May 21, 2007
REGARDING LIFE, DEATH AND WALT WHITMAN (AND STUFF ON CURRENT EVENTS)
Although April has passed, and most of May, T.S. Eliot's line fron The Waste Land about April being the cruelest month still rings true. The ongoing carnage in Iraq and elsewhere and the massacre in Virginia left their mark. But I also felt something else, like an old and deep body wound.
It finally occured to me that April was the anniversary of the death of a very close comrade, friends and co-worker. We fought side by side for several years in some poverty related policy battles and had quite a winning streak for a while there, although she suffered from a debilitating illness that consumed more and more of her life force.
It was a great partnership and what I miss most are the conversations. When we weren't in predatory mode, we spent exalted timeless moments discussing literature, philosophy, science, religion, life and death. Sometimes our best discussions would be at breaks between meetings, court cases, or legislative sessions.
One area where we differed was the subject of death. She believed it was the end and I could never quite convince myself of that, although, like Hamlet, I sometimes wish I could. When her time came, she faced it like a Spartan. The last book she read was the philosophical poem of Lucretius, De Rerum Natura (On the Nature of Things). In that materialist vision, all that exists are atoms and the void and death is just a dissolution.
For reasons I can't fully explain or articulate, I sometimes have a sense that the difference or gulf between past and present, life and death, and the living and the dead aren't as clear or final as we often think.
The best expression I've found of this sense comes from a lesser-known poem of Walt Whitman's called "Song of Prudence," which will be the guiding thread through this week's Goat Rope.
Meanwhile, back in the world...
MORE ON THE ARACOMA FIRE. Ken Ward of the Charleston Gazette had an good article yesterday featuring an interview with Minness Justice, a MSHA mine inspector who had worked at Massey's Aracoma mine in which two men died in a Jan. 2006 fire.
WHITHER EVANGELICALS? According to this item from today's NY Times, the recent death of Jerry Falwell signals a generational change in evangelical Christians. Many members of the new generation have broader priorities, such as fighting poverty and AIDS, climate change, etc.
DOWN YES, BUT OUT? From the same source, here's a look at the recent fortunes of the right.
GOAT ROPE ADVISORY LEVEL: ELEVATED