Body of Land – research

So… I’m working on this novel and am taken back to the Reagan years in the US (though I didn’t even live in the US) and realize so much of what is happening now in the US (where I do live now) began then, with a policy of picking on or picking off smaller governments.  Or hand-picking foreign governments.  Now in the US we are experiencing this happening to us, with foreign interference in our elections,  and how people like Vida continue to resist… And so her story, our story, continues…

It is worse in her dreams.  Arthur is shot, bullets through his chest cavity opening him up to daylight, like the paintings she’s seen of St. Stephan, her black man’s head hanging toward the white martyr’s, talking like his body is glass.

– I have broken through the second ground.  I have climbed the second level.  See, the ground lies in splinters.

– My body is all eyes.  Look at it!  I look in all directions.

So his name now circulates.  So he is listed on the enemies’ list.  Vida straightens her legs and starts into town, sees a feint sliver of moon still visible ahead.  It looks like a hammock.  She walks down the street toward the center of town, the buildings and walls, stone on stone and brick on brick so nearly as they have always stood, except there is some smoke.  She does smell smoke.  Smoke fills her nostrils that flare.  The spring rain should have quelled any fires by now.

She looks down the street, and her breath catches in her throat.  There is nothing there, a hollow in the row of buildings and what is left of the police station is smouldering.  The wing that contained the prisoners’ cells is burnt down to rubble.  She closes her eyes against the fear of having lost Arthur for sure.  It is a blind fear that passes with sight as she opens her eyes and her mind slowly clears.

Almost certainly it was the street kids who set this fire.  The invading army had advanced with guns, not torches.  But some town kids in their uninterrupted tradition of half-hearted lawlessness had that energy released by the invasion, and they might have set the place ablaze. But they also would have let Arthur free if he was being held in there.  They would have boasted, and then Vida would have heard all about it, either from Arthur himself on the lam or from Claudia.  Claudia would have known and would have reached her if Arthur had either died or been set free in a fire like this.

So now where to look?  Where is one to look for a body on this body of land.  It is like looking for a needle in a haystack, or like the scriptures says, easier to get a camel through the eye of a needle, or a needle shot through the heel of the revolution and draining its blood.

 

Vida’s face is wet again, but it is no use her wiping it with her sleeve.  It is raining again now so hard she can no longer see the ship in the harbor through the rain.  Still at this hour there is no one around to ask about the fire, and she thinks now perhaps Mrs. Williams was right all along.  Don’t mess with the General, the older woman had counseled.  He might know how Vida distinguished herself.  He might know all about her, and there she is jogging his memory with her questions about Arthur.  Talk to someone lower down, or just talk to yourself, Vida, and stop this looking.  Stay home, Mrs. Williams had exhorted her.  Stay here with me and the children, at least for now.  At least ‘til you have to go away.

Vida puts up her umbrella and looks back over to where the police station is still smoking, wondering how with all the rain the fires can still burn.   Where is the white room that she dreams? Vida wonders.  A puddle is forming around her feet on the poured concrete, and she calculates:  if Arthur wasn’t in the police station then they most likely took him up the hill to the prison.  She has no way to get up there now except by walking, at least until the buses start running again.  Claudia’s car is out of fuel, and fuel is being rationed.  Cars are being searched and, in any case, if Arthur is up there at the prison then there is nothing she can do.  There is the other possibility, that Arthur is dead.  If Arthur is dead she still wants the body.  That is the point now, the body and what she must do.

Thought stops.  She’s here in town, the sun coming up, breaking through the rain clouds, and she is here, having come this far to get Art, and what did she think?  Her body fills up with rage slowly, and the truth nearly knocks her over.  Did she actually think he would be there at the station and that they would release him to her?  No, she didn’t ever think that.  What she wanted was to put this rage back on the man.  She knew she wouldn’t, that she couldn’t get that far but she had wanted to bang on the bars of Art’s grey cell.  She had pictured him in a cage, not a vast white room like in the courthouse, but there in a little cell of the local police station where she could let out her disappointment that was killing her, starting with a fury.  Four days now.  Everything that they had made is ruined and there are still two babies, a cretin sister, and an old woman.  And now what the hell is she, Vida, supposed to do?  Go back to his mom’s house?  This is the fourth day.

