I missed church again today, and I was going to write about my new literary revelation, which is that no age deserves to say that it has poetry of any sort until it can approach what has already been written in Job 14:18-22:"The greatest pleasure of a dog is that you may make a fool of yourself with him, and not only will he not scold you, but he will make a fool of himself, too." -- Samuel Butler (of Erewhon).
"But the mountain falls and crumbles away,When anyone gets blinkin' near that, then there is poetry. Until then, everyone needs to shut up the shop and wait patiently, reading.
and the rock is removed from its place;
the waters wear away the stones;
the torrents wash away the soil of the earth;
so you destroy the hope of mortals;
You prevail forever against them, and they pass away;
you change their countenance, and send them away.
Their children come to honor, and they do not know it;
they are brought low, and it goes unnoticed.
They feel only the pain of their own bodies;
and mourn only for themselves." (RSV)
I'm not going to say that, though. I'm also not going to go into renewed raptures about "books that changed my life" and tell you all to buy a copy of At Swim-Two-Birds, especially since Dalkey Archive Press seems to be run by a bunch of jackanapes, and getting an old copy is dodgy and a foreign copy is expensive.
No. Instead, I'm going to take back something really depressing I wrote before. In "Where Do Babies Come From," I wrote about how youth signs to age, how the old "hear the mermaids singing" with despair. It's one of my less read posts, but it's one of the more maudlin ones. I was non-plussed by the commercials made by the director of "The Immortals." They weren't homoerotic as much as. . . queerly erotic. . . in that they weren't aimed at getting young people hot and bothered about being young people. I wrote:
Ptui!"The youth of beauty, and the beauty of youth, demand those who lost years to watch and demand them to seek out the joy of their own vital pulse, the concerns of the overhang and undertow that remove their exceptions, and who can blame either party? The one who missed and misses longed and longs and surfaces briefly in the filling of senses, and the one in potential is compelled and curtailed, devoted and dovetailed by and in time. Nature could allow no exception, and will complies.""We, like the commercial, long for what is lost, and we will buy some jeans. We will need some help, perhaps, need a supply, but we will avoid that longing and shovel dirt into the hole."
I take nothing back, but I should point out that a hidden caveat is necessary: these statements are true for the fragmented. J. Alfred Prufrock, Hugh Selwyn Mauberly, L'Etranger, the Misfit -- these folks, when they get to the old age home, slaver pointlessly and go back to their rooms for the knotted rope. (You guys noticed that I'm not linking my allusions anymore? I have. I wonder why that is? Probably lazy rather than stuck up.)
Oh, I shouldn't be exclusionary: we would find Mrs. Haversham, Catherine, and Cordelia at the home, too, although with less grim resolutions or loud complaints, probably. We men whine worst.
Every dog I have had has taught me something. I am convinced that each is an angelos, even if none are particularly angelic. Well, Macheath was. Macheath was the best behaved, most worried and conscientious creature I have ever met on any number of legs. She showed me what duty means and set before me a bar that I shall never meet. As I was missing church, I went to go walk the dog and pray aimlessly (both of the actions).
Let me tell you what Rambolina is teaching me.
While we were out, she began scanning the tree tops for squirrels. Now, we all know how dogs feel about squirrels, and rabbits, and mice, and shiny bugs, and turtles, but Stella actually watches them up in the trees. She then began to try to climb a tree to get at a noisy squirrel. After she had wrapped herself around the trunk a couple of times, she looked over at me and as much as said, "Now, please undo this."
That longing, that "call of surfeit to loss," is only a sharp pain, a knife in the joints, for we who are broken away. In a family, even with a puppy, the youth's surfeit shares and supplies the old. It is a sweet drug that tempers the melancholy and lifts the gravity soaked mind. It is what is meant to be, as the old remain the cushion against which the young can always punch and declaim, and the young offer strength against the eroding wind and water.
That's my Sunday school lesson for the day.