|Timothy Spearman Who Is Pushing the Pen?|
Le Chat Noir
It is clear that the common is by no means good and that what is truly common is people’s faith in the common good. Fortunately, there are things uncommon and that is good. If there is anything that defies mediocrity it is he who has to dodge all the other fish as he swims upstream.
The other fish will conspire against him because they do not like anyone swimming against the current. But he will not be deterred from his course. You see, my reader, an artist is like a salmon; he must swim upstream to get to his spawning grounds, since this is the only place where he can produce any offspring. Others will regard him as a strange fish simply because he is the only one capable of swimming against the current, leaping waterfalls, and dodging obstacles.
You see, my reader, I am a salmon, which is why I spent four days in Pere Lachaise Cemetiere in Paris. I found my spawning grounds by swimming against the current. I knew I would never give birth to anything inspirational by following all the other schools of fish through the streets of Paris. I knew I would never reach my spawning grounds by swimming with the current.
What could I possibly find to write about at the Eiffel Tour or the Louvre?
The interesting thing about swimming against the current is that you sometimes bump into another solitary making his way upstream. Speaking as one solitary to another, my reader, I am always on the look out for others who are like me. Truly, it is extraordinary to come across someone so ordinary.
That is why I refer to you in the singular, my reader, as I know there is only one of you out there. But don’t be discouraged because you think someone else might be the Extraordinarius. He may already be losing his status because he considers himself exceptional for being the exception. As soon as he begins to think highly of himself, he becomes like all the rest. For as long as you remain unaware of your high status, my reader, you will be ordinary enough to assume the chair.
It comes as no surprise, then, that I should be taken by surprise by the appearance of another solitary in Pere Lachaise Cemetaire.
You see, my reader, the Extraordinarius would never be conspicuous. He is too unaware of himself to recognize his importance. He is not used to grandstanding. He has far too humble an opinion of himself.
My first impression of him was that he was quite ordinary. He was portly and balding, with thick, dark eyebrows and a prominent nose. He wore a light brown cardigan, whose buttons were on the verge of popping every time he took a breath. He walked with a slight limp, which I attributed to his feet being too big for his shoes. Indeed, there seemed nothing exceptional about a man walking about with a watering can in his hand. He had obviously come to pay his respects.
Perhaps he had even brought some flowers along to place on the grave of the deceased? Or perhaps he had lost his wife and came often to sit by her graveside? My reader perhaps wonders at my morbid curiosity? He may even find me a trifle ghoulish. Perish the thought, my reader.
I could see that there was nothing tangential about his movements. He was entirely indiscriminate about which graves he watered. And as it did seem rather unlikely that he had come to pay his respects to half the departed souls in the cemetery, I could only conclude that he was a caretaker. You see, my reader, I could not help but find the man ordinary for being occupied in so humble an occupation. So when he suddenly approached me to give a learned account of the various historical figures buried in the cemetery I naturally felt honored. How could a man of such breeding and education find himself in so humble an occupation? Could it be that he was too ordinary to recognize his talents? Was he not all the more extraordinary because of it? Perhaps he was the Extraordinarius?
The extraordinary fellow introduced himself as Gerald Lodigensky and proceeded to give a longwinded account of his genealogy in French. It seems he came from nobility and was a direct descendent of the aristocratic families of Tzar Nicholas’s day. He informed me that his family had had the privilege of hearing recitals by some of the greatest court composers of the day. He pulled out a newspaper clipping to validate his claims, but he needn’t have bothered. The whole story was far too far-fetched not to be believed. According to the article, Rachmaninoff had dedicated his first symphony to a cousin of Gerald’s by the name of Anna Lodigensky.
It seems the composer was enamored with the beautiful lady, but was forced to confine his affections to the platonic sphere, as she was known to be married. And if this was not enough to confirm that his lineage was well aligned, he also informed me that his grandfather had known the great conductor, Vassele Safanoff. According to Gerald, his grandfather, Nichola Lodigensky was himself a conductor and accompanied Safanoff on his American tour. On the opening night, Safanoff paid his dear friend the honor of conducting the symphony with him conjointly. As a duet performed between two orchestra leaders is rather unusual, it is hardly surprising that it succeeded in bringing the house down. Unbeknownst to Nichola, Safanoff extended the honor to him as a farewell gesture. Gerald’s grandfather returned to Russianever dreaming that he would never see his friend again. News of Safanoff’s defection traveled quickly.
For my own part, I never doubted that Gerald was from high and noble birth. Only an aristocrat would have the grace to humble himself. He is the only one noble enough to confront his ordinariness. Only a lord has the courage to scale all his castle walls to discover the hallowedness of his fortress. He has no delusions of grandeur. He knows he will be powerless against the enemy should his castle ever come under siege. Observe him in battle my reader. He will be the first to admit defeat. He is never too proud to wave a white flag. He is noble enough even for that. Only a vassal of low birth would display his colors to the last. He is not noble enough to admit defeat. He is too base born to confront his ordinariness. He feels he has something to prove. He has delusions of grandeur because he wants to feel important. He does not realize that this is precisely what makes him unimportant. Everyone wants to feel important, which is why very few people do. He is truly important who seeks nothing for himself.
I can tell you my reader that I was only too pleased to make connections with someone so well connected. I would have taken him for an aristocrat regardless of his family connections. As it turned out, Gerald was not the caretaker of Pere Lachaise
Cemetiere at all, but cared for the grounds on a purely voluntary basis. Gerald was so ordinary that he had even humbled himself to do a menial job without pay. He had asked if he could conduct tours for money, but was told that he would require permission from the parks authority. He knew it would take months before he could begin promoting his tours, so he decided to give them free. That a man of breeding and education could humble himself to take so menial a job was noble in itself, that he could do so without pay was the hallmark of an aristocrat. Only a noble could have such a low opinion of himself, my reader. It is strange to think that his ordinariness could make him so extraordinary.
Our first stop was the grave of Jean Moreas, a long time friend and confidant of Mallarme’s, whose real name, we soon learned, was Apadiatantopoulos. He changed his name in the hope of gaining popular acceptance, but it seems that his pseudonym was
to remain as obscure as his real name. You see, my reader, Apadiatantopoulos had come to France from Greece. It seems that he was one of the poets Plato banned from his republic. And as the poet had no hope of gaining acceptance in his own republic, it was only natural that he should seek asylum in the city of life. It seems that when Gerald first came across Moreas’s grave some ten years previously, its state of dereliction implied obscurity, a situation he immediately set about remedying by covering his grave with flowers. He had come everyday for the past ten years to water the flowers he had placed on the grave of the forgotten poet. He considered it an injustice that the artistic achievements of this poet should be forgotten, an irremediable situation, he pathetically hoped to remedy by performing his daily tribute.
After visiting the grave of Jean Moreas, it became more difficult to follow Gerald, as he explained en francais where he intended to lead us. You see, my reader, it is no easy task trying to follow someone whom you can barely follow. The problem was the pace he was setting. He spoke so quickly that we were barely able to keep up. There were several times when we lost him, but we soon understood where his speech was going, when he led us to the grave of Stephen Heller.
It was at this point that I knew exactly where his monologue was taking us. I had the sense to gain a sense of where he was leading us. He was heading down the path of his own past. His autobiography was written in the epitaphs of those neglected graves. You see, my reader, it was no accident that Gerald felt some affinity for Stephen Heller. His story was part of Gerald’s own life story, the story of a life? which has never got underway. Heller was a great musician, but, like Gerald he never gained any recognition for his work. He was a mentor of the young Chopin, who later went on to gain all the fame. It was only natural then, that Gerald should feel some sympathy for the dead musician, as he believed his own genius had not received the recognition it deserved.
“I ’ave never been like de ot’ers,” he informed me in English. “I knew at de time I was a young boy dat there was the difference between me and the ot’ers.”
“Why did you feel like that?” I implored.
“I remember…” he said, pausing, “How do you say? You pull on the cord and the light goes click.”
“You mean the switch,” I offered.
“Yes, yes,” he nodded, “De switch. I was turning on the switch for the
how do you say? De ting dat turns de records.”
“The turntable,” I said.
“That’s it,” he concurred, “the turntable. Anyways, the teacher could not remember who plays the music, so I tell her it is Hayden. She says I am silly. ‘It is not Hayden,’ she says. I tell her ‘I know it is Hayden.’ She tell me I talk rubbish. But
I know it is Hayden.”
“She must have thought you were too young to know about such things,” I argued.
“Yes,” he agreed. “And it is like dat always. I always know what ot’ers do not know, but when I try to tell dem dey think I off my…How do you say? You lean back on de chair and it comes forward again.”
“Off your rocker,” I offered again.
“Yes, off my rocker,” he said, smiling delightedly. “So I am off my rocker. Well, one day, dey will see I am right.”
“Right about what?” I demanded.
“Dere are de conspirators in France,’ he continued, “who want that you say nossing. Dey call demselves liberals, but dey are not liberals. Dey control all. Dey do not want dat you say anyssing. And if you say anyssing, you are finished.”
“Say what things,” I demanded.
“Anyssing,” he argued, “if you say anyssing, you are called a reactionary.”
“Who are they?” I queried.
“Dey are de ones destroying culture,” he argued. “First, dey start with language. It is said dat we do not any more speak de French in France but Franglish.”
Absurd as his conjectures may have seemed, I was inclined not to dismiss Gerald’s claims. After all, conspiracy and ostracism are nothing new. In ancient Greece, the political integrity of a man could be challenged and put to the test in a manner very different from today. There was little guarantee that an official’s political standing would long remain standing in such an aggressive political climate. So difficult was the political ladder to climb, that, even if he reached the final rung, one of his colleagues was likely to sweep out the ladder from beneath him. No one held a monopoly on power. Whenever
the political machine broke down, each official was obliged to name the one he deemed most unworthy of holding office. The common practice of the conspirators was to write the names of the ostracized officials on pieces of broken pottery known asostrikon. The entire ritual was symbolic of a fragmented political system, with democracy in ruins. It is well known that, when the majority is corrupt, the only ones to be sighted for any wrongdoing are those who have done no wrong.
It is a view commonly held that, whenever the political machine grinds to a halt, it is because a small minority has thrown a spanner in the works. It is more often the case that the majority is corrupt, while a small minority struggle to hold the party platform together. It is clear that the democratic process is not very well processed. It needs to be more refined. It is even clearer that the political position of the majority is not very well positioned. It should be left outside the political arena. If there is anything that deserves to be banished from the republic it is the commonly held opinion. Many will call me a fascist for saying so, but that is because they do not want me rocking the boat. I will see the boat sink before I do their bidding. You see, my reader, I believe in conspiracy theories.
If you see a conspiracy, plead your case. You will not find it difficult to isolate the conspirators. They will be the ones calling you a conspirator. My reader doubtless wonders why I have taken such lengths to go on at such length. Perhaps it is because Gerald already had me looking over my shoulder.
“What is your work?” I asked.
“I ’ave not de work,” he responded. “Dey do not want dat I work. Ten years ago I was a teacher, but now I can do nossing. I ’ave applied to many places, but I ’ear nossing. I work sometimes, but only for two or three months. Some of the work I like, but I never stay very long.”
“Why can’t you find work as a teacher?” I asked. “Is it because you have not had full-time employment for a long time?”
“I don’t know why,” he responded. “I ’ave not de reason. Maybe it is because I ’e de Russian name. They might think I am de spy. All I know is that I ’ave not de work for ten years. Dey do not want dat I work.”
“How do you know ‘they’ are behind it?” demanded.
“I know,” he declared. “Dere are de conspirators all over France. I know for a fact dat a group of Zionists have used the Cabbala to ruin my life.”
“What makes you think so?” I asked, dismissing his mad hypothesis.
“I will tell you,” he continued. “One day, this man, he came to my house. He was …how do you say? De one who sells the woman’s body.”
“A pimp,” I declared.
“Yes, de pimp,” he concurred. “One day ’e came for my wife and she went with ’im. I did not ’ear from her for two weeks. Things, dey were never the same after she returned. Now, she lives no more with me.”
“Where has she gone?” I asked, sympathetically.
“She told me she would go to Lyon to stay with a friend.”
