Jesus

The thing about virgins

The Thing about Virgins 

Because it tends to be a ‘man’s world,’ in most male dominated chauvinistic societies, men have no desire to be virgins themselves, but always seem to want one for a wife. Then they like to boast about it if they have had sex with a woman for her first time.

  • Yep. Popped her cherry all right. She bled like a stuck pig, too.
  • Cool man. You’re lucky. Never had one myself.
  • Yep. Seems like they just don’t make too many of ‘em anymore.
  • You got that one right, my man. It’s a rare vintage indeed.

Virgin worship is nothing new, probably represents little more than a symbolic veneration of something not yet corrupted and is an atavistic theme permeating many primitive or aboriginal societies. Having sex with a virgin also ensures no chance of getting an STD, unless perhaps getting oral herpes from a French kiss.

Veneration of virgins was particularly true in ancient Rome, when six virgins always lived in the temple of the goddess Vesta—hence the derivation of the term ‘Vestal Virgin.’ This goddess represented the sanctity of the hearth as being central to the preservation of home and family. In being one of the oldest of the Roman goddesses (represented by icons rescued from the fires of Troy) she ensured the safety of Rome, but only if these icons were preserved, venerated and carefully tended. Vestal virgins were responsible for keeping the sacred fire in the temple of Vesta as well as for oversight of the sacred icons. They also had the responsibility of baking special breads, mola salsa, or ‘sacred cakes’ made from the first harvest of corn, ultimately then being considered as a food offering for the gods.

Women between the ages of six to ten selected for this duty would commit to a thirty-year tour as temple servants. Any lapse in the vows to keep the sacred fire burning or worse, to maintain their virginity would result in punishments as severe as being buried alive. Their annual ritual of sweeping and cleaning the temple is the derivation of our current cultural idea of “spring cleaning.” How it was determined if they had been deflowered has never been explained, but if I had to pick a different career in medicine, I would be the first in line to sign up for consideration as the Secretary Inspector of Vestal Virgins.

However, Roman social hierarchy was so chauvinistic in structure that the seating chart at the Coliseum, running top to bottom, meaning worst to best, went as follows:

7. Mothers, wives, widows and whores

6. Slaves

5. Husbands

4. Plebeians

3. Wealthy aristocrats

2. Senators

  1. The Emperor, his family and closest friends

Then, in a tent located next to the Emperor, at field level so to speak, resided the Vestal Virgins. (Row 1-A)

Married women, widows, non-virgins and prostitutes were so heavily discounted that a virgin was considered three times as valuable as a woman who had already lost her virginity—or even her husband. Not only was the value of a virgin considerably higher than that of an “already made woman,” but the concept of virgins mating or having mated with various gods was also a theme that consistently runs through many ancient societies.

In Babylon the Chaldean priests selected one virgin female from the entire population to be the human consort of the god, Bel.

In Egypt a virgin slept in the temple of Ammon as his consort.

Egyptian monarchs were also considered to be the offspring of Ammon, such that in a parallel leap of faith, and with a peculiar costumed sex game, the reigning king would assume the personage of Ammon before having intercourse with the queen.

In ancient Greece, Dionysus was annually married to the queen in a symbolic ceremony.

In Peru there was a village where the local Inca Indians married off a virgin, usually about fourteen years old, to a carved image of a god, and after three days of celebration sacrificed her, then subsequently deified her.

North American Algonquians and Hurons married virgins of about six or seven years old to their fishing nets, which were possessed of a “man-spirit,” in order to ensure a plentiful harvest of fish for the ensuing year. This complements the idea that a perfect god could indeed have sex with a mere mortal, but only if that mortal happened to be sexually pure.

There are also numerous anecdotal tales of the offspring of these unions cast in roles of individuals having supernatural or superhuman powers. The most commonly known example of this is the famous Hercules of Greek mythology, a man of supernatural strength who was the issue of a union between the god Zeus and the mortal woman Alcmena. He underwent eventual apotheosis himself but only after the penance of the twelve labors being imposed as a penance for having killed his wife and their two sons.

On a more mundane level, when a Viking king died it would be customary to select a virgin, but not the queen, to be burned along with him as he was sent out to sea on his floating pyre. However, this was only after hoisting her up and trucking her around the compound so that she could “see into heaven.” After this ritual she was gang raped by six Viking warriors allowing them in turn, to see nothing but the aura of sexual bliss. This is certainly one way to rationalize the sanctity of a gangbang, but why the women selected for this ordeal felt honored by it or why the king himself did not have the honor of having her first in the afterlife defies rationalization.

  • Yes. I had sex once with six men all at the same time. Then I died and went to heaven.
  • It was that good, was it?

After the fall of the Roman Empire along with the rise of Christianity, early apostles, followed later by some of the first popes, had to employ clever means to convert the masses of people who had been accustomed to polytheism to the concept of monotheism—while at the same time having to sell them the concept of Jesus being the son of god. It was infinitely easier to do this if the story coincided with the legendary folklore of the Pantheon.

The early Christian church replaced early pagan holidays such as Lupercalia, dedicated to Vesta herself, or Saturnalia a holiday dedicated to Bacchus, with the likes of St. Valentine’s Day and Christmas respectively. The church even borrowed iconography from Egypt such as halos, symbolic of the sun god Rah, and stuck them on the heads of holy figures or angels, a ploy that made the conversion and “buying in” of the general pagan populations that much easier. The Catholics carried forward the concept of Virgin worship and a holy deified offspring endowed with mystical supernatural powers with their contrived invention of Jesus. They cast him as not only being the son of God himself, but also as a person conceived by a supernatural Holy Spirit, usually symbolized by a pure white bird or dove, that miraculously entered Mary and impregnated her. This sounds remarkably like certain pagan legends of mystical conceptions occurring when women are entered by spiritual holy waters.

