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Dad Gummit and Daw Gonnit were sittin in the tavern one Friday evening. It was about going-home time and they were tippin a couple o brewskies while discussin the state of the world.
Ole Dad Gummit was on a roll with his opinions about the way things are and the way they use to be. “The trouble with this world today is folks don’t know how to do anything anymore. Why, back in day when I was still wet behind the ears, we could crank out things on the assembly line like they was goin outa style. Then along came nafta and before anybody knew what the hell was happenin everything we use to make was comin outa China or Mexico or Bangladesh or some such place where people work for next to nothin.”
“That’s just the way of the world,” Daw Gonnit explained. “It’s free enterprise. Companies that manufacture things are always tryin to get the price of their goods down to make ’em more affordable for the average guy– regular people like Joe Sixpack and Joe Blow, John Smith and Jane Doe.
“So companies got to find employees who’ll work for less money. But folks in this country are relatively rich, compared to the rest of the world. Companies wantin to get their costs down relocate their production facilities in other countries where people can afford to work for less money, because they don’t have the big cars and trucks to keep on the road, and they don’t have the big mortgage payments and the refrigerator and the dishwasher and the microwave and the range and the mixmaster and the blender and the washin machine and the dryer and so forth and whatnot that go along with the vehicle and the house and the lawn and so forth and whatnot.”
“I hear ya,” Gosh Darnit chimed in. He had sat at the table and had been listnin to their spiels. “But that’s nothin new. This has been goin on for hundreds of years. Why, there was a time, back in the 1900s, when most of our clothes came from England, because the limeys were the first ones to figure out how to mass produce textiles and clothing. They made the fabrics and the finished goods in places like Manchester and Lancashire and sent ’em over here on boats so’s we Americans could buy ’em with our up n comin’ dollars.
“After a while, we yankees figured out how to do it, and so we set up our own plants in New England and started crankin out similar goods (maybe not as high-quality) that were cheaper because Americans worked for less money than the highly skilled limeys did, plus we didn’t have to pay the transportation costs of floatin’ them pants and shirts and dresses and so forth and whatnot across the big pond.”
Then Dag Nabbit, who had ambled in, threw in his two cents worth. “I catch your drift, Gosh. But then after awhile, there were upstart mills down south, in places like the Carolinas where folks were workin for less than the New Englanders, and so a lot of that textile and clothing work went down south.”
“Yea,” Daw Gonnit agreed. “And nowadays, with so much manufacturing goin’ to Mexico and the like, it’s just more of the same pattern as before. Owners and bosses chasin’ after lower labor costs. It just all keeps goin’ south.”
“Or east,” Gosh Darnit pointed out, “. . .even across the Pacific ocean. like the Japs did with cars while Detroit was snoozin and countin their assets. After awhile the big boys in Michigan couldn’t get their innovative assets in gear any more, so the Japs and Koreans started crankin out lean n mean little econo wheels after the Arabs ran the oil prices up with their embargo and folks was waitin in line to fillup their tanks and so forth and whatnot.”
“I hear ya,” quipped Dag Nabbit. Things that had been changin at freeway speed were changing all of a sudden at the speed of light. Then, as if that weren’t mystifyin’ enough, Gates and Jobs started crankin the silicon dreams out on the west coast and before you know it everybody was lookin at the world through new windows and takin a byte outa the good life. Between Redmond and and Cupertino electronic techie prosperity was leapin like blue blazes. But then Steve and the guys started farmin out the manufacturin work to the Chinese and the Sings and Bangalores and so forth and whatnot.”
“You fellas got that right,” said Dag Nabbit. “Most of the American manufacturing jobs have gone overseas, and so now service industries are taking over in American employment venues. Now folks are doin haircuts and pedicures and uber and pizza delivery and so forth and what not.”
“Flippin’ burgers, pitchin’ fries, waitin’ tables, detailin’ cars, sweepin’ floors, with the car-wash blues, recyclin’, mass transit, interior designin’, website designin’, programmin’, unstoppin toilets, flippin’ real estate, things like that,” said Old Dad Gummit.
