A Straight Shot of Politics

A blog from a gentleman of the Liberal political persuasion dedicated to right reason, clear thinking, cogent argument, and the public good.

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Location: Columbus, Ohio, United States

I have returned from darkness and quiet. I used to style myself as "Joe Claus", Santa Claus’ younger brother because that is what I still look like. I wrote my heart out about liberal politics until June of 2006, when all that could be said had been said. I wrote until I could write no more and I wrote what I best liked to read when I was young and hopeful: the short familiar essays in Engish and American periodicals of 50 to 100 years ago. The archetype of them were those of G.K. Chesterton, written in newspapers and gathered into numerous small books. I am ready to write them again. I am ready to write about life as seen by the impoverished, by the mentally ill, by the thirty years and more of American Buddhist converts, and by the sharp eyed people [so few now in number] with the watcher's disease, the people who watch and watch and watch. I am all of these.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

The People of The Garden of Eden

I live with the People of The Garden of Eden, but I am not one of them. The Garden of Eden is a real place, by the way. There really is a high mountain valley out of which four rivers flow and, just like the Bible says, one of them is the Euphrates.

These days it houses the squalid Iranian city of Tabriz, but in the valley uplands you can still find the wild sorb apple and the abundant indications of how life was sweet and easy for Adam's tribe of pastoral nomads.

The Bible says that everybody came from there, and there are those among the People of The Garden who still believe this literally, but, as a member of a different tribe, I read "everybody" to mean "everybody who is anybody" as opposed to nobodies like Cain's wife, who, if Adam was really the father of everybody, would have to also be Cain's incestuous sister.

There are other great meta-tribes of nobodies--as opposed to the Eden somebodies--in our extended human family--two of whom are the People of the Sun, Horse, and Chariot (to whom I belong), and the People of the Dolphin, the Snake, and the Wine-dark Sea.

These days the three tribes cannot be distinguished by blood (or, to be up to the minute, by DNA mutations), though distinct bloodlines, such as the Jewish "Cohens", descendents of Levi, apparently still remain. Wandering, intermarriage, conquest, and religious conversion have expanded the tribe of Eden far beyond the physical ancestors of Adam.

We may trace them reliably only by language, literature, and culture. And to track the path of the People of The Garden of Eden, we must follow their great chieftains, priests, and sages: Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, David, Solomon, Jesus, and Mohammed.

Through subdivision, separation, diaspora, and intertribal conflict, the tribe members have fragmented into bands of mutual hostility--but they remain fractious clansmen all the same.

If you don't belong to the tribe and you wish to find them, look for the ones whose compass orients to holy cities--Rome, Jerusalem, Mecca, Medina; who believe in an ultimate, extra-human, Lawgiver of Absolute Right and Wrong; who look forward to a permanent unchanging Eternity opposed to Time; and who are locked in a mortal struggle, some accepting it while some reject it, with the vision of an iron, pre-determined, fate for all things.

And the animal totem of that relentless fate are the rams, lambs, and goats of blood sacrifice. We can call them by their sub-tribes--Christian, Jew, and Moslem--but together they remain the People of Eden, nonetheless.

Now the members of my own tribe are the horse-breeders and cattle herders, the People of the Sun, Horse, and Chariot. They spread like wildfire East, West, North, and South from a center in the steppes somewhere Northwest of the Danube. Keltoi, Aryans, Sycthians, and Dorians are the names we've come to know them by best, and the easiest way to trace their progress are their lovely melodious languages--Gaelic, Cymric, Greek, and Sanskrit with many variations in between.

You can trace them also by the spread of the eternal story of the glorious divine charioteer going into battle, glowing with the power of the sun: Cuchulain of the Red Branch, Apollo of Delphi, Glorious Achilles on the field of Troy, and, greatest of all, Krishna the Avatar under the looming shadow of the Himalayas. "Fare forward," Krishna said, not "fare well" but "Fare forward."

