— From EF —
Basic training. My first concept of this came from war novels, and what I remember is thinking that it was like sports training with a really tough coach, and that the “graduate” had toughened physical skills and a stronger sense of self. Ha.
As I write this, on our favorite Sunday KPFA program Beyond the Great Divide there were two cuts in quick succession, “And There Were Roses” (<https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jorfQa3VyZc>) and Phil Ochs’ “I Ain’t Marching Any More” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gv1KEF8Uw2k).
I heard the clear voice of men, men with compassion singing against the obscenity of war. “It’s always the old to lead us to the war, it’s always the young to fall.” I started thinking about how basic training is structured to dismantle compassion, even identity, and to replace it with the gut perception that there is an Enemy who is Other, and then humiliation upon humiliation is piled upon the grunt until the lesson is not only accepted, but is turbo-charged with a vast reservoir of rage spawned by the training itself.
So we get warriors who are not warriors in the true sense of the word. Most are not fighting for something, they’re just fighting, using weapons that don’t even involve the powerful flesh of the fighter. Later, we have PTSD.
And I look at Ferguson, and at the SAE fraternity in Oklahoma, and at Grand Theft Auto, and at the Delhi rapist who said the woman shouldn’t have fought back, and I see basic training. We have superimposed this element of basic training on the civilian world.
Young men, who are honed in these instincts, are drawn to the only paying job that’s offered. They are welcomed into service. Then they come home.
— From the Fool —
I’ve been waiting for something funny to happen. I relied on the neighbor’s chickens, but they just do the same old thing. Yesterday, some guy started playing the trumpet. Maybe he was inspired by the chickens, it sounded pretty much the same. Or maybe it was some new kind of music I never heard of. I didn’t want to make a Fool of myself, since I already am.
Problem is, you never can tell if something awful is really funny, or if funny stuff is awful. You get seasick just pitching around. Once you could count on Senators for a good laugh, but it gets kinda sour these days. My friend Rose hates it if I talk about the news. “Scuse me,” she says, “while I go beat myself on the head with a dead rat.”
You never know what works. To me, the funniest thing is a duck. Chickens are goony and squawky, but they don’t have high aspirations. Whereas ducks have dignity, like Senators almost, at least till they quack.
But then I heard about this duck.
At the coffee stand, a guy was talking. He was a firefighter, I guess, telling about a fire at a farm. He had to get a horse out of the barn and the horse was freaked and he didn’t know horses from chickens but he got it by the reins and a lady was there who knew horses so that was that.
But what freaked him, he said, was a duck. Waddling across the yard was a duck. The duck was on fire. It must have been quacking loud. It freaked him. I guess they never teach you how to put out a duck. He still saw it. That must be like skinning a clown.
I wish I could think of something funny now.
— From CB —
I’m lying on a promontory above Portugese Beach
sated with a picnic of sushi chocolate ginger sake and the sky
a gull ten feet away who begged tuna scraps
but still present
prancing out his life with a drip at the tip of his beak
and it comes to me
God is the greatest artist
I don’t believe in God
I know only the striations of the sky
the unsettled mumblings below the swirl
alien sea things whose eyes would not look like eyes
and I know the reports of galaxies by the billions
I know of mitochondria within who keep me alive
and farmers in Indiana who keep me alive but whose
politics are not my own
and I know the seeping of time
and I call this God
because to call it God is to call it
the intentional without intention
intention engendered of doing
not with white beard and bolts of plague but merely
the slow grind of rocks that between their whiskery faces
and it’s Sunday so
what else to call it?
I leave my mate lying
caressed caressing under a sky
of promiscuous clouds walk back to the car
while in front of me a white sign shouts
I see a God I can barely imagine
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© Bishop & Fuller 2015