An Illusory Intertwingling of Reason and Response

Musings: “Cogitations of an Addled Mind,” one might call it, or “Mr. Toad’s Adventure,” for that matter. Most of what I write stems from a long brooding process, and here I present to you, raw and untamed, the results. (Some musings are on a devotional note, and others are seasonally-oriented.)

Tafel :: musings

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Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Funerals and Poetry

Now, you have to understand something of a writer and an artist. Something of the melancholic temperament in general. But, the idea first. I’m at work, and just got a labwide email that an employee’s mother died. It contained the death notice from the Augusta Chronicle:

AUGUSTA, Ga.- Graveside services for Mrs. M__ D__ D__ of 1229 __th Street will be held 11 a.m. [date removed] at Mt. Olive Memorial Gardens. Survivors include a daughter, V__ D__; two sons, G__ E. D__, R__ I. D__; three sisters, R__ H__, O__ S__, B__ D__; four grandchildren and one great-grandchild; a host of other relatives and friends. The family will receive friends from 7-8 p.m. today at the funeral home. G. L. Brightharp & Sons Mortuary, 614 West Avenue, North Augusta, S. C.

The message sparked an immediate, odd compulsion to attend the graveside service. Then the idea: “These notices are in every newspaper everywhere. Whenever I want, I can go to a funeral.”

Like I said, you have to understand something about an artist. My attraction to a funeral is not flippant. I’m not going to crash a party. It’s not dark (I don’t subscribe to the “Goth” subculture), or a fascination with death. It’s merely a writer’s need to absorb real-life circumstances as experiences upon which to base his interpretations of life; for a writer has the responsibility — not that I necessarily agree with this situation — given him by those who do not wish to interpret life themselves, to provide an interpretation of life and its circumstances.

I have been blessed by not having funerals come into my life often on their own. My maternal grandfather, a distant friend Michael — years after I knew him — an elderly lady from my church, and two friends of my parents whom I hardly knew are the only funerals I have ever attended.

So don’t think it strange if a sombre and reverent stranger shows up at the graveside of one of your friends or loved ones, paying his respects to someone he never knew. He is merely experiencing the human condition, and is a “scout” of sorts for all whom his work will reach. He is a writer.

Scraps, July 26th, 2004, while working at a lab near Aiken, SC.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Rappaccini’s Daughter

“We die by degrees,” and she is hastening the process. Since I have become once more trusted (that is, trusted to have no romantic intent), all those things we once were and once we had are reappearing in our friendship — all those things which once I was sure meant love. It is, to use a cliché, an exquisite pain and a torturous pleasure: a joy which must be borne and a sorrow to which I cling.

She is trying to kill me. No, she has no inkling of what she does; but just so surely as if she were gradually dosing me with arsenic, she is withering my soul.

I could easily run. I could easily leave her company and live a bright, colourful, and dissatisfying life elsewhere and elsewhen. But to do that would be worse than to show myself not a man: it would be to impose upon her the knowledge of her actions’ full import. Before me is on the one, suicide; and on the other, her indictment, her guilt. So help me, I cannot be the one to destroy her fragile conception of how easily problems may be set aside: I must slay myself. But, oh! what hands to slay me, and what lips to kiss my soul an eternal farewell. I would rather die by her hands than live by any other’s.

To remain is to allow that fatal arsenic, that lovely purple venom from this Rappaccini’s daughter, to innervate my being and gradually entangle me in such a Muse’s web of death that I be both unable and unwilling to resist sure destruction. To leave is to cause the shadow of such a fate to pass before her eyes and awaken her to the dread power held within them.

Nay. I shall gaze into these twin pools of despair as long as I am naïvely bidden so.
I fall. I sink. I drown.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Treading the Untreadable Waters

I was just talking with one of my roommates, B__, and he really straightened me out a bit. You see, another of my roommates, A__, and I get along in exactly the same way that best friends do not. I had been feeling quite self-righteous about it, because for the first five weeks of this ten-week internship I had been making quite a few overtures to him. We never really clicked, though; and I even get the feeling he resents my asking him if he had a good day.

Now, B__ told me that we as Christians do have an obligation to reach out to those which are different from ourselves, and not just sequester ourselves with those who think and act like us. I thought I had that covered, so I became defensive (though I don’t think I came across that way). I started talking about how I’m not like that, and I get along with almost everyone, and I reach out to people that are different. Really, I do. I brought up an example, a girl named K__, also on this same internship, with whom I get along famously — you couldn’t find two people who disagreed more on highly significant issues.