These days we know some of them even got as far as China. They have been taken out of graves there with their straw hair and plaid wool clothes still intact, plaids that would not be out of place on Aran or on Skye! And in many places by archeology or contemporary report we know of their wonderful blue woad tattoos.

They were warrior aristocrats among the people whom they settled, and even today their remnants often remain quite upper-ordersy with a scapegrace "pay the gambling debts but not the shoemaker" arrogance, and constant in their love affair with horses. Why else would their sport be "The Sport of Kings"? Their bards were the best: Homer, Taliesin, and others--authors of the Iliad, the Mabinogion, the Cattle Raid of Cooley, the Scalds and Eddas, the Bagavad Gita.

And of their sages four stand out among many, many others like first magnitude stars on the clearest of nights: Zarathustra, Pythagoras, Plato, and Shakyamuni Buddha. The ethos of personal bravery, the magic of numbers, eternal transformation with no ultimate permanence anywhere, and an endless dance of cause and effect, or light and dark, are where to seek the delights of their collective religious mind.

And then there are the People of the Sea, keepers of the Mysteries and the greatest mystery themselves. Children of the Great Mother of All who came in many forms but whose clearest archetype is the Minoan Mountain Goddess--bare breasted, flounce skirted from waist to feet, brandishing live serpents in both hands above her head.

We know so much of them except the core of their secret path. We know what other people called them: Phonecians, Cannanites, Pelasgians, Cartheginians, and Etruscans. We know their tokens and totems: Dolphin and Anchor, Grapevine and Olive, Twining Serpents and Glowing Wings. We even know the Ports of Call they founded: Cadiz and Marseilles, Carthage and Messina, Athens and Corinth, Sidon and Tyre.

We know their temperance, mixing the wine 5 to 3 with water and talking the evening away, and we know their frenzy, mixing the wine with fly agaric or chewed ivy leaves, or perhaps even ergot on grain, and rioting on the mountain in the wake of Dionysisus. They gave us the beauty of a body trained, not for war, but for sport--wasp waisted gymnasts leaping fierce bulls in Knossos. And this beauty of body and proportion is still 3/4 of our art. And finally there are the Mysteries and the echoes of them they gave us in the greatest thing they had: Theater. Their greatest men were the playwrights: Aeschylus, Aristophanes, Euripides, Sophocles and Menander.

The outer culture is still there in the dances, wherever Greeks gather, in any common movie like Zorba The Greek, or in the way weddings are celebrated by those whose ancestors came from all around the edge of the wine-dark sea which was the Middle of the Earth. But the mysteries are silent, save for a few echos, and all are now born orphaned of the Great Mother.

None now can be sure what it was they learned in the Mysterium that made whole cities confident and calm in the face of Death and Hades. Some fragments remain: how you would be given a choice between two pools by the white cypress, the pool of oblivion and return to life, and the pool of memory that led to glory among the heroic and the great....

I write in a time when the three sub-tribes of the People of Eden bid fair to lay the world waste with the grudges they hold against one another. I live among them but I am not of them, though the battle fury in me is but a faint echo of that ancient charioteer, the bards are silent, and only the sages remain, keeping the flame of my tribe alive--I am a follower of one of them, still.

The Mysteries are no more, and only a handful of happy, sympathetic renegades, the Neo-Pagans, seek suckle from the Great Mother. They are largely feared and despised by the People of Eden. I know Her well enough to know She will take care of Her own when the time comes, and though I drank my wine unmixed like the Centaurs of my tribe, I wish Her children who have returned to Her every bountiful gift She has to give, from the pungent sexuality She opens in every woman to the innocent happiness She unlocks in every man. Fare well, good children, I myself must Fare Forward.

And as for the People of the Garden of Eden, I will not address you directly, though I see your pain and your fear. You have far too much on your mind yet to listen to me. And I must keep silent, alert, fluid, and free among you if I am to follow my sage and survive.


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