“. . .not to mention lawyerin’ and doctorin’ and bankin’ and financial consultin’ and day-tradin’ and mortgage brokin’ and so forth and whatnot. The service industries are not all on the low end, y’know.” quipped Dag Nabbit.
“True dat,” agreed Old Dad Gummit, nodding his head slowly as if pondering on the essence things. He was thinking of what Sun Yat-sen had said about looking into the nature of things. “The world has sho’nuff changed since I was a Nehi,” he mused.
“Yeah, but you know what?” queried Gosh Darnit. “When you get right down to it, every person needs their shot at makin’ it in this world. . . makin’ somethin! whether its goods or services, high multiplier or low multiplier, whether they’re in America or Greece, or Asia or South America or Africa, in Shenzhen or Pleiku or the Outback of wherever place on earth. Everybody wants to get a piece of the action; everybody wants a slice of the pie.”
Dad Gummit looked strangely content, as if he was about to slip into another realm. “Everybody gets born with their own little window on the world, and desirin’ to get a byte outa the big App,” saith he, thoughtfully.
Daw Gonnit mused, “You so right, boss. Everybody git to take a shot at life, even though they’re born into times and maybe circumstances different from what their mom n pop were born into. And I guess they got to work with whatever they got–whatever they’re born into, wherever they be borne into it, whether they’re in Peoria or Seoul or Bangalore or Timbuktu or wherever.”
“But sometimes I catch a glimpse of the big picture, and I think it’s all on a long, downhill slide into hell,” Gosh Darnit opined. “. . .what with the perpetual wars, and terrorists and riots and police shootings and oppressions and so forth and whatnot. . .”
Ole Dad Gummit straightened hisself up; he looked around the establishment as if he wanted to say something profound, which he did: “As long as God Dammit don’t show up, I think we’ll be all right.” He drained the last of his IPA, then looked at Daw Gonnit in the eye.
“Maybe that’s what’s needed,” said the younger man.
“Could be,” crooned Dad Gummit. He smiled, stood up. “Catch you boys on the flipflop.” And with that cloture, he strode out like a cricket among the embers.
It’s All About Your Perspective.
While wandering on the National Mall in Washington DC, I chanced upon the National Gallery of Art, so I went in there to have a look around.
What a beautiful place.
Especially interesting to me was the special exhibition on the work of the French artist, Gustave Caillebotte.
In the background of my unauthorized photograph, which you see here, is the canvas that Monsieur Caillebotte painted in 1877. The painting hangs upon a wall in the next room, beyond the room I was standing in while I snapped the pic:
Not visible to you is an explanatory placard that is fastened on the wall next to his famous artwork. Some art historian has explained therein that Gustave’s work reflected a new influence on the painterly art. Photography, the emergent technology of that that day and time, latter-19th-century, had a profound effect on the artist’s composition, perspective and use of focus in certain areas of the painting while rendering foreground and background slightly out of focus.
Now in my iPhone photograph, the whole picture is out of focus. I did this on purpose, imitating, as it were, the French impressionists, all of whom had rendered their oil-on-canvas opuses slightly out of focus, as if they had forgotten to put on their glasses when they went out to labor at the easel that day in 1877.
I can relate to this, because I am nearsighted as a bat; my profound appreciation for turn-of–the-20thCentury is perhaps related to this dysfunction in my eyeballs. I’m like one of those less-than-perfect persons you see in the Latrec paintings that came later.
So you can see here that I myself have entered into the gallery of impressionist phone-artists of the early 21st Century. And in my opinion this photograph is an artistic extension of the work that was pioneered by Messers Caillebotte, Renoir, Monet, Manet, Matisse etcetera etcetera.
The gentleman on the left in my etoîle image here was doing his job well; so he was obliged to tell me that I couldn’t take pics in that room.
I did not know that (and I am telling the truth), I said to him.
“There’s a sign at the entrance to the room,” he said.
Nevertheless, the image was already captured in my mobile device, so hey, what the heck, I thought I’d share my perspective with you.
Have a nice day. And remember. . .
As you travel through life, brother and sister, whatever be your goal, keep your eye on the detail, not on the whole.
Or maybe it’s the other way around.
Anyway, try to keep your highest priorities in focus. As for the artsy stuff, that focus element is not necessarily essential.
