BELOW THE WATER LINE
It's been said the world is full of Love.
That's hippie-dippie crap if I ever heard
of it. A lot of that was being peddled by
people with not too much else to go on
about. The world is full of people; that's
the problem. Love exists somewhere else,
on another realm; and it creates. Big
difference, that. The people who brought
that stuff out were just just trying to sell
you something. The whole world, every
thought and each philosophical effort in it,
was and is nothing but a peddler's market.
In Avenel, there were plenty of options :
piety, anger, drunkenness, even fury. Some
people mixed them together, and brought
their alcohol-fueled frenzies into other
realms - like that time when that parent
stormed into the church to berate that
nun about keeping his kids way overtime
for their stupid Confirmation lesson. I
wrote about that whole episode in a
way-earlier chapter, and it still stands, but
in his own way the guy was more right
than wrong. It's an infringement of rights,
kids get taken away, drawn into that religious
instruction stuff, and then it all just starts
running out of control. Just like Government
Schooling; being forced to put your kids in
harm's way by means of some other's
tyrannical edict. Home school the brat -
or mix him or her up, without choice, with
another bunch of robotic morons-to-be,
through the means of an enforced command
to 'school' your kid by coercion? The
intractable problem is and was - and
always will be - how do you go around
telling people that stuff without yourself
getting branded as a crazy or bizarre? I
know that every day, right here, still, I can
pass by Schools 4&5, School 23, any of
them, and be sure that I'll see a police car
out front, posted to the school, and the
school itself locked and under lock and key
for the entire time. That's what you're
forced to send your own kid to? A daily
lock-down? Somebody ought to clarify.
We had, here and there, open meadows and
places where we could do whatever we wished.
That's very few and far between these days,
and, anyway, the sorts of kids that are grown
through things now have been taught to think
in a totally different fashion. The world has
become truly unsettling and bizarre. No one
thinks. No one. Minds have been poisoned,
to the points of great stupidity. I can prove it.
Here's an example of school thought and training,
all false and all malicious. And all because of
school : A ten year old. A very old joke. 'What's
black and white, black and white, black and
white?' Answer. 'A Nun, falling down the
stairs.' The kid's reply; 'oooh, you're racist!'
No shit, order of the day, real stuff.
I have a lot more to say, uplifting stuff, good
stuff; it's the world that brings it all down.
Williams James was the older, more renowned,
brother of Henry James, the writer. He wrote, in
'The Varieties of Religious Experience,' of
reconciling religious faith with the facts of
the mind. I always found that to be very
interesting, in light of my personal experience
through St. Andrew's and all that way-over-
the-top stuff I was subjected to, which I
basically was able to kill off only by
bloodletting and draining my system of it
all by undergoing a seminary 'shock treatment'.
James insisted that, 'in the absence of actual
supernatural experience, the conviction of
having had it was quite enough for an
American. We don't need a foundation
for faith; the workings of the faith are all the
foundation we need.' I thought that was
absolutely intense; perplexing as all get out,
but intense. A lot of people, in the late 60's,
were walking around with copies of 'Varieties...'
in their hands. It had been taken up by
counter-cultural types, and even by The Doors,
some pablum-fronted, faux-intense rock group,
as a spirited and deep philosophical tome about
hallucination and the varieties of real perception
and experience; as if to say it was OK to take
drugs or LSD trips in order to reach your own
personal 'religious' awakening, and the foundation
be damned. That's what I made reference to in
the opening paragraph - no dues to be paid,
no learning or structure; we just want it now,
the 'experience' and we'll skip all that and
go right to the enlightened moment. It was all of
a sort; the same mind-set, the same rigorous and
eventful momentum, to get anywhere. Man, I
hated that stuff, and that sort of thinking.
His younger brother, in turn said a cool thing too,
about exactly what I've been doing here - this
'memoir' stuff. His quote goes: "To knock at the
door of the past was in a word to see it open to
me quite wide quite - to see the world within
begin to 'compose' with a grace of its own round
the primary figure; see its people itself, vividly and
insistently.' As Adam Gopnik then put it, 'the
predicament of a memoir is always how to talk
only about your own life without seeming to be
interested only in yourself, this idea of making
an ego trip into an homage was inspired. Most
memoirists either accept vanity as their achieved
due - obviously, you wouldn't be reading this
if what accomplished didn't count - or find an
elaborate apologetic rationale in a real or invented
flaw or failure ('I'm writing this to warn you!'
becomes the pretense for much self-regard.)'
Somewhere in between the two of them stood I.
My presence in, through, and out of, Avenel
stood for me as a passage along the by-ways
of a peculiar experience. I guess, then, in my
own odd way, 'Memoirist' was my label -
distilling any experience through my lens
of reflection, writing, and interpretation.
Nothing seemed too small. Again, as Henry
James put it, 'no particle that counts for
memory or is appreciable to the spirit can
be too tiny, and that experience, in the name
of which one speaks, is all of one compact
with them. and shines with them.'
People seem to always think I was a wildman;
but they're totally wrong. by doing what I did,
they figure I ran off to NYC just to break free
of any restraints and live a plum-loco existence.
That's their fantasy, not mine. I went to NYC
to GET structure, to live amidst the remnants
of a tradition and a framework where great
thoughts and grand writing had once flourished.
Where the great rise of people allowed themselves
to be discipline and held in thrall to their own ways
and habits so as to produce greatness. Art. Writing.
Poetry. Theater, Music. Dance. I'd really/truly, at
fact-black-bottom, had enough of the flaccidity of
Avenel - lawns and lights, the dismal arrangement
of Nothingness along Avenel Street, the dead-crossing
at Route One and at St. George Avenue. Those silly
and pathetic churches and schools, aligned like
sabre-cuts never finished with their swipe. None
of that either could really be explained. It was
'Estrangement' - nothing more, nothing less. I
was leaving, and I was loving the leave.
J. D. Salinger has a character, 'Zooey', in a story
entitled 'Franny and Zooey' (I won't get into the
details of all that right here, because there's
more to come on this one a little later) who
exclaims what I always found to be a winning
'Love Shot' to end all - Avenel, New York City,
Paris, Tangier, and all the world : 'God damn it,'
he said, 'there are nice things in the world - and
I mean 'NICE' things. We're all such morons to get
so sidetracked. Always, always, always referring
every goddamn thing that happens right back
to our lousy little egos.'