“Can you not call her?” I suggested.
“I ’ave not de telephone number.”
“What about going to Lyon to find her?” I urged.
“How?” he protested. “Dere is not de address. I do not know where is de beginning.”
“So what will you do?”
“What can I do? All I can do is wait.”
“How long has it been?”
“I ’ave ’eard nothing for three months.”
At this juncture, my host led me to the foot of another grave, the subject matter of which was most grave. He informed me that this was the tomb of Mrs. Edwards, the wife of a wealthy Parisian. According to Gerald’s account, she was crossing theEnglish Channel one night with her husband, when she lost her balance and fell overboard. The captain turned the vessel around to conduct a search, but it was known that the woman would not long survive in the frigid waters of the North Atlantic. When the body was recovered, Mrs. Edwards was pronounced dead, the victim of an apparent drowning. According to Gerald, the entire incident was staged to look like an accident.
Mrs. Edwards had not drowned at all. She had been involved, for some time, in an extramarital affair with a man who was not as inclined toward discretion as herself. One night, her lover let the matter slip to the wrong party. Mr. Edwards was informed of his wife’s infidelity the following evening. Plying himself with brandy, Mr. Edwards made ready for the dastardly crime. After consuming enough alcohol to give him the necessary courage, he set off to confront his wife, pistol in hand. After a heated argument, he managed to force an admission of guilt from her. He was careful with his aim. He did not want the wound to be easily detected by the detectives.
Initially, there was no suspicion of foul play. Mrs. Edwards was buried, and as far as anyone thought, that was the end of the affair. It was not until years later that rumors began circulating that Mrs. Edward’s death was no accident. There was a public outcry and demands for justice all around. The police began an investigation and a court order was gained to exhume the body. When the body was examined, a hole was discovered in the back of the skull.
At this point, I would like to perform an exhumation of my own on some of the points I raised earlier, but have subsequently left buried. It is time to raise the dead, my reader. You may recall me mentioning that I knew exactly where Gerald’s tour was taking me. I suggested that he was giving me a guided tour of his life by showing me the headstones of all those whose life episodes resembled his own. Let us exhume these buried facts, my reader, and examine the recent developments in our case. Does it not seem strange that Gerald should tell me the story of Mrs. Edwards after telling me about the disappearance of his own wife? Perhaps he had staged her disappearance? Perhaps her body was lying at the base of some cliff? It would have been easy to make it look like an accident. What other relevance could the story of Mrs. Edwards have? It was obvious that he was making a confession, but was challenging me to fill in the sordid details. It was typical of a psychopath’s perverted genius to leave behind a trail by which to pursue him. Deprived of the capacity to be creative, the psychopath is creative in his paths of destruction.
How do I know, my reader? You might well ask. You see an iconoclast is a kind of psychopath. His path is creation through destruction. He wants to uproot the tree of convention and plant a new seedling in three days. But he does not want the whole world adopting his measures. He knows he must blaze a trail which only the astute can follow. He does not want philistines following in his footsteps. That is why the iconoclast seeks disciples. He only wants followers capable of following in his footsteps. You see, my critics, my mind works like Gerald’s. I too am conducting a guided tour through a cemetery. With every stroke of the pen, I am performing exhumations on people buried in my past.
They are all my Lazarus’s. Observe their headstones, my critics. My life is written in their epitaphs. I am a walking sepulcher comprised of everyone I have met. I will only live for as long as I can perform exhumations on everyone buried in my past. You probably think me ghoulish for digging up old bones. But are you not a trifle ghoulish for following me around these dark sepulchers, my critics? Be thankful you have the luxury and have not been buried yourselves. Do not be too critical of my ghoulish ways. I may have the power to exhume you, but I also have the power to bury you, my critics. I can plot a little plot for you with a few strokes of my pen. Already my critics are getting chills down their spines. Perhaps we have just walked over their graves, my reader.
You may have noticed that you are being taken on more than one guided tour. Perhaps you have discerned that I am leading you down the garden path on a tour of three different cemeteries. You would even like to dig up the meaning I have left buried. You see my critics you are in the cycles of Hell. I am Dante and Gerald is Virgil. He is pointing the way by showing me the headstones, but I am obliged to fill in the epitaphs for myself.
There are three cycles in this Inferno. Follow on if you dare, but do not trip over any headstones. While there may be nothing cryptic in the first cycle, there are many bones for you to chew on in the second and third. My critics may be curious to know why there are so many cycles. Perhaps it is because I know many of you would prefer to remain in Limbo than look for a deeper meaning. I know there is only one of you with the strength to forebear all the cycles of allegory. He is the one who refuses to swim with all the other schools of thought. For him, everything academic is mediocre. Full of rivalry and petty in-fighting, academics will always remain in Limbo. Marxists, Feminists, Freudians. The name says it all: `We have never had an original thought in our lives’.
In the first cycle, my guide showed me the graves of all those buried in the past. There were a host of figures, whose importance to their own time was undeniable, but who have subsequently been forgotten. There was Andre Renault, a Parisian judge, who fought a long campaign against drug abuse in the city. He was gunned down by gangsters one day, when he was out walking with his wife. He was only wounded by the first assault and was attempting to crawl to safety, when the assailants returned to finish him off. There was Marie Delna, an opera singer, who achieved great fame in her day, but had no one but Gerald by whom to be remembered. He lamented the fact that her grave was barren, when he first started coming to the cemetery.
As he did not have enough money to buy flowers for her tomb as well as Moreas’s, he was always on the lookout for plants others had discarded. He had no difficulty reviving these plants, since he spent his entire life raising the dead. There was the grave of Rachel, an actress whom he honored even though he had never seen her perform. She was an actress of the stage, whose talent he took for granted because she was so revered by her own generation. Gerald was not into antiquarian necrophilia. If anything he was a necromancer capable of summoning the spirits back from the beyond. If the first cycle conveyed anything to me, it was that my guide was exceptional.
There is nothing ordinary about a man raising the dead. That he could humble himself to care for the great spirits of the past made him exceptionally ordinary, which, as my reader knows, is by no means ordinary. These artists have not faded into obscurity because they are too mediocre to be remembered. Gerald confirmed in me the belief that great artists are forgotten because their critics are too mediocre to recognize their brilliance. I see Gerald as a latter day critic, a revivalist paying tribute to the genius of the past. I would like to pay tribute to the man of the present who pays tribute to the past. Perhaps this artist will also be forgotten, only to be remembered by some revivalist in a later generation. Maybe then, my books will truly have a following.
Hang on my critics this twentieth century Inferno has many levels. Beware of the descent. Some of you may already be getting a little hot under the collar. The second cycle is said to be too hot for some.
Many have suffocated from the fumes. You see, my reader, Gerald was taking me to an even deeper level. He was pointing the way to the burial grounds of his own past by showing me these headstones, but it was up to me to dig up the skeletons in his closet. He showed me the buried hopes of his own life, whenever he pointed out the tomb of some forgotten artist. After all, there is much to be exhumed from a life that has buried so many hopes. Take Raymond Rowsel for instance. To this day, he has never had his day, for according to the people of his own day, a rich man could never have anything important to say. Rowsel was Gerald’s champion, a veritable patron saint.
That a man could find the fortitude to write knowing that no one would ever read him represented the kind of will Gerald lacked. He had never found the will to write, as he was convinced his work would never be read. But if Gerald’s account of Rowsel is true, he sounds too extravagantly ordinary not to be read. According to Gerald, Rowsel had four servants, working around the clock preparing his meals for him, nothing extraordinary in itself, except when one considers that he was in the habit of eating all his meals at once.
Rowsel had all of his meals prepared for a single sitting in the morning so he would have the rest of the day free to write without interruption. What is remarkable is that he could make something extraordinary out of something as ordinary as having a meal. I wonder if he was capable of serving up a three course meal out of the ordinary events of day to day life. That would surely give his readers something to chew on. For my own part, I feel some affinity with his cooks, as I am in the habit of serving up three repasts at once for my readers.
You will observe, therefore, that the second cycle is to be devoured in the same spirit as the first. They are not to be served as separate courses. My reader should observe that the journey through Pere Lachaise Cemetiere is not simply a journey through Paris’s buried past, it is, at the same time, a descent into the burial grounds of Gerald’s buried hopes.
The third cycle is only for the stout of heart. Many have found the way too treacherous and have already lost their footing. Beware my critics that you do not fall into the abyss. There comes a time in every author’s life when he must take charge of his life. He must interpret the allegory of his own life through the subjects he has left buried in the past. Gerald is but one of the headstones to be found in the burial ground of my past. That he should give me a guided tour of a cemetery is only just. The third cycle is even hotter than the previous two. I can see the perspiration is already pouring from your faces, my critics. Hold on if you can. We are about to reach the bottom. You see my reader while Gerald was giving me a guided tour of Pere Lachaise Cemetiere, I was, at the same time, conducting a tour of my own. I would be honoured if you would follow on, as I attempt to revive all the characters that have departed from my life.
Only the Extraordinarious will know why there are so many cycles in this Inferno. He will know that I have all along intended to lose my critics. They are such hopeless tagalongs. They will pick up your name and bandy it around simply to draw attention to themselves. But they have not the slightest notion what lies buried in the text. They have not your interpretive powers, my reader. They rely too heavily on schools of criticism to ever be truly critical. One Virgil is never enough for them. Hark! I no longer hear their footsteps following in our footsteps. I think we have lost them, my reader. They must be caught in Limbo. Perhaps they have buried themselves under all the bones I have left for them to chew on. Let them rest in peace.
I regret to tell you that we must leave the cemetery for the time being, my reader. We could have reached Paradiso were it not for the tolling of that infernal bell. Can you hear the bell, my reader? I confess that I cannot. But Gerald informs me that the gatekeeper is ringing. Perhaps we have honored the dead enough for one day. I could go on watering Gerald’s tomb throughout the night, but the caretakers will not permit anyone to remain in the grounds after dark. Anyway, there is only so much a revivalist can revive in one day, my reader.
Gerald’s tomb is already becoming waterlogged. As we made our way to the exit, I could not resist commenting to Gerald on the coincidental nature of our meeting. After all, there did seem to be something more than mere chance involved in an Extraordinarius giving a guided tour of Pere Lachaise to a writer and philosopher. Perhaps it was Lady Fortune who led me there. And what chance event has drawn you and I together, my reader. It is rather a coincidence that you should pick me, when there are so many other books on the bookshelf. What is it that has drawn you to me, my reader?
After the first day’s tour of Pere Lachaise, we went back to Gerald’s flat. He was anxious to show me the scrapbook he had compiled of all the celebrities buried in the cemetery. I can tell you that even his flat was a mortuary.
His whole life was devoted to the monuments of the past. We may have left the cemetery, but that does not mean the tour is over. We have not buried the dead, my reader. There are corpses popping up everywhere. Gerald’s scrapbook was a living mortuary, every page a burial crypt. It was rather like discovering flowers on a grave finding all these memorabilia buried under every page. He was no antiquarian. He committed everything to living memory. There was not a monument of the past he could not interpret and bring to life. His mind teamed with genius and understanding. He knew the methods and aims of all the great artists. He must have had one foot in the other world to have committed so much about the dead to living memory. He was a medium who could traverse space and time in a blink.
He pulled book after book from the shelf, every book, an autobiographer’s attempt to lay a flower on the grave of a legend. After this, he moved on to the crypts themselves, all the first editions within which the essences of the novelists were buried. It was difficult to read the names on the crypts, since Gerald did not permit a ray of light into the mortuary. There was only one lamp, which was turned on, with extreme reluctance, in the evenings to provide Gerald with just enough light for reading. When I asked if I could turn on the lamp, he seemed reluctant, as if he felt the light would leave the mortuary utterly bereft of sanctity. He obviously felt that it was still light enough to read the names of those buried in the mortuary. But when I explained to him that I was able to read the names but not the finer print, he agreed to turn on the lamp. He pulled out shelf after shelf to show me the books he had buried in his mortuary.
