Sunday, December 05, 2004

Jesus is Your Sugar Daddy

This is long y’all, but it’s cool so if you’re just skimming, find some other blog. Take your time with this one, it actually means something. And Christmas brevity is for pussies.

It is time for my own Christmas tradition. Actually this is my only real tradition.

The female biological entity that spewed me forth into this world was an atheist, which means I was fortunate enough to have never been trapped beneath that lauded, insipid delusion that December 25th was anything more than a marketing scheme, jingling its bell smack in the middle of the fiscal year of our Lord.

My Merry Tradition is reading a special chapter from a book called “The Tin Drum” (Die Blechtrommel). It is narrated by Oskar Matzerath, a 30 year old man in a mental institution, who threw himself down the cellar stairs at the age of three because he saw how foolish adults were and decided he would never grow up. He also decided that he would not speak to them (because they didn’t deserve it) and communicated only through a tin drum, hence the title. In the book, his childhood takes place during the rise and fall of the Third Reich.

The author’s name is Günter Grass. An important note: I do not have heroes. Having a hero means that there is someone above me in the scope of things. That kind of thinking leads to self delusion so screw that. Grass is one of two people who come dangerously close. As a member of the Hitler Youth, Grass was indoctrinated and subsequently drafted to fight for Germany in WWII. After he was wounded at the age of 16, Grass was confronted with the truth about the Reich. Oops. He decided not to do the very thing that had gotten the whole damned country into trouble in the first place (rationalize being total shitheads) and confront and conquer his own demons. And thankfully for me, write about them.

I have infinite admiration for a person who knows that they have done wrong and is not only strong enough to admit it, but strong enough to deal with whatever repercussions that admitting it might entail. Fortunately, and at great personal expense, I have learned how much character that it takes to do something so amazingly brave. When I say infinite admiration, I suppose that is what I would put on the “hero” shelf in my head.

So the chapter “Faith, Hope, Love” is truly the most profound thing I have ever read and I have read a whole fucking lot my friends (good and bad, mind you; you’ll find “Flowers in the Attic on my shelf beside “Ulysses”. I don’t do the literary posturing thing). It is so good that when I read it, my heart actually wants to die because I know that it will end. It’s like the greatest sex your eyes ever had.

So here is the scene: Markus, the man who makes Oskar’s beloved drums, has killed himself, having realized that the Nazis would soon dispatch his Jewish ass straight to the ovens, giving them one final finger and ruining their good time. Oskar finds the toyshop in ruins and the body of the toy maker, Markus, sitting at his desk. The following is an excerpt. If this doesn’t make you weep, I’m afraid you’re not human and must report to me immediately for extermination. Haha, just a bit of genocidal humor to get you in the mood…

Pg. 203-206, The Tin Drum

There was once a drummer, his name was Oskar. When they took away his toy merchant and ransacked the shop, he suspected that hard times were in the offing for gnomelike drummers like himself. And so, in leaving that store, he picked out of the ruins a whole drum and two that were not so badly injured, hung them round his neck, and so left Arsenal Passage for the Kohlenmarkt to look for his father, who was probably looking for him. Outside, it was a November morning. Beside the Stradt-Theater, near the streetcar shop, some pious ladies and strikingly ugly young girls were handing out religious tracts, collecting money in collection boxes, and holding up, between two poles, a banner with an inscription quoted from the thirteenth chapter of the First Epistle to the Corinthians. “Faith…hope…love,” Oskar read and played with the three words as a juggler plays with bottles: faith healer, Old Faithful, faithless hope, hope chest, Cape of Good Hope, hopeless love, Love’s Labour’s Lost, six love. An entire credulous nation believed, there’s faith for you, in Santa Claus. But Santa Claus was really the gasman. I believe—such is my faith—that it smells of walnuts and almonds. But it smelled of gas. Soon, so they said, ‘twill be the first Sunday of Advent. And the first, second, third, and forth Sundays of Advent were turned on like gas cocks, to produce a credible smell of walnuts and almonds, so that all those who liked to crack nuts could take comfort and believe:

He’s coming. He’s coming. Who is coming? The Christ child, the Saviour? Or is it the heavenly gasman with the gas meter under his arm, that always goes ticktock? And he said: I am the Saviour of this world, without me you can’t cook. And he was not too demanding, he offered special rates, turned on the freshly polished gas cocks, and let the Holy Ghost pour forth, so the dove, or squab, might be cooked. And handed the walnuts and almonds which were promptly cracked and they too poured forth spirit and gas. Thus it was not hard, amid the dense blue air, for credulous souls to look upon all those gasmen outside department stores as Santa Clauses and Christ children in all sizes and at all prices. They believed in the only-saving gas company which symbolizes destiny with its rising and falling gas meters and staged an Advent at bargain prices. Many, to be sure, believed in the Christmas this Advent seemed to announce, but the sole survivors of these strenuous holidays were those for whom no almonds or walnuts were left—although everyone had supposed there would be plenty for all.