She covers her face against the wave of regrets welling up, and now she doesn’t want to go find him.  Instead she wants to go back to her own home, to take hold of her kids and wash their hair and plait Mary’s, tight and shining, then wash the house and wait, wait on the night as if she was younger with courage and bad manners, manners suitable to a woman who does what she wants.  And then when it gets dark and if the music were to start at the bar down the road she would put on her earrings and slip on her black high-heels like a pair she’s never owned and a black polished cotton dress that swishes around her knees – shh shh – like a mother but she is not that mother because she is still so young.  She would cross the dance floor with any man who has the time. Arthur hasn’t had the time for years.  Vida’s lungs fill up with this rage, and she can’t decide what she’s going to do.  A drop of rainwater drips off the branch she has passed, and she stops, wipes the water off her cheek with the back of her hand that makes her catch her breath, it looks so like her hand when she was a child, no paint on her nails now trimmed short, and this ring she wears looks nothing like a wedding ring.  Could be a little girl’s ring.  How would they know Art had a claim on her so that she, in turn, can claim him, claim his body.  She can start again, might have to start again.

Slowly she moves, slowly as if dizzy, but after the first few steps she exhales and all the rage seems to blow out of her lungs.  She looks actually deflated, smaller, older.  Her forehead furrows and deep creases stretch from beneath her flared nostrils to the corners of her mouth, and she starts again.  Her spine carries her away, the line of bones reaching up to her thin neck and extending down through the narrow of her back.  The sensation of love and defeat are almost the same now for her.  Vida and those she loves, the heroes in the revolution, the known and unknown, all the stories that are told and that which is not disclosed, Vida only wants to have the body, to get Arthur back, to repeat what cannot be repeated, to do the same again and again, no regrets, to invent and to repeat the invention.   Vida mutters, mutters under her breath although there is no one to hear her and no one whom she could prevent, by muttering, from hearing her – I will go home and look after my babies. Mary with her arm stretched over James in his sleep, Vida remembers.  She shakes her head, turns around.  She turns her back on the burnt-out police station, turns away from the prison on the hill that stares down on the road she is going to travel.  She begins winding her way back to Mrs. Williams’s house.  Her shoulders bend forward as she starts back down the hill, back toward Mrs. Williams’s house.

Kenny in Infinity – coming of age in the digital era

Kenny is produced as 2-D animation, old-school animation that is now largely superseded by 3-D animation.   Here’s a good video that explains some differences between 2-D and 3-D animation by “Bloop Animation” if you’re not clear on the difference:

The difference between 2D and 3D animation

The metaphysics I’m setting out are more evident with 3-D animation, where it’s all algorithms.  Kenny is not the code; the code points to Kenny, creates Kenny pixels, but that’s not Kenny.   The process of how computers make an image is described in some detail here:

http://How computers make images

http://graphicdesign.spokanefalls.edu/tutorials/tech/computerdisplay/Display.htm

Yet Kenny is more than pixels that present the idea of Kenny.  Kenny is encoded and we read the code, sort of the way an alphabet presents the sounds of a word we hear, a silent alphabet read as a spoken word.

So, while 2D animation is old school, 20th century techniques, the metaphysics of 21st century 3D are way older. Remember Plato’s cave, circa 400 BCE? Real old school.

Here’s the allegory for those who forget: Outside the cave, the freed slave finds what’s real – really real – which are the forms of everything, rather than the manifestations shown on the screen within the cave.  The stuff of the world is just a manifestation of the forms.  2D animations are those manifestations; 3D animations are the forms.

The difference between the metaphysics is manifest in the artistic practices of 2D vs. 3D animators:  2D animators work with stuff – pencils and paper, human and animal models. 3D animators work with code beneath screens, computer simulations, algorithms, the form of the human body, not bodies and not physical models, just computer models, again: the forms.

