Robert (gurdonark) wrote,

"This is the saddest story I have ever heard."--opening line of Ford Madox Ford's novel "The Good Soldier"

Vantage. Perspective. Background. Circumstance.

I like the conceit of the untrustworthy narrator, like the fellow in "The Good Soldier" who makes a world of pronouncements to the audience, until the audience realizes that the narrator's insight is less than perfectly acute.

The way one envisions the problem often helps to define the problem, as the truism goes. The fellow on top of the hill sees a world of valleys. The woodpecker cannot imagine a virtue in keeping tree bark pristine.

I don't know that much about demon twins, although I do like red hots and doublemint gum. But I like the idea that some live the values they speak, while others speak values directly diametrically different from those which they live.

The marvelous thing about life, which keeps me turning the pages on the plot despite the novel being sometimes a bit thick, is that the reader can never quite tell how reliably the narrators set forth the tales. The person who preaches love above all things can quite surprisingly often live in estrangement. But is the estrangement a reaffirmation of love, or the lip service to love a longing to end the estrangement? We're all joined at the wrist, with one person being our highest and best instincts, and another person being the things we cannot escape about ourselves. Twins. Multiples. Brothers, sisters, swallowing the ocean.

I often note how secrets and scandals so often prove banal. They are best kept as secrets, because nobody really wants to see the mirrors. People want to see the lady sawed in half and reassembled. Anyone who imagines that science guillotines the angels and removes the mystery from the world has not read any recent physics, biology, chemistry or geology. The search to uncover all secrets merely makes us appreciate how much more complicated the shrouds of Turin we wish to decipher prove to be.

What are the words, anyway? "Peace in our time", said Mr. Chamberlain, on the eve of the Holocaust. I come more and more to sympathize with the American general whom surrounded by a superior force, was asked to surrender the town of Bastogne. His eloquent reply: "Nuts". The words don't matter, other than perhaps the pithy core--the kernel. Nuts.

I think how words obscure the work ahead. Take our fair city of Dallas. If one took some fifty or so square blocks in south Dallas and perhaps forty or fifty more square blocks in west Dallas, one could identify masses of poverty. If one views this poverty as a disease or an oil spill, then one could mobilize the resources to solve it. But it's easier to treat it as a "study" or a "problem" or "an intractable social issue".

People worry about bread and circuses, I suppose, but then they thrown the bread to the ducks (and the scholarship funds of post-secondary institutions educating bright well-to-do kids) and then attend the circus. A little less talk, a little more action, Elvis said, when he wasn't singing about hound dogs or the ghetto. If one healed the wounds, instead of defining them, and talking them to death, and having political positions about them, then who knows what might happen? Peace in our time. But the reality is that it takes a flood to show the country that one of dozens of cities languishes in poverty, and even that lesson, once learned, recedes with the floodwaters.

Narration has its positive uses. Constructive thoughts gain a power when voiced into words. Words sometimes prompt actions. Actions sometimes do a bit of good. Abundant good might solve a problem someday. Silence in the face of inequity and injustice never freed a slave nor separated intrusive church from over-powering state.

I think often about animals in animal shelters. I know that this is to some extent an escape, because I could think also about children in homeless shelters, and the men and women I used to see on Skid Row in Los Angeles, lost to everything and everyone. But animal shelters offer a stark example of the difference between what we say and what people do.

"America is a pet-loving nation", the story goes. But what about these statistics from

"The American Kennel Club, the largest breed registration organization in the U.S., registered 1,322,557 new individual dogs in 1996. This is an increase of 45,518 animals from 1995, in which 1,277,039 animals were registered. The HSUS estimates that 25-30% of the dogs that enter shelters nationwide are purebred.

Approximate number of animal shelters in the U.S.: 4,000 to 6,000 .

Average number of animals handled by an animal shelter in the U.S.each year: 5 to 7% of the human population of a community (5,000 to 7,000 animals per year in a community of 100,000 people).

Estimated number of animals entering U.S. animal shelters annually: 8 to 12 million"

The estimated number who don't leave? 4 to 6 million estimated a year.

I own a pure-bred dog, and have nothing against dog breeders at all. I'll probably buy more pets over the course of my life. Yet I wonder how a pet-loving nation fails to find a home for 4 to 6 million friends a year.
Our love for pets is a matter of words. But as a society, what shows how we feel about pets? Actions bark louder than words.

In an information age, we're assaulted by words. I must confess, having a shameless crush on the sheer sound of them, that I encounter this information era like a kid of a third date with a new love--a world of possibilities stretches before one, and who knows where the next kiss might lead? The future is words rather than worlds away.

Yet the test of love is not in words, but in constance and company. We travel each day to the shelter of our neighbors' pain, and we either adopt and love, or we abandon and neglect. It's easy to place an infant of the majority ethnic group. It's hard to place a ten year old.

Yet perhaps words transform. Perhaps this is the renewing of one's mind. We become conformed to the idea of a world in which it's okay that someone else is starving, provided they are the children of the poor. We tolerate for other people things we would consider a harsh prison in our own lives. Speaking for me and some of my acquaintances, we obsess about our own challenges, which is a convenient diversion from the common challenge.

The Buddhists have this notion of non-attachment, but I think I'd hunting for something less elusive and less
complex. I want to shake the Etch-a-Sketch, and then make newer, straighter lines.

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