Then, of course, being the good guy that he was, Joseph stood in to be the stepfather, so that this poor innocent knocked up woman would not be a social pariah— or possibly even stoned to death for her silly indiscretion. Joseph of course taught Jesus to be a skilled carpenter and then faded into historical oblivion. That is the fable. More likely than not, Joseph in fact was the real father. If not, and we could retrieve Jesus’ DNA, perhaps we would be able then to clone God.

Jesus went on to teach morals and ethics, performed such miracles as raising the dead and walking on water, was eventually crucified, resurrected, ascended into heaven, and then called for his mother who was later also assumed into a large cloud. In becoming a celestial floater herself, she was lifted up to be with God and his son; who also happened to be her son, too. Strange though, is it not, that we never hear about God cavorting with Mary after she arrived in heaven. One would think that would be a given.

The story of Jesus however sounds eerily like that of Aesculapius, the Greek god of medicine, who was the son of the god Apollo and the mortal Trikkian princess, Coronis. But shortly after consorting with Apollo, Coronis fell in love with Ichys. Then after a crow informed Apollo about the affair, Apollo sent his sister Artemis to kill her because he thought the baby wasn’t his after all. Her body was burned, which stained the previously pure white feathers of the crow permanently black, while a remorseful Apollo having had second thoughts rescued the baby by performing the first caesarian section. He then handed the boy over to the centaur Chiron.

Chiron, who taught Aesculapius the art of medicine, then raised him to became so skilled that he was able to bring the dead back to life. But because this was a crime against the natural order of things, Zeus destroyed Aesculapius with a thunderbolt, completing his punishment and subsequent resurrection by setting him in the heavens as the constellation Ophiuchus, the Serpent Holder. His rod, entwined by a single snake, and being the original symbol of healing is often mistakenly portrayed as Hermes double snaked caduceus. After his mother’s death, Coronis was also deified and set in the heavens as the constellation Corvus, the crow.

Virgin worship was a theme central to pagan faith, while parthenogenic birth by mortal and virginal women who were impregnated by gods is a theme common to tales reaching far back into human antiquity. Rhea Silvia, the mother of Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome was a Vestal Virgin. Her uncle had killed her father, the King of Alba Longa, then usurped his throne. Committing her to chastity was a foil to get her past mesopause, and therefore little likelihood of producing a nephew competitor to the throne he stole. Rhea had a good excuse for getting knocked up, and subsequently avoiding a death sentence. She said the god Mars had raped her in her sleep…and who could dispute or disprove that convenient alibi in 753 BC? There are also numerous ensuing tales of mortal death and resurrection that were simply designed to confirm the lineage of the divinity.

In order to facilitate a pagan world to accept or embrace the words of Jesus, it is likely that the Apostles— or the men who came soon after them—used this legacy of pagan imagery and iconography as a metaphorical vehicle to get people’s attention and to guarantee credibility. It was a subtle method used to rationalize and incorporate older beliefs into newer ones. The concept of Mary being a virgin came centuries later as part of a contrived dogma that the Catholic Church used to force its women into subjugated roles. For example, much like the women of Rome, no ordinary woman who ever had children, or who ever had sexual intercourse for that matter, could ever be held to this unblemished sexual standard. Then as an equally tragic spin-off perverted logic, the church invented the concept of the virgin servile nun, who they dressed up in black and white Taliban burkas, then sequestered them or made them subservient to priests.

As the reign of Roman Empire in Palestine was coming to an end, the corruption, the brutality and the chaos left in its wake sowed the seeds of hope for change and a deliverance from this dark evil culture. The Jews expected a powerful messianic leader with military skills, hoping for a person who would deliver a revolution. They rejected Jesus only because in practical terms, the last thing they needed at that time in their history was a talking head.

Some embraced him for the content of his message. However, others decided he was the messenger better off being shot; especially when he began to mess with moneylenders and Jewish sycophants who had been given positions of political authority by the Romans. Or, perhaps the Romans themselves feared a fomented revolution by the rabble that was listening to Jesus preach of a “new social order” and took it as a serious threat. A new Emperor; surrounded by 12 Apostolic men who became the Governors of the 12 Tribes of Israel; dictating a new religious policy and displacement of Roman rule.

Jesus never claimed divinity. Other people claimed it after he was dead. He also never said that he was a king or even a general. He only claimed to be a messenger delivering God the Father’s reiterations to: love your brother as you love yourself, be charitable, eschew hate, greed, and revenge, and then perhaps give the Ten Commandments a good periodic review about personal compliance. Being misinterpreted as the Son of Man perhaps it would be better to think of Jesus instead as the Sun of Men; a person delivering a bright new message of hope, peace, brotherly love and personal enlightenment at a time of greed, brutality, corruption and oppression of civil liberties. Jesus was probably a decent ordinary mortal man with a vision; perhaps a little more and perhaps a little less…then also not the only man to ever be killed for delivering a message.

Ironically, after he died, Jesus was deified, raised to a higher level and placed on an ethereal throne. Then the 12 Apostles were subsumed into one living mortal, The Pope, who being the only person with direct access to God, is a man surrounded by scores of sycophant Bishops, and like any Ayatollah, then dictates his own interpretation of Christ to billions of mindless lickspittle sheep.