So 2D Kenny can die. The drawings can fade, celluloid film is notoriously fragile and disintegrates; the Buddhist principle of impermanence is painfully obvious with this medium.

Code, on the other hand, doesn’t deteriorate. It might get corrupted, but then it’s no longer the original code but a new code. It is represented by Xs and Os but those symbols are not the thing itself. They simply represent the thing itself – the code creating something entirely different than code, pixels we intuit as images.

Kenny was born in the celluloid era, but his reality as a super-hero, as a being who cannot die, is realized in the digital era.  We learn the truth about Kenny,  the real Kenny, Kenny as Kenny always was.  The audience just didn’t get it yet.  Kyle didn’t get it yet.  Maybe Matt Stone and Trey Parker didn’t even get it yet.  It wasn’t clear until the digital medium allowed it to be clear – manifest.

Body of Land – “Curiosity is a man’s curse…”

… and in a woman it’s ten times worse.”

Where did I come up with that?  It’s not likely something I made up, and so I googled it… came up with nothing.  I suspect then it’s something I really heard, something someone said to me while I was doing this research.  Something of the island women’s wisdom, a risk I was taking doing this research.  Just get on with it, I told myself then and I tell myself now. These images have become almost commonplace but back then they still had the power to shock me, to move me to action – with a woman’s curiosity…)

No one has seen Arthur since the crisis, but those people Vida spoke with, even Claudia is said to believe that Arthur has gone up into the hills with Theodore.  Some suppose Art might have been captured with Theodore.  He was seriously wounded; that much is known.  He was shot through the leg up there at the fort, so he couldn’t run.  But he did run.

Of course, he must have been taken.  Vida imagines Arthur being dragged in between two husky marines, dragged into a big white room with his legs dangling limp, head bowed so that at first when he opens his eyes he sees his feet, although he doesn’t recognize them as his own, they seem so far away and all feeling is gone.  She imagines that he is virtually poured into the room, without words but again the sound of a body hitting the floor.  He moans and licks the blood dripping from his nose, sees red on the back of his hand after he touches it to his chin.  He examines his naked chest beneath the ripped fabric of his shirt.  The wound next to his nipple has already started to fester.  He doesn’t try to move.  Move, Art.  Be okay.  She imagines his blood pooling on the grey floor, wants to cradle his head in her lap.  Hey, Art, hey, bleed here.  She can only imagine cradling Arthur’s head; there is nothing else she has to offer.

“Water” continues… but there’s drought here

(There’s a problem revising this section now, and it has little to do with the text itself but with the gap between the historical incidents, about which I have really nothing to say – it is all history and someone else’s history, as I said in the beginning, and they will tell their own story.  They have.  There are several versions.  No, my problem is that I’m writing about water and a watery land while sitting in a terrible heat wave, drought conditions, in Los Angeles, trying to imagine/remember the quality of the air, the mood, the reality of so much water that is the metaphor of this section of the book. Metaphors rely on the quality of one thing juxtaposed against another.  There’s the rub.  And here’s the rub.  It’s so far away, the humidity, the revolution…

Enough with the excuses.  I need to get on with this project.)

Vida recalls Mrs. Williams’s expression:  Curiosity is a man’s curse and in a woman it’s ten times worse.  No one has seen Arthur since the crisis, but those people Vida spoke with, even Claudia is said to believe that Arthur has gone up into the hills with Theodore.  Some suppose Art might have been captured with Theodore.  He was seriously wounded; that much is known.  He was shot through the leg up there at the fort, so he couldn’t run.  But he did run.

Of course, he must have been taken.  Vida imagines Arthur being dragged in between two husky marines, dragged into a big white room with his legs dangling limp, head bowed so that at first when he opens his eyes he sees his feet, although he doesn’t recognize them as his own, they seem so far away and all feeling is gone.  She imagines that he is virtually poured into the room, without words but again the sound of a body hitting the floor.  He moans and licks the blood dripping from his nose, sees red on the back of his hand after he touches it to his chin.  He examines his naked chest beneath the ripped fabric of his shirt.  The wound next to his nipple has already started to fester.  He doesn’t try to move.  Move, Art.  Be okay.  She imagines his blood pooling on the grey floor, wants to cradle his head in her lap.  Hey, Art, hey, bleed here.  She can only imagine cradling Arthur’s head; there is nothing else she has to offer.

