by Gilles d'Aymery
"We can keep from a child all knowledge of earlier myths, but we cannot take from him the need for mythology."
—Jung, Symbols of Transformation, 1912
(Swans - January 1, 2007) WAR HITS HOME: As Jan writes with deep sadness and poignancy, our nephew Chris Baughman, the youngest son of Jan's brother, will be deployed to Iraq in March. A few days ago I formatted and edited Philip Greenspan's latest piece, "What Happens To The Decent Kids Who Enlist," in which he describes how the military creates shoot-to-kill murderers out of our young enlistees. In the process of editing and formatting the piece my mind was blurred by the image of Chris and I was silently shouting, "no, no, Chris is not a murderer." My eyes got filled with tears -- yes, I am a sissy -- and my angst turned into anger...against Philip, silently again. "How can you write this, Phil?" I kept asking. "How can you? How?" And again, "no, no, Chris is not a murderer."
I REMEMBER WHEN Chris's older brother, Matt, and a friend of his, visited us in San Francisco for a week. The boys descended on the town. They were bright and full of lightness of being as only college kids can be. They were gentle, funny, inquisitive, amazingly polite, with an innate decency, and generosity of spirits. Two wonderful kids. I recall Chris and his family visiting us when we were still living in Menlo Park, in the San Francisco Bay Area. He must have been 11 at most. I recall him being enthused with my VFR 750 motorcycle and taking him for a ride. I can still see the ear-to-ear grin on his face. He was in heaven. I also remember thanking, again silently, Jan's father, Bob, for having led a hard-working life as a farmer, a trucker, and a gardener, to raise four wholesome kids who in turn -- at least two of them (the two daughters are childless) -- had brought up another fine generation. Chris and Matt are two wholesome young men.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN to Chris, I do not know. What influence the Marines will have on this wholesomeness, I do not know. When I learned that he was joining the Marines, my heart sunk. When the pain gets too intense, I either scream, let it out of my body, or keep silent and internalize it. We were in Boonville when Jan told me the news months back. I stayed silent. I walked out on the deck, lit a cig, and walked back and forth, back and forth on the deck, devastated by the news, my brain mixed with sadness and furry. Silence was my answer.
AFTER JOINING THE MARINES, and finishing boot camp he was stationed in Hawaii, and I was told they informed him that he would not be dispatched to Iraq. Not long thereafter we learned that, after all, he is indeed going. Going for what? To be killed or to kill? For our addiction to oil? For our "way of life"? For the hubris of a few old white men who've never seen combat personally? For a wealthy Establishment whose sons and daughters never enlist? For The Dow Jones? FOR WHAT? (Please, do not throw that Chris "is going to fight so that I can write these words." Please!)
I FLED THE VIOLENCE of my childhood to a land, unbeknown to me, that epitomizes violence. I can't reconcile the two. It's eating at me like a cancer. I'd better stop. So, if Phil reads these lines, I want him to know that Chris is not a murderer. He's a magnificent young life. If Chris reads these lines I want him to know that I love him, that I beg him to not pull the trigger of whatever killing machine he holds in his hands. I want him to know that if he kills, each life he takes out will be a life I take out, that his fingers are my fingers, his soul my soul, his life my life, and for each life lost through his hands he will have killed me twice. I want him to come back whole, mentally and physically, so that his wholesomeness can blossom again. And to anybody else who reads these lines, I want you to oppose war to the most intense fullness of your convictions and work for peace till the day you drop and nourish back the earth that has nourished your life in the first place.
LET ME TALK ABOUT LIFE THEN, and stay within the family. These have been spoiling times. First, my mother called me for Xmas -- the first time in some 25 years. Then Bob, Jan's father, sent us $75, which with Phil and Fran Greenspan's additional $50 donation brought us to a grand total $1,600 for Swans operation, twice as much as last year. Then, Jan's sister Carol, and her husband Johnny, sent us a magnificent Shan Mu bowl, made out of exotic wood of the Shan Mu Tree (Heaven's Eyes) that grows in the high mountains of Northern Mongolia. The trees are harvested for the craft of expensive furniture and the roots are hand-carved into a basket or a bowl or a plate. Each is one-of-a-kind piece of art in unusual shapes showing the beautiful wood grain texture of the root. They bought it at the Cowboy Poetry Festival in Las Vegas. Poetry, cowboys, Las Vegas? Stranger things have happened in this great land of ours!