Just please keep it in perspective, so that you know what you’re looking at while you’re looking at it, if that’s possible.
While walking in our nation’s Capital yesterday, my somewhat aimless wandering intuition impelled me along a pavement path that provided, perhaps unexpectedly, a sudden purview of the Fed. That is to say, I was suddenly standing there in front of the Federal Reserve, where Federal Reserve Notes, better known as dollars, are generated.
Since I like to capture pics of places that are perceived as power penumbras, I prepared to snap a picture.
But before I took the picture, I wanted to make sure everything was hunky-dory, because there happened to be a couple of federal police guys right there, where I had decided to pause and snap the pic. So I asked them if I could take this picture of the building:
The reason I sought their permission is because, a few months ago when Pat and I were in Rome, we were passing by an entrance that appeared to be some kind of official building of the EU, European Union. (I knew this because of the two flags, Italian and EU, which were displayed above the main entry door). In order to get a larger perspective for my anticipated picture, I crossed the street and prepared to snap the pic.
But while I was snipping it, the guard began gesturing to me quite frantically, really quite aggressively, so that I got the message that I shouldn’t be snapping such a pic.
. . .although I did not know why. But I was nevertheless able to ascertain his prohibitory meaning, and so I immediately ceased and desisted from any further photographic presumptions. But that was after I had managed to snap one prohibited pic:
As a result of that experience I have been, from that day forward until now, a little bit inhibited to snap a permissive pic of any public place without official permission.
But yesterday, on this particular occasion, in Washington, D.C. yesterday, there was no problem, because when I asked the policeman, after explaining that in Rome they had shut me down, he said no problem!. He laughed and said:
“Well this is America, and you can take all the pictures you want!”
Boy, was I relieved.
Then later, when I thought about it all, yesterday’s pic-snipping liberty seemed ironic, because the policeman’s statement reminded me, oddly enough, of what the old guy, Fiddler, had said to young Kunta Kinte, in the 1980’s miniseries Roots, http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0075572/
written by Alex Haley. When Kunta Kinte was just off the boat, a slave-ship, and bound in chains, writhing in agony, having such a hard time adjusting to life as a slave in pre-Emancipation America. That’s when ole Fiddler had said to him:
“You in America now!”
Which is to say: You in slave-country now, boy, not like back in the old country where you was some kind of tribal prince or whatever you were there.
The very terrible news announced by Fiddler to Kunta Kinte was that now, in the Land of so-called Opportunity, the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave, the black man was, sad to say, no free citizen, certainly no tribal cheiftain or son thereof, but rather a slave, a piece of property to be owned by some white-privileged slave-owner.
But when the federal police guy said to me yesterday You’re in America now, it was a much more liberating declaration than the one that Kunta Kinte had gotten when he arrived here a few hundred years ago.
These days we have more freedom here, and less paranoia, than the Europeans. Take all the pics you want. And the great grandsons and great granddaughters of slaves also have more freedom than their enslaved ancestors did.
Viva Las Picturas!
Nevertheless, today I did wander, right here in the Capital of the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave, into a situation that was photographically prohibitory. At the Art Museum, I was told not to snap pics in a certain room. But I had already, in my ignorant haste, snipped one contraban pic!:
So don’t tell anybody you’re seeing, in the gallery background above, this American photo of a famous French painting. That way we can continue to celebrate La Liberté, La Fraternité, L’Egalité.
Yesterday we drove up from Charlotte to Washington. After checking into the hotel, we had dinner in the room, then launched out for a nocturnal walk to the National Mall and Lincoln Memorial. By ‘n by, being doused by a rainstorm we found ourselves taking cover under this unfamiliar rotunda which turned out to be something called the D.C. War Memorial. I snapped this pic:
which turned out to be a much clearer photograph than the one I attempted a few minutes later in the drizzling D.C. night at the Korean War Memorial:
This very dark image of ghostly soldier statues seems to reflect a dim commemoration of a war that was taking place on the other side of the world about the time I entered this world in 1951.
My photographic success brightened considerably when, a few tromping minutes later, we arrived at the Lincoln Memorial and caught this view in the dripping night.