It is worse in her dreams.  Arthur is shot, bullets through his chest cavity opening him up to daylight, like the paintings she’s seen of St. Stephan, her black man’s head hanging toward the white martyr’s, talking like his body is glass.

– I have broken through the second ground.  I have climbed the second level.  See, the ground lies in splinters.

– My body is all eyes.  Look at it!  I look in all directions.

So his name now circulates.  So he is listed on the enemies’ list.  Vida straightens her legs and starts into town, sees a faint sliver of moon still visible ahead.  It looks like a hammock.  She walks down the street toward the center of town, the buildings and walls, stone on stone and brick on brick so nearly as they have always stood, except there is smoke.  Smoke fills her nostrils that flare.  The spring rain should have quelled any fires by now.

She looks down the street, and her breath catches in her throat.  There is nothing there, a hollow in the row of buildings and what is left of the police station is smouldering.  The wing that contained the prisoners’ cells is burnt down to rubble.  She closes her eyes against the fear of having lost Arthur for sure.  It is a blind fear that passes with sight as she opens her eyes and her mind slowly clears.

Kenny’s consciousness – like Jesus only not

Try this:  Think about your own future:  What’s the chances of that actually happening?  We might not be responsible for what actually happens in the future, but certainly what we think might happen is all in our imagination, therefore partly in our control. Yes, possibly it’s informed by logic, careful planning, or maybe it’s just a leap of faith but we have to will it (in time) and leap (in time).  And by the time we will and leap, that action is past.

Similarly, and more obviously, the past, rooted in actual historical occurrences, is brought back to consciousness through memory, a construction, our own construction of what happened, and we forget a lot.  (This proves particularly annoying to Kenny – that his friends don’t seem to remember that he died, again and again and again…)  Kenny remembers, and we can check his memory (if a cartoon character can have a memory) by scrolling back through past episodes, but even then…

I’m being ridiculous here – you remember.  But you might also forget, like Kyle…   Or you misremember.  In any case, memory is a process of re-creating the past from traces.

So this crazy animation represents a point I am belaboring.  Just to get to the present moment…

Which is already past….

It’s way past by the time I cut and paste this text into the blog, but it was already past by the time I thought of it, even before I wrote anything, even in the present moment by the time I thought of it as present, or as a moment.

And not just because I’m slow.  If you were thinking about your own past, present and future… well, think about it.  There it goes, you just thought about it in the present moment, and it’s past now.   By the time the present is brought to conscious awareness it’s over. That’s my point, and I’m sorry if I’m belaboring the obvious.

I just love Kenny.

When Kyle objects that maybe it’s not so bad that Kenny can’t die, that maybe it’s a good thing, Kenny loses his temper.  The point isn’t about being dead; it’s that dying hurts.  “It fucking hurts,” Kenny shouts and pulls out a gun.  “See?  Try to remember this time,” he shouts at his friends and then shoots himself.

Here’s where Kenny really isn’t a Christ figure: “Accepted death on the cross” is a phrase used in creeds, that can be misleading.   Jesus didn’t embrace the cross; he was nailed to it.  Jesus didn’t kill himself; he was murdered.  And once was enough, and it wasn’t suicide; it was murder.  It’s a lot different.

But there are some similarities to Kenny’s reality is all I’m saying… that the present moment may not have any structure in consciousness.  It certainly doesn’t have a narrative structure: past, present and future.  So, like Kenny, we live in infinity even if we die.  Even if we’re born again (like Kenny) or rise from the dead (like Jesus.)

We live in infinity, this unstructured timeless present/presence, unlike Kenny.  He’s just a comic character, but he makes this much clear which is only one reason why I love him.