BEFORE OPENING THE TWO BOOKS that Jan had carefully chosen for me -- Neruda: On the blue shore of silence -- poems of the sea (HarperCollins, ISBN 0-06-059184-6), and Martine Franck's One Day to the Next (Aperture Foundation, ISBN 0-89381-845-3), I read the following that was printed on a folded page:
|No Me Hagan Caso/Forget About Me|
Hay que buscar cosas oscuras
en alguna parte de la tierra,
a la orilla azul del silencio
o donde pasó como un tren
la tempestad arrolladora:
allí quedan signos delgados,
monedas del tiemyo y del agua,
detritus, ceniza celeste
y la embriaguez intransferible
de tomar parte en los trabajos
de la soledad y la arena.
... Let us look for secret things|
somewhere in the world,
on the blue shore of silence
or where the storm has passed,
rampaging like a train.
There the faint signs are left,
coins of time and water,
debris, celestial ash
and the irreplaceable rapture
of sharing in the labour
of solitude and the sand.
[Added Jan] Here's to our continued, irreplaceable rapture of sharing... not in solitude, but together, always searching. Never forgetting about the other. Never disappearing.
NEVER DISAPPEARING? Of course we shall disappear, but we will have added to, and been a part of, the long chain of life that generation after generation defends the commonality of the whole. We will have in many ways been true communalists who endeavor to solve the complexities of our times through reason, peace, and, darn, rationality, in the midst of faith-based imbecilities based on violence and destruction. That chain is indestructible.
JAN GOT a 14" cast iron wok, made in the USA s'il vous plait, and a book about how to make bread (The Bread Builders, by Daniel Wing and Alan Scott, Chelsea Green Publishing Company, 1999, ISBN 1-890132-05-5). As they say in France, a woman keeps her man happy through his stomach!
OH, I ALMOST FORGOT, three pairs of organic-cotton socks were thrown under the non-existent Xmas tree -- blue, green, and red. My feet will appreciate the comfort as the growers struggle with their survival. There were no flowers this time around. I remember Jan's 40th birthday and the 40 roses I bought to commemorate in a fleeting instant that very special day. There are no flowers to be found in the Anderson Valley but the ones that grow in the wild.
WHO GIVES A DAMN, anyway, what we got or did not. We did not grease the wheels of Americana and couldn't care less. We were just, simply, deeply, together...
PERHAPS, quite possibly, we do not get it. Getting it is about the reality we all face. Take for instance the ads that ran on MSNBC on December 19, 2006, during the Hardball show with Chris Matthews. The first one was about the GM Hummer. A preppy guy talks about all the add-ons he got on his HV. But it was not enough, as the ad revealed. Young man gets into his new acquisition and drives it full speed ahead into a lake. As the HV gets under water, its wheels turn laterally becoming propellers. James Bond made in GM. You still have it all, dudes. Just come to a dealership near you. Life's good and we are booming ahead with confidence, like we did in the 1960s and '50s. Nothing's impossible. The next ad, meanwhile, described the horrors happening in Darfur, Sudan. People are killed; women are raped; children are left orphans when not killed. Hummer, Darfur, what a metaphor!
WHERE IS NERUDA when we all need him? Where are you all when the whole needs you? Where do we stand, each and anyone of us?
THE ARCTIC is melting: I do not care. The polar bears are disappearing: I do not care. The world's fisheries are history: I do not care. The forests are gone: I do not care. Acid rain: I do not care. Global warming: I do not care. Palestinians: I do not care. Iraqis: I do not care. My own flesh and blood: I still do not care, so long as I can keep driving to Wal*Mart and fill my over-packed garage with goodies, and Wall Street prospers.
I AM AN AMERICAN. To keep my way of life going I'll wholeheartedly send the Chrises of my world to kill and get killed so that I may keep it going. I am special you know. God told me so.
I AM WHITE and it all began in Europe. I moved on to the Americas. I killed the indigenous nations. I enslaved the black skins. I invaded and raped and pilfered other places in the world so that I, a member of the master race, could go on with the program. I want it all -- my HV and my dream drive to the Mall so that I can live in abundance, without restrictions, without any thoughts about the consequences of my actions for future generations.
And Chris may die for this.
. . . . .
Ç'est la vie, I am afraid...
And so it goes...
La vie, friends, is a cheap commodity, but worth maintaining when one can.the life line won't hurt you much, but it'll make a heck of a difference for Swans.