What really defies logic is why Pontius Pilot killed a man who could raise the dead. If Jesus had that power he should have been sent along with the Roman legions as they went off to war. With the quintessential faith healer in tow, Rome might still rule the world.  Alternatively then, why did God the Father allow his only child to be sadistically tortured and nailed to a cross? Most civilized societies and religions frown upon child abuse.

 

Vesta

Grow strong, dear boy; healer of the world. Often men shall owe you health and life, and yours shall be the right to win again departed souls, and though you dare this once in heaven’s despite, Zeus’ bolt will thwart that gift a second time. You, now divine, shall be a lifeless corpse, and from a corpse become divine again, and twice you shall renew your destiny.

(Chiron’s daughter Ocyroe and her prophesy to Aesculapius)

Sources

1. A Study in Magic and Religion/ Chapter 12. The Marriage of the Gods

Sir James Fraser Macmillan 1922/1963 Touchstone 1996

2. Vesta from Temple of Religio Romana and media shift PBS

3. Marriage of the Gods from The Golden Bough

4. Viking Funerals from The Last Apocolypse by James Reston

5.Asclepius: Wikipedia

6.Theoi.com/ Theoi Greek Mythology (Quotation)

Vesta Image

http://www.wga.hu

 

Transcendental Meditation

 Across the Universe

Whenever I came home from school on breaks or vacations it would always be a surprise as to how things had evolved or changed. On one trip home my parents had to get a new refrigerator that was delivered in a large heavy reinforced cardboard packing container; an ordinary life event that I paid cursory attention to.Big deal. So mom and dad got a new refrigerator.

When I went back to school the box was out by the road for the garbage men to take away. At the same time however one of the stranger things that had evolved was the relationship between my mother and a neighbor who lived across the street, Naomi.

After she left the Catholic Church my mother did not stop being religious. She simply made up a personalized surrogate one that took the best elements of Christianity, Buddhism and Hinduism by combining them into a diverse package. She took over the basement playroom, turned it into a shrine where she worshipped Jesus, believed in karmic recycling of life and also began to meditate transcendentally while she played protestant hymns or Statler Brothers gospel tunes on a tape player.

Naomi, who was still in the vulnerable period of grieving over a son, who had died in a car wreck, joined her in these rituals, making the new little church a spectacular congregation of two.

The re-birth thing however got to be a bit annoying because the two women began to believe that not only themselves, but also everyone else they knew or had ever known had been recycled from especially but only notable characters from history. I got sick and tired of my mother telling me I was really Copernicus.

But the thing that made me believe she had finally gone off the deep end was that she had surreptitiously moved the large cardboard refrigerator shipping box down into the basement shrine.

I came home on another school vacation to find the thing in the middle of the room next to a little alter covered with candles, flowers and miniature pictures of Jesus and Buddha.

I said:

  • Mom. Why is the cardboard refrigerator box in the middle of the room?
  • That’s my materialization chamber
  • A what?
  • A materialization chamber.
  • What is that?
  • Well. When Naomi comes over either I get in it or she gets in it and whoever is outside turns out the lights, puts on the candles, plays the music and meditates while the person inside meditates too as she takes an astral trip across the universe. Our bodies dematerialize and travel everywhere; then our bodies return and reassemble. It’s a totally fulfilling experience.
  • Oh. And how long does that take, where do you go, what do you see and what do you do there?
  • Maybe an hour or so. And the rest of it just depends. You should try it yourself.
  • That’s OK mom. Unless you can send me back to school so I don’t have to drive the nine hundred miles. You know, like “beam me up Mr. Scot.”
  • That’s sacrilegious.

That was where I had to let the conversation dangle because truthfully there was little else I could say. I kept thinking it might have been better if she and Naomi had just gotten their thrills by becoming lesbians. At least that would be something tangible that I could explain to my friends.

I also wondered if my father had the slightest clue as to what was going on while he was at work. But all of it was so ridiculous I never even bothered to ask him because if history rang true enough to repeat itself, the point would easily have been moot.

  • Dad. You mean you never wondered why a cardboard refrigerator box is in the middle of the basement.
  • What? It is?

When I brought the subject up to my brother thirty years later asking him if he remembered it or what he had thought about it, he told me the materialization chamber was the best thing that had happened to him when he still had to live at home because that was where he went to smoke pot or jerk off. He said it was as good a hiding place for both activities as anywhere else in the house. That is not unless one of the many gods or prophets from the Pantheon or some strange visitor from another world happens to pop in and spoil the party.

Or worse, what if Naomi had one of these things herself and your own mom got herself beamed home because she just didn’t happen to feel like walking across the street, then suddenly materialized next to you while you were smoking a joint and playing with your pecker.

 

universe

 

Words are flying out like

Endless rain into a paper cup

They slither while they pass

They make their way across the universe

Pools of sorrow waves of joy

Are drifting through my open mind

Possessing and caressing me

Jai guru deva om

Nothing’s gonna change my world

Nothing’s gonna change my world

 (The Beatles)

 

 

The Universe http://www.madtomatoe.com

 

Happy Holidays 3 (Easter:1960s)

The Best Easter on Record 

On Easter Sunday the family came to our house and my mother always made Lasagna.

While it was derived from the same recipe my grandmother had given to Aunt Kay, it did not quite taste the same as hers. Aunt Kay’s sauce always had tomato pits in it, creating unwanted little crunchies that always seemed to get stuck between my back molars. My mother’s sauce was far better than Kay’s and not bad for a woman who had never even heard the word Lasagna when she was a child. She usually subscribed instead to The Bible of Southern Cuisine, whose first commandment reads:

And if thee findeth that it can be fried, so then shall ye fry it.

