Listen now to a further point: no mortal thing
Has a beginning, nor does it end in death and obliteration;
There is only a mixing and then a separating of what was mixed,
But by mortal men these processes are named 'beginnings.'
"Dream delivers us to dream, and there is no end to illusion. Life is a train of moods like a string of beads, and as we pass through them they prove to be many-coloured lenses which paint the world their own hue, and each shows only what lies in its focus."
-- R.W. Emerson
A conversation during Civil War. (From Bright, Terrible Spirit):
"But in days past, I was a lawyer. Yes, a lawyer, can you believe it? It seems….ridiculous now, doesn't it? An orderly system meant to govern human society, to establish justice, to advance the progress and enlightenment of the human race. Yet that system, that civil cosmos – to which I was so passionately committed – embraced and protected the most wretched evils, entrenched the powerful in their unjust privilege, oppressed the poor and weak most relentlessly and wickedly, yet at every step – at every step – sang hosannas to itself as some kind of divinity. The "Law" – oh, what a hush of reverence surrounded that word, how deeply that reverence and respect penetrated the heart. Well, my heart, anyway. But in these last few years we have seen – in intense, concentrated, microscopic view – the truth about the law, a truth which too often escaped us in the slow unrolling of peacetime. The truth that there is no law, no Platonic Form out there to which we give paltry representation. There is only power: power in conflict with power, power seeking to drive out power, to establish its dominance, maintain its privilege. Power…acquiesces to law – sometimes – but it never, never bows to it. Power goes along with the law when it is convenient to do so, when it is not too restrictive, when it demands little more than the occasional sacrifice – for the powerful are certainly not above throwing one of their own to the mob when circumstances require. But when it comes to the crisis, power shreds the law like a filthy rag and has its own way. And then you see that the law is nothing but a rag, to be torn and patched and fitted to power's aims. The worst atrocities I have seen or heard of in this war have been committed wholly and completely under the law. This thing I held in such reverence was, is, nothing but a scrap soaked with blood and shit.
"I know there are philosophical arguments to be made against this viewpoint. I have made them in the past, and could even now conjure them up like spirits and make them dance before us. It would be a solace to me, to believe once again. But it would only last a moment. For I know what I know. I know what life has taught me, what it has shown me, I see the evidence laid clearly before me and the jury of my mind returns the inescapable, indisputable verdict. I can tell by your expression that you know what I'm talking about."
"I have some inkling, yes," Jim said, warily. He was reluctant to give away anything of his own troubled thoughts. He was also not entirely sure that Malcolm Stuart was sane. Where was this bleak outpouring headed? Toward some mad act of despair? Or was it simply the overflow of a long-pent mind, giving vent to some of its pressures?
The dead sun drew
a smile of blood across my face,
spoke to me through
the shadow of my voice:
Man, it said, this might be next to nothing
and drawn through a bitter tap,
but it's all you'll ever have.
Don't spill a drop.
-- John Glenday, from Grain
And here's Emerson again, on organ, with a backing band:
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- Published: 26 April 2010