25 Slices
Medium 9781927068304

Archangels and Jingle Bells

Lloyd Ratzlaff Thistledown Press ePub

ARCHANGELS AND JINGLE BELLS

I Question not my Corporeal or Vegetative Eye any more than I would Question a Window concerning a Sight. I look thro’ it & not with it. — William Blake

Perceptions are acts of creation. They can bring a dead world to life. They can replace the objective idols of our culture, and its disdain for our subjectivity, with images that point back at us when we see them. Lively images.

He thought he saw a Banker’s Clerk
Descending from the bus,
He looked again, and found it was
A hippopotamus.

For more than a decade I worked as a therapist for children with emotional and behavioural difficulties. Sometimes we got into philosophical discussions which would go something like this.

“Is there such a thing as a real Santa Claus?” I’d ask.

“No there isn’t,” the sophisticated ones said, and went on to explain what really happens on Christmas Eve: “Your mom or dad just puts the presents under the tree after you go to sleep.”

For others, skepticism had begun to intrude: “Some people say there is no Santa, but I think there is. But I don’t know how he flies to all the houses in the world in one night, unless it’s on a laser beam or something. Or maybe he brings the presents early and your parents hide them till Christmas.”

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Prologue: Being Here

Lloyd Ratzlaff Thistledown Press ePub

PROLOGUE

BEING HERE

Oscar Wilde once said that if faced with a choice between going to heaven or going to a lecture about heaven, most people would go to the lecture. We seem to be suspicious of a paradise in a far-off time and never-never land — some professing to believe it, some wishing to believe it, others believing it’s unbelievable. How different all this is from Thomas Traherne’s experience: “Your enjoyment of the world is never right, till every morning you awake in Heaven; see yourself in God’s palace; and look upon the skies, the earth, and the air as Celestial Joys; having such a reverend esteem of all, as if you were among the Angels.”

Love and work: these were Freud’s criteria of a successful life, the reasons for staying on this planet at all. Yet both can be degraded from opportunity to opportunism, and both can come to feel like joyless obligations. Are compassion and creativity better terms? Are we here to experience common passion, and to make something of the experience? It’s one way of phrasing the spiritual quest.

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Of Bulls and Baptisms

Lloyd Ratzlaff Thistledown Press ePub

OF BULLS AND BAPTISMS

I lock the Sunbird with a click of the key, check to see that I’ve parked far enough off the road, and turn toward the fence. Armed with a water bottle and a can of mosquito spray in a yellow plastic shopping bag, I part the barbed wire strands like this — there, I made it without ripping the back of my shirt or skewering my crotch — and walk into the heat along a scraggy downhill path in search of the old baptismal site, with swarms of mosquitoes coming toward me and as many grasshoppers jumping out of the way.

The remains of an old log barn sag there off to the right, walls slumped and half overgrown, roof long decomposed. I don’t remember it there forty years ago, when I was fourteen at the time of my washing; but I recall people driving down in their cars, the community coming to see the latest batch of teenagers doused in the river. Once before I was baptized I was here with my cousin to go fishing. We made our way gingerly around a herd of cows overseen by a malevolent old bull, but we didn’t catch any fish, and had to sneak back up again, cripes I hope there’s no bull here now. I look around and estimate my chances, now at mid-life, of outrunning a bull and climbing a tree in front of a pair of tapered horns.

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O Wheel

Lloyd Ratzlaff Thistledown Press ePub

O WHEEL

The mayor of Dachau takes for granted we are not here to see the town. “Dear Guests,” the brochure begins, “You have come to Dachau to visit the memorial site in the former Concentration Camp. Innumerable crimes were committed. Like you, the citizens of Dachau bow their heads before the victims of this camp. After your visit, you will be horror-stricken. But we sincerely hope you will not transfer your indignation to the ancient 1200-year-old Bavarian town of Dachau, which was not consulted when the concentration camp was built and whose citizens voted quite decisively against the rise of National Socialism . . . ”

There are photos, then, of footpaths beside the Muehlbach River, and distant Alps as seen from the Dachau Palace. There are paintings of old mills and taverns and smithies, and of harvests and peat bogs, of the place as it was before the years of infamy.

“I extend a cordial invitation to you to visit the old town of Dachau,” the mayor says. “We would be pleased to greet you within our walls and to welcome you as friends.”

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The Why and the Wherefore

Lloyd Ratzlaff Thistledown Press ePub

THE WHY AND THE WHEREFORE

Eeyore stood by himself in a thistly corner of the forest . . . and thought about things.Sometimes he thought sadly to himself, “Why?” and sometimes he thought, “Wherefore?” and sometimes he thought, “Inasmuch as which?” — and sometimes he didn’t quite know what he was thinking about. — A. A. Milne

Cindy is an eighteen-year-old student of Larraine’s who is inclined to deal with everything in her world by one comprehensive explanation: “That’s why because.” Some people call her mentally disadvantaged. Larraine co-ordinates her educational program, and living with Larraine entitles me to a debriefing at the end of every working day where she needs to tell, and I need to hear, stories about annoyingly innocent people.

“I’m going home on the bus today, that’s why because,” Cindy says.

“I got new shoes yesterday, that’s why because.”

Things are as they are, because they are.

She is closer to the truth, probably, than we are. For explanation lies on us like a disease in which we forfeit our sense of wonder — the curiosity that drives the best kinds of science, and the humility which is close kin to worship. “How marvellous this is!” said an old Zen saint; “I chop wood, I draw water.” One day when my daughter Sheri was five, colouring a picture, she said, “No wonder you like green!” “Why is that?” I asked, and she said, “Because it has such a nice colour.”

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