The family debate on this day would then center on the various merits of the potentially numerous methods of making Lasagna, what does or what does not go in it or it and then whose recipe was better or best. It was just another circular, no-win conversation: Is sausage the best? Or is it hamburger? Should it be a mixture of both and if so how much of each? Do you use whole milk or part-skim mozzarella? Should the Ricotta cheese go on separate layers? What is the best way to enhance the Ricotta taste? What’s the best baking temperature? Do you cover it all the way through the cooking or just at the end? Do you put Mozzarella on the top? Do you braise the top or just let it rest?

After that they got onto the noodle nuance debate; followed once again by the argument about sauce versus gravy.

It would be foolish of anyone to think that chicken and salad did not come next.

However on this date we actually got a real dessert when the Southern tradition finally broke through the Mediterranean shield. No stale cookies fruit or nuts . And beside plain delicious Hershey’s chocolate Easter Bunnies instead of mystery center-filled generic Whitman’s samples, my mother always made a lemon chiffon pie and a southern pecan pie, both served with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. Nothing could be finer.

Then predictably every year when Uncle Jimmy had a piece of the pecan he would remark that it was unbelievable anyone could make a pie from a nut. He called them Pee-cans, the proper pronunciation being Pee-cahn; which generated yet another round of debates over pronunciation.

Every time he said this, my mother would defuse the issue by asking him:

  • So Jim. Then do you know exactly where you have to store your Pee-cans?”

He would say:

  • No.

Then she would say:

  • Under your bed.

The response being:

  • Huh?

They had the same conversation for over a decade and for over a decade Uncle Jimmy fell for it every time, never getting it right because in truth it was unlikely he really got the joke in the first place.

  • So Ruth? I still don’t get exactly why you would keep a can of nuts under your bed.

 

On this day there were no special songs to commemorate the risen Christ or any child prodigy music recitals. Perhaps instead we should have just rolled a giant rock around the house to commemorate the opening of Jesus’ tomb, as that exercise could not have been any more ludicrous than the Festival of the Coconut Cake on Christmas. As a child the concepts were difficult for me to grasp. Jesus: First he is born, then four month later he rides into town on a donkey, within a week the Romans kill this holy man instead of a thief; and then after three days of funereal mourning, he comes back to life again on Sunday. Black dresses and veils for Friday. White dresses and bonnets for Sunday.

However on one particular Easter, Uncle Jimmy had a car trunk load of brand new, never before played 78-speed recordings of classical, jazz, and operatic music pieces. By that time 33-speed recording was in vogue and I suppose they were not marketable, so he just gave them to us boys. Nobody seemed to even remotely think anything of their potential future value to a collector.

So while our oblivious parents sat around the table gassing, gossiping and quibbling after dinner, my cousin Jimmy, my brother, and I spent the better part of the afternoon heaving the vinyls by the hundreds from the bank in front of our house into the woods across the street. We watched in glee as they sailed like a fleet of invading flying saucers that one by one smashed into thousands of pieces against the trees: The original Frisbee festival.

Years later when the building lot where we had thrown them was developed, our neighbor came over one day to ask my father if he had any idea why his new lawn had begun to repeatedly spit what appeared to be hundreds of broken record fragments.

My father said he didn’t know.

He was telling the truth. 

 

Columbia recordsFly me to the moon

And let me sing among the stars

Let me see what spring is like

On Jupiter and mars

(Frank Sinatra)

Photo source: Wikipedia

Happy Holidays

Happy Holidays 

I really cannot blame my mother too much for her disdain of mandatory family gatherings. The same people who scorned and ridiculed her when she first met them now wished to embrace her, three times a year, with hypocritical open arms and unctuous salutations. For over fifteen years we were expected to rotate three major holidays to be hosted at one of three houses. Christmas was at Aunt Rose’s, New Years was at Aunt Kay’s, and Easter was at our house. Thanksgiving did not count for some reason other than the fact that four holidays cannot be evenly divided by three families, leaving me on that day each year to profusely thank Uncle Mike for having moved to California.

How these holidays were selected and how the lottery fell to determine whose house and on which of the days I will never know, but it was cast in stone that this schedule was immutable.

The menus and routines were also immutable. 

1. Christmas (1950s)

On Christmas my grandmother made cheese ravioli. They were gigantic, exquisitely tasteful and had individually varied kaleidoscopic shapes. I still have the original recipe and make them on a rare occasion; but I dare you to try it for yourself to understand why we only had them once a year. Making ravioli falls into the general category of; “It seemed like a good idea at the time.”

Without fail Chicken and salad always followed this first course.

Since my preference would have been stay at home all day playing with my Christmas presents, the post-meal, pre-desert adult bull-shitting break seemed interminable. By that time it was usually dark outside and I was bored beyond belief.

Finally, associated with a great fanfare entrance from the kitchen, and all the dining room lights turned off, Aunt Rose would march in with a snow white cake covered in white frosting, sprinkled with stale coconut slivers, a single white candle lit on top, and would then proceed to lead the family in a hearty rendition of singing happy birthday to ‘Baby Jesus.’ It was nauseating and insipidly stupid. Although to be absent from this ceremony was to commit family blasphemy, the whole scene presented a great conundrum, as to my knowledge one does not get the cake, the song, or a single candle on ones actual birth date. Nor could I reconcile the fact that by my count this anniversary really called for a much bigger cake to accommodate the necessary candles or that helping to light and then blow out 1959 of them would have finally made it worth spending the entire day there.