[Check out this tribute video:

Kenny as Mysterion – https://video.search.yahoo.com/yhs/search?fr=yhs-adk-adk_sbnt&hsimp=yhs-adk_sbnt&hspart=adk&p=kenny+as+mysterion#action=view&id=10&vid=d40574aa318156c9a4132847f2d9f1bb

https://video.search.yahoo.com/yhs/search?fr=yhs-adk-adk_sbnt&hsimp=yhs-adk_sbnt&hspart=adk&p=kenny+as+mysterion#action=view&id=10&vid=d40574aa318156c9a4132847f2d9f1bb

“Water” continues…

……. (“Water” continues….)

Vida walks through the back streets, to get to the far side of the harbor before the sun completely rises over to the town.  As she reaches the break between low slung buildings, rough stands and brush, she catches a glimpse of the first pink rays on the bow of the dark grey battleship in the bay below her.  The water is still dark grey, as grey and cold as the ship’s metal hull.  Vida wonders if maybe Arthur is being kept out there, not at the police station at all.  Maybe she is heading in the wrong direction.  She had wondered if the police might think her crazy, and Mrs. Williams had suggested as much, if she were simply to walk into the station and ask, “Where are you keeping my husband?”  And Arthur isn’t officially her husband; the local police will know that.  Vida is not sure if the police are there at all, whether they will ask the General whether Arthur is alive at all, or whether any of them will know how it is that Vida had distinguished herself in the revolution.  It wasn’t much but Claudia made a big deal of it, because Vida was a woman, a country woman.  She set up a cooperative so they could cut out the shipper.  Big deal.  It was actually.  Then they could set their own prices.  That’s what she figured and that’s what they did, and Claudia made like they were farmer warriors.

Actually, it is Arthur’s fault that Vida distinguished herself.  Art is the second man Vida fell in love with, the second to find her beautiful, but he was the first man to speak with her about things Vida had known all along.  Her nose had smelled them, her fingers had touched them, her cheeks were flush with them; now with Art her ears heard them and her mouth said them.  And the miracle was, he said yeah.  He said okay, do it.  And now Arthur is gone and the sun is already lighting up the sky.

What her first husband gave Vida was a baby and a name different from Vera’s and different from Arthur’s last name, which could cause her grief now or it just might save her; Vida doesn’t know which.  The officials may only count her first love as her husband.  They might not be willing to tell her anything about Art.  Yet what she knows she knows and she will find Arthur unless he be dead and if he is dead, even if he is four days dead she will have his body.  And if he is not dead she will find him, somewhere in this town best known for its ugliness and its unhappiness.  If not here, then at the prison.  If not at the prison, then hiding on the mountain.

 

She moves quickly down the road toward the harbour, scavenging with her eyes for something lovely to carry with her, anything to conjure him back.  When she stops to catch her breath she looks up and then down toward the harbor, hoping to catch sight of a bird.  One bright feather will help, but dark silhouettes of vultures haunt the shore and in the trees where she hopes for orchids there is nothing.  Anxious even for just a colorful beetle, she turns over a board that lays at her feet in the road.  A black roach scuttles away, big as a mouse.  She hurries on.  Further along the road there’s a snack shack boarded up, but on top of a box is a piece of overripe fruit.  She picks it up, ashamed but suddenly famished, and peels back its skin.  Nothing is subtle here; they call this food Mamma, its flesh wet like labia, and her hands are sticky now with its juice, but she is almost to the harbor.  She hurries down to the water as the juice begins to dry, and when she bends down, leaning into the ocean to rinse her hands, a fish head bobs on the surface, her hands reaching towards its jaws.  This is hopeless.  Everything is ugly now and nothing will appear to relieve her eyes for a long time. Eventually the sun will rise and then the air will be heavy with heat.

Kenny in time, out of time

(Photo by Sarah Boehmke)

Here’s the thing (if you can refer to time consciousness as a ‘thing’) that makes Kenny such an ingenious character:

We can’t represent the present moment as we actually know it, so linear time has gaps – the gaps being our inability to represent the present moment to our knowing.   We each have a past, pretty much represented in our consciousness as a figment of our imaginations according to the findings of neuropsychologists (more about this later) as well as to many filmmakers and artists.  Maybe most of what we remember is true, but something that didn’t happen we can believe did happen.  Watch Get Out (2017) and there are a lot of other good movies and also good science to back it up.  The past is a construct of our imagination.  It might be what happened, or not.

