Monthly Archives: April 2014

The Glorious Adjectives of Santa Fe

Jessica Thomas of Provision Books has asked me to write a weekly post at her site. Here is an excerpt of my first post over there:

While on a weekend vacation to Santa Fe, the spirit of the place stole over me and captured me in its enchanting arms. One moment, I was happily drinking coffee. The next, I was waxing poetic about the well-balanced, earthy exuberance of the brew….For more, click here

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Agatha Christie: Undeniably Human

Agatha_Christie_as_a_child_No_1

Dogs are wise. They crawl away into a quiet corner and lick their wounds and do not rejoin the world until they are whole once more.–Agatha Christie

I’ve been reading Agatha Christie books all my life, it seems. I can’t remember a time when I couldn’t read, nor when my life wasn’t shadowed by the drama of murder. Later, as a young adult who preferred biographies to mysteries, I discovered Dame Agatha’s autobiography and read it cover to cover multiple times. In all my years of reading bios or autobios, none have compared to hers.

428px-David_SuchetLast week, as I was miserable and attempting to retreat to lick my wounds from life’s disappointments, I went on a documentary marathon. I’m addicted to documentaries, quite possibly for the same reasons I’m addicted to biographies. As it went, one theme of documentary led to another theme, and then another, until I found myself watching an Agatha Christie documentary hosted by David Suchet, otherwise known to many of us as the incarnation of Hercule Poirot.

Although the documentary offered me little more than I learned from reading her autobiography, it was extraordinarily poignant, as her life was viewed through the eyes of a man whose career became intertwined with the author’s mental world. David Suchet and Hercule Poirot are practically synonymous to fans, even though Suchet clearly deserves to be a man of his own right–an actual human being outside the persona of a fussy detective with a carefully attended to and glossy mustache. In fact, having just quickly read Suchet’s Wiki page, I learned that he was a man who grew up with no religious faith, but who became a Christian after having read Roman’s 8 while staying in a hotel. The famous chapter begins this way: There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

It’s a passage that bears repeating again and again. The world is a difficult place. It’s a difficult place for us ordinary and unsuccessful folk, as well as for successful writers and actors. None of can avoid the pain of living. Returning to the initial Christie quote for a moment, I can’t help but think that’s exactly what the author did during her scandalous and mysterious ten day disappearance. It’s impossible to read about her life without that particular mystery rearing its ugly head, most likely because it won’t ever be completely solved. Agatha Christie didn’t want it to be solved. Perhaps she was ashamed of having caused an uproar, of having inspired 15,000 of her countrymen to search for her. But I find it likely, whatever the case may be, that she disappeared from her life because she needed to lick her wounds. Her mother had just died, and while she was grieving, her husband had ditched her for a younger woman. So she slipped away and checked into a hotel under an anonymous name and remained there until she was discovered.

She hated the press after all of it–she couldn’t understand why so many people hounded her and hunted her down like she was the prize in a fox hunt. That she left England via the Orient Express soon after doesn’t surprise me. It spoke of her need, not only to lick her wounds, but to escape from a toxic environment where a person couldn’t be left alone–where a person was condemned by the most disinterested parties. Of course, the press condemned her. She was a famous mystery author. Creating her own mystery was good for sales. But it wasn’t good for her, this thoroughly human woman, who needed no further condemnation.

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The moral of the story is exactly what you might expect.

Last night, I had a prescient dream. As dreams usually go, it filtered through my mind in three distinct parts. In the first part, I made the acquaintance of a round, red-faced fat man known as Fat Face. He was quite effusive to me in our new friendship. For no reason at all, he gave me a $20 bill. I didn’t want to accept it, but he insisted again and again, telling me it was Christmas, and didn’t I need the money for my family? It’s a gift! he pronounced. Finally, I relented and took it because I had learned that not accepting gifts can be just as rude as not offering them to others.

In the second scene, I found myself in a dorm room with a frumpy tech geek, who looked very much like Hobie in The Sasquatch Dumpling Gang, as well as a tawdry half-rate prostitute whom an unknown party had paid to seduce the unsuspecting geek. I was caught in the middle, but judging by the look of boredom on the prostitute’s face, she wasn’t about to put her best effort in the job, thereby rescuing me from revolting tawdriness. In fact, she was so bored that she left the room, telling me to take over where she’d left off. Of course, that held no appeal for me, which necessarily brought me to the third phase of the dream.

An unknown and petty gangsta slammed in the room to inform me that Fat Face had sent him to collect. As persuasion, he shoved a revolver in my face.

“Collect what?” I asked.

“The money you borrowed, plus interest.”

“I didn’t borrow anything.”

“Tell that to Fat Face!”

No amount of argumentation could dissuade the thug from treating me as a worthless debtor. Fat Face is my friend; there’s some mistake, I iterated and reiterated. That $20 bill was a free gift! Regardless, the thug dragged me to Fat Face’s house, which was an old, tidy farmhouse made out to be a Victorian. I perched on a worn but stately couch, and I waited for Fat Face to show his face and vindicate me.

He didn’t–vindicate me, that is. His once friendly round-cheeked face turned hard. He insisted I owed him $80 now because the $20 debt had immediately quadrupled as soon as I had accepted it. That unpleasantness now over, he sat across from me for a friendly chat, the threat of violence receding in the background with the gangsta. Instead, the room was suddenly filled with men who were indentured servants to Fat Face; they had all borrowed from him, and it was impossible due to the economy to pay the money back. A few of the men sat on the couches around me and shouted orders at the actively working men, but it was clear to me that they were indentured servants, too. They were indentured servants called managers, and yet servants, nonetheless.