To make matters worse, I happen to hate coconut, would try to pick each flake off the frosting in a process that created a gooey mess which then prompted a few unsolicited but predictable annual comments from Aunt Rose.

  • What’s the matter? You don’t like coconut cake? Who doesn’t like coconut cake? What kind of a kid doesn’t like coconut cake? Sal, what’s wrong with Alan that he doesn’t like coconut cake?

The next step in logic, which might be to serve a chocolate one too was obviously beyond anyone’s imaginative reach. Either that or it would undoubtedly conjure up some crude bigoted comment blaspheming Jesus by an implication he might have actually been a black man.

  • Chocolate huh? Hey Rose. So you think maybe God was a mouli? Ha, ha.

The only other possibility for desert then was a bowl of fruit  with over ripened brown bananas, pulpy apples, last years chestnuts and soggy grapes or some chocolates with unpredictable and sometimes inedible interiors. Because the house rule was that you were obligated to eat the candy you picked or you could not have another one, we kids usually palmed the ones with the nasty surprises inside and tossed them outside in the next-door neighbor’s yard.

One of the most poignant things I remember about Rose’s house was the full size oil portrait of herself over the fireplace mantle, wearing a crimson red dress.  But I only fixated on the large black facial mole because the hair growing out of the mole had been omitted by artistic flattering license. This made the painting a hypocritical showcase centerpiece and a subtle declarative monument to who really wore the pants in the family. Actually because of her stump legs that failed to taper to ankles, she would have looked much better in pants.

True to form, she had a litany of “house rules” creating a paranoia in which I truly believed that the eyes on that painting could see what anyone; anywhere in the house was doing. The very fact of being in her house gave me the creepy feeling that I was in an oversized birdcage replete with hidden surveillance cameras.

Uncle Ed, who was married to Rose, was a very humorous, congenial, easy going laid back person. He was a pleasure to be around, was naturally funny and had a knack for making everyone laugh; and an odd polar opposite to his wife.

He once sent my mother a homemade birthday card with a cameo headshot of himself on the inside panel, and crayoned angelic starbursts radiating out around his beaming face. It simply said: ‘Happy Birthday: From Me.’

Eddy loved fresh water fishing, deer hunting with bow and arrow, and was an avid coin collector in the days when rarities still existed in pocket change.

The long standing family joke about him never having actually bagged a deer was quieted the day he did a surprise drive-by on the way home from upstate and after plopping the carcass onto our front lawn tried to hack some venison off the butt end of buck he had shot. My mother, who secretly abhorred the thought of roasted venison, politely declined the offer by lying about the fact that there was not enough room in the freezer. But then again she also said the same thing when I tried to put my fishing bait in there; always harping tirelessly about its smell until it was finally used up. Freezer excuses and freezer rules.

Since Eddy worked for the New York State Throughway Department, he could unpredictably get called out on Christmas Day to plow snow someplace in upstate New York with exotic sounding names like Saugerties Although everyone bemoaned this fact and pitied “poor Uncle Eddy who had his Christmas ruined”, for some equally strange reason Uncle Eddy himself never seemed to be too upset at having to leave, even hinting at a bit of cheer instead as he bounded out the front door saying: “Merry Christmas everybody.”

Later in life when I had to carry a beeper on holidays, I too would come to appreciate the saving grace of being paged out from onerous obligatory social functions which made having to work, by relative values, seem to be infinitely better than mandatory fun with insipidly boring relatives or the tedious ennui of a cocktail party.

My cousin Jimmy and I preferred our own fantasy about Uncle Eddy, that after a few hours of plowing snow off the Thruway, he was  hanging out with his road crew; maybe playing cards or possibly pulling a break at some road-side diner. He would probably be happy to have escaped for the holiday and was perhaps even enjoying a nice piece of chocolate fudge cake for an unusually welcome change on Christmas Day.

                    Birthday cake

Happy birthday, baby Jesus, Happy birthday, to you.

Part 1: Youth

 

Wednesday’s Child

 

Memoirs and Philosophy of a Contemporary American Physician

A Para-Biography

mayan

Copyright © 6/28/2009

Minor revisions through 1/14

Cover illustration: The Mayan Goddess Ix Chel

A talking god with many responsibilities: The patroness of medicine, healing, health, magic, weaving, creativity, sexuality, childbirth and water

Para- (prefix): A prefix with many meanings, including: alongside of, beside, near, resembling, beyond, apart from, or abnormal.

 This memoir is dedicated:

To every person whose influence has made a significant difference in my life and in doing so has subsequently changed it either for better or for worse.

I also stand in awe of the great poets, authors and songwriters whose lines or lyrics so succinctly summarize the tragic-comical human condition.

Finally then, I admire anyone else who advocates for: world peace, the brotherhood of man, the right of plants and animals to co-exist with humans. If nothing else I hold great esteem for individuals who are dedicated to preserving the beauty of nature for our children to enjoy in such a way that it may also permanently exist in every succeeding child’s future.

  

Precious Memories

As I travel down life’s pathway

Know not what the years may hold

As I ponder, hopes grow fonder

Precious memories flood my soul

Precious memories

How they linger

How they ever flood my soul

In the stillness, of the midnight

Precious memories sacred scenes unfold

Precious father, loving mother

Glide across the lonely years

And old home scenes from my childhood

In fond memories appears

Precious memories

How they linger

How they ever flood my soul

In the stillness, of the midnight

Precious memories sacred scenes unfold

(Protestant Hymn)

Introduction 

I decided to write a book.