After showing me the burial crypts of some of the world’s great artists, he began to play the music of the late great composers. He played Hayden, Debussey, and a host of works by Delius. He played Kuanga, The Mass of Life, and The Walk to Paradise Garden one after the other. He seemed to draw life from the death that surrounded him. This was epitomized in his admiration of Delius. That he could respond so passionately to the composer’s pleas for life-affirmation, and, at the same time, show such devotion to the dead seemed contradictory. But this is what made Gerald the Extraordinarius.
He was too ordinary to derive life from life, which is precisely what allowed him to draw life from death. He already had one foot in the other world, which is why he found it so difficult to live in this world. People will say that such a man does not live in the real world, but when every living thing not worth living can be found in this world, who are they to say that Gerald was not living in the real world. It was obvious that he was too ordinary for this world, which is precisely what made him a sure candidate for the other world. No one would dare run against a candidate with such overwhelming partisan support.
While I listened attentively to The Mass of Life, Gerald began showing my pictures of Sarah Bernardt, one of Paris’s most celebrated actresses. It was clear from the photographs that she had a stunning stage presence. She was too otherworldly not to derive her inspiration from the otherworldly world. It was obvious by the way her eyes shone when the stage lights fell on her that she already had one foot beyond the grave. She was
monumental, my reader. How else could she transcend time and space? She could project her soul even farther than she could project her voice, wandering between past and future like some visionary bird that cannot content itself with the here and now. With no more than a gesture or a word, she could snatch the past from the jaws of eternity or pry open the gates of the future. Space and time knew no horizon for one whose soul already belonged to eternity. She was too great-souled not to feel constrained by the things of the earth. No stage was big enough for one so much larger than life.
After showing me the pictures of the actress in performance, Gerald turned the page to show me a photograph of the actress lying in a coffin. He informed me that she could only rest peacefully if she thought she was resting in peace. It was hardly surprising that one so otherworldly should be accustomed to so strange a custom. She believed her soul would only be set free if it seemed she had given up the ghost. It was easy to see why
Sarah Bernhardt so fired Gerald’s imagination. The actress could no more content herself with the things of this world than Gerald. Like Sarah, he had a disposition ill-disposed to meet the world. He could only dream of the otherworldly world. If he could have stayed the night in Pere Lachaise, I’m sure he would have slept in a crypt. Like the actress he so idealized, Gerald drew inspiration from the dead. Spending his days in the cemetery allowed him to rest in peace, so he could dream all night of resting in peace.
“You should write a book,” I urged.
“I would like dat I could write,” he said, despairingly. “I ’ave tried to write de book, but everything is…how do you say? When there is not de room for anything.”
“Cluttered?” I suggested.
“Yes, cluttered,” he agreed, holding his head. “I ’ave too many ideas. I ’ave not a way of putting it down. I ’ave read de great books; I ’ave ’eard de music of de great composers; I ’ave seen de work of de world’s great painters. I ’ave all de ideas. I ’ave seen all de styles, all de voices of de writers. I know all. But I can do nossing. I ’ave too many ideas.”
“Why don’t you write about that?” I urged. “Why don’t you write about what it’s like to ’ave too many ideas?”
“Dat is a good idea,” he concurred, “but I can’t even do dat. I ’ave tried. I ’ave begun many times, but all is no good. I begin, but I tear up all.”
“Why don’t you try again?”
“What for?” he protested. “So I can tear up all again. I cannot work ‘ere anyway. Everyday dere are de machines outside making de noise.”
“Can’t you go to a library?”
“Yes, but I spend so much time getting to where I go dat I ’ave not de time. By de time I get to de library, I ’ave to come ’ome again. I ’ave to work ’ere, but I cannot work ’ere. So I do nossing.”
“Why do you say this?” I demanded. “I’m sure you have fascinated people with your stories about Pere Lachaise.”
“Yes, but I do nossing. I ’ave not de work. And all de days I collect de information about Pere Lachaise. It serves no purpose. I can tell no one. I do nossing.”
“Well, if it’s any consolation to you, I’m going to write about you. I’m going to tell everyone about you and Pere Lachaise and about all the people buried there.”
“But what have I done?” he protested. “You will be the one writing de book.”
“But I wouldn’t have been able to write it without you,” I argued.
“Dis is de way it is always is,” he continued. “All de days I spend at Pere Lachaise, I meet de people. I spend all de afternoon showing dem around and den dey leave. Don’t misunderstand, of course it is wonderful I meet you. But de others, I am not so sure it is important dat I meet dem. I tell dem all. I tell dem where is buried who. I tell dem what dey did in life and when dey died. I tell them all. And at de end, dey turn to me and say, ‘Thankyou very much. It was a pleasure meeting you.’ Sometimes dey ask for my name and address. I give dem mine and dey give me deirs, but I hear nossing. We say goodbye and dat is all.”
“So why do you go?” I asked.
“I ’ave not de reason. I ’ave not de better thing to do. For me, life has not de purpose. All of life is without reason. De only peace I can find in life is in de thought of death. Dis is why I go to Pere Lachaise.”
“Why do you find life so futile?” I demanded.
“Because I can do nossing. Ten years ago, I was a teacher, but now nossing. As I told you, I cannot find de job.”
“Why don’t you try writing a book again?” I urged.
“Every day I wake up. I go to de table and try to think of de ideas. But every day, it is de same thing. I hear de ting ting of de machines outside and can do nossing. So I go.
Sometimes it is de biblioteque. How do you say? Oh yes de library. But by the time I get to de library, I am too tired to write anyssing. So I come home. Other days, when there is not de ting ting of de machines outside, I try to write here. But before I can write, I ’ave to go to Pere Lachaise. In de morning I wake up, have de petite dejeuner and go to the cemetiere.
But when I am dere, I meet de people. Dey always want dat I show dem where is buried who. So I show dem around. I do not finish untilapres midi and den it is time to water de graves of Moreas and Marie Delna. By de time I ’ave taken de bus back home, it is late in de afternoon and I am too tired. So I do nossing. Other days, I receive an invitation pour le dejeuner at my friend’s house. He also likes very much le musique classique. We have lunch and he plays a version of a symphony I have not ’eard before. I like very much de sound, so I ask ’im to compare dis with de earlier versions. By de time we ’ave listened to all, it is late and so I go. But when I come ’ome, I discover I ’ave eaten too much and feel tired. So I do nossing.”
I am sure Gerald slept soundly that night. He probably fell asleep counting the countless graves, whose flowers he would water the following day. With so much talk about the other world, he must have climbed into the coffin with Sarah Bernhardt as soon as his head hit the pillow. I could imagine Gerald declaring his love for the queen of the stage in his sleep. He was so smitten with this creature from the otherworldly world that I’m sure he rested as peacefully as one who rested in peace. The only thing Gerald was in love with in life was the thought of death. He would have given anything to give up the ghost.
He could never content himself with the loves of life. He was too in love with a spirit of the dead. He was even willing to die to show his undying affection for Sarah Bernhardt. He hoped to make contact with his great love through the spirits of the dead. That is why he surrounded himself with the music and the books of the dead. They were his medium. Life was nothing more than a seance by which Gerald could make contact with the spirits of the dead.
My reader may wonder at my interest in so moribund a character. I wonder at myself, my reader. Whatever could have possessed me to become possessed by so singular a character? Could it be that I too had my heart set on otherworldly things? Perhaps Sarah Bernhardt had taken possession of my soul as well? You see, my reader, I too am a kind of medium. I am the eyes and ears of the dead and only through me can you come to know about otherworldly things.
You see, I am a kind of necromancer. Many would claim that I have already raised the dead. I would never presume to presume they are wrong, my reader. Every page of this book lends testimony to their claims. Let me be your eyes and ears, my reader. I will be your medium. Let your spirit take flight and I will show you worlds of which before you could only dream. But you have watched me fill enough watering cans, my reader. It is time we watered the grave of Gerald Lodigensky together. He needs to be revived again.
When I met Gerald at the entrance to Pere Lachaise the following morning, he seemed considerably refreshed. He spoke with renewed enthusiasm and a sense of purpose. I could see in his eyes that he looked on me as a kind of apprentice. Perhaps I was the very one he had been searching for all his life to give meaning to his work. You see, my reader, he was passing on the watering can. He was anxious to teach me all there was to know about the difficult art of raising the dead. He wasted no time in leading me to the water pump.
He wanted to teach me everything so that I could carry on his work after he was gone. He showed me how to wind the handle of the pump. He showed me how I could catch more water if I held the watering can nearer to the faucet. When the watering cans were full, he led me back to the grave of Jean Moreas. He pointed out the flowers that dried out fastest and cautioned me to water these first. He showed me how to pull the heads off the geraniums. He even showed me his store of water bottles in case the watering cans went missing.
“Don’t you find it strange that we met?” I asked, moved by his interest in me.
“Why strange?” he demanded.
“Of all the people you could have met in the cemetery, it seems strange,” I argued.
“It is curious,” he said, “but I ’ad de same feeling. It is not…how do you say? When de two tings, dey ’appen at de same time.”
“Coincidence,” I suggested.
“Exactly,” he concurred. “It is not de coincidence. I think perhaps we were meant to meet.”
“What do you suppose brought me here?” I asked.
“It is curious,” he said, “but I ’ave de feeling dat I was meant to meet you before I die.”
“Why die?” I asked, slightly disturbed.
“It is curious,” he said, “but a boy told me I would die in December.”
“But that’s only four months away,” I protested.
“I know,” Gerald responded, giggling. “’e even gives me de day and de time of departure. ‘It will be two o’clock in de afternoon on de fourteenth of December,’ he says.”
“And you believe him?” I asked.
“What’s to believe or not believe?” Gerald demanded.
I can tell you my reader that I felt rather like Robert Conway receiving his final instructions from the High Lama before he died. Conway also had a destiny. It was no accident that he found himself in the farthest outpost of civilization. The High Lama saw to it that Conway was brought to Shangri-la to carry on the legacy he had begun over a century before. Father Peril was as anxious as Gerald to pass on his final instructions to his apprentice before he died. After all, the future and destiny of Shangri-la were in the hands of an inexperienced Lama. You see, my reader, I could not help feeling grateful to my mentor for taking me on as his apprentice. It was as great an honor for me to inherit the future and destiny of the other world as it was forConway to receive his inheritance.
‘I pass to you the future and destiny of Shangri-la, my son,’ said Father Peril. ‘Perhaps the vision we have forged here in the valley will serve as an example to the world at large. And one day, the legacy of brotherly love will spread throughout the whole world. The Christian prophecy will be fulfilled and the meek shall inherit the earth.’
‘But what must I do?’ asked Conway.
‘I ask you to remember only two words,’ Father Peril responded. ‘Be kind.’
As I watched Gerald resting on Moreas’s grave, his head bowed in contemplation, I imagined that he was the High Lama and that I had just received his last request. And when a gust of wind came to blow Gerald’s hair across the bald crown of his head, I imagined that the wind had come to spirit the High Lama’s spirit out the window, snuffing out the candle beside his chair. But Gerald recollected himself suddenly and came to life. He seemed to remember that he did not have much time left and was anxious that I learn more about the legacy I would inherit.
It was at this juncture that he led me to the grave of Charles Haas, who, he informed me, was the model for the Swan in Proust’s Un Amour de Swan. Apparently, Haas was neither aristocrat nor landed gentry, but somehow managed to land his way into the courts of some of the most eminent lords and ladies of the day. He was known to be very cultured and learned, and served as a kind of mentor to Proust, who followed his example in wooing the ladies and the men who attended him at the top of the social ladder. Spurred on by Haas’s example, Proust gained a foothold as a social climber, finding his way into the bed chambers of some of the idlest rich. He was convinced it was noble to be noble and remained as idle as the rich until the final years of his life. I learned from Gerald that Proust was struck down by a debilitating illness late in life which forced him to remain indoors, and as a consequence, no longer enjoyed the society of those in high society.
Confined to his own home, Proust was forced to find something to fill the hours in a day. It was only natural that a man whose death sentence was pending should develop an obsession with time. Perhaps, like Gerald, Proust saw that his time was running out? “Remembrance of things past” may have been the only option left to a man without a future. Perhaps every man searches for a means of securing his immortality, when the hourglass of existence is placed before him. It was obvious that Gerald had great admiration for the artist. Perhaps what made Proust great in his eyes was that he found the will to leave a legacy behind. What else could have inspired the artist to create such a masterpiece?