That satisfied him, and he then said, “Well, sometimes we just have to learn to know when to shake the dust off our shoes and move on.” About then is when I finally gave in to the Holy Spirit’s conviction, I started thinking.

“I’m thinking, maybe I ‘kicked the dust from my shoes’ a little too soon.”

He started mulling that over, and we talked a bit more. Then he said, “You know, we have Divine protection. We can tread on waters others can’t. That gives us a bit more of a responsibility.”

You know, it does, doesn’t it? That’s something I don’t think about nearly enough. I think God’s had enough of ivory-tower Christianity.

Scraps, July 27th, 2004, while living at an apartment in Aiken, SC.

Saturday, February 19, 2005


The boys were right, a teenage girl is quite a dreamy creature. It would be nice to be str[a]ightforward; we must be so alien to them.

Dragonette (Laylock), March 17th, 2001

I was just reading through some of Laylock’s archived journals and re-found the above quote. I ran across it some months ago, but didn’t more than take mental note of the statement. However, it’s been running back and forth in my head ever since, like Hamlet in his nightshirt running behind dead Rosencrantz and Guildenstern* In the course of one or two hours, I today have finally tracked down, for your perusal, the citation.

It’s as I always say (and have never gotten slapped for — and only seldom threatened), but it is still nice to be able to cite a girl as saying it. Yes, it would be nice if those lovely creatures of the female persuasion (and if you have read any of my previous entries, you know I am nothing of a misogynist), were “straightforward”. That’s a better way of putting what I want to say than simply, “I wish women made sense.”

There are philosophical implications to the desire for straightforwardness as well: honesty is to my life as words are to reading. Without words, there would be nothing to read; and without honesty, is there really anything to live? I could not live falsehood, and I cannot abide it in another.

Yes, a girl — of any age — is quite a dreamy creature, and so alien to me. However, I know that most of them mean well, and some few of them actually act on those intentions and do well. Straightforwardness may be too much to hope, but I can think of no other creature worth a little perseverance in the unravelling than a woman. Still, too much time unravelling is time spent unwisely; and I’ll not waste too much time unravelling many Knots by the Road.


* Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead is an almost-silly play by Tom Stoppard, parodying Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Telling the story from the eyes of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, two minor characters from the original play, Stoppard creates what is essentially marginalia and commentary on the content, times, and customs of and surrounding Hamlet. In as diverse an array of topics as the Law of Probability (sic “of Averages”), Hamlet’s sanity as well as anyone else’s, and the implications of being buried in a coffin (Would it be like sleeping in a box?), Rosencrantz and Guildenstern provide a sharp and intellectual comedy — rare in these days of easy see-and-forget drama and slapstick humour.

Up from Earth’s Centre through the Seventh Gate
I rose, and on the Throne of Saturn sate;
And many Knots unravel’d by the Road;
But not the Master-knot of Human Fate.

— Stanza 36, The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

Sunday, February 13, 2005

A Note to the Hunters and Acolytes of Women

Standard wisdom suggests that women marry men expecting them to change and find they don’t, while men marry women expecting them not to change and find they do. There must be a trick, then, of prognostication required in choosing a wife. Find someone whose character and personality will allow permutations you can live with, and marry them.

Standard wisdom also suggests that, since you cannot find perfection, search for one whose faults you can live with. (Indeed, my mother has told me that, like not joining the perfect church, if you find the perfect girl, don’t date her: you’ll spoil her. Contrariwise, if I find the perfect girl, there will be no stopping my taking a fair shot at her.) However, since at some point, the girl to whom you are married will no longer be the girl you married, you must not only find someone whose faults you can live with, but with whose possible and probable faults you can as well.

We’ve got it tough, haven’t we? (Though I imagine the ladies have just as difficult a time of it.)


Few men worship women anymore; I suppose that, as I am in many other things, I am one of the old guard. I received a response to my piece, “All Things Feminine”, which contained the following: “Women are beauty, and they deserve our worship.”

Not only are they beauty, but there is something else in the feminine which is worshipable, yet ineffable — undefinable.

However, finding a woman worthy of worship, worthy of my consecration and expense as a votary at the temple of SHE — this is hard. How much harder will it be to find one who will maintain her deity for my lifetime?

Friday, February 11, 2005

Labours of Heracles

required reading

I am commencing the most difficult task to which I have ever set myself: to be her friend.

