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Did Socrates say "Know Thyself", or was he misunderstood, as all are. Show Thyself is all we can do. The knowing is unknowable.  

I am filled with joy.  It can't be helped.  

Became a Farmer, Builder, Musician, Tank Commander, Librarian, Lawyer and Minister. I have failed at many things. And now retired.  Filled, just filled, with Joy. 

Sunday, February 12, 2006

THERE IS NO GOD BUT HUNGER; AND FOOD IS HIS WORD.

THERE IS NO GOD BUT HUNGER; AND FOOD IS HIS WORD.

The day leans against a midday melting sun. Sliding across a blue sky, the hour opens where it fell, and under the white glare, showers its cornucopia of hunger, emptiness, and waves of golden pain. “Here”, he says. I take the fruit. It is the sun’s plum, the orange, the banana. The vegetable. The sun is a generous vendor. “You like radish?” Always this red rimmed white-hot starter, the fireplug of the garden.

The day has no name. But there is the brown sack, the round fruit, the parable of the leaves spiraling up, twisting down. “You want apple?” This is pulpy or sour, not the waxed hybrid of the modern market. And it is little, the seeds chambered in a snarky skin that smells of almond. Did I say almond? “Hey, try this thing. Is new.” The day hands over a couple of peaches. Ah, the stone fruit, a whole school of orchards begins to form.

My teeth dive into the flesh of the snow peach. I pull a quenching meat away from the red arteries surrounding the glowing crimson pit. Interesting innovation. The stone fruit committee announces a successful marketing plan for peaches, in yellow, orange, and white...and peach. A skin as innocent as youth, a thing to touch and feel, as close to dawn as taste can get.

In my belly, the fruit received a standing ovation. The whimpering subsided, all the petitioners from the headlands and the outlands, and even those ingrates that hang around my heart, all rebounded with songs. They held hands and sang little songs. The words were worth remembering – something like

“Arger barger fine the burpo gurpo
how does the meal proceed?
“Willy filly buy the natcho
on sun fruit will we feed!”

My teeth chattered from hunger kept in its bay. I could imagine the pearls falling around in my head, and scampering to their positions at the last minute upon hearing a call from the crow’s nest – “food ahoy”! Oh, it’s only fruit. Well, not so bad. Not so bad at all.

So, by noon already, where the day was falling open, already we were squatting down together and passing the fruit bowl, the wattled basket, the string bag. The leaf-bag of brown fruit is torn open. We need words for this.

Back when the words were cutting edge. When we were looking for food and words and so often found them together, at watering holes. The game leaning down to dip their tongues and we would leap upon them in silence and come out with our arms full and our throats thrilling with victory and something would come out we wanted to repeat everything:

"OK, down this knoll, no, directly, on the hypotenuse, then between the two trees legs intertwined, and where the stream bends into the fingernail moon and wide and flat the riparian bank, behind the toyon bush– dense, dark, still, wait. At water’s edge, the forest buffalo out the canopy, and entire family wade in you jump on the little one quick like a spurt of death, like lightning strikning struck you hold on, hold on!
"And let us all then know, by giving great noise and still to hang on as we chase off the bulls and dive upon the calf to drown our food all around, and in the shout, what is the word for this, what is the word of it, what is the silent luring, and coming close, and the cast off, the brilliant leap, the blood all waiting, the great legs pushed into deep water, lock your fingers into its fur, grasp the limbs, all the up-endedness of a yalping calf, the word for this, the word for buffalo meat on the edge of its foodness, at the bank of its hoof and ready to bake flank, the organ meat grinder burger in its bucket of blanket about to be made! "

My plight was not what was its name. My sole concern was for eating’s sake. How to fill the mouth, and in-so-doing, the stomach, and still its little songs, quench its pathetic gassings, the way it pinches into the way of the day. Even by its noon and the fruit is fine.

Still, once that apple was Adam-ed, once my Eve consorted the snake, the fruit was on the plate. All the parts of the mouth were distributed so, the hard boulders, the cutting edges, the daggers and prongs, surrounding that tongue on three sides, and the tongue dancing inside the semi-circle, leading the morsel chorus into the dark gullet of happiness.

But was it over? The belly no longer in direct communication with the teeth, no longer chattering them, leaving them strangely alone. And the tongue, still dancing, but alone, now, no longer the consort of the morsel, no longer dancing to the rhythm of the bite. The hollow darkness no longer echoing in emptiness and pain, but palletizing satisfaction, gurgling the story, replaying the sounds of the buffalo consonant, and reprising the vowells of fruit.

And the buffalo was hunted and the fruit gathered by mastery, and then around the squat midden we came to share it all, and then the word came out by mystery. By the tongue done its escort service and the dancing begins in earnest, re-filling the mouth, with a thousand names for food.

There was no name for gratitude, for thank you, and for why we could speak. Why the hunt, the gathered fruit, and the chewed bone became words. Why we filled our mouths again. There was no name for the told story remembered with longing, for the morning pinch before the sun’s first pink blink, for the hope of breakfast, for the source of rivers, no word for wanting, for the measure of things, the stem, the stone, the stamp. So we called it God.

It is true that Things with no name still exist. They are out there, coming to water’s edge to drink, behind the curve in the river, perhaps where the banks are steep and deeply covered. Somewhere out there is a god of the ubiguitous, a god of mice, a god of the knats, and the drops of rain. We do not know its name.

Just as the belly communicates directly with the teeth, just as the skin shares a common nerve with fear and ice and fire, so does the word begin with God and God begins with having no name. At the cutting edge we named everything. Still looking, we catch everything in that net, the hook of a word. But God could not be speared. The first word for God was No Name.

Of course, the significance of this naming, and the point of naming the nameless “God”, is entirely lost on those who believe in things which do not exist.

Now, we are stuck with what is on our plate. Grabbing God down by the river where all Things come to drink, and having dunked the lesser god under water, and drowned it fair and square, not one of the big ones sitting in the Sun, but a downy-fur little youngster, a mouse-god, we started filling our mouths with it. The mouth-feel was addictive. The little bites became lessons we wanted to learn. We wanted to write home to mother. We wanted to have a mother. We wanted a father and a little family of gods.

The addictions became ways of life. We rolled dice. We worshipped intravenously. God got bigger. The sun began to look like a candidate. Thunder was clearly begging for an explanation, and when lightning struck someone we all knew, further introduction became moot. The rest was just development. A little matter of bribing the one-eyed artist to draw the bulls on the wall, or trick Michaelangelo into lying on his back on a scafold, and next thing you know it’s the papacy and we’ve got hell-fire religion just waiting for a bit of sprinkling from an unsuspecting heaven.