He must have despaired that he had squandered his existence. He did not want to come to the final hour thinking he had done nothing with his life. What else could transform an idler into a driven artist? What else could inspire a man to slave day and night over a manuscript? What else could transform an undisciplined libertine into a craftsman so meticulous that he could not sleep until he had captured every detail? Gerald knew that only a man with a destiny could find such inspiration. Only a man obsessed with immortality could show that kind of dedication to his work.
“He was a great artist,” Gerald argued, paying his highest tribute. “De writers of today, dey cannot write. And why? Because dey ’ave not read Proust. How can dey expect to write if dey ’ave not read de master? I remember reading somewhere that one night he forgot a certain detail. He could not remember what color was de dress worn by de Swan’s amour. He wanted every detail to be just as it was. Dat night, ’e could not rest. He had to know. So ‘e puts on ’is coat and…What do you call de ting dat goes around de neck comme ca?”
“A scarf?” I suggested.
“Yes exactly,” he agreed, “de scarf. Anyway, it is late and it is said dat de people of Paris think dere is de specter on de street. He must ’ave looked like de phantom with de scarf around ’is face. ’E was in a great ’urry because ‘e wants to get on with ‘is work. So he tells de coachman to drive ’im to de house of de young lady. ’E tells ’im dat it is urgent and dat ’e must ’urry. But when ’e arrives at de house of de young lady, ’e discovers dat she ’as already gone to bed. ’E asks de mistress to remember what colour is de dress worn by de young lady at de ball. De mistress, she cannot remember and so she bids ’im to come back
tomorrow. But ’e protests dat ’is health, it is not well and dat ’e must know tonight. ‘E asks dat de madmoiselle be woke. He tells dem dat it is very important. De mistress protests,
demanding dat ’e come another time. De artist, ’e gets down on ’is knees and begs dat de young lady come to de door in ’er dress. And so de servants are called and de young lady, she is dressed. Proust waits anxiously for de girl and is delighted when she appears in de ’allway. She is still rubbing de sleep from ’er eyes. Proust takes out ’is notebook and takes down all de details, until ’e is sure dat ’e ’as all. ’E is a great artist.”
Perhaps my reader has noticed that I am also concerned with the remembrance of things past. Like Proust, I live every moment as if there is hardly any future left. Death dogs me like the moon. For me, there is no better future. Every task completed leaves one more uncompleted task. I am driven by the thought that I might die before I have finished all of my masterpieces. Observe the attention to detail in my work. Am I not meticulous in my choice of words? Are they not the master strokes of a master craftsmen? You see, my reader, I too have a destiny. I have discovered a way of securing my immortality. My
writing is universal. Everyone who reads me will want to know my work by heart. I write the autobiographies of ordinary people everywhere. What could possibly be more immortal than something familiar to us all? Do not despair if you think your time is running out and you have nothing to show for your life, my reader. Perhaps I will bump into you sometime in the burial ground of my life and make you immortal. You see, I am destined to write the biographies of Ordinaries everywhere. There is a little of me even in you, my critics. Do not be too critical of me, therefore, lest you pass judgment on yourselves. If you think my writing mediocre, perhaps it is because you see a little of your own hand at work.
The first thing I saw, when I met Gerald at Pere Lachaise the following morning, was a black cat. For some, the appearance of such an animal can only bring forebodings of disaster and impending doom. For me, the appearance of le chat noir conveys only that the destiny of he whose path is crossed is about to change. That a black cat should cross my path in a graveyard might seem all the more ominous to some, but for me, it suggests only that my fortunes are about to change. You see, my reader, meeting Gerald in Pere Lachaise was rather like a black cat crossing my path. There was nothing unfortuitous in crossing the path of someone who increases your fortunes in the world. I am not talking about the good fortune of acquiring a fortune. These are not the kind of riches I am after. When Gerald crossed my path, I became richer in imagination. There are no limitations to the man who forges his own destiny and creates his own possibilities.
“Look Gerald,” I exclaimed, “a black cat!”
“Ah, le chat noir,” he said. “Dat is good. It is a good omen.”
“Do you think so?” I demanded.
“I know so,” he responded. “Le chat noir est le Dieu. Dey are one and de same. Dey know all. Dey sense all. Dat is why dey always come when there is not de ordinary event.”
“They are quite mystical,” I added.
“Yes,” he agreed, “dey are mystical.”
“I remember a black cat watching May Ling and I embracing one day, when we were out for a walk.”
“Hmm?” he muttered.
“I remember leading her down an alley between a row of houses. There was a high wooden fence on either side of us. All we could see were the chimney pots of the houses beyond. We had lots of privacy. I remember getting down on my knees to embrace her. Our romance was a great attraction for all the curious animals about. When I looked up, there was a black cat peering down at us from the top of the fence. He was crouching over,
gazing at us with such an intense look. It seemed very mysterious, as if he knew something we didn’t.”
“Dat is a good sign,” said Gerald. “It means dat you will gain much from dis relationship. Le chat noir knows dere is something special between you.”
“It was almost as if the black cat was meant to be there,” I continued. “I remember seeing two cats. There was a yellow cat as well. But he watched us from a distance. He didn’t seem to want to get too close. But the black cat was very intimate with us. He showed no fear. He seemed magical somehow. It was as if he could go places that were forbidden territory for the yellow cat.”
“Of course,” said Gerald, “le chat noir is le Dieu. Dat is why de great writers and Philosophes, dey had le chat always at their side. Le chat was a muse to dem.”
“You know it’s strange,” I continued, “but Mae Fong reminds me of a black cat.”
“It is very curious,” Gerald agreed. “Perhaps de little one, he came to visit his sister.”
You see, my reader, le chat noir is not like other cats. He has certain magical properties the others do not possess. He is not afraid to go where the yellow cat does not dare to tread. He is not afraid to step into the otherworldly world. Indeed, there is no place he would rather go, and with good reason. He is already halfway there. You see, while the yellow cat will go to none of the places that are too much for him, no place is too much for le chat noir. No place is out of bounds for one so sure-footed. He is already well accustomed to narrow ledges and high rooftops. Even if he stumbles, he always lands on his feet. You see, my reader, le chat noir has nine lives. As he is already part of the otherworldly world, he is not afraid to give up one of his lives.
My reader should take note that there are two kinds of readers: the yellow cat and le chat noir. The first of these is a poor reader. He is critical simply for the sake of being critical. Do not tell me I am not very well read, my critics! I can read you like a book. You only read to find fault. You have too many limitations for reading comprehension. There are certain places your mind does not want to go. They are out of bounds for the bounds of your imagination. You are not interested in doing any catwalks. You are too afraid of going out on a limb. All you look for is limitations, you are so limited. But the second variety of reader has the mark of one with very different markings. He has the mark of genius. He will climb over fences, rooftops, and even chimney pots to get to where he wants to go. He is not afraid of going out on a limb. If you look up at the right time, you may even find he is looking over your shoulder as you write. Be generous writers! Give him the kind of nourishment he deserves. Do not be afraid to lay it on thick. He is not interested in panning your work. He is dark and mysterious enough to look for depth and meaning.
I can tell you, my reader that, before I met Mae Fong, I had an aversion to cats. They always seemed too aloof and independent. But my opinion of them has changed. And how could it not? I have fallen in love with a cat. But not just any cat. I have fallen in love with le chat noir. How do I know? Through observation, my reader. As Gerald says, they know all, they sense all. And Mae Fong has more than her fair share of intuition. She has long shiny black hair that glistens when it is combed. Her large brown eyes survey everything with cat like curiosity. And when she smiles, her upper lip curls to reveal her white teeth. She has a tiny, playful body and often pounces on unsuspecting bystanders. And when she is tired, she lounges around like a lounge kitten. Her oval face, pointy chin and flat little nose, all conspire to give her real identity away.
Personally, I am glad that this black cat crossed my path. I can assure you that there is nothing unfortunate about it. I can already see that my fortunes have changed since we met. Were it not for my chat noir, I would never have met Gerald. You see my reader Mae Fong has become a kind of muse to me. Could it be we were twin souls long before our paths crossed? Perhaps she has been lurking in the shadows all these years just waiting for the right sorcerer to appear? Perhaps she saw in me the magician whose path she always knew she would cross? All I know is that I have been able to pull a lot more out of my hat since I have had le chat noir at my side. I even find that I can fly further abroad on my broomstick. Perhaps every magician needs an apprentice.
My reader may be wondering why I am in sympathy with the darker forces of the universe. He may even think I am in league with the Devil. Perhaps he should bear in mind that I am a black cat in my own right. Strange that our paths should cross. Perhaps you are the magician for whom I have been waiting. I can tell you that your destiny is most assuredly about to change now that we have bumped into one another. Do not take it as an ill-omen that I have crossed your path. I will bring you nothing but good luck.
I have observed that you have not been all that fortunate in your fortunes. How do I know? Because you have never come across any of my books before. Strange that you should consider it bad luck for a black cat to cross your path, when it is I who bring you good fortune. Before you read my book you thought you were ordinary. But my necromancy has revealed a darker secret. Look into your soul, my reader. You will discover that you too are a destiny. All the better for you if you do think you are ordinary, as it is only the unsuspecting traveler who meets up with his destiny. Behold, my reader, there is a black cat crossing your path. You never suspected you would meet up with your destiny, did you? You never dreamed you could be extraordinary. See if I am not right, my reader. Tell me if your life does not change a little now that I have crossed your path.
Why are people so alarmed whenever a black cat crosses their path? Could it be they are afraid of whatever is dark and mysterious? Is not their fear of le chat noir rather like their fear of the other world? Strange that they should fear the other world, when every fearful thing in the world is already in the world. Odd that they should be so afraid of the dark and mysterious, when they can already imagine the most fearful things imaginable. What is it that makes people start, whenever a black cat dashes in front of them? Is it possible they do not want to confront their destinies? Perhaps they do not want to come face to face with their ordinariness? After all, my reader, they who meet up with destiny cannot help but discover that there are forces in the universe greater than themselves. Perhaps what they fear most about the black cat is that it is a mystery to them. They do not like to be reminded of the darker mysteries. They would prefer that the other world never crossed their path.
When Gerald informed me that there was a man who came to Pere Lachaisse everyday to feed cats, I knew he must be one who had come face to face with destiny. Could it be that something profound occurred to him for this occurrence to occur? Perhaps a black cat had crossed his path to remind him that there were forces in the universe greater than himself.
A man would have to be exceptionally ordinary to be such an exception. According to Gerald, the man came to the cemetery every day carrying three large bags of cat food. There were nearly thirty cats to care for in the cemetery, with new arrivals arriving all the time. I learned that he knew all of them by sight and could distinguish between them by their markings. As they ranged in age and size, he had specially prescribed diets for each one. As the kittens had difficulty digesting their food, they were given tuna, while their parents were fed on liver. It was felt that the old and decrepit required a richer diet, so they were fed on a mixture of the two. But the black cat was fed on a different diet altogether. Salmon was the only thing good enough for le chat noir. The man must have been ordinary to an extravagant degree to devote his life to caring for animals. How on earth could he be so down to earth? To think that he could find the time to prepare specially prepared meals for each cat.
Strangely, I do not find it so strange that a man should devote his life to caring for the pallets of others. I can tell you, my reader, that I am no stranger to catering to the tastes of others. I, too, devote my life to meeting the expectations of other people’s tastes. For those who have a taste for the comic in life, I give them tuna. For those whose palates prefer something with a sharper edge and a trifle more bitter, I give them a mixture of tuna and liver. You will find it in the menu listed under the tragi-comic. But then there is the Extraordinarius.
He is le chat noir. For him, I prepare le piece de resistance. Salmon is the only thing good enough for him. He has a more discerning palate which likes to be teased. He prefers his food to be more subtle, not too overpowering. He enjoys the light taste of salmon tantalizing and taunting him. He prefers a taste that he can’t quite sink his teeth into. But I do not serve the Extraordinarius just any salmon, my reader. For him, there is only pink salmon. You will find it listed in the menu under Irony. If you take it with a pinch of salt, you will find it not too bitter and not too sweet, but maybe a trifle bitter-sweet.
