonas will hear it and like it and be more likely to stop flipping stations. I get it. If that's the criterion, why not play "that thing... you know... the one from the movie? that one?" Oh, wait: they do.

In case you did not read the last posting, and, if we face facts, after a hiatus of four months and a series of impenetrable pieces, it would be very likely that you did not, let me state it plainly: I do like turkey vultures. I don't have one as a pet, as that would defeat the purpose, but I look upon them as the working class of the animal kingdom. They're the construction crews, the sanitation engineers, the humble.

I can well imagine them having schedules of work to be done, clearing roads and moving carcasses from busy sections of town. They certainly have meetings. They're moderately social birds, amongst themselves, but no one else seems to get near them. In the early morning and late afternoon, I see vast flocks -- real flocks of them swirling in a maelstrom of black over a nearby bank downtown. What they're doing is gaining height on a thermal near the rail road tracks, and the microclimate dictates that as one of the best spots, but I can imagine conversation:
"Alright. It looks like we've got a goat in the field off 86, a deer in the highway feeding 16, and a two dogs in 80. I need three of you to take care of the dogs. Lisa, Carl, Eric, and Joe Bob will get the goat. I'm going to need shifts on the deer. Bring your young ones with you, and be sure to empty your stomach first. This is a big job."

The other reason I like them is that they have no guilt in themselves. They are flying Dalits.

Like other untouchables, they handle corpses. Like other despised groups, they touch ordure. In our American society, they deal with the aftermath of our domestication of food animals, and they deal with the aftermath of our internal combustion engines. They are our sin eaters.

Yesterday, I saw a dead turkey vulture in the road. There was no one to handle its corpse.

There is despair all around this Christmas. No one needs to look for it, and the imagination starved creatures at corporate media have fallen back on their "sadness" and "sadness and redemption" package pieces for the radio and television. --Little girl loses house at Christmas. --Father determined to provide for children this season, but job gone. --Unemployment lines beside jewelry stores. --Diseases cured in time for parents to be reunited when mother invents new recipe and father wins lottery.

I find these stories to be poisonous when they're true. They have in them the lie of the preterite, and they have the worse lie of the ending. These stories end. They wrap up. They start somewhere and end somewhere else. Lives don't.

Of despair this year, I have discovered two flavors, both bitter. One is the gasping, heart pounding powerlessness of poverty. I had known it well already. The other, though, is the draining, inexorable watch of death. Standing and waving one's arms in futility as powers evaporate, as intellect is extinguished, as neither better nor worse occur. I can only think that the two combined could not be born by any person.

Is there any such thing as patience? I have doubts these days.

As two generations now have been exposed to the temporal foreshortening of the web, I am not sure but that patience was hand-in-hand with concentration. The fate of this second was sealed a while back. Perhaps the reason that I encounter curiosity in perhaps one student every two years is that it requires memory and patience to have.

I, though, blame myself for not being patient enough. When one holds a telephone and tries to change channels with it and asks me, then, to come and find the remote control, when it's actually in the other hand....

Maybe I will say something surprising about my teacherly attitude toward the cell phone. I may even quote a student paper without permission in the process. Not today, though: some talentless tart may be caterwauling on the glowing box, and I must hurry to my telephone to watch it.


Anonymous said...

This is very grace-full, very fine.

The Geogre said...

Well, thanks.

I may go ponderous about cell phones, but I thought, for once, it might be ok to do what every blogger does and be personal.

Bonggo the Rabitt Destroyer said...

Happy birthday to Jesus!

The Geogre said...

It isn't the birthday of Jesus.

It's the feast of the nativity, with a mass attendant. To that, we add a feast of obligation. That's it.

The celebration of Christmas is properly going to church and eating well, celebrating the fulfillment of a promise. The tinging of incarnation with passion and resurrection, a la some of our po faced brethren, the militating of the nativity into some division between the real and the false believer, the political waving and wagering of just how many hours one can keep a business closed -- all of that is beside the point, beside the date, beside the occasion.

So, of course, is the dumb assed petulance of the dull witted who don't have to understand a thing to know that they don't like it.