This luminescent sight reminded me of our arrival in Greece a few months ago when, having just stepped out of an Athens Metro station we caught a similarly eerie first sighting of the distant Acropolis, which seemed to hover at the apex of an ancient high-ground hallowed spot.
But that was then, and this was now, which is to say, last night:
We ascended the glistening steps of the Lincoln Memorial, and when we got up there this is what we saw:
Then, wandering over to the glyphed wall-inscription of our war-striven President’s message at Gettysburg battlefield. I was reminded of a scene from my 2007 novel, Glass half-Full. In chapter 6 of that book, we find Marcus and Bridget, a young couple who have recently met, gazing at the inscribed words of the President’s famous speech. Here’s the scene:
They came to an inner sanctum. Carved on the white marble wall in front of them were the words of the slain President’s Gettysburg address. Marcus stopped, taking in the enormity of it, both physically and philosophically. He was looking at the speech intently. Bridget was looking at him.
After a few moments: “Isn’t that amazing?”
“Yes.” She could see that he was thinking hard about something. The great chamber echoed a murmur of humankind.
“Supreme irony.” The longing of a nation’s soul reverberated through the memorial. . .in the soundings of children, the whisperings of passersby. Deep within Marcus’ soul, something sacred was stirring, and she could see it coming forth.
“The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but can never forget what they did here.” He was reading aloud Lincoln’s words on the white wall.
But for the echoes of a million people who had passed through this place, there was silence. After a moment, Bridget responded “. . .and yet, there it is, carved on the wall for all to see. ‘The world will little note what we say here. . .’ ”
“Right, Bridget. Isn’t it amazing?”
I had worked my 63-year-old body to a point of exhaustion last Wednesday afternoon, and so I took a little break from pressure-washing. The green mold that likes to grow on vinyl siding had now been blasted from two more high gable ends of the apartment buildings for which I am responsible. I am, you see, a maintenance guy.
So I slid slowly down the ladder and slogged over to my little shop. Plopping wearily into the padded chair, I activated the radio with expectations of easing for a little spell of time into some fanciful musical escapade. Alas, I was not disappointed. My favorite radio station, WDAV, http://www.wdav.org/ immediately came through in classic style to whisk my overworked mind far beyond the ladder-heightened adventures of blasting H20 onto doomed algae colonies.
And then, strains of unfamiliar, though strangely captivating, orchestral sound came wafting to my ears. The music was soothing, with an elegant piano that stroked my worn-out being, but it was punctuated occasionally with bursts of symphonic divergence in a fashion that indicated some orchestral work of the early 20th century.
These impressionistic, mildly jazzy strains seemed vaguely familiar to me, but I could not place them. Surely it’s Gershwin, I wondered; the snappy snippets erupting here and there reminded me of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, which is one of my favorites. The very rhythmical slow-to-intense piano allegrettos landed me in a bewildered ponderance of trying to identify the composer. It was Gershwinesque, for sure, spicy with dynamic thrusts of emergent jazz, and slashing staccato poundings on the keyboard, while rambunctious woodwinds answered in the background, followed by lush strings that tamed the composer’s carefully-constructed disruptions into interludes of pure repose.
Then that captivating first movement energy slid languidly into an adagio second movement that soothed my weary soul like balm in Gilead. I had a few moments of unparalleled restorative calm, a true respite from my pressurizing labors.
Now comfortably installed at my shop’s work table, I began replacing the inner parts of a removed toilet tank, one of the 94 that I regularly maintain.
Suddenly, rapid bursts of precise piano, then bravissimo winds and sassy brass, were bursting forth in the last movement’s Presto prestissimo, affirming my ruminations that surely this incredible piece of music was the work of some great composer. A few minutes later, sure enough, Joe Brant’s vocal coda identified the opus as Maurice Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G.
Composed during 1929-31, it was a musical opus that Ravel had said “nearly killed him.” I learned this a day or two later on Wikipedia.
That 25-minute concerto took him two years to write. The piece’s intricacy and innovative energy, with brief boogie-woogified left hand in the last movement and all that jazz, convinces me that the composer’s desperate statement is “nearly” true. This intricate piece of music took a mountain of work. It was an exhaustive labor of love, the outcome of which was to to unify two great traditions of music, old European orchestral and new American jazz, in such a work as this.