I’m sure my reader will not be surprised to learn that Gerald had a rapport with the man who cared for the cats of Pere Lachaisse. Indeed, how could there not be an affinity between two men who spent the bulk of their lives inside the gates of a cemetery? I could see by the way they greeted each other that they shared a mutual sympathy. Neither of them could find a reason to live in this world, so they retreated to Pere Lachaise to seek the solace of the otherworldly. There was no fearful superstition to be found in this man. He was not concerned about black cats crossing his path. He was not afraid of the darker mysteries. He had already discovered every fearful thing to be discovered in the world.
As far as he was concerned, there was not a thing in the world to fear about the otherworldly world. Like Gerald, he could find no meaning in life, so he came to the graveyard to find meaning in death. He had already confronted his ordinariness. He had already discovered that the meaning of life was that there was no meaning to life. He had already come to accept the God who created a world without meaning to test our faith in He who created a world without meaning. That is why he came to the cemetery. He came to honor the God who created a world without meaning by showing devotion to his meaningless world.
You would do well to look on my world in the same light, my reader. I, too, have created a world without meaning. And why shouldn’t I? My world is an imitation of nature. And have I not already pointed out that creation is pointless? Do not look for meaning in the story of my life. My life is no example. I see I have disappointed you, my critics. Did you expect my life to be a parable? Have you not yet discovered that the story of my life is all about the impossibility of telling the story of my life? If art was intended to be didactic, life itself would instruct.
Art can teach no more than life. Name any platitude that experience itself does not contradict. Do not look for reasons when life itself has none. There is a meaning to my life, which is to discover that there is no meaning to my life in time to love the author who created a directionless tale in order to test his reader’s faith in his ability to direct a directionless tale in the right direction.
While the two men exchanged the news of the day, which was nothing new, I made it my business to watch the old man going about his business. It was obvious that the cemetery was not the only thing the two men had in common. They even went about their work in the same way. Just as Gerald was in the habit of hiding his watering cans at the head of the grave, I observed that the old man did the same with the aluminum tins and bowls he dispensed the food into. And just as Gerald would search in the bins for stray plants to revive, the old man was always on the lookout for any stray cats that wished to join the entourage.
And it was clear by the way the old man dished out the cat food that he was as concerned about his cats as Gerald was about his plants. In fact, the only discernible difference between the two men was that Gerald devoted most of his life to caring for the dead, while the old man devoted most of his to caring for the living. But there was one thing they had in common above everything else. They were both used to swimming against the current to reach their spawning grounds. That is the strange thing about being a salmon, my reader. As soon as you begin swimming against the current, you begin to realize that there are others just like you. You may even bump into one another, when you are making your way up stream. That is why these two salmon had so much in common. Both of them were swimming away from the common stream of life to get to the same spawning ground.
“Hello, my friend,” said the old man, addressing Gerald. “And how is Jean Moreas?”
“All is well with him I hope,” said Gerald.
“You have someone with you today?” the old man questioned.
“Oui,” Gerald responded. “I would like you to meet a philosophe Canadienne.”
“Bonjour Monsieur,” I said, with a self-deprecating smile.
“What brings you to Pere Lachaisse?” asked the old man.
“I am writing a book and wish to write about Pere Lachaise,” I responded.
“This is admirable,” said the old man.
“’E is interested in meeting all the ordinary people in Paris,” Gerald explained. “’E t’inks the ordinary people are the extraordinary ones. And so ’e wants dat I introduce ’im to you.”
“C’est bon,” the man said.
“I think ’e will be a great philosophe one day,” Gerald added.
“C’est possible,” the old man agreed.
“Is it time for their dejeuner?” Gerald asked, observing the cats brush against the old man’s trousers.
“Oui,” the man responded. “It is always lunch time.”
“’Ave you lost any?” I asked, jokingly.
“Yes,” the old man responded, in a serious tone. “At night, de bad people, dey come to le cemetiere. After dark, dey come wearing capes and carrying candles. Dey come to perform black mass. Look here. You can see the wax from the candles on the graves. I ’ad ’eard of these things ’appening, but I never believe it. Not until I saw it for myself. One day, I noticed dat two of de cats were missing. It was curious because dey were always de first to come at feeding time. It was not long before I discover dem. I was walking between de graves, when I notice one of the graves, it has de broken lid. It was obvious someone ’ad broken de lid trying to remove it. When I slid it off, I found de bodies of the missing cats. Dey were…how do you say? When le corps is torn to bits.”
“Dismembered?” I suggested.
“Yes,” he concurred, “dey were dismembered.”
“That is a pity,” I said, soberly.
“Sometimes I find dem buried alive,” he continued. “De children t’ink it is amusing to bury de cats alive. I ’ave rescued many, but some, dey starve before I find dem.”
I can tell you, my reader, that there was something extraordinary about the old man. I could tell by the way he handled the cats so dexterously and playfully that he had always had an attachment to animals. Only a man who had been disappointed by life could display such devotion to animals. It was obvious that he had been disappointed by people and came to Pere Lachaise to seek the solace of these cats. Such a man does not distance himself from others out of arrogant disregard. He would quite like to regard others with regard. But they do not permit him because they perceive him as different. Among his own people, he would be seen as a kind of cat. Like a cat, he knows all, he senses all.
And the others perceive this difference in him. They do not seek his company and so he cannot seek theirs. They leave him to cross fences and rooftops at night and banish him to the alleys by day. This rejection makes him independent and he begins to fend for himself. The others regard his independence as haughtiness and look upon him with wariness and distrust. To them, he is not just any cat. He is le chat noir. He represents everything that is dark and mysterious in the world. They try to avoid him at every crossing because they do not want him crossing their paths. They are not anxious to meet up with destiny. They would prefer it if the other world never even crossed their paths. This is why the old man had such an affinity with cats. He shared their independence. He, too, had to learn to fend for himself. That is why he cared for all the strays in Pere Lachaise. He was a stray himself.
The Extraordinarius is a black cat. He knows all. He senses all. The others find him dark and mysterious because he knows about all the otherworldly things they do not know about. Observe what happens when one of these four-legged philosophers emerges from a dark alley. The others cross the street to avoid him. You see, my reader, Gerald, the old man and the Extraordinarius are all black cats. There is nothing discernibly different about any of our markings. We are all cut from the same stone. We have all come face to face with destiny. There is not one of us who would not acknowledge his ordinariness. That is why all the others avoid our paths. They do not want to be confronted by their ordinariness. They prefer to believe they are important. They do not see that it is their belief in their own importance that makes them so unimportant. They do not see that this is what makes them ordinary tomcats. I don’t know if Gerald, the old man and I will ever meet again, but if I am ever in Paris again, I’m sure I will recognize them by their markings.
But for now we must leave the cemetery. It is time we buried our dead, my reader. Already people are complaining about all the zombies running loose on the streets of Paris. It is time they returned to their rightful place. It is not my wish to kill off any of these characters. Believe me. It hurts me more than it hurts them to drive a stake through their hearts. Some will accuse me of being ghoulish for raising the dead in the first place. They do not like to see all these zombies on the loose. For their benefit, I will return the living dead to their rightful place and hope they will rest in peace. But do not think for a moment that the past is a dead issue. There are still many headstones to explore. Not that we will make any headway staring at any of these headstones. Still it is nice to explore the past.
You see, my reader, the story of my life is rather like the Grand Hotel. ‘People come and people go, but nothing ever happens.’ My life is like a revolving door. People are always coming in and going out. But the graveyard is full of characters of exceptional character. It is time this tour came to an end, my reader. I see there are some new arrivals that are anxious that I show them around the cemetery. You will excuse me, won’t you? I must begin another tour.
| Chapter from Timothy Spearman’sReply to ZarathustraChapter Thirty-Nine |
On day the third there wasn’t a soul who hadn’t heard the dancing and the singing of Aeolians as far away as fields far away! There was rejoicing enough to wake the dead and give a lot more life to the living! The promise had been fulfilled! The Temple of Sorrow was in ruins, and in its place stood a much more glorious edifice dedicated to the glory of the coming moment, which had always already come for all those who lived with the glad tidings of the greater time at the end of time. The spires of the Temple of Tomorrow climbed into the height of heights, giving anyone who was transcendental enough to make it to the belfry more than a bird’s-eye view of the valley below. TheTemple stood at the very gate of the City of Gold and for all those who had the vision to see beyond the walls of the City, the Temple of Tomorrow was but the first born of a multitude of more momentous moments which had sprung up the passage of time.
Many there were who labored under the certain knowledge that they would not work beyond a day, for they knew that they would soon be nailed to the lonely lute of the fallen moment, following in the footsteps of their Savior as he strode the lonely road known as the passage of time. These Aeolians had come to a reckoning with one of the greatest of the great Aeolian proverbs; ‘He who is blessed by God is bound to be damned by men.’ And though they knew that they would never give a name to their names in this moment of life, they knew they would find themselves in the book of eternal life, the Lamb’s Book of Angels. They worked day and night, night and day for forty times forty days and nights until the cathedral of a more momentous moment came looming into view. It was the most marvelous Temple there ever was or ever would be because it was a great open-air cathedral, which had the most magically mystical mosaic on its ceiling that could be found anywhere in field, forest and fell- the Constellations.
The new Temple made stargazing a sacred practice, and many there were who ventured into the Temple of Tomorrow for the first time who also recognized the importance of stargazing for the first time. Many there were who hitherto had never wished upon a star, nor had they even dreamed that a falling star would ever fall out of the passage of time from the far end of the end of time to grant them their fondest wish and most hopeful prayer. They were the first to see the importance of the newer and more momentous Temple, for they saw that it had fulfilled the promise of the glad tidings and a better moment to come and they rejoiced. Their hearts were no longer held captive in a Temple with a roof, a Temple that showed them only one moment of life and no other. The roof of the old Temple had fallen away! The Aeolians and all of the stargazers who had all along seen the stars without seeing them could now put their hearts into their stargazing, for they saw great promise in the stars.
And with the twilight of the old moment, the tapestry of the latest moment began to unfold in the sky as the sky candles were lit one by one. For the first time in a very long time, the fidelity flock of a better moment and a far better day began their ascent into the passage of time as they were borne aloft by the choir of angelic Aeolian angels who were racing through the passage of time trying to keep time with the symphony of the passing moment. And as the sky-dwellers flew into the height of heights of the angelic Aeolian orchestra pit, they too began to carry the tune which had fallen out of the far end of the end of time and was always already here for him who placed his faith in the flame of a far greater future beyond the stars. One by one, the chorus of carolers began to break into song to celebrate the coming of the knowledge that the glad tidings of the time to come had always already come. And as the transcendental timekeepers began to keep time with all the latest moments that were springing up with the symphony of the passing moment, these magically mystical minstrels began to light a candle for every new note that emerged in the passage of time on the wings of their wild imaginings, until the entire firmament was aflame with the glad tidings of the flame of the future where all the colorful melodies of the symphony of the passing moment flowed into the pot of burning gold at the end of the rainbow score of music. And for all those who labored in the Templeof Tomorrow, it was a labor of love to build a cathedral which had open-air concerts; no longer confined to the music of only one moment, it had its roof off to a multitude of more momentous musical moments that were falling from the sky. And as these momentous moments descended to the ears of all those who were stargazing in the Temple of Tomorrow, the sky candles began to fall from the height of heights, chasing after all of the notes that were falling away from the angelic Aeolian orchestra pit to the ears of all those who had learned the virtue of wishing upon a star. And that night, for every star that fell, there was an Aeolian who made a wish in the Temple of Tomorrow for a better day.
And it was well known an awful lot farther than far away that the dreams of all those who wished upon a falling star always came true. Already the glad tidings of all the falling stars that were falling out of the firmament were spilling into the hearts of all those who had faith that their fondest dream and most hopeful prayer would come true. And as the last star fell out of the pot of burning gold at the far end of the end of time, there were no more wishes to be granted and no more prayers to be made, for the glad tidings of the time to come which had been dreamed of since the time of the first beginning had come. And with the final falling star falling away from the firmament and snuffing itself out in the Lake of Many Moons, Aeolia was at last ready for the dawning of a new day that would see the uprising of a newer and more glorious sun.
