I'm living in Kusatsu-shi, Shiga-ken for an undetermined amount of time and teaching English as a second language at a local high school. This journal is to document my experiences, thoughts, and to stay connected with others at home and abroad.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Excerpt from "Magnanimity" (Cambodia Interruption)

I suppose I should title this in honor of the Monty Python movie, "And now for something completely different", because this blog has little relation to my recent trip to the southeast, and will probably (then again probably not) surprise many of you who know me.

In the fall of 2006 when I arrived to Japan, I pretty much immediately started writing a novel I had been storing and puzzling together in my head for the previous year. My projected title for the book is Magnanimity of the Lonely, and so far I've written in the neighborhood of 100+ pages. Unfortunately the plot is still somewhat scattered due to the fact that I've been writing in chunks with long periods of inactivity between. I've developed the characters, chosen the setting (Atlanta, naturally), and outlined roughly the turn of events.

I'm going to start with the most recent chapter I've written, told from the perspective of the narrator: Angel (tentative name). A brief background on the character: he writes op-ed pieces for the AJC, in particular matters of faith, disgust, politics, fortunes, celebrity obituaries. His favorite topic to cover is "stupid things you humans do." Admittedly, I use him to voice many ideas of my own, although I won't say which ones, but I find that in literature it's nearly impossible not to find a piece of myself in every good character created.

Angel (1/23/2008)

Article: Cans and Ables

You humans have been making gross errors with two simple ideas, two simple words: can and able (get). Just because something is possible, doesn’t mean it’s right. Just because you think “you are able” to have steak everyday of the week, doesn’t mean you “should be able”.
You’ve been reversing your power and privileges and screwing yourself in both holes at the same time. Drinking alcohol can be fun, and as long as you do not binge yourselves in kegs, it stays that way. Those who try to make it a daily routine soon show the signs of abuse in the waterlogged tissue swelling beneath lackluster sheets of skin. Do not misunderstand me, I’m no teetotalist on a soapbox––just a common sense seeking angel bitter that the rest of the world chooses to be blind to his simple calls for reason.
This is a very easy idea to understand, so half of you are probably still following up to this point. Allow me then to strike while the iron is hot:
Firstly, cans and ables have little chance of hurting us as long as we learn from our errors. Going back to the earlier metaphor, the alcohol poisoning afflicts over drinkers in such a violent way that it (sometimes, though not often enough) prevents them for repeating the act of binging. This is good. This is nature: psychosomatic learned aversion of something that makes us sick. For most animals this method of learned association is not a choice; however you humans have lately decided to disregard very clear signals for what you should be able to do and replaced with a “I do what I want” motto.
Secondly, because you are humans¬––and by being human able to see across stretches of time unimaginable by other species¬¬––you can also learn from History. But here, yet again, you prove yourselves truculent learners. Here are the wars your country has entered into in the past 100 years: WWI, WWII, Vietnam, Korea, Gulf, Iraq, Afghanistan (the last four hardly wars rather than occupations). Here are the wars you could have helped to prevent: Rwanda, Tiananmen Square, Nanking, Darfur, the Holocaust, Cambodia (proximal in space and time to Vietnam).
Which of these were the result of “can” and which should have been prevented with “able”?
Due to a ballooning population, you cannot afford to live the same way you do without destroying your ability to live. Sure, the 2nd and 3rd industrial revolutions may not have been so malignant to the environment, but that was before the population increased by 400% (1.6-5.9 billion) and the life expectancy rose over 30 years on average. Do Americans, the temporary leaders of CO2 discharge, deserve to keep making and driving unnecessary SUVs and similarly inefficient machines because they have the technology to? Does China have the right to continue it’s burning of coal when we all know the harm it causes, just because previous superpowers made similar mistakes in ignorance?
Are you kidding? Think about it this way; do you want your children breathing oxygen or CO and CO2?
Consciously choosing ignorance is the only way that you humans can resolve this cognitive dissonance between what you want to do––“but I’ve always had a TV…why should I stop driving my car when it’s so convenient…if I have the money why don’t I deserve whale meat for dinner”––and what YOU KNOW BY THIS POINT YOU SHOULD DO.
This is a challenge to historians: you have a responsibility to better inform people of the mistakes they are repeating.
For the consumers: learn to live with what you have and not envy what you don’t.
For the politicians: step off your pedestals if you are only using them to further conspire against your people. If you are going to continue standing up there, invest in some rope so that when the truth surfaces and your platform drops out from under the fall will be less shameful.
For the teachers: teach, encourage the youth to ask questions and provide a model of hope and inspiration. Your moral responsibility is to teach others to seek the truth.
For all conspirers against the heart, false prophets who discriminate at the doors of paradise, marketers of empty kisses, lawyers who use words to deceive, pimps who sell their mothers, wives, and daughters short:
I have lived on all sides of the universe. I have seen where you will proceed to after this life and I know that what will happen to your souls over there is beyond any of your conceptions. For your misdeeds your small hearts will be cooked on the sun until they beat with an ache of guilt and regret so powerful you will gnaw off every inch of skin to get a second chance to return to Earth to amend your wrongdoings. It is precisely at this moment that you realize you have not yet died. You are still hanging a pinprick from death with all of your senses a flowing in through the bleeding black hole of your heart. You will hang there, heart baking with grease, sweating in contrite agony, and you never die. There is no afterlife because you never die. Those with little to regret have no trouble finding a peaceful please within themselves to sleep, but not those who trade life for chosen ignorance. You live with the vivid memory of your entire life forever in a wake. Voiceless, paralyzed, dead in all but the heart, the only thing you can do is watch others repeat your steps, your failures, without the ability to warn them, because your chance on Earth has ended.
As the designated Historian of Earth, I felt it was my duty to inform you of your egregious misconceptions about conscious and afterlife before it’s too late. If my time ever comes, unlikely because we angels live forever, I don’t want to contribute to both your and my eternal suffering.


Blogger Patti said...

Well done! Glad you are finding time to write along with making new music. What a fertile period this is for you - enjoy every drop!

Your Can and Able tale is quite interesting and timely. Your allusion to the biblical Cane and Able strikes an ironic chord with me. As we witness the debacle of the sub-prime mortgage meltdown, I am keenly aware of how easy it is to get out of control with the "able." Folks everywhere are scrambling to hold on to their illusions.
This brief article in today's NYTimes gets it right - will we choose greed or ecology?

be well!

12:39 AM


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