The future, of course, is entirely a feature of our imagination; it hasn’t happened yet so we just make that shit up too.

So the present is all we can know for sure, but we can’t know it really because as soon as we represent it to our minds, in our minds, it’s past. It’s here and now, life as we live it, so logically speaking it’s got to be.  Yet, in the nanosecond it takes us to process what’s happening now, it’s already become past.

We live in the present.  We can figure that much out.  We can represent it, but that’s an act of our imagination.  We make up the present moment that’s already past.

Then we configure it into a narrative thread, as having a narrative structure:  a beginning, middle, and end.  Like Tray and Matt and all the South Park kids with their beginnings, middle, and end (except the series goes on season after season, while the characters don’t seem to age, and then there’s Kenny …)

Only Kenny doesn’t die.  Here with Kenny’s immortal being we have represented what is present (without the narrative structure of beginning, middle and end) and generally unimaginable (the kids can’t even remember Kenny has died, over and over again.)

It just happens to be true: we, logically speaking, live in the present but the present has no narrative structure and our brains create a narrative anyway.  We, like Kenny, live in the present, outside that narrative structure of our own life and death.  We construct the narrative in our heads, certainly:  our remembered past (that is a figment of our imaginations) and our anticipated future (again, a figment of our imaginations).  It’s in the present where we actually do our living, we just can’t imagine it.  It has no narrative structure.  It just is.  We just are.

Again: that is-ness doesn’t have the structure of narrative time (past, present, and future).  Like Kenny, (though he’s being shaped into a confounding narrative) we just are.  Without a narrative structure – without a beginning, middle and end – we must exist.

This being with no structure is presented tonally as silence, which of course we can’t actually experience – just try to meditate to find out how noisy silence can be.  It is presented visually as a blank space, the horizon, a Rothko painting … or as Kenny in the vortex of death and rebirth.

(Just to be clear: we’re talking about time consciousness, not necessarily physics.  But we can only try to understand physics as conscious beings, so that’s hardly an aside.)

Body of Land – Water (the twins)

(There’s a descriptive passage giving some of Vida’s background that I’m not publishing as part of this blog.  At least not yet.  Maybe we’ll get come back to it. Here’s the story of how Vida wound up at Mrs. Williams’ house with her two children with her twin sister up at the top of the mountain in a mental institution, an institution with … well, read on...)

Vida pulls the sheet up over her two children, patting Mary’s head as Mary falls back to sleep and as Vida herself rises, crosses the room to the sink to splash water on her face and body, gently towelling herself dry.  Vida’s body and its shadow are like two bodies dancing together in this light, a grey light through the window as the sun tries to rise through the mist. She is neither tall nor short, neither thin nor fat.  Her skin is dark, nearly blue black in this light, and her dressing gown is light.  Her hair is pulled back in a tight band.  She sighs as she sprinkles water on her hair to pat it down.

It is still dark.  The rooster’s crowing sets off the cacophony that grows as it spreads through town, the sound of their crowing bounding off the larger buildings into the centre of town, the sound of the crowing echoing up into the hills.  Then the dogs start barking and the roosters, hens and dogs together shatter the morning stillness.  Mrs. Williams’s dogs are also barking.  The old woman keeps several dogs, always tan dogs small enough to step over but loud enough to protect her.  There is only one dog who doesn’t bark and doesn’t bother anyone except that British man who has been staying over at the guest house, the man who is always threatening to chop the troublesome mutt with a machete if it bites him again.  It bites only him, then runs back home so that this particular man knows where to come looking.  He has given Mrs. Williams an awful time about the dog, but now all is forgotten in the nightmare of the past four days.  No one notices that the man has gone and that the dog remains, so that the dog isn’t barking now.  Momentarily all the dogs stop barking so the quiet closes in again down the road this early morning, as if nothing has happened.