All of the laborers rejoiced under the stars as they responded to the bird calls of the greatest Aeolian Architect in the whole of field, forest and fell. He was the only architect in the whole wide world who conducted and orchestrated his construction with music. And it was well known an awful lot farther than far away that Christopher Wren had orchestrated the building of some of the most marvelous moments in the symphony of the passing moment. All of his edifices were marvelous orchestra pits which not only allowed for open-air concerts of all the symphonic sounds and choral odes that descended from the passage of time, but also accommodated the most magically mystical minstrels and madrigals in the apse of the cathedral, minstrels and madrigals who were well versed in the verse of the angels. Christopher Wren had a fine ear for the music of the angels, and he knew well how to orchestrate the raising of a great Temple so that the divine dowry of choral odes that descended from on high to the ears of the groom who had made a bride out of eternity would hear an acoustically perfect rendition of the symphony of the passing moment within the walls of the New Temple.
Christopher Wren flew to and from beckoning his fellow wrens to make haste in rolling the rock down the hill from where it had lain near the entrance to the unholy crypt of the fallen moment. The Savior had always already risen from the cave of the forgotten moment, and on day the third, there wasn’t a soul who hadn’t heard that the rock had been rolled from the entrance of the cave of the forgotten moment. It had occurred to Christopher Wren on day the third that the harvest for which everything else had been sown was already being reaped in the passage of time and it was high time that his Aeolian brethren should feast upon the bountiful feast of the newest and most momentous moment in the passage of time. And so it was that Christopher Wren began to direct the orchestra of angelic Aeolian angels and saints. He was well versed in the symphony that had been composed in the long ago time of the time of the first beginning, and it was well known as far away as fields far away that he who was well versed in the symphony of the passing moment always conducted the symphony in perfect time, so that with each and every passing note the symphony would grow with time. And as Christopher Wren continued to play variations on a theme of the old theme of the still sad music of humanity, it became clear that the symphony was passing into another key, a key where only they who were not faint of hearts and had ears for such deep music could hope to carry the tune. And carry it they did, these Aeolians! And the faster they played the newer and more momentous variations on the old theme of the always already out of date old moment, the more magically mystical the minstrels and madrigals became.
“Upon this rock of the fallen moment shall I erect this church!” shouted Christopher Wren, for he was well pleased with himself for orchestrating this momentous architectural feat. “I will see that this cathedral will climb so high that it will provide more than a bird’s-eye view of the valley below. At last, we Aeolians have begun to see that the glad tidings of the more momentous moment to come have always already come. As was prophesied in the long ago time of the time of the first beginning, the New Aeolia will only come when it is universally acknowledged that it is always already here. We Aeolians have seen it in our hearts and we are now building it with our own mortar.”
“And we erect the temple of Tomorrow upon the rock of the Temple of the Forgotten Moment of Sorrow that we might never forget its heritage!” cried Eudemonia, for she knew that it could only be built when the mortar of the old Temple had fallen away. “Let us never forget that there was a time when we had not the vision to see such great distances! Only now have our eyes seen the coming of the more momentous kingdom of Kingdom Come! Only now do we revel in the knowledge that the Passover has always already passed over!”
“Yes! Yes! I see!” said the blind man to Eudemonia’s right. “I can see the City of Burning Goldlooming into view, thus I must labor fast and hard to erect the vision that I see, for though I have no eyes to see with, I see a great arc in the distance, and it is an arc written in blood. It is a rainbow! It is a great rainbow where all the colors of the rainbow are already bleeding into one at the far end of the end of time. And many there are who are gathered around in the presence of the rainbow, with their hearts and minds uplifted in divine supplication to the greater moments to come which have always already come for he who has discovered the glad tidings. I may be a blind man but I am no blinder than my brethren who have had their eyes closed throughout the ages to the coming of the coming moment. Pity all those who continue laboring under the pride of life, for they are even now breaking their backs under the great weight of the meaninglessness of the earth.
Only by living under the glad tidings of the moment after the moment of life can one hope to lend a name to his name. Many there are whose names pass away in the passage of time, falling right out of tune with the symphony of the passing moment, as their names no longer ring any bells in the minds of all those whom they have left behind. Their names have followed their own fate by passing away into the fallen moment of oblivion.”
“Only he who labors under the melody of the more momentous moment of music at the far end of the end of time can hope to leave a name for his name that will survive in the book of eternal life!” cried Fastidious Fergus. “As the Savior has said, ‘I am the symphony and ye are the notes; only through me can ye hope to give a name to your name in seeing all of your labors come to fruition.’”
And as the laborers labored under the orchestration of Christopher Wren, it was clear to all that their new master had already given a name to his name by orchestrating his great architectural feat in harmony with the symphony that was unfolding at the far end of the end of time. On day the third, the Temple of Tomorrow was standing at the entrance to the heart of the city of Burning Gold. Its golden domes broke upon the horizon in conjunction with the new sun that had always already begun its uprising. The interlaced gold tracery work on the cathedral walls told the stories of the most marvelous prophecies which had always already begun to take place in Aeolia, though they foretold a time at the far end of the end of time. And as the Aeolians all over field, forest and fell raised their eyes to see the coming of the coming moment, they were astonished by the radiance of the new sun, and they did truly have to shield their eyes from the blinding light of truth that broke over the horizon of the old moment, where the twilight of the old idols had long ago had their final setting.
Long streaking clouds flew through the firmament above the domes of the cathedral where the light of a newer and more momentous day shone in radiant glory on the temple’s golden orbs so that anyone would have thought that four suns had risen at daybreak. And as the clouds raced across the sky, a red glow appeared on the face of the cloud much like the red glow that the Moon Man had worn the night of the harvest moon, making it clear that the harvest time for which everything else had been sown had finally come. And suddenly, the fidelity flock flew into the firmament in a mad dash across the passage of time in pursuit of the clouds that were racing into the new and newer moments. It made the most glorious sight to see the early morning flight of the fidelity flock passing over the domes of the cathedral of burning gold.
As all of Aeolia looked on, it suddenly dawned on everyone, with the dawning of a new day, that the time of the end had always already been passed over. The time of the end that had been prophesied since the time of the first beginning was not the end at all, since the first and the last born of Godevil had always already begun his uprising with the sun of a better and more glorious day. And as the sun broke over the horizon, all the Aeolians averred that the orb was wearing a new countenance that day, for that day in the City of Burning Gold a Savior was reborn and he was indeed a light to all people. Theophanus’ shining countenance brought the glad tidings of the better time to come, shedding light and warmth on all those who chose to bask in the light of a more momentous moment. And on the day of days, there was an angel standing in the light singing her angelic Aeolian music in a loud voice:
“Behold Aeolians, the time foretold in the time of the first beginning has arrived because you have finally recognized that the glad tidings of the greater time to come has always already come. Let it be known that there is no longer anything to be overcome, never any other harvest to be reached, for the harvest you have all been looking for has already been sown in the passage of time! The Sabbath has finally come for all who have chosen to take a rest! The rest of humanity can go on making war as they have since time immemorial, but for all those who live with the peace of the glad tidings of the better time to come, every battle has already been lost and won! There are no battles for the one who has chosen to find rest on the day of rest! Take heart and look around you! Has it not occurred to any of you that the time after the time of the end is much like the time before the time of the first beginning? Is it not natural that the time of the end prophesied in the time of the first beginning should resemble the time in which it was prophesied?
“Rejoice, children, for the time after the time of the end is the time of the first beginning. The beginning is the end and the end is the beginning! I am the omega of the alpha and the alpha of the omega!”
The New Aeolia, the city of Burning Gold, stood at the river delta of Alph, the Sacred River, which had unwound around and around the spools of time in Aeolia until it had found its way back to its own source in the long ago time of the first beginning, the time when the endless stream of new and newer moments was born. There on the banks of the river, where the river delta spilled into its own mouth, stood the domes and spires of the promised land which were already showing a great deal of promise. Everything glittered with gold in the city of Gold, for the streets were paved with the most magically mystical minstrels and madrigals. There was peace and harmony in this city of tranquility where humanity and animality listened to the same bards and filled their ears with the climax of the symphony of the passing moment, which had already passed into the most momentous moment.
Above the City of Gold, there arose the arc of a great rainbow, and many names were borne aloft on the face of the rainbow as the minstrels and madrigals sang out the names of some of the greatest of the Aeolian bards and prophets who had passed out of life without giving names to their names in the Book of Life. But as the magically mystical musicians of the New Aeolia sang in unison with the choir of angelic Aeolian angels, they raised their voices in exaltation, while their hands were raised in divine supplication to the moment beyond the moment beyond which was no longer beyond them, in the hope that the ancient bards and prophets of Aeolia would have their names inscribed in the Lamb’s Book of Angels at the far end of the end of time. And as these musicians looked on, all those names, which had been born aloft into the heights of cloud nine on the face of the rainbow score of music, were already flowing into the pot of burning gold at the end of the rainbow where all of the most colorful melodies in the rainbow flowed into one in the climax of the symphony of the passing moment. And as these names were poured out in song with the melodies that flowed into the pot of burning gold, the most magically mystical thing happened.
At the far end of the end of time, a name was given to every one of the names that had been poured out in song, and the melodious names pouring out of the opt of burning gold at the far end of the end of time, flowed into ingots of gold to be laid on the road that passed through the middle of the City of Burning Gold. For all those who thought they had been long forgotten, their names were finally given a name to stand the test of time at the far end of the end of time at the time of the climax of the symphony of the passing moment. Thus there is and forever will be hope for all those who put their faith in the glad tidings of a more momentous moment to come in a time to come which has always already come. And let it be known that for all those who are willing to give up their names in life in pursuit of a greater moment beyond life, their names will be restored to them in tenfold their glory in the moment to come!
| Excerpt from Timothy Spearman’s”Sailing the Seven C’s””Sailing the Seven C’s” is a title based on Timothy Spearman’s encounter with Hollywood agent Tiger ray McCendrick, a man cared for many stars’ careers, including Judy Garland. When he met Timothy in 1990, he was suffering and dying from AIDS. He asked Timothy if he knew how to sail the Seven C’s. Unsure what he meant, Timothy thought he was referring to the “Seven Seas”. Little did he know that The Tiger was giving him his bearings for navigating through life, bearings that have charted his course ever since. Those bearings are as follows: “First, you need Confidence; then you’ll have Courage, which will allow you to take Calculated Chances; so that you can become a Champion, a Conqueror, and hopefully a Caesar.|
The Himalayas of Love
(In Bengal, a Hindu sect known as the Bauls practice a unique form of sexual yoga known as the art of archery. A ritual as old perhaps as the Hindu religion, the yogic archer’s sole purpose is to become the supreme marksman, to eye the mark, to survey the target, to aim for the breast of God and send the arrow home. The main spiritual practices of the Bauls are performed during the menstrual period of the woman, the belief being that Krishna, the Supreme Being, (the Supreme Personality of Godhead) manifests Himself in the menstrual fluid and that the one who drinks or absorbs it will achieve immortality. Yogis maintain that, during menstruation, a time known as the new moon, the Golden Man (Krishna) comes down from his natural abode in the two-petaled lotus to the sexual region below the navel. The purpose of the practice is to achieve union between Krishna and Radha, the cosmic father and mother. Radha, the Cosmic Mother, rests like a coiled snake in the root lotus, the Kundalini, and is awakened from her slumbers by the channeling of energies into the muladhara, the root chakra.
When she is awakened, she uncoils and makes her way up the Sushumna, the central channel of subtle energy, to unite with Krisha who descends from the Ajna, the brow chakra or third eye. During the first day of menstruation, the fluid is dark. The first of these three rivers, having the attribute of inertia (tamas), is called Yamuna. During the second stage of menstruation, the fluid is red. This second river, having the attribute of activity and passion (rajas), is referred to as the Saraswati. The pure water of the Ganges that flows on the third day is white and has the attribute of revelation (sattva). When union is achieved on the third day, the Man of the Heart unites with the Cosmic Mother.