It has been stated that one should only write about subjects of firsthand personal knowledge. Because I am a physician, at one point I struggled with an attempt to write a medical forensics mystery, or perhaps a brilliant Michael Crichton style science fiction story.

However, like visual slapstick comedy, most of it has already been done before and cannot be improved upon, other than to add modern graphics or special effects. After all, how many spy novels or forensics tales can one’s intellect really absorb before a completely stultifying ennui sets in and turns rational thought or imagination into solid concrete?

Because I had a good income, I became lazy about writing anything at all. Then at the age of 78, my mother developed Alzheimer’s disease. This unfortunate illness is one that takes away the mind while leaving muscle function intact. I also happened to have an uncle who died of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), a disease that ironically leaves the mind intact while it insidiously destroys skeletal muscle function.

At the end, when he was virtually unable to move his arms, his legs, his lungs or his tongue, and not against his will to live, but certainly because of his better judgment, he no longer believed the effort to be worth it, refused to be artificially ventilated, and then finally suffocated. I do not know if either method of death may be more or less desirable than the other, except to say that each is very slow, painfully lingering and very sad. But at least in the case of Alzheimer’s, the saving grace is that the victim has no conscious appreciation of his or her impending mortality.

Because of these scenarios and many others that played themselves out in one form or another during my professional career, the thought suddenly occurred that perhaps I could one day die in such condition, or any other incapacitating condition for that matter. As such before I took my final breath I might either be without any intact memories, or even worse, without the ability to even write them down or verbalize them if they were still embedded in my mind.

This venture then became a simple endeavor to remember. To remember anything I could about myself, but especially in the context of the universally tragic-comical and often extremely frail human condition.

It became a labor not necessarily of love, and was certainly not intended to be a literary work of art; but was intended only to be an attempt at putting a single human life on paper.

I call it a Para-biography because I use my own life only as an anchoring point of reference to the more general perspectives of learning, growing, living, and embracing life for all those sometimes beautiful, comical, or tragic things that it is or can become.

It is also a story purposefully intended to criticize parochial dogma or tautology and to ask people who read it to think a bit alternatively yet not completely “out of the box.” Equally important is a hope that people may rethink their ingrained social, political or religious opinions or bias. As such it is both realistic while at the same time inductively reasoned, intentionally irreverent, and purposefully iconoclastic. On that note, I also employ an unconventional system of utilizing quotes.

Hopefully, if nothing else, it might persuade some individuals to realize that there is nothing wrong or really painful about the cultivating an ability to laugh at oneself.

One day, when I went to the nursing home for a visit with my mother, only to realize that she had finally lost her mind, I became inspired to write this journal, then to highlight its vignettes with any one of the numerous illustrative lyrics or poetic lines that always seem to somehow crowd my thoughts, help me tune out stress, and as a result always seem to get me through the most difficult days.

In seeing my mother slowly gravitate to a progressively idiotic, irrevocably vegetative state, I suddenly realized that my own worst possible fate would be an inability to remember anything at all; or in my uncle’s case that the second worst possibility would be an inability to assist my own suicide.

Being a physician, it is certainly easy enough to hide enough Valium or Vicodin in a small death stash; but that kind of proactive planning fails if one cannot remember where the pills are, or is not facile enough to actually put them in your mouth and swallow them down all at once.

If nothing else, whether anyone who reads this work may happen to like it or not, perhaps my brother, my sister, my wife or my closer personal friends may at least find it to be somehow perversely amusing and hopefully at least, somewhat entertaining.

Here are my memories.  That is to say, they are to the best of my recollection.

 

If you lose your money,

Pray god you don’t lose your mind.

If you lose your money,

Pray god you don’t lose your mind.

And if you lose your woman,

Please don’t mess with mine

(Outside Woman Blues: Cream)

 

 

Youth is a blunder; Manhood a struggle; Old Age a regret

(Disraeli)

Part One: Youth

Wednesday’s Child

I was born in 1947, on a Wednesday at 8 a.m., the first of two siblings to follow. It was three days before the shortest day of the year, and eight days before Christmas. One of the worst blizzards of the year and possibly the worst blizzard of then recent memory occurred nine days after I was born; on Boxing Day.

For some reason, just after the storm, my mother took me outside for a photo shoot swaddled in blankets. Hopefully it was because the sun had finally come out to shed both light and warmth on the rotogravure.

I am convinced that these quasi-horoscope factors had an immediate as well as an indelible effect on shaping my persona; somewhat like a bad tattoo; or one that looks good when it goes on, but passively fades, wrinkles or becomes completely passé as time goes by.

For example: I have first child syndrome; the one expected to be the best, to seek perfection to bear the burden of both parent’s vicarious goals and expectations; all of which becomes an oxymoron at best. This also includes being the one to bear the burden of testing the parent’s boundaries, then softening up their rigid standards for those siblings who come behind.

I hate the Northern hemisphere’s frigid winter weather, yet paradoxically  love cold fresh air. Being stuck in the Northern latitudes after summer forces me to flee, hide or sometimes to even hibernate, both emotionally as well as physically. It makes me wish I could spend every wintry day in the balmy South, or perhaps the Caribbean.

It is because of this incurable addiction to fresh air that I crack a bedroom window open on winter nights,  then poke my head out of the covers to sniff the air like a long eared dog with its head hanging out the window of a speeding car. Squinting and happily drooling into the face of an artificial wind.