Vida dresses quickly, passes through the living room and takes an umbrella from the stand as she slips the latch open on the front door and passes through as quietly as a shadow.  The road is glassy from the rain and Vida sniffs at the air to take in the clean wet smells as soon as she reaches the road beyond the gate.  Mrs. Williams’ house smells like her cooking, not like Vida’s mom’s house where the kitchen was out back, the old cook stove and hot pots never offending the lemon smell of the small house where the whole family crowded to sleep and talk and from which Vera seldom ventured, small as the space was, scared as she was as a little girl, scared of everything but especially the large turkey in the yard and the heat of the day and the dark of the night.  Besides, the air circulating in the country kitchen there was sweet.  Not like Mrs. Williams’ bigger house with its inside kitchen and smells of fried fish and cakes and curry indoors that Vida got used to only slowly.

She passes by the gas station at the end of the road into town, then past the first stretch of houses where the smoother pavement absorbs the sound of her footfall which, now that the roosters have settled down, is the only sound disturbing the stillness of this early morning, a silence that closes back in behind her.  Her walk belies her agitation.  Her steps are steady and unhurried, like a dancer’s across a stage.  The smooth musculature that developed in her face, in fact, extends through her whole body, muscles stretched and smoothed from the constant exercise of rising again and again to meet whatever occasion arises.  No one would guess what she is doing up and about.

In the clearing along the road Vida turns and looks up the mountain.  She can see only the prison looming up over the trees at the top of the mountain, but what she does not see she knows is also there.  The forest, wet as jungle where the men, maybe Arthur, is hiding.  The first day there were lights up there, flickering lights, maybe flashlights, maybe army issue.  Maybe some men were okay up there, but there hasn’t been any lights in two days.  Beyond the forest, adjacent to the prison, stands the mental hospital where Vera stays.  By way of explanation for why these two buildings stand next to each other, out of anyone’s way, high on the mountain overlooking everything, a local historian has it that the asylum was to be a second prison, and that at the time the functions were confused.  Madness and criminality, there is always difficulty distinguishing the conditions, a difficulty that seems to have been compounded back then, according to the local authorities, by the fact that there were too many women slaves on St. Michaels.  Womanliness was seeping over the island, so much was its power, and the authorities’ answer was to build this large asylum with its long corridors where Vera is waiting patiently, Vera being a patient there now, waiting for her drugs.  If she refuses her drugs she will go mad because she is mad, or so they say, but she does not say because she never has spoken a word.  She too is waiting in line.  Staring, and waiting.

Vera’s eyes are Vida’s eyes.  The twins have the same eyes but it is not just their eyes; everything about them is entangled.  Years ago Arthur had given Vida a book by a South African poet who explained all this.  The Zulu call twins amakhosi or amawele, those who help each other across the river.   The two women did carry each other ever so long.  The sisters as infants looked very much the same, separating only slowly no matter what they say about how this happens at conception.  Vida and Vera didn’t conceive it this way, close as they were and talking the same language even though Vida learned adult talk and Vera learned no speech but what they had between the two of them for ever so long, hardly even now speaks.  Still, there is no identity without difference; Vida’s face is plain and Vera is crazy.  Vida and their mother took care of Vera for seventeen years, but eventually it was too much.  Their mother took sick and Vida had them both in the house and working at the clinic by day.  After a year it was getting worse, not better, and she saw no choice but to send Vera away to the mental hospital.  Everyone said so.  Everyone said as much at the beginning, but things got so bad even Vida had to agree.

The twins don’t look so much alike anymore, although they are said to be identical, and they still have the same eyes looking wide and way out into the world.  Not like Mrs. Williams’…

(Again I mention, I’m not telling the story of the US invasion of Grenada here; that story is being told by the people who lived the revolution start to finish… and it actually isn’t finished.  It’s their story to tell, and there are several important first-hand accounts, but what got me obsessed with this novel was the US bombing of the hospital near the jail, and the response in the media and the Catholic bishop in Grenada as well.  “Oops…”  As if this collateral damage is a small thing, these lives lost of little importance given the military objectives.)

