Sunday, February 14, 2016

7807. BELOW THE WATER LINE (pt. 163)

(pt. 163)
When I got to the seminary, I had to
take Latin. It was a pre-requisite to
everything else, and we had no choice
in the matter, not even as if it was 
French or Spanish. Fact of the matter
was that there was no 'choice' in the
curriculum at all. It was funny being
directed immediately into an intense
language study of what was determined
to be a 'dead' language. It wasn't really
dead, in any sense except that there wasn't
a 'country' that spoke it, per se. Maybe
the Vatican  -  if you want to count that
as a country. Latin back then held a special
and particular place in the 'Catholic' church.
The Mass hadn't yet been changed over to
English  -  all that Ecumenical Council stuff
was just about to happen. That's when things
really began  -  swinging the altars around to
face the people, doing many things differently,
the hosts and the sacraments and all that. 
Changing over for the use of Latin for the 
Mass was like a huge and monumental thing. 
It was strange, because all it had ever amounted 
to was a form of garbled mystery  -  this use 
of old 'Latin'  -  just a way to keep the wizardry 
and separateness of the church ritual FROM the 
people. It was already supposed to have been 
theirs, for them, but the edicts and tenets of the 
ancient churches and all their councils and
stuff made money and magic out of keeping 
all these things away from the people. Peasantry, 
actually. They had to believe, and in order to do 
that they needed all the pomp and ritual, the funny 
hats and garments, AND the specialness of a 
specialized and secret language known only to 
their 'Masters' up on the altar. Everything was 
bizarre. African witch-doctors and shamans 
were not at all that far off from what the 
Catholic Church was  doing. Some people 
fell for it -   old ladies, always muttering some 
Latin gobbledygook, 'et cum spiritu tuo' and all
that crap. Always sounded like some gambling
code to me : Ed Conspiry, 220'. Yeah, place the bet.
So, for the Catholic Church, Latin wasn't a 'dead' 
language at all, except for it never changing and 
just being the same old stuff everyday, 100,000 times 
a day, all around the world. Tired old priests intoning 
the same format of Mass everywhere, and always in 
front of pewloads of weak and forceless people. Most
of the church's work, even today, as it turned out once
I discovered what was going on, was Colonialism by
another name. Some grand and powerful Westernized 
wizardry barging in on indigenous culture and belief
structures  -  somehwere, anywhere, Africa, Indonesia,
wherever  -  and usurping everything in the name of
'Our God, We who know better than you primitives.'
In order to fall for any of this church stuff, you pretty
much had to admit to being a weak, lost, powerless
person, with no resources of your own at all. It was
all about subjection and power over you. Using Latin 
was a means of keeping that 'power' over you intact
by arranging one-more distinction between you and
what was going on. Maybe JohnXXIII by the mid '60's 
realized that, understood how all that power crap was
about the fall away, The church changed, yeah, but the
'Church' never did. It's all the same, except now it's
meaningless and feeble, perverted and all confused.
Bending its own rules about never bending infallible
rules. Go figure.
So, I dutifully took up the learning of Latin. I actually
really enjoyed it. I studied good. It was OK to speak;
it wasn't all flouncy and female, like French seemed 
to be. My tongue worked in Latin. In French, I just
couldn't bring myself to talk like that. I'd imagine
myself walking along Avenel somewhere, stopping
in some candy store or something, and spouting on
in French; before getting belittled and having the
crap scrambled out of me for talking that way.
Latin was cool, except for one word that always
bothered me, freaked me out. A porno word, in fact.
We began our Latin I course with an opening phrase, 
and the little illustration that went with it: 'Maria cum 
servum ambulat.' It meant Marie walks with the
servant. That in itself was weird, but weirder yet 
was the use of that word 'cum'. Which in Latin 
just means 'with'. Maria walks WITH the servant.
I was only 12, I understood the deal, but still it
freaked me pretty good to have to deal with that 
stuff. 'Cum' anything, let alone Maria; it just never
worked. If it had been a living language, maybe 
I could have started a movement to like change
it; but as a dead language, man, there wasn't even
anyone to talk to about this 'cum' usage I couldn't
deal with. Let alone Maria, (again!). And the other
thing was, the use of the word 'servant', that was 