At that point, my mind began to waken, and in its surreal half-sleep state, I saw the men as braying donkeys. I explained to myself that they were like Pinocchio, who had taken the bait when told he could play all day in Toyland, and had, instead, woken up a donkey and been forced to endure hard labor. Further, I explained to myself that this was exactly what university students did when they took the government’s “free” money. The debt and its subsequent, compounding effects on society would force them into servitude until they died.

The moral of the dream–I logically deducted, as I was now fully awake–was this: If you attend college in the usual way, you’ll come out the other side an ass.

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Stated Goals

1. I’m currently having my blog redesigned. My posting may be erratic until then (as if it wasn’t already). My goal is to create a new environment.

2. The reflection of my days will no longer be concerned with answering the question, “What did I accomplish today?” and instead will focus on how action-oriented I was. Research, for example, is an action and not an accomplishment.

3. I’m writing a book that is proving very difficult for me. My goal is to have a rough draft in about two months time.

4. Each morning, I will pretend that I slept the night before and proceed accordingly.

5. Exercise is always a goal. I will continue to exercise seven days a week, without exception. That has nothing to do with anything here, except that it helps keep my brain alert.

6. These are my personal goals, not my familial ones. Please don’t confuse the two. No, that isn’t a goal, but an explanation.

7. This one is related to goal one. Here are the subjects I will focus on in the future of this blog: History, Philosophy, Science, Christianity. I will no longer write fiction or memoirs here because I plan to publish them and sell them, not give them away for free.

8. I don’t currently have a comment or discussion policy because I don’t get a lot of discussion. But if and when I do, I still won’t have one. I disdain people who can’t take dissent.

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The World Is A Place

I would be happy to burrow into a place without time, or to lose, as Kant called it, my a priori notion of time. If time is related to the experience of the senses, then I’d rather ditch it altogether. However, as I’ve always described this longed-for experience as “digging a hole and disappearing into the earth”, I can’t imagine how my senselessness could exist without space. That, I suspect, is the limitation of the human imagination. Or it’s the limitation of my imagination.

Heat death occurs at the zero threshold.

Heat death occurs at the zero threshold.

I imagine there’s a kind of barrier to be crossed in a quantum tunnel, if one can dig out such a thing. Judging by the slowness of my actions in time and space, I couldn’t approach the speed necessary to create such a place where time has reached zero and I would freeze into a senseless zone. For unknown reasons, my mind configures me as a kind of microscopic fetus clawing my way in the appropriate direction, and then, once there, toppling unwittingly into a concave area, the path there and place itself being similar in appearance to a mercury thermometer. So, perhaps, my image has changed a little, and I’m no longer a microscopic creature, but mercury falling down its tube as the temperature declines.

In our days of low philosophical drive, I’ve often heard agnostics express their distaste for the idea of eternity. If heaven–or a place of eternity–were real, it would be soooo boring!! It would be torture to live forever, so they postulate. But they seem to have a fundamental misunderstanding of eternity, no doubt owing to Kant’s a priori notions. Eternity would not operate in the same way on the senses and, therefore, boring itself can’t be quantified in such a scenario, let alone be a descriptor of such. I’m not certain my mercury bulb is really an apt visual descriptor, either, except that it demonstrates the concept of crossing a barrier at zero. What happens past that zero threshold is not knowable, in the same way we can’t imagine what will happen at the “heat death” of the universe. Surely, it will be impossible to maintain entropy, in which case, time disappears, in which case…

I would like to imagine I could be frozen in that blissful place for an unknowable period measured not in time, but in ____. I’m at a loss to fill in that blank. I really, really want a space without time, even though it’s unquantifiable. By unquantifiable, I mean that it would occur in zero seconds, and then it would cease to exist unless it met with time again. Perhaps eternity is simply a fold at the farthest limits of space that doesn’t actually exist. Or perhaps my a priori assumptions are mucking things up–mine, not Kant’s. Perhaps at zero entropy, the universe as we know it ceases to exist and is recreated in a way that is unobservable to our senses now.

Oh, for heaven’s sake! All I want to do is lose my senses. That’s all I’m asking for, and writing my yearning for a zero entropy cavern is forcing me to become more acutely aware that I don’t have one and can’t because it’s an impossibility. I think I might put on a workout video–one so difficult that my muscles are reduced to jelly before the intense pain kicks in. If I’m going to sense, I might as well sense with all the gusto life offers.

In other words, here are some from Alexander Pope’s Dunciad, book IV:

In vain, in vain, — the all-composing Hour
Resistless falls: The Muse obeys the Pow’r.
She comes! she comes! the sable Throne behold
Of Night Primæval, and of Chaos old!
Before her, Fancy’s gilded clouds decay,
And all its varying Rain-bows die away.
Wit shoots in vain its momentary fires,
The meteor drops, and in a flash expires.
As one by one, at dread Medea’s strain,
The sick’ning stars fade off th’ethereal plain;
As Argus’ eyes by Hermes’ wand opprest,
Clos’d one by one to everlasting rest;
Thus at her felt approach, and secret might,
Art after Art goes out, and all is Night.

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