Knowing that union has been achieved at the confluence of the three subtle channels, the Ida (Ganga), the Sushumna (Saraswati), and the Pingala (Yamuna), the yogi knows that spiritual union is achieved symbolically at the confluence of the three sacred rivers known as Triveni. When the subtle energies converge at the confluence of the three subtle channels, (the Ajna or brow chakra to be precise) Krishna and Radha consummate their love within the yogi’s psyche and a state of bliss is achieved. Having achieved consummation through yogic meditation, the yogi prepares to initiate the lover into the mysteries of divine love on the third day.)
No less endowed in scholarly knowledge than carnal knowledge, the priestess was always engaging herself in one of these pursuits. Whenever she was not entertaining, she was cultivating her mind, making furrows and planting seeds that would one day grow into a tree of knowledge with many branches of learning: medicine, the arts of love, palmistry, astrology, etc.
Wine was never in short supply, the richness of its bouquet like the nectar of the gods, a delightfully sweet ambrosia. After sharing a bong of opium, the sensuality of the experience would be complete, the visitor’s head swimming with the headiness of the perfumes, the scents, the intoxicants, his body tingling, every fiber of his being awakened, bedazzled, overwhelmed and buzzing with sensual pleasure. After a protracted body message with scented oils, he completely surrenders, his body yielding to her every touch, his heart responding to her every whim. He feels transported, otherworldly, no longer a prisoner of this three-dimensional world. Deceived by his senses, the integrity of his own flesh in question, his body behaves like spirit, rising and falling with greater agility than he has ever known.
The young man of noble birth has been transformed. As with baptism by water, he has been initiated, transported by love out of the mundane world into the heavenly plain. Had he not shown such promise, such nobility of spirit, he never would have found his way to the Temple of Love. Having found it, he has been initiated into the highest secrets of metaphysics, the door to ignorance and mundane existence closed permanently behind him. His initiation now complete, he must leave and never turn back, however much the lure of love takes possession of his spirit. Never more will his gaze fall upon the temptress of light, the priestess of wisdom, the incarnation of Divine love. Never again will he visit the temple to experience the ecstasies of Eros. All he will retain of the encounter is her sacred image, embedded in his psyche as deeply as some ancient text on stone, granting him courage in times of battle, endurance in times of strife, and patience in times of hardship.
But the story does not end here. The Gnostic tradition teaches that Mary Magdalene was not a base born prostitute, as Pauline Christianity purports, but a priestess of noble birth initiated into the cult of Ishtar, otherwise known as Astarte. There is further evidence to suggest that Mary Magdalene was Jesus’s wife. The traditional view that Jesus was celibate is groundless, since Judaic law determined that a Rabbi had to have a wife. In addition, the Judaic law practiced in Palestine in Jesus’s time regarded celibacy as a sin, equating it with a form of murder, since it represented the denial of life.
In addition, the marriage at Cana, an event recounted in the Gospels, seems to survive in abridged or truncated form, since there is a great deal alluded to, but something missing from the account. It appears to have been a lavish affair attended by a number of notable citizens including Jesus and his mother. The question that immediately arises is why should the marriage of Cana appear in the Gospel accounts at all? The only sensible explanation is that it is Jesus’s own marriage. He is, after all, called upon to procure the wine, an honour traditionally reserved for the bridegroom. The identity of the wife remains a mystery, because the Church in Rome wished to suppress any knowledge that Jesus had a wife or that a Hebrew Royal bloodline even existed.
Gnostic tradition further relates how, on the day of his circumcision, a shaman came to obtain the infant Jesus’s foreskin. The unpleasant item was then deposited in an alabaster jar containing spikenard oil and removed presumably to a place of safekeeping. Though the account is garbled, suggesting some further tampering with scriptures, Matthew and Mark each present evidence to suggest that the same jar was procured at the price of 300 denarii, equivalent to as much as $10,000 on today’s market, for Jesus’s coronation ceremony. According to John, the ritual is performed by Mary of Bethany, Lazarus’s sister, a woman most scholars now agree is the same woman as the Mary Magdalene of scripture. John further claims that the ritual took place before Jesus’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem. (Messianic Legacy, p.48, 49)
The “Gospel of Mary” tells how Mary, wounded by the other disciples’ ill-treatment of her, came to the Master to seek his protection:
Magdalene was the incarnation of Divine wisdom and the instrument through which the heavenly Father’s wisdom and love was revealed to Christ.
The romantic nature of their relationship did not go unnoticed, since Mary, it is said, was often observed kissing the master on the lips. That Mary should be among the first to visit the master’s tomb is hardly surprising considering the depth of her devotion. Seeing that the body of the Evangel had burst its cerements, two angels, in brightly coloured raiment, appeared before Mary to inform her of the master’s ascension.
According to an account found in the Gnostic Gospels, Mary was so moved by what she had witnessed that she immediately set off in the direction of Jerusalem to recount her story. Who should be the first she should meet and the first to whom she should relate her tale, but Pontius Pilate. A skeptic as well as a stoic, Pilate remained as immovable as stone, urging her to prove it. It happened that a seller was passing with a basket of eggs. Reaching into the basket, Magdalene withdrew one of the eggs, raising it in the air for the prefect to behold. To Pilate’s amazement, the egg turned crimson. More than some witch’s trick or sorceress’s sleight of hand, the miracle hatched a ritual as old as Christendom: the painting of Easter eggs.
This is not the first egg to be coloured by associations with painted ladies. The whore of Babylon also painted and coloured eggs as part of her devotional service to the Assyrian Goddess of Love. It should not be surprising to learn, therefore, that the word ‘Easter’ finds its etymological origin in the name ‘Ishtar’ otherwise known as ‘Astarte’, the Love Goddess of Babylon.
Two thousand years after Christ and four thousand years after Astarte, the sacred prostitute continues to practice her rituals of love in obscure places around the world. To find her, one need not be the member of some religious order, cult, or secret society. One is no more likely to find her address in a telephone directory than by consulting a sadhu, rishi or some other enlightened being. No map in the world will guide you to her doorstep; no spell or incantation will conjure her up; no amount of wishing or hoping will cause her to appear; no esoteric treatise or occult book will help you locate her. What is far more likely is that she will find you.
Each of us is gifted in certain areas. These gifts open very many doors to each of us. The path we have chosen determines which doors open for us and which ones remain shut. Having chosen the spiritual path, it is not surprising that I should find myself at the doors of the temple. Very often the way is barred to me, but sometimes I am ushered in. Once within the temple, I am initiated into the library of spiritual experience. Karma determines which books are open to me and which ones remain closed. If I am deceitful or dishonest, the archives will reveal nothing to me. If I am honest, I will find myself exploring the lesser known corridors of the library, chambers which house the most lively treatises, rare and priceless manuscripts that reveal a deeper understanding of life. Everything is determined by karma, everything we read, see, touch, taste, and smell, every place, person and experience we encounter.
Should we ever find the way barred to us or a door closed to us, it is certain to be the result of karma. Should we ever, contrariwise, find a door open to us, beckoning us to come in, this is also most assuredly the result of karma. This explains how I found my way to Sandhya’s door one foggy afternoon.
The others paid no attention when she came into the living room, their eyes affixed to the television screen as if by some hidden force. My eyes, equally transfixed, found a quite different source of distraction. Sandhya, by no means oblivious to my lack of shyness, remained aloof, which only succeeded in rousing my curiosity further. While the plot development was slow to develop, progress was being made both on and off the screen. While the others deliberated over who had motive and opportunity, I was still trying to pick my opportunity. Giving his evaluation of which suspect was most suspect, my host provided me with opportunity:
Far be it from me to prey upon the innocent. I am far too innocent for that. I simply like to charm and disarm. For me, it is mere sport. Whenever I have ever stolen a heart, I have always returned it to its rightful owner. The fact is that I am a rather artful dodger. I will pick your pocket and steal your heart before you even notice it has skipped a beat. See if I have not, on occasion, taken you unawares my reader. Still I have no wish to trick or deceive. You say I have stolen your heart? Then let me return it to its rightful owner.
I slept blissfully that night. The same frame played over and over in my dreams, Sandhya’s face in every foot of the footage, the only feature in the all night feature. The object of my every sleeping thought, it was only natural that she be the object of my every waking thought as well. I woke to find her staring down at me, appearing just as she had in the final frame, the film still rolling, the all night feature about to play all
Over-fishing is a persistent problem on the High C’s. Many captains, who consider themselves seasoned sailors, think that gives them a right to catch anything they like. Some have been known to haul in quite a haul. I have known still others to fish for undersized fish. They do not understand the laws of the sea. This kind of jailbait is for absolute reprobates.
When she asked me if I would hang her blinds, I knew I was caught, hung in my own nets like some land loving longshoreman. She had been out beachcombing that afternoon and had returned with the cargo of some sunken battleship. Rummaging through the rubbish, she had requisitioned the castaways of a thousand castaways, returning with blinds, bedding, a rug, futon, pillows, posters, with no end to the odds and ends in which there were more odds than ends, i.e., a sock with no mate, a glove with no friend, a bookend without the other end.
The truth is that it’s more often a middle class disease. But they keep their skeleton’s well hidden. They only attack the target groups: Americans, Iraqis or anyone else who isn’t flavour of the month.”
Wherein lies the distinction between people whose twin destinies are written in the stars, people whose own clan members are star-crossed by love? Who could have figured on such a configuration? Who could have determined the determinations of the heavens? Who would have thought that the same stars that conjoined with Mars should also conjoin with Venus?
They felt no guilt in breaking the ties that bound. I was no Montague. I was not even English. Juliet was no Capulet. She made her decision to become a Montague long ago. But that didn’t stop the prying eyes of the Capulets. How easy it would have been for some Tybalt to emerge from the shadows, dagger in hand, a sworn enemy of the Montagues and any Capulet who bore the name. Our declaration of love was a declaration of war as much upon our own tribe as it was upon the other. Everywhere we went we were despised: one for being a traitor, the other for being an interloper. I shouldn’t be surprised. It has always been so with the Montagues and Capulets. It was only natural that hearts filled with hate should misconstrue my love for hate, my worship for defilement, and my devotion for the whoring of a clanswoman.
One night, Sandhya took me out for a meal in the Capulet end of town. Her clansmen surveyed us from every quarter; their reactions ranging from disbelief to distrust. Even the waiter was loath to serve us, as if the very fact we were together, two such sworn enemies, meant that we must be united by some evil, some shared contagion, bad karma, or worse. It seemed an effort for him to even hand us the menus. His eyes and furrowed brow spoke the entire unspoken tale.
To him, Sandhya was a whore, defiling herself and the sanctity of the Capulet women, committing an offense and outrage against God by making love to a whoremonger, or what amounted to the same thing, a foreigner and outsider. But the opposition of our clans did nothing to deter our love. If anything, our love was enhanced, made doubly special by the resistance it engendered.
At night, we practiced the art of archery. I was an able marksman, the more so for the yogic instructor who directed my bow and guided my arrow. The first night we raised the full moon at new moon time, Sandhya and I basked in the light of the golden moon waiting for the Golden Man to emerge from His abode, an emboldened charioteer, ready to race through the heavens on a beam of supereffulgent light. Transported by love on a carpet of gilded light, we floated between the heavens and the earth on a magic carpet, two chand-chakoras birds sustained by moonbeam nectar, the ambrosia of a thousand angels and the milk of as many gods.
The night of the full moon at new moon time was the same night I caught the Uncatchable Man. It was Sandhya, the irresistible Gopi girl, who turned His head, who diverted His gaze from the fixed constellations to her heavenly face. Who could resist her alluring smile? Is it blasphemy to compare her to the incomparable? Is it an offense to see Radha in her every gesture, her every move? If Chandidas, the Brahmin, could see Radha in Rajakini, a low-caste washerwoman, surely I can see the Goddess in the grace and dignity of a waitress? Are not the God and Goddess to be found within the breast of us all, ministering to our hearts and the stirrings of our souls? Is this not why we engage in yogic practice? Is it not precisely to unite the God and Goddess within, to still Her longing heart and appease Her yearning soul by restoring her to Her lover? Is this not precisely what caused the God within to turn His golden head, to behold, as if for the first time, the irresistible Gopi girl?