Conversely, because even on the hottest days of the year I seem to need the security of sleeping under heavy quilted blankets, I will turn a floor fan toward my face to generate a constant breeze, a habit that has the secondary benefit of preventing being parboiled in an artificially manufactured swaddling bed.

Then in order to maximize the time spent outside, I will tend to wake up with the sunrise only to then crumple into bed with the waning light of a setting sun.

Thus, I deplore the fact of the Earth being tilted 23 degrees on its axis, which produces the tiny wobble that dooms the planet to seasonal changes and is the root cause that makes those winter days consist of only dawn and dusk.

Enjoying excessive sleep during those winter months, I sometimes feel as though I should just nod off in November, then wake up in March like a fat salmon gorged  grizzly bear who crawls into a cave somewhere; then blissfully skips over the entire miserably dark, cold season. Sleeping; dreaming; snoring and shedding weight.

When THEY, whoever they are, set the clocks back an hour on October 31, I begin a countdown calendar that slurries its way to December 21, at which point I celebrate the winter solstice with numerous shots of Vodka, rejoicing in the fact that each new day will subsequently be a minute longer than the last. I call this period the D-Days: “50 Days of Desolate Doom.”

This frigid gloom leaves little to do but drink enough alcohol to quash the misery of waiting for the sun to re-ascend its summer arc, and often makes me imagine how an angst ridden elder Stonehenge Druid might feel as year after year he harbors a seasonal pathetic fallacy steeped in the dread that perhaps during the very next dreary winter the sun may arbitrarily or capriciously decide not to return at all. Not like me, however, this ancient soul probably said prayers or offered sacrifices to that effect; unless he might have only punted on the pleas to his gods and defaulted instead to the spirits in a handy bottle of mead to ward off his bone chilled fears.

This is but one reason I have come to believe that Daylight Savings Time should be permanent; a bias based on a paranoid conviction that Eastern Standard Time may be a political conspiracy intended to foster public apathy by imposing planetary darkness on both ends of the day.

Is tinkering with time a calculated plan designed to promote large scale SAD; Seasonal Affect Disorder? Who knows, except for the fact that mob psychology, having been anesthetized by perpetual darkness and an excessive reliance on the counterbalancing effects of booze or Prozac, is not likely to inspire any activist to summon the energy needed to rail against a King, a Dictator, the Congress or a President.

Some pundits postulate the rationale behind rearranging time is more simplistic, only being done so that school age children will not have to go to classes in the dark; or that farmers will have more daylight in the morning. For farming it doesn’t really matter, because time is only relative. The sun comes up and the farmer goes to work. When the sun goes down, he goes inside to eat. The farmer doesn’t have a clue as to what time it might be.

As for children; either start school an hour later or simply outfit the kids with little spot-light Coal Miner’s helmets to guide them on their daily scholastic treks to their big yellow buses.  After all, they are not the ones required to go to real jobs or to invariably end up needing anti-depressant medications to get them through the SAD season. Or better yet; simply shift the worlds’ time zones one notch to the left.

Another way to look at it is the paradox of “saving” extra daylight in the summer evening, when days are already at their longest only to take it back and make it worse in the winter when days are significantly shorter. At the Equator, day and night are equal; no matter the time; while at the poles days or night are 24 hours long; depending on the season. December in Nome Alaska is “daylight nothing time.” The point is that the sun doesn’t have a clue as to what time it is, either. The rest of us however, are slaves to sundials.

Although I have often been accused of having a cold affect, or worse cold blooded, aloof sang-froid, partially related to being a winter baby; this is only in reality a hardened well-practiced defensive shell that protects an otherwise warm and somewhat residually optimistic heart. Despite this, even though I tell myself to try harder, I somehow cannot help being introspective, cautiously realistic, and at times morose or decidedly sarcastic.

This is not equivalent to being misanthropic as rather I simply do not believe that any one person can universally be everyone else’s best friend; an ambition that would require far too much emotional output with predictably far too little return on the investment. Politicians skirt this issue with their usual disingenuous promises; making their constituents believe they really care; when in fact they only care about themselves. The worst kind of friend: the hypocrite who loves everyone.

Most people in fact tend to put themselves first, being interested only in how much they can get, while at the same time furtively planning or deviously calculating how little they then have to give back in return.

To put it another way, the world is divided into two camps: the Givers and the Takers, with the ratio clearly favoring the Takers. This is why there are so few anointed Saints, why the proof of Sainthood remains so elusively difficult, and becomes a conundrum of bedrock conniptions for pundits in the Vatican when they discuss a potential nominee’s relative merits on the living balance sheet of “naughty and nice.”

  • Well you know he really was a Saint in every way.
  • Yes, except for his hypocrisies, philandering, and occasional crass deceptions; along with the fact that as yet we have no definitive proof of his actual existence.
  • True. But even if he never lived, the very idea of him is completely divine.

When I enrolled in grammar school I was the runt of the litter. Anyone who was born in January was already a year older than I was, biologically making the other boys bigger and stronger. I am also a Sagittarian born on the cusp of Capricorn, which I suspect has literally and intrinsically made me half-man, half-assed, perpetually somewhat confused, and incurably inquisitive.

At some ill-defined point in time I became a “Minimalist.” This philosophy suggests that during his lifetime a person should undertake just enough in the way of tasks, jobs, activities, projects or relationships that will permit devoting enough time to doing all of them reasonably well. Minimalism does not imply nor does it condone the seventh deadly sin of Sloth. It also does not apply to the likes of professional athletes or Astrophysicists, who usually do only one thing to a maximally perfect degree; with gifts probably bestowed in their DNA.

