How I spent the week, in other words.
Composition of Place first:
I am listening to a pirate download of a 1957 Blossom Dearie recording. I’ve never heard her before. I think I’m in love. I know, I know, she died a few months ago. She’s magnificent. Not was, is. She’s no more dead than Renata Tebaldi.
“Ethics After Easter” is the title of some book or other, another one I own but read as far as page 5. I own a lot of books like that.
Reading: I started and can’t put down Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried. I taught the title chapter to my 19-year-old kids. Some of them had actually read the whole book. The rest were characteristically clueless. I ordered the book. It’s even more frightening and sad than the opening chapter. Life was not cheap, but it could be devaluated under the pressure of the constant timor mortis that surrounds men in war. I sat at my table earlier tonight, alone in the house, and cried when I read about how one of the platoon tortured to death a baby water buffalo. I remember shouting aloud “Just kill it!” O’Brien himself says that a war story cannot have a hint of redemption, but must transfer its information so it is obscene.
He succeeds. The book is military pornography and makes Mailer’s Naked and the Dead read like an X-Men comic.
In some ways my week has been disturbing and soul-turning. I have had to examine what I believe, the priorities I set for the people in my life. But on the other side of that disturbance in “The Force” is an experience of great power and beauty that, if it fell from me tomorrow, would remind me of the old Pesach song “Dayenu”–It would have been enough for us.