When I explained that I liked to converse with friends while they bathed, she understood. Vowing to behave like a gentleman, she agreed to have me along if I promised to scrub her back. I naturally agreed. Preparing her bubble bath, the steam rising from the tub, the scent sweet and alluring, I was tempted to jump in before she could disrobe. Instead, I was overcome by a powerful feeling, something like an appeal or entreaty that might have come from her soul, some timeless or immortal part of herself, too acquainted with ancient rituals and practices, to ever be afraid of violating convention. Hearing the entreaty of her immortal soul, I was only to happy to respond.
As our shadows danced on the walls and ceiling, I thought of the prisoners in Plato’s cave who sat with their backs to the fire, never able to see the source of light, but only its effects, never apprehending the nature of reality, but only its semblance, the shadows and reflections of a less than suprasensory world. But I had no difficulty apprehending the source of light, the impetus and catalyst behind every living form, that which ignites the flame of desire and sets the spheres into motion. I could see well enough who had lit the flame.
There is a beauty in the universe beyond the beauty of mountain streams and ocean shores, a beauty so divine that it cannot long remain obscured by darkness lest the angels and the gods be driven to despair. The beauty of Woman, the Cosmic Mother, the eternal female principle, is the reason the fiery spheres were first set in motion and the heavens into disarray. Radha, the supreme beauty, the raison d’etre of the material universe and all creation, is the one for whom the stars shine, the one upon whose visage the sun rises and sets, the one for whom the heavenly planets are continually set in motion lest a shadow fall on the face of Beauty, its very Form. Brahma, it appears, was no more able to contain his passion upon seeing the beauty of his daughter, whose incarnation took, not the form of a young woman, but a sacred cow. As the flame illuminated Sandhya’s face, bathing it in celestial light, I thought of Radha and Krishna in Goloka, the love garden of the Lord, delighting in their favourite pastimes, as the heavenly planet, Krishnaloka, began its slow rotation, its diurnal course through all the ages of man, but a single day in the life of Brahma. I saw Sandhya in the light of the flame pouring body oil into her cupped hand and I knew I would be the recipient of this divine nectar, the archer’s bow bent nearly double anxiously anticipating the next dewdrop to fall from heaven.
I couldn’t help staring at her as she drew her hands across my chest, her long fingers hanging lingeringly behind as her hands advanced, a technique calculated to awaken the subtle energies. Already I could feel the snake uncoiling in its lair. The Cosmic Mother was awakening from her slumber, rising from the root lotus like a serpent responding to the music of the most Divine snake charmer, Krishna, the flute-playing lover. Kundalini, the Cosmic Mother, had awakened at last, ascending the central channel of the spine as a snake would the branch of a banyan tree. Beholding her in my mind’s eye, she appeared as she was, the Supreme Yogi, sitting in the lotus position, expanding within my psyche, blossoming within my consciousness, filling my entire being, uniting with Ajna and the higher centres of consciousness as with the Cosmic Father.
Her terracotta skin flushed red in the furnace of love, its incandescent glow twinned with that of the candle flame, the Love Goddess transported me to a place beyond space and time, where not even love could masquerade as Love, its true self, without being exposed as an impostor, a gross imitation of the living Form. Those eyes that captured the flame contained more than one day in the life of Brahma. There was an old soul flickering inside those eyes more ancient than the sands of time, older, if you like, than the building blocks of matter itself, a soul, whose life force, whose very prana, extended beyond the narrow confines of the material universe to a place beyond the material sky.
The playground from whence Sadhya had come and to which she would undoubtedly return at the end of this life was a love garden whose unearthly delights made a dalliance even of this world. To the gods, the earth is a mere plaything, something to be toyed with, a top to be set in motion only to one day cease its revolutions, knocked from its axis and flung through space, as if these four ages, but one day in the life of Brahma, were of no great moment to the gods. To Sandhya, as with the gods, the world was a toy, a plaything to be toyed with, something to be spun on the end of her finger or wrapped around it according to her will. Well used to setting the world in motion, she simply let it spin, caring not whether it spun out of control, or was thrown off course, as long as its revolutions did not interfere with her love dalliances and cosmic play.
At such elevations, the cares of the world seem to vanish; the supply of food in proportion to its demand, the traveller no longer feels a need for sustenance, living, as he does, off the nectar of love. Not even the chand-chakoras birds can sustain themselves for so long on so little. Perhaps it has something to do with the intoxicants, the same intoxicants that transport the gods out of the mundane world into the heavenly climbs. I had tried Lord Shiva’s opiate, a drink made from ground marijuana leaves and jimson weed, or at least my variation of it, hashish, and have been transported to no less heavenly climbs than those of the Godhead. With Sandhya, I climbed the highest mountain, the Everest of love, where I saw Lord Shiva, in a state of intoxication, lying prostrate, on the summit of Mount Kailesh, the Goddess Kali dancing on His chest, and having seen it, I know that I was no less intoxicated than the gods who gave it a name.
Whenever I showed the slightest sign of coming down from the clouds, Sandhya would restore me to the heavens by inducing the divine intoxicant. Removing Lord Shiva’s opiate from her pouch, she would hold it in the flame, rotating it dexterously, till it crumbled in her fingers like so much volcanic ash. Rolling a joint, she would place it in the corner of her mouth to light it. An experienced smoker’s attempt to prevent smoke from getting in his eye was, for me, nothing but the stylish affectation of the most alluring goddess.
I spent the whole next day, a fallen angel without his wings, wondering when the goddess might return to restore me to the golden heights. It was not the first time I had been to the Himalayas of love.
I have been there many times before. I have mounted their steps and surveyed the playground of the gods, under whose omniscient gaze mountains appear as little more than molehills. Never one to make mountains out of molehills, I suffer under the illusion that each time is the first time, the first time I have set foot in heaven and the last time I shall ever set foot on earth.
With the joy of food, life, and love filling the kitchen and my heart, I spent my happiest day on earth with this woman. I had in my heart the almost certain knowledge that paradise would not last forever, a feeling, an intimation, borne out by experience, that my time in Heaven would be very short-lived, but despite the heartache and enduring loss, a day in Heaven is worth the climb and never to be traded for a throne in Hell.
The duration of the meeting depends on their karmic development, their soul’s evolution, how far along they are in the cycle of births and deaths. Highly evolved souls are twinned for much longer, commingling in the same ether long after their lungs have given up their air. Maintaining the balance sheet of our karma, the divine accountant, Chitragupta, determines the length of our soul’s union with its twin, the long and the short of it based on our level of enlightenment, our proximity to God, the exact measure of our good and bad karma. Is it any wonder that her soul and mine should commingle for so short a time?
A transformation of the world takes place when two souls become one. No longer viewing the world as a separate reality, each sees the world through the other’s eyes. For the first time, I saw this mid-Warwickshire town not as a bird from the Western hemisphere, but as a bird from the East, a bird who had migrated over land and sea, steep mountains and hilly terrain, and carried with it something of the vision of the Orient. Instead of regency style houses and a bleak Nordic sky, I saw Indian temples and a twilight sky that seemed to illuminate the very thrones of the gods and beckon them to earth.
When we reached the bottom step, she told me to remove my clothes and wait for her on the stairs. Barely a moment passed before she reemerged bearing two lit candles, her naked form illuminated by a golden light. Placing the two candles on either side of the bottom step, Sandhya mounted the stairs to the step above me. And like some insect unable to resist the allure of so beautiful a flower, I surrendered to my fate, caught in the clutches of a Venus flytrap and swallowed whole. Indeed, there is no more erotic experience than being caught in the jaws of death, like some bee tasting the nectar of forbidden love, the supreme release, the ultimate letting go. Perhaps that’s why the French refer to it as le petit mort.
Powerless to resist, a bee caught in the raptures of its first death throws, struggling and buzzing within the jaws of death, my little death was postponed. Just as I was about to experience the firstBardo of death, the ultimate realization, my death throws were interrupted by the sound of the front door opening. One of my housemates had returned from his night on the town. Anxious not to be caught in so compromising a position, we each took a candle and withdrew to the bedroom.
It was the same tortured expression seen in the faces of all of literature’s desperate men: Abraham in fear and trembling, Oedipus in everlasting shame, Judas in archbetrayal, Raskolnakov awaiting judgement. A man who cannot live with himself lives with no man. It was obvious he blamed himself. Requiring no defense, he had been his own judge and jury, pronouncing judgment on the self-accused in the very spirit of French civil law: guilty until proven otherwise. What he was guilty of, no one knew, least of all himself. Perhaps it was karma, something he had done in a previous life, but the sins of this life were enough to answer for, and in the eyes of all the material witnesses, who had never been called to the witness stand, his crimes were no worse than our own.
A man in such a condition need not look very far. He will find many who are only too willing to accommodate him. His low self-image is all the invitation these vultures need. Preying upon those in a weakened condition to nourish and feed their famished egos, they descend upon the weak from every direction. Since it is only natural for the predator to attack the weakest and most vulnerable member of the herd, it did not take long for Jerome to be isolated from the rest of the cattle. Feeling the effects of a few drinks, Jerome was easy prey, staggering like one too old to keep up with the rest of the herd.
The headstrong, muscle bound male Neanderthal is not the easiest animal to contend with. Besides waving a red rag or a cape, relying upon one’s wits is the only strategy. Being higher on the evolutionary chain is not always enough. There are times when modern man does not have access to those weapons that are the very hallmark of his superior intelligence and resourcefulness. With no gun, catapult, or spear in sight, I usually find it best to accord the animal more respect than it deserves. No greater strategy has ever been devised by man, not even by those on the higher end of the evolutionary scale, modern man not precluded.
Were he too live so long and his legacy to extend as far, he would surely see his sins visit upon the third and fourth generations, but such curses were not meant to be; he would not even witness the birth of the first generation.
One thing he had decided: that Creation was as flawed as any creation of man, Divine justice no more divine than its temporal counterpart. What sponsored this undeserved fate, this maligned existence, this slandered and defamed state of being, he could not begin to fathom. All he knew was that he was cursed, as surely to God as ever he could be by man.
A lantern held in the hand of the Creator, lighting our way through the garden of creation, our path was clear, our way illuminated by the omniscient orb that directs the path of everything nocturnal. Scaling the wall, we groped our way through the gravestones, fearful that we might trip over our own grave in the pale light. Putting faces to the names and lives to the epitaphs, we raised a host of corpses that night, lost souls and hungry ghosts wandering aimlessly through the cemetery, looking for something, anything that might direct them to Paradise and out of Limbo.
There was no reason this journey should be any different from the rest. Once we set out from port, there was no turning back.
For the more adventurous of us, love is not enduring, at times scarcely fit even to be endured, but it is there for us always, beckoning us, calling to us like some siren from a rocky shore. And we will respond to its appeal, fools that we are, only because we would be greater fools for not responding to its call.
The movement of the clouds, the planets, the waxing and waning of the sun and moon were all obscured by the frenzied movements of the goddess, her flowing hair highlighted by the light descending from the clouds.
There was another still more betrayed, a beautiful, honourable woman who deserved better and was saddled with the worst, a reprobate and arch-deceiver, as great a Judas as had ever lived. How so much dishonour could spring from love is hard to fathom. My behavior was no more conscionable than the heart that felt no guilt and still I could justify my actions, as if this romantic life I sought to live were excuse enough.
I will never forget her of course and often I see her, always because I am thinking of her and sometimes perhaps because she is thinking of me. She called me some days later to apologize for not being there. Not being there for someone myself, I was hardly in a position to judge.
Sattva (The Revelation)
A pirate of the high seas, he plunders the riches of other lands, an ocean going Robin Hood, whose good intention it is to hand the bounty over to the people, never realizing until it is too late that he is nothing but a cutthroat and pirate of the heart.
Redemption is the one virtue Christianity has over Confucianism. In the face of the worst disgrace, a proud man can always redeem himself. The moralist confutes himself: the parable of Saul/Paul confirms that even a murderer can find religion.
It may be, in fact, that the man had done some wrong; it may be that he had committed some great crime against his society, but the mere fact that Confucius, a great sage and respected scholar, saw some measure of good in the man may have caused him to live up to the master’s expectations. The wisdom of the sage is not to judge, but to extend a hand, an olive branch, or some other offering through which even the most unrepentant sinner can be redeemed.