In not holding any unrealistic expectations of any body or of any thing I therefore never risk much in the way of being disappointed. This was learned the hard way early in life as I became accustomed to having my “Birthday-Christmas” present combined into one gift and given at some arbitrary elusively defined point during that December week.

Even that does not bother me now as much as it did in my youth because I finally corrected the problem by celebrating my very-merry-half-un-birthday on June 17th, which has left me owning or possessing just about everything I need and sometimes even two or three of each. Drawers, closets and shelves full of reduplicated nonessential crap.

In fact, the best “Birthday-Christmas” present I ever received from my parents was a monolithic bottle of Vodka, which served me well in getting through the dreary mandatory personal responsibilities and social obligations attached to the so called “season to be jolly.”

After all, Jesus too, received his birthday presents on Christmas; yet always managed to somehow find a way to turn the other cheek in the face of any potential personal insult or slight. And, as everyone knows, except possibly for holy rolling Baptists, he never turned down a good glass of vintage Roman wine.

In finally paying for that state of grace however he was tortured and killed, a fate I eschew for obvious reasons, and therefore reminding me to always maintain the small remnant of a mean streak that will ensure my continued survival.

Sometimes this can result in the desired outcome, if after having been tested to the limit by some niggling personality, the pestilent adversary can be put off not by turning away but instead by facing him squarely and then revealing the contralateral “mean-streak-cheek;” otherwise known as, “Please just get the fuck away from me.”

Unfortunately for the Catholic Church, whose tautology was shoved down my youthful throat, I was born a natural scientist and as such never became very religious.  In never being able to buy into nor to comprehend the mystiques, veils, rituals, and hocus-pocus of organized religion, I eventually came to believe that everything we know, as well as that everything we do not know, is explainable by the physical and scientific laws of the Universe.

Perhaps I choose to call this my God. Also perhaps, as a trained scientist, I do not entirely discount the possibilities of miracles; but rather choose to look at that concept in the viewpoint of many so-called miracles simply being one of nature’s accidental and occasionally benevolent events. What some people fail to realize, however is that most of nature’s malevolent and destructive events are also miracles, too.

This does not mean there is no role for religion in our society. However, empirical observation has led me to the conclusion that most religions have so distanced themselves from, or have so obscured their original tenets, that they consistently seem to cause more harm than good when it comes to promoting world peace and brotherly love. Instead, they consistently leave in their wake; veils of tears, trails of death, torture, witch hunts, wars, destruction, misery, poverty, contention, bias, despair, greed, egotistical power mongering and at least a recent two thousand year legacy of failing to deliver on their promises.

In general, I believe that people waste a great portion of their lives pursuing both the wrong tangible as well as the intangible goals. These can include work, wealth, materialism, power or getting ahead, all usually occurring at the expense of pursuing good interpersonal relationships, friendships, healthy habits, and emotionally satisfying, fulfilling leisure time or recreational activity.

Most people also expend a great deal of emotional energy and anxiety over things that have not yet happened or what in fact may never happen, often trying too much to control what simply cannot ever be controlled. This is otherwise known as the personally incapacitating syndrome of ‘Nonspecific Angst.’ One inspirational speaker succinctly posited this in a different way by suggesting that; “Worry is interest paid in advance on a debt that never comes due.”

It is also my belief that mankind is hopelessly out of balance, harmony and synchrony with nature; that the world is uncontrollably overpopulated, and that as mankind in unrelenting zeal destroys the natural resources and habitats of the planet he lives upon; he also slowly and irrevocably destroys himself. The spread of humankind on this planet is like the scourge of marauding army ants in the jungle or locusts blighting a cornfield.

Everything occurs in cycles and everything is relative.

In some distant future, mankind will be little more than a pencil point footnote to the great saga that the Universe continuously, irrevocably and randomly writes for itself every single day as it chaotically and unpredictably expands itself into yet an even larger, even greater uncharted unknowable void.

Our Universe is a system we have only just begun to comprehend, but is also a system with an agenda entirely of its own; an agenda that is racing itself to an end-game that we shall never even remotely witness nor shall we ever remotely be able to control.

The universe is between 11 and 20 billion years old.

The earth is approximately 4.5 billion years old.

 Man has been on earth for a few hundred thousand years

The life of a single man is about 7 decades.

This life is a fractional blink of an eye on the scale of cosmic time.

This life is a uniquely precious gift.

In fact, all life is unique, precious and miraculous although “life” itself may only be a natural phenomenon resulting from nothing more than a quirky cosmic experiment of colliding, massed up molecules consolidated, clumped, and hiding inside a semi-permeable membrane; that for some unknown reason; decided at some point in time to begin reproducing itself.

John Lennon once said that:

  • Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.

A man who is lying on his deathbed should never have to look back and come to the sad realization that his own life was merely what happened to him while he was preoccupied with making plans for the future, worrying about everything that was beyond his control, desperately trying to get ahead of everybody else; or worst of all in that process only destroying his physical, family, emotional or occupational environments.

#1

Outside Grandma’s house after the Blizzard of December, 1947

Monday’s child is fair of face

Tuesday’s child is full of grace

Wednesday’s child is full of woe

Thursday’s child has far to go

Friday’s child is loving and giving

Saturday’s child works hard for a living

But Sunday’s child is fair and wise, and good and gay.

(Nursery Rhyme)

saggataruius

Perpetual woe may be a dicey karma at best, but compared to the one assigned to Sunday’s child; at least for now I think I’ll just stand pat.

Sagittarius © Rich Bichfield: Divine Astrology@ home.online.no/~stebi/startpag.htm