Here’s pianist Helene Grimaud performing it with the Berlin Philharmonic, conducted by Tugan Sokhiev:
George Gershwin was doing similar renovations in classical music at about the same time as Maurice Ravel. And I was curious about this. Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G is, I think, so similar in feeling and era-sensitive timing to Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, I was wondering who came first. I was thinking that Gershwin’s Rhapsody had premiered in 1934. Yesterday I learned on Wikipedia that Ravel’s upstart, jazzified Concerto in G was first performed in 1932.
So Ravel’s groundbreaking innovation scooped Gershwin’s?
Actually, not. As it turned out, Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue premiered in 1924! not 1934, as I had thought.
Which only makes sense–that the American, being born and raised in the land of the blues, the western continent of jazz’s birth, with Louie Armstrong blowin’ his horn down in N’awlins, King Oliver movin’ up in Chicago, Duke Ellington finessin’ in New York, etc etc., it only makes sense that George would scoop the Frenchman Maurice Ravel in this musical transition from one golden age to another, one old continent to one new one.
Here’s a contemporary YouTube of pianist Makoto Ozone performing Rhapsody in Blue with the New York Philharmonic, conducted by Alan Gilbert. But warning! to you classical music purists out there: this is Ozone’s jazzed up version of Gershwin’s jazzed up original composition! George Gershwin would, I believe, be impressed:
But the discovery of this jazzed-up symphonic scoop is not the end of my story. A little further research early this morning online took me to one of the many black prodigies of American early jazz, Willie “the Lion” Smith. He was ticklin’ the ivories in Harlem and over on 52nd Street back in the day, early ’20’s, before George caught a vision for his blue masterpiece, and before Maurice grabbed hold of his jazzifyin’ Continental groundbreaker Concerto long abouts 1929-31.
Willie the Lion was an amazing, transitional piano impresario, and a legend back in the jazz age. Now this is where my great musical adventure, having begun in a moment of repose on Wednesday, and then morphing through Ravel and Gershwin, right into now, in the midst of Sunday morning’s research-driven blogfest. Are you ready for Willie?
It was many, many years ago today
Sergeant Pepper thought he taught the band to play.
We been goin’ in n’ outa style,
‘though we’ve traveled now for many a mile.
Yes, ‘T’was many and many a year ago,
and whose years these were I think I know,
’cause I was born and raised in the Way down south;
Oh, Sweet potato pie and shut my mouth!
Meanwhile, suddenly down in Memphis
the tenser had gone to tensest
when the Man who was a Mountain said,
as though he were already dead:
I may not get there with you;
I may not get there with you,
and then suddenly he’s gone where
I know he found a stair
way to heaven.
Film at eleven,
But He was already dead.
So then we woke up from the dream
of marmalade pie and soured cream
‘T’was in that summer I hear them sayin,
while America was frayin’:
Hell no! We won’t go.
Bring your Democratic ass up to Chicago!
But we were agonizin’
while some bad moon was a-risin’.
I can’t go there, I say I say.
Me gots to work; me gots to stay,
so I’ll meet you there in fourscore and seven.
Therefore, lest I catch that same stairway to heaven,
and I feel my engines revvin’,
I think I’ll just skip the part about film at eleven.
But then we said,
when even Bobby too was dead
Hell, just lock the door and throw away the key;
Jest let us go then, you and me.
Let us give up hope
’cause we can’t any longer cope.
Let us lock the door and throw away the key,
me and thee, and them out there makes three.
But hey! I thought;
lest we all be sold and bought,
if we fall for that that old cynic’s tune
just gag me with a spoon!
Back at the ranch, meanwhile,
and suddenly she’s there at the turnstile.
We feel the women come and go;
we wonder why but we don’t know.
They look for Michelangelo
but then the men don’t show.
They went to where the flowers go
while Sergeant Pepper puts on his show.
Maybe I didn’t know then what I don’t know now,
so I thought I’d try to work it out somehow,
until I found myself caught up in a Fall,
and suddenly I caught it all.