just a nicely translated version of the word that
could just as easily been versed as 'slave'. Slave?
In old Latin? Slaves there too? Maria's doing
what with the slave? You see where I was headed;
even at twelve, this Latin stuff freaked me; 
Let alone Maria (again!!).
So, the church had its tales and mysteries, mistakes 
and powerplays. Remember, even that pope in 1979 
or whatever it was, John Paul I, lasted only about 4
days before he was murdered. found dead, and all 
that was hushed up and John Paul II swiftly put 
into place. Hush hush Vatican intrigue, as late as 
1979, and long after Latin was gone. There's lots
more of that stuff. All you have to do is look  -  
Ambrosio Vatican Bank scandal, the dead guy 
hanging from Blackfriars Bridge in London.
that's all 1980's stuff, for God's sake (no pun). 
Wise up. Don't fall for magic tricks so easily. 
God's inside you, and God don't believe in 
churches. I eventually got the hell out of there 
like it was a smoking funeral pyre of death. 
Which it was. (By the way, do yourself a favor,
look up 'vatican bank ambrosio scandal' and
then give me a call. English only, please).
I used to like to parse and diagram sentences. 
What's that tell you? That's when you take a 
nice, fat, healthy writer's sentence and break 
it apart by lines and boxes and things which 
connect and show all the subsidiary parts and 
usages underway within the sentence. Loads
of fun, and puts crossword puzzles way to 
shame. In the seminary,  no one ever 'talked' 
Latin, maybe in jest here and there, for fun  -  
tennis scores and stuff. Once in a while, maybe 
a joke about some made up Latin guy (we'd give 
out really funny names), like 'Incineratus' or 
'Flatulus' who wanted to cum with Maria. Stuff 
like that, to get the mealtime rafters really rocking. 
Speaking of mealtime, right outside the refectory 
(eating room) doors, we had rows of lockers. There 
were kids, I kid you not, who would go from their 
dining station, having just eaten, right to their locker, 
on the way out, and it was filled with like 15 Hershey
Bars, bags of M&M's, powersacks of jellybeans and 
mints, and just gorge themselves, by the palms-full 
of such junk. It was funny to see.
My life was pretty funny. You wouldn't think it
but I could laugh about it. I wanted comedy. I 
wanted to be a comedian  -  some of the stuff that
hit me was hilarious. But I never stayed with that;
instead I took everything and turned it serious, made
all these mordant stories and poems out of it. I would
have walked away from it all, but each time I got
somewhere serious  -  the chapel, the altar, my bunk, 
even the bathroom, for pity's sake, something would
come over me and start pounding into my head the
idea that I had to, HAD to, follow through with the
things being given to me  -  the words and ideas, as 
they came  -  under penalty of death, or at least a
completely worthless and useless life. I'd be 
abandoned by my Spirit, which Spirit commanded
me, and took order from my higher Being, which 
in turn had to answer to this God dude. It was serious
shit. Now it's 60 years later, and Jesus K. Rist here
I am doing the same stuff, in the same situation. 
Except now I reach out to people, really. I have a
mission, and I do it. One loving moment and person
at a time. And it's a forever task, and that's me, and
I just go on. So, that's where Latin got me  -  dead
language, entrusted with nothing, far from Avenel,
where no one would know a fucking word anyway
of what I was saying if I said it in Latin  -  not even 
any of those nails-on-the-blackboard Mrs. Kuzmiak 
type church ladies. I never had nothing, and I got
nothing now. Maria, Mary, Virgin or not. Nothing.
While it was fun learning a dead language, year  
after year it became boring. People began speaking
to each other, in weird platitudinous ways, 'well, if
you don't become a priest, knowing Latin's good in
the medical profession,' pharmacy, science.... Everyone
ended up saying something different. All false, and all
just stopgap measures to say something, anything.
Fact is and was, Latin is good for a million things.
It's somehow the base language for most of all the regular
'Romance' languages we use  -  and because of it I held 
onto a good command of words and word-roots and 
derivations, and even usages. Be forewarned : One thing
it's not good for is traffic stops. You get pulled over, for a bad
taillight, or running a red, or something, and you start
babbling your excuse off to the cop, in Latin. 'Ain't gonna' 
do ya' no good', as they say in Avenel. Or maybe, 'Dictat
ad judicatum.' Something like that. 'Tell it to the judge.'
But, officer, can Maria cum with me?

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