Monday, December 21, 2009

Proverbs 3

The pen is mightier than the sword. Do soldiers know, or care, whose hand signs the declaration of war that sends them out onto the killing fields? It makes no difference, you say, because today war is not declared, nor is it reported. It simply goes on, out of sight and out of mind, an efficient means of expending surplus ammunition and human beings. A soldier writes a few sentences to his sweetheart in a Christmas card. I'm sorry I can't be home this year for the holiday. Thinking of you. He sends it off. A week-and-a-half later his fiancée gets the card, one day after she was informed that her groom-to-be had been killed in the desert. She opens the envelope and runs her finger along the open edge of the card, stunned, silent. The careless words that send soldiers to their deaths are hardly adequate in expressing a young woman's grief. Perhaps words are more powerful in the afterlife, where blades and bullets can no longer sever the quick from the dead. For now, tears must suffice, hers and ours, shed in the solidarity of suffering. Christ cries out from the cross, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." If humankind doesn't know what it is doing, what is there to forgive?

Waste not, want not. Tight-fisted, tight-lipped men cloaked in black brought their parsimony and temperance with them to the almost virgin, green-clad, rocky land. Making it habitable was back-breaking work, wielding the axe, dragging the plow, peopling the land, subduing it by force. In the debate between the grasshopper and the ant, there was never any question who would prevail. And when the colonists rested, they saw it was good. Today, you look out onto the snowy fields, glad to have a cellar filled with root vegetables, apples, jars of honey and preserves. Who needs oranges from Israel, asparagus from Peru, olives from Greece? Keep the heat down, shut the lights, maintain three composts, listen to nature talk when it speaks to you. Some lessons never leave you. You remember the elderly aunt who kept a thermos of recycled hot water near the kitchen sink to be used when washing dishes. You remember her penny jar. How different it was in the book business, shipping 100,000 books into the marketplace so you could sell 70,000, the 30,000 leftover copies trucked back and forth, dumped into a chemical bath, and made into cheap packing material. And those were the successful publications. The gaunt became fat, the sober drunk, and the colonists caravanned from the granite hills to the sands of Vegas. Hey, poot, remember how they used to call some banks thrifts?

No comments:

Post a Comment