I know I am no different that an infinity of other men in the past six millennia, but “friends” is not what I want to be. I know there is no hope for anything more between us — I heard such from her own lips — but there is within me someone who does not wish to face the pain of her friendship.

I can talk with her as friend to friend now. I have regained privileges lost in the mists of time and chance which happeneth to them all1. I have even the right to sit and wait for her (which only one week ago would have been “lurking”); all this, however, predicated on the stipulation that I disembowel myself by keeping to the now-permanent arrangement.

There is someone within who wants nothing more than to go to her and confess that friendship is too painful, to say rather “banished”, than to live with the necessity of placing my heart before her for her to unknowingly tread upon come fair or foul weather. There is one in my soul who wishes to live in lonesome peace and allow the lively pain to oh-so-slowly ebb.

To do so would be selfish of me, for she has done nothing to me to warrant my placing upon her the onus of guilt for my pain, which running from the pain would most assuredly do. No, to do so would both show myself courageless and break the trust of her heart by causing her pain.

So I bend beneath the weight of the world, with no Atlas upon whom to bestow the burden. Interrupted in my labours, I face the greatest task of all: to be her friend.

Now that I am once more a bystander observing her future, I may say with many, many others, “On her wedding day, the rose petals she treads upon will be the hearts of men.” And unless my heart is by then safely bestowed upon another, it will be among them.


I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.

Ecclesiastes 9:11

Thursday, February 10, 2005


or, The Way to My Heart

The way to my heart is to call me, “Sir”. I have come to find this out. Be she never so opposite my ideal, a mere, “Thank you, sir,” can win her entrance to my thoughts that no charm or wit could effect. Ever since I was thirteen and fourteen, that simple demonstration of deference (unless obviously in jest or flirtation) has had a powerful influence over me, making me willing to do nearly anything for the lovely or unlovely form who paid it to me.

It may be a weakness of ego, but there is at least one more subtle veil of power it possesses: the feeling is very nearly as if her soul had kissed mine. The baiser de la fée offered is of such transforming power that it leaves me fond and fatuous until I regain some minor degree of reasoning capacity — which may take some time if the girl is of the kind who says “sir” habitually, forever renewing the spell.

Its great power over me stems, I think, from the present rarity of the word. As the universe at large has grown progressively cavalier and haphazard, tokens of mutual respect have diminished to such a degree that, far from now being expected, they are like diamonds found among coal.

Enthrallment, enslavement, enchantment: who would have thought it rested in the simple word, “sir”? Well, mayhap it is by devious feminine design. Perhaps they thought of it. No matter: I am a willing slave of sweetness. *

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

The Dance of a Good Thing

The Dance of a Good Thing is a heady dance, into which only those who know of it are admitted. Sweeping solitary and pairwise around the great crystal floor amid flashing stars and wisps of fog in ever-widening circles about unknown centres, those who will think pass the time in thought.

To think for oneself is the Good Thing, and only those I see like me beneath the great skull-dome can I respect — or rather, will I respect. For respect is a choice commodity, and I will not dishonour those my compatriots in this glorious Dance by permitting those who have decided to follow after Lesser Things to partake in their reward.

Never will I cease this Dance, and ever will I be its greatest apostle.
So now I say to you, Come, join me in a dance. Join the Dance of a Good Thing.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Like a Father

I have felt for the first time like a father. Something in me answers to her entreaties. I can’t exactly explain it, though I will give it my best attempt.

When I came home from school and walked into my church for the first time in three months, three-year-old Lisa was standing in the kitchen doorway.

“Lisa!” Cautiously, she looked behind her to see who had called. “Did you miss me?&rdquo I went to my knees and held my arms open to her.

Without even smiling, she turned and ran (She ran seriously, no hint off play about her.) to me, ensconcing herself sombrely in my arms and nuzzling her head against my shoulder as I picked her up.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Only for Those Who Have One

“Freedom of the press,” it is said, “is only for those who have one.” Well, I now very nearly have my own press. Livia, my hostess, has allowed me to use her server space (hosted I-don’t-know-where for I-don’t-know-how-much) for my ranting, raving, and other miscellaneous web-based activities. Running my own press (Blosxom) in her print shop, as it were, has given me a sense of freedom that I’ve never had during my time with Blogger.

So, what can I say? I have a press. I have the paper in your and many others’ monitors. I have nothing now to say . . . ’Tis a pity.

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