16 August 2012

The Stomach

An old man stroked the length of his beard behind his desk. His bees had all died and he wore a suit that looked like he had just returned from a safari. He'd been to Africa the summer before, of course, though not on some animal chase, but on a trip to impart his vast knowledge of ancient texts to people on that continent who cared about such things. The heat was getting to him.

The sun faded away amidst violent clouds and claps of thunder that sent a friend scurrying into a nearby building. We've grown accustomed to heat and drought in these parts and when the skies grow clouded and layered, we've taken to a kind of hopeful panic. My tomatoes and peppers and cucumbers are all dying and I recently accepted this fact, clipping dead ends off shoots as one might stroke the hair of a dead beloved.

We are on the cliff of a new academic year. Recent reports show that I'll be responsible for 117 junior boys and I'll begin, as I have in years past, with the ancient Bora ritual of the Aborigine: when it is, in their culture, time to grow up. The ritual is profoundly violent and traumatic for those undergoing it. We've spent considerable hours on our end, hand-wringing, deciding what it means to teach young men in this culture, what with all the legal constraints and psychological constraints. The fundamental message is to leave them as children, so as to not get sued. The Aborigine - their faults admitted - would look at this and scratch their brows.

Red dust flew around and plastered against a barn in Georgia one summer. The peafowl were particularly distressed as it interfered with the preening of the males and their elongated feathers. A withering  but young woman glanced out her window, next to a typewriter, and observed. She was growing tired of answering letters and being clever, as one does. Looking at her tired hands, she thought, "The truth does not change according to one's ability to stomach it."

This is a fact: we come and go among the many interstates of this place, convinced we've gone somewhere. I've often taken to these roads in the attempt to rid myself of something I want to go away and still, the insights of that Lupus-ridden writer and a millenia-old custom continue to force to the forefront of my life: the truth does not change according to my - or anyone else's - ability to stomach. It is the one line that thrusts itself far beyond any canyon, trail or memory. Nature does not care, though it often allows itself to be appreciated and loved, even. It does not give a hoot for your concerns or mine and requires one thing only: learn to be alive.

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