Spiritual. Period.

Okay, maybe a South Park cartoon figure is an unlikely poster-child for a spiritual moment, a movement that I like to think of as Spiritual. Period.

Spirituality is affirmative, defining a group of practices that put meditation, art, community and ecological sustainability over institutional sustenance.  If religious practices inform or support these practices, that’s great.  If they don’t, well just forget about them.  There’s no need to oppose them.  Without our support these unhelpful practices just die on the vine.  Fine.

So who is Kenny?

On a representational level (what Kenny represents) it’s hard not to recognize him as a Jesus figure.  He’s poor, does good, dies and then is alive again.  Something like Jesus but Jesus just did it once; Kenny does it all the time.  The creators of South Park mock death; it’s not what we thought it was.  Death is just part of a plot; it doesn’t have any ultimate meaning.  It sure doesn’t have any finality about it; death is a temporary state, a plot point.

So I’m binge-watching Season 14, and Episode 12 “Mysterion Rises” and monks … I need to see this over again… the monks kill Kenny/Mysterion in his dream.

Then in Episode 13, unlucky indeed, Mintberry Crunch describes her superpowers, and the whole group confronts Kenny, what is his superpower?

“I can’t die.”

His friends don’t believe him, infuriating him.  He argues that not only is it true – he can’t die – but they never even notice.   Kyle tries to console him, argues that maybe that’s kinda cool that he can’t die, when Kenny loses it.  “Pretty cool?  Do you know what it feels like to be stabbed, to be shot, decapitated…  It’s not fucking cool; it funking hurts.”

The evil is pain, not death.

Kenny pulls out a gun, “Pay attention.  Try to remember this time,” and  he shoots himself.  Now insofar as Kenny is a Christ-figure, we’re really in the territory of heresy, common enough, and just to be clear; Jesus was murdered, he didn’t kill himself.  And the Father didn’t have him killed.  What is revealed with the crucifixion … it’s not this… but that’s for another day.  It’s not God that is revealed in the crucifixion as it is who we are; humans will kill innocents – read today’s newspaper.   But that’s not the final word; death isn’t the end of it.

Carmen/Coon confesses; he’s really a bad guy.  And then he proves that’s true.

Okay… just watch this if you don’t believe this is a fairly serious exploration about some serious theological issues, and most specifically Jesus’ question to the disciples, “Who do you say that I am?”

Evil isn’t as persistent as Kenny’s question, “I have to know who I am.”

Watch it.  “Use your powers.”

You’ll wind up at Burning Man.  In the next episode…

Body of Land – Fiction and non-fiction

Currently working on two book projects, I’m writing the non-fiction (Kenny in Infinity), finishing a novel (Body of Land), and blogging about the process.

Both book projects entail research, of course. Yesterday I ordered one book for the non-fiction research and today two for the fiction project. That’s just the tip of the iceberg; I’ve been researching both projects for years.  It’s the two-to-one ratio with this book order that struck me as funny, almost poetic, though. For me, fiction generally does require twice as much research as non-fiction.  It’s always been thus.

Writing my first novel, Vigil, I was simultaneously writing the non-fiction Ending Violence in Families when this paradox was explained to my editor of Ending Violence. As I submitted the revised (and re-revised and revised again) manuscript for Ending Violence, I sighed and said aloud, “Here you go.  Now I can get back to my real work.”

Frank smiled while I grimaced and apologized, “That’s how tired and messed up I am. Sorry. Fiction as real, and non-fiction as unreal; what was I thinking?”

He shook his head, “Don’t apologize. What you are working on here is real, but what you’re working on with your novel, that is really real.”

That’s certainly the goal.  Fiction can be like Plato’s forms, where getting it right is getting at what is really real, coming out of Plato’s cave, today a deep cave of information where truth seems buried alive. In the allegory of the cave, Plato shows himself to be a poet that he himself would exile from the Republic.

Maybe we all live in a kind of self-exile, retreating into a swamp of information to avoid the harsher light of being that our stories reveal.