Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Tao Te Ching 29

Do you think you can take over the universe and improve it?
I do not believe it can be done.
The universe is sacred.
You cannot improve it.
If you try to change it, you will ruin it.
If you try to hold it, you will lose it.

So sometimes things are ahead and sometimes they are behind;
Sometimes breathing is hard, sometimes it comes easily;
Sometimes there is strength and sometimes weakness;
Sometimes one is up and sometimes down.

Therefore the sage avoids extremes, excesses, and complacency.

One of my favorite movies was Harold and Maude, another was All That Jazz, but I — weakling that I am — felt obliged to change my views when my liberal friends emerged from the purgatorium of these picture shows plainly embarassed for their benighted friend, myself, and trying painfully hard not to retch on my shoes. It took awhile, but after a long series of self-critical reflections, I could dimly apprehend that these movies were about rich people, a kind of self-centered intelligentsia of the well-to-do. A black kid even spat on me out of a diesel bus window in Washington, D.C., so engrossed was I in multiple categories of hypothetical self-loathing.

Eventually, I decided it was better to be myself. Yes, therefore, I enjoy Pat Buchanan's firebrand assessment of St. Winston Churchill. How exhiliarating to fly in the teeth of the motorcycles of received wisdom. I am no monopolar personality, McDuck. My mood swings have a South and a North pole!

So, by a Treaty of Rapprochment with myself hammered out in the white hot forges of the latterday Reagan years, I resolved to laugh once more at Harold and his guru Maude (and it is a measure of my nearly infinite capacity to self-heal that I laugh at, not with, these phantasmal paragons), whilst recognizing that that world of self-parodic privilege probably does not exist in any of my friend's heads either, and consequently I have no friends. Ah. So this is... freedom, I have mused. You must be insane.

In those days, it was possible to be self-righteously left wing. These days, so we have evolved, dry wit must be tempered by a pathetic sense of the card-carryingly ridiculous. Placard. Nonsense ahead. Slash placard.

(Fitzpatrick's Forensic Admonition: Do not correct your enemies when they are making a mistake.)

Shame on me. As a member of the class of poor but lazy intellectuals, it never dawned on me that I was not rich. More insidiously, I remained ignorant of my stupidity for ten thousand lifetimes. No offense, but I intend to forget it, now that I know better. It's restful in the tarpit, and the sabertooth cats and megatheria cry me to sleep of an evening. G'night. お休みなさい。

True, I spent the first thirty years of my life building a sense of self, and the second thirty tearing it down. So far, the last thirty have commenced with something like aplomb, or at least gravitas — I got fat. This too will change. I too am a man of almost infinite jest. T. S. Eliot, an indisputably thin man, quoted Sanskrit; I, more rotund, quote Japanese, a livelier lingo. I'd quote Spanish, but I'm not fluent enough to defend myself against the ribald jokes of my acquaintances. Language is like sand burrs — where she's spoke, she'll stick.



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