So we wrote it all off as a loss,
when we hung it, later, on a damned old cross.
I’m sorry to burst you bubble;
but thanks for all our trouble.
Pat and I have been watching, on Amazon, Ken Burns’ documentary series about the Roosevelts (Teddy and Franklin and Eleanor and all them others in between). This morning I find myself wanting to share some thoughts about President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
FDR was a man for his time. He was, as we readers of the Bible like to say, a person who had been born “for such a time as this.”
“This” time being that time– the time that he was born into, and destined to have a great impact on: the 1930s.
Through the long course of Ken Burns’ biographical film-depiction of FDR, any viewer can ascertain many attributes of true leadership that Mr. Roosevelt manifested in his personality.
Most notable among those attributes is a thoroughly positive attitude: We can do this, he exuded, and we can do it with great joy and a good attitude. Watching the old newsreel clips of FDR I am reminded, strangely enough, of another great President, Ronald Reagan, who possessed a similarly positive outlook on life. Mr. Roosevelt’s jovial optimism also reminds me of the first pastor I ever had after becoming a Christian at age 27. That was a fellow named Tom Gable, about 35 years ago.
But Mr. Roosevelt’s unique leadership was not an attribute that was easily acquired. His gift of joyful positivism was shaped by God, through the terrible crucible of suffering. It was thereby crafted into a finely-honed treasure. His crucible of suffering was a disease: polio.
We all have, as we Christians say, our “cross to bear.” Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s “cross” was a dreaded, debilitating disease.
I daresay if Mr. Roosevelt had had no such impediment– with as much class privilege and intelligence as he had going for him– he would have been as arrogant as the day is long, and his great leadership skills would never have been manifested in any truly effective way.
Just sayin’. No way to prove such a statement.
Smiling and displaying great confidence has a lot to do with this. Confidence in himself, of course, but more importantly, confidence in us.
Now I know that among my circle of friends, most of whom are conservative southerners generally espousing Republican principles, to admire Mr. Roosevelt, especially in a public way, is anathema, because he was, you know, the guy who got us going down the terrible road of socialism that eventually led to LBJ and Obama and our current entitlement-driven welfare state and so forth and so on.
But here’s the thought I want to explore on this beautiful Friday morning in June, 2015: Sure, Mr. Roosevelt was perhaps, a “socialist” by some definitions, but look what stupendous works got done in the 1930s under his leadership: dams, rural electrification projects, conservation projects, millions of trees planted, post offices all over the country with artistic murals, bridges, roads. And in my neck of the woods here in North Carolina, the Blue Ridge Parkway was built. Fifty years after that project, I worked on its final phase. I got hired in 1981 as a steel-tieing rodbuster. This was a job I took on– liberal arts college graduate that I am– for a few years, to feed my wife and young’uns back in the early days of our marriage, in order to complete the Parkway’s missing link, the Linn Cove Viaduct–the section that was never finished back in the ’30s–because it was in the shadow of rough, rocky Appalachian terrain, a mountain that we call, around here, Grandfather.
So there we were last night watching Ken Burns’ masterful documentary-style story-tellin’ about Roosevelt and the WPA, CCC, NRA, etc. And we see all those workin’ folks on them grainy old blackn’white newsreels. The workers were performing great feats of mastery over nature, staying busy and out of trouble, getting significant legacy edifices erected, while our great capital-breathing nation recovered from a blown-up 1920s Wall Street bubble. Sound familiar?
But here’s the thing. If you’ll look at all them old and young codgers on them newsreels back in the day, you can discern that they knew how to work.
“Shovel ready” is what I’m talking about. Literally, men– and many a woman too–knew how to use shovels back then. They knew how to do physical work, in order to construct all them great projects and assure future wilderness and national parks and so on and so forth, and in so doing, implant within our national heritage many great infrastructure and/or numerous national treasure wonders that are still with us today.
But here’s the rub. I don’t think folks these days are like those crusty Americans from back in the day. There’s no way we can do what they did.
That was then and this is now.
Back in the day, during the ’30s, fellas were just three steps off the farm anyway, and they knew how to really use a shovel. Workers these days are more likely to be texting or checking email on their mobile device while leaning on the shovel, and so I don’t see us really able to dig our way out of this hole we’re in.
