Monday, 21 April 2014

Move over Huck and Tom, here comes Satan.

Like most people, I just thought Mark Twain wrote about Huckleberry Finn
and Tom Sawyer. Just seeing those names now, in my mind’s eye I can still
spy Huck wading through weeds and water, still watch Tom painting that fence.
Can't you?

Mostly, I thought Mark Twain lived a charmed life, travelling around the world,
or ruminating on steamers and thinking up funny things to say. More recently,
I realised that not everything he thought up was funny, and that much of
what he thought – and said – and then wrote – was serious. 

Perhaps even then, people had already labelled him the funny guy, or perhaps
he was just being cautious, and wanted to ensure his continued survival in a tribe
where applauding sycophants can easily turn into hostile executioners when
they feel their idea of the world has been threatened.

From what I have come across so far, all of Mark Twain’s writing on deathly important
matters is cotton-wrapped in humour, tied with a pretty little bow of satire, knotted firmly
with sarcasm. In the past few months I have come across several.

His War Prayer wrenched my heart, and you can watch a short film made of it here.

But it was Twain’s Letters From The Earth that really wowed me. Setting aside
his writing or cleverness, what wowed me most is that until a week ago, I never knew
that Letters From The Earth existed, or that it was Twain's last piece of work.
It’s a very clever and funny piece of fiction. Why, when the world was introducing me
to Huck and Tom, did it leave this out?

That’s a rhetorical question. I fancy I already know the answer. The hero of this story
is Satan, and the story itself is told to his fellow angels Michael and Gabriel, through
a series of letters in which he describes what he sees on a visit to our planet. It’s a probably
painful dig at traditional beliefs of who we are and where we come from.

But isn’t pain a part of life, an important part that leads to growth or escape from danger?
And aren’t we encouraged in schools and universities to study, explore, think for ourselves,
question, search, learn, grow, challenge and be open to different perspectives?

Letters From The Earth is a good piece of writing that one may see as a pleasant fiction
or an awful challenge or even a blasphemous piece of shit. My point in writing here
about it, is that somewhere, somewhen, someone did us wrong by shoving it
on the topmost shelf of the furthest bookcase of the library of human writing. I share
the information that this piece of writing exists, so that more people may have
the opportunity to know that it was here all along, and perhaps read it themselves.
I feel fuller for having read it, and don’t I say that this blog is about the things
that save my life?

Samuel Lanhorne Clemens (a.k.a. Mark Twain) 
30 November 1885 - 21 April 1910

Friday, 28 February 2014

How The Temple Came To Be

“Why, Master, why?” asked the plump little myopic woman. She sat reverently at his feet, gazing adoringly up at his shining face (for it was a hot day) and waited for his answer.

He did not answer, and simply closed his eyes. She waited. A few moments of waiting meant nothing to her, for her search for him had been long and hard. It would have been even longer and harder, had she not known, before she set out on her search, that the one she sought was male. It would have taken her twice as long if she had had to sift through both males and females. Fortunately, she had a real good optician so despite her myopia she considered herself a fairly well-read woman, and she already knew that all the answers to all the questions lay only with those of her species blessed with external genitalia. 

After several minutes of waiting for Master’s eyes to reopen, she pondered for a second if her search had been long and hard enough. Would something longer and harder have been more satisfying?  But no! No! She berated herself. One must not ask questions! She knew this to be true, for Master himself had told her so. Her soul cringed. It was a weakness, she knew; a weakness to be kept hidden and silent like the complicated and somewhat messy bits of her own interior and inferior genitalia, that, like her, was born only to be a vessel to receive.

“Forgive me, Master,” she murmured, and he opened his eyes. 

“Oh, all right,” he said. “And because you recognise your faults, I shall,” he paused for emphasis, “I SHALL answer your question!”

The plump little myopic woman and many around her, huddled at Master’s feet, gasped in unison, and in awe, and also in curiosity. A few who had not really been paying attention gasped a moment later, once they realised that what was what everyone else was doing. Then they all leaned forward to better hear what Master had to say next.

“You ask me why,” Master said, after taking a sip of green tea. He paused to savour the added flavours (all natural) of lemon and honey. “You ask me why it is that people who follow different paths cannot live in harmony with one another. You ask me why it is that people who have been taught to lead good and charitable lives cannot fully extend their goodness and charity to those who follow different paths and worship different gods, although their gods bear similar messages.”

“Yes,” the plump little myopic woman muttered miserably, wishing she could have a cigarette right now, but it was not to be.

“It is a good question,” Master said. “Or a good paragraph of questions.”

The plump little myopic woman was relieved. She still wanted her cigarette, but she supposed it could wait.

“It is a good question,” Master repeated. “But it is an unnecessary question.”

The plump little myopic woman and all those around her were stunned into absolute silence. They did not know what to say about this, mostly because Master had not yet taught them what to say. He continued.

“You say that people on different paths cannot live with one another. Yet here and all over the world, they do. They are held together by an unseen force that will never be blighted. Though they may try, this unseen force will always ensure that they can never get as far away from each other as they’d like.”

“An unseen force?” the plump little myopic woman asked. “What is this unseen force, Master? Tell us of it.”

“I like to call it Gravity,” Master replied gravely. “Yes, Gravity. This is the unseen force that holds people together. Without it, the world would be a mess of strings and cables and chains and ankle weights. Gravity it is, that keeps our feet on the ground and our heads in the air. This is as it should be.”

The same afternoon, they began construction of the temple to Gravity. It was to be made of the wood of an apple tree. No, wait. Several apple trees. Here they would sing praises to Gravity. Here they would bow their heads to bring themselves closer to Gravity. Here they would make weighty offerings to ensure that Gravity would never be displeased with them or forsake them, leaving them footloose and fancy free in the dark  infinities of the universe. 

Master saw that it was good, and decided to take a nap.

The plump little myopic woman decided that Gravity would be pleased with her if she put on a few more pounds, and ate a chocolate-covered doughnut. It was good. Then she sat down to record Master’s words in writing, so that future generations could see for themselves these written words, for everyone knows that what is written must be true.


Irrefutable evidence that good opticians can be real, though they be expensive, 
and come with no guarantee that thou shalt thereby be a more beautiful person:

Wednesday, 26 February 2014