But after faith in Santa Claus had turned out to be faith in the gasman, an attempt was made, in disregard of the order set forth in Corinthians, to do it with love: I love you, they said, oh I love you. Do you, too, love yourself: Do you love me, say do you really love me: I love myself too. And from sheer love they called each other radishes, they loved radishes, they bit into each other, out of sheer love one radish bit off another’s radish. And they told one another stories about wonderful heavenly love, and earthly love too, between radishes, and just before biting, they whispered to one another, whispered with all the sharp freshness of hunger: Radish, say, do you love me: I love myself too.
But after they had bitten off each other’s radishes out of love, and faith in the gasman had been proclaimed the state religion, there remained, after faith and anticipated love, only the third white elephant of the Epistle to the Corinthians: hope. And even while they still had radishes, walnuts, and almonds to nibble on, they began to hope that soon it would be over, so they might begin afresh or continue, hoping after or even during the finale that the end would soon be over. The end of what? They still did not know. They only hoped that it would soon be over, over tomorrow, but not today; for what were they to do if the end came so suddenly: And then when the end came, they quickly turned it into a hopeful beginning; for in our country the end is always the beginning and there is hope in every, even the most final, end. And so too is it written: As long as man hopes, he will go on turning out hopeful finales.
For my part, I don’t know. I don’t know for example, who it is nowadays that hides under the beards of the Santa Clauses, or what Santa Claus has in his sack; I don’t know how gas cocks are throttled and shut off; for Advent, the time of longing for a Redeemer, is flowing again, or flowing still, I do not know. Another thing I don’t know is whether I can believe that, as I hope, they are polishing the gas cocks lovingly, so as to make them crow, what morning, what evening. I don’t know, nor know I whether the time of day matters; for love knows no time of day, and hope is without end, and faith knows no limits, only knowing and not knowing are subject to times and limits and usually end before their time with beards, knapsacks, almonds, so that once again I must say: I know not, oh I know not, for example, what they fill sausage casing with, whose guts are fit to be filled, nor do I know with what, though the prices for every filling, fine or coarse, are legibly displayed, still, I know not what is included in the price, I know not in what dictionaries they find the names for fillings. I know not wherewith they fill the dictionaries or sausage casings, I know not whose meat, I know not whose language: words communicate, butchers won’t tell, I cut off slices, you open books, I read what tastes good to me, but what tastes good to you? Slices of sausage and quotations from sausage casings and books—and never will we learn who had to be reduced to silence before sausage casings could be filled, before books could speak, stuffed full of print, I know not, but I surmise: It is the same butchers who fill dictionaries and sausage casings with language and sausage, there is no Paul, the man’s name was Saul and a Saul he was, and it was Saul who told the people of Corinth something about some priceless sausage that he called faith, hope, and love, which he advertised as easily digestible and which to this very day, still Saul though forever changing in form, he palms off on mankind.

As for me, they took away my toy merchant, wishing with him to banish all toys from the world.
There was once a toy merchant, his name was Markus and he sold tin drums, lacquered red and white.
There was once a musician, his name was Meyn and he had four cats, one of which was called Bismarck.
There was once a drummer, his name was Oskar, and he needed the toy merchant.
There was once a musician, his name was Meyn, and he did his four cats in with a fire poker.
There was once a watchmaker, his name was Laubschad, and he was a member of the SPCA.
There was once a drummer, his name was Oskar, and they took away his toy merchant.
There was once a toy merchant, his name was Markus, and he took all the toys in the world away with him out of this world.
There was once a musician, his name was Meyn, and if he isn’t dead he is still alive, once again playing the trumpet too beautifully for words.

From “The Tin Drum”

This book served a great purpose in my life. It said, so profoundly, that if you fuck up, you keep your eyes open to it, deal with it, deal with whomever might have been affected by it, and then walk on. You don't have to wear that mantle for the rest of your life anymore than you get to rest on your laurels when you do something amazing. Self actualization is the only true redemption and the only path to true love is walking it with those who have seen you that naked and still hold your hand.