So if there were a Roosevelt kind of person around today to lead us out of this mess, God only knows who it would be. I certainly see anyone like that on the horizon.
Mobile-device-ready doesn’t exactly carry the same weight as shovel-ready. Nevertheless. . .take a look around at America. While we are trying to find make-work for folks, what needs doin’?
Oh Türkey, O Türkey,
wherefore art thou Türkey?
You Osman of old, you
Ottoman so bold, who
rode upon the haunches of destiny,
in six centuries of Caliphate history,
astride the swiftly flowing Bosphoros
riding bright as phosphorous,
across our grand confluence of East and West.
Safe passage through your Dardanelles’, we do request,
if it please you, sir.
Do you concur?
You, oh Sultan of Sogüt,
insistent besieger of Byzantium,
you, Conqueror of Constantinople,
extinguisher of the Caliphate,
you, Ankara anchor of that ancient Anatolian
soul, born and raised up in Konye of old.
You, brash instigator of Young Türks!
What mischief lurks
behind your Izmir eyes,
that glisten now as stars arise
beneath a crescent moon,
to induce some dervish swoon?
Do you even comprehend
the golden-sashéd man who still yet stands,
with lampstands in his angels’ hands,
holding forth your seven stars,
between Patmos’ sands and Akhisar,
strung like bright’ning Pleides pearls,
as His ancient scroll unfurls?
You know that feeling you get when you’re caught unprepared out in the open air, maybe in a field or a park, by a summer thunderstorm–
it’s a very sudden, primordial thrill.
The clouds have quickly moved in as if there’re taking over the world. In the space of a few minutes the sky turns dark and foreboding; billowing mounds of gray sky-madness roll up like war drums of weather. The wind kicks up and you can feel the barometric pressure dropping a mile a minute. Dashing instinctually for cover, you are catapulted into a mode of being that is primitive, as if your breathing life could at any moment be zapped into silent non-being.
Suddenly, time and the earth stand still for a moment while an unearthly presence splits the air, seizing control of everything all around: a flash.
A moment passes. Thunder! The earth trembles!
And a mere man is fear-stricken in shock and awe!
If you were a Neanderthal, you’d feel the dark sky-spirit hang momentarily upon your very life like a death-weight around your neck;
or an ancient Viking– suspended in the midst of a fiery Thor visitation;
or like Elihu of ancient days, who later spoke to his friend Job of such fearful moments:
“At this my heart trembles, and leaps from its place.
Listen closely to the thunder of His voice,
and the rumbling that goes out from His mouth.
Under the whole heaven He lets it loose,
and His lightning to the ends of the earth.
After it, a voice roars; He thunders with His majestic voice,
and He does not restrain the lightnings when His voice is heard.
God thunders with His voice wondrously,
doing great things which we cannot comprehend!”
Or, if you dare not admit to the God thing, and maintain your life studiously suspended in a calculated state of self-trained unbelief, then
you process all this dazzlingly extreme stimuli, arriving promptly at an analytical conclusion about what just happened, and you find yourself relieved that you have just emerged from a condition in which a luminous discharge of electric charges between clouds, and between clouds and earth, through which the path is found by the leader stroke, and the main discharge follows instantaneously along an ionized path, followed by a crackling, booming or rumbling noise which accompanies the flash, and you understand inductively that the noise has its origins in the violent thermal changes accompanying the electrical discharge, which causes non-periodic wave disturbances in the air, and it may even seem that
all hell has broken loose!
Or, if you were the original rock musician, Antonio Vivaldi, translating, back in 1725 A.D., our mysterious storm-crossed experience into an electrifying concerto of stringed instruments performed through a notated snippet of music which you have named Summer, and prefaced the work upon the written score with these few lines of poetic explanation:
“The shepherd boy cries out, frightened of the storm and of his fate.
He stirs his weary limbs for fear of the ferocious lightning and swarms of gnats and flies.
Ah, his fears are all too justified, for thunder shakes the
heavens and breaks down the corn!”
Then your musically arranged memory of the event would feel something this: