So many times around the wheel: impaled on time’s illustrious arrow. A meager and fragile recipient of the life’s breath. Born to the folly of the human condition at the end of the so-called Second World War. Born to immigrants from Italy’s sun-baked shores, who fell within the spell and shadow of the Great Lady of the Harbor, who was tarnished then and, despite repeated attempts at rejuvenation, remains tarnished, some say hopelessly, to this day. Born to a tumultuous and yet strangely captivating city and child to the Bronx. Born as the floodgates of the sweeping changes that came with the encroachment of technology and all its shimmering and alluring wonders opened and carried away the traditions of a bygone era.
Barely out of mother’s sweet womb when hideous weapons, exploiting the fury of the atom, eviscerated two Japanese cities, visiting a horrible death to so many innocent victims of both human and other species. The luminous cloud of such a magnitude of slaughter seems to be bemoaned by only a few, yet the hideous price on the spirit of the nation has yet to be acknowledged. It was a time when the smugness of victory over hated and feared enemies and the mesmerizing appeal of the age of the machine brought a kind of brazen confidence and exaggerated sense of worth to a population yearning to forget. The ambrosia that was packaged for mass consumption was the allure of spotless kitchens with all manner of labor saving devices and the automobile. When the rubber finally met the road, great ribbons of asphalt began to grow across the vast magnificent countryside, and it was decided that within this aura of ingenuity and determination all things were possible. And so it seemed.
Monsters, however, loomed in the shadows. They were hideous beasts fashioned from the frail and imperfect human psyche. Creatures that roamed the countryside. Creatures that held many captive within the embrace of dark and untamed emotions. These malformed reflections of the turmoil swirling within the inner catacombs and dark recesses of the human mind remain very much with us today; although, they appear in different guises.
The most hideous of these creatures is racism. It is a ravenous, rapacious beast around which the core values of this nation revolves. It is malformed and impossible to countenance in the light of day. It thrives in the shadows and feeds off the insecurities and inadequacies of its victims. It finds ignorance an especially inviting terrain upon which it can feed. The genocide of the great American native populations was made possible because the god-fearing colonial assassins rationalized the horrific terror they invoked based on firmly believed racist principles. Slavery is one of the most notable and horrific historic representations of this malaise.
The chants of the tribe within their magic inner circle encompassed by the moon’s delight. The fraternity of white brethren gathered around the conference table during the Board of Directors meeting of a Tobacco Company cheerfully making market-driven decisions that will certainly ensure the death of millions at the hands of insidious diseases. The Captains of the defense industries looking forward to yet another war or military intervention so that shimmering weapons of death can be properly used and tested insuring that millions more can be produced and billions of dollars made in profit to please insatiable shareholders who believe in making profits from death and destruction while they occupy their exquisitely appointed offices and contribute nothing towards the public good. Members of planned and gated communities establishing rules that mandate exclusivity in an attempt to maintain stability at the expensive of diversity. Police precincts mobilizing squadrons of police cars roaming the inner cities in the hope of containing the rage of the dispossessed.
Armies of voiceless immigrants from countries where the skin is decidedly dark and the cultures foreign to the ways of the west, cleaning the shit from millions of office lavatories, driving cabs, constructing houses, harvesting crops under the blinding sun, adjuncts to deafening machinery on the factory floor at the behest of unscrupulous employers and a judicial system weighted on the side of wealth and privilege.
The drumbeat of howling prejudice. Dead bloated corpses of black men swaying from trees in the balmy breezes of an Alabama summer night, while men, women and children watch with hysterical moonlit faces. Nameless corpses of Indians who died from infections transmitted by smallpox-infected blankets donated by malevolent white settlers. Any skin color besides white, held suspect.
The civil rights movement swept through the 60’s leaving many lives unmistakably transformed. The urge to equality, strong. Laws were passed, reforms made. Optimism almost thrived. The bigot’s bullet that brought down Martin Luther. The searing, blinding hatred that followed. Fires raged throughout the nation filling the air with smoke and despair. Young black men discarded the idea of non-violent resistance and embraced the cold logic of the gun. The Black Panthers came to be. Fred Hampton met his crucifixion while in his bed at the hands of the Chicago Police and the machinations of J. Edgar Hoover. In waves they came to beat upon the shores of the American continent: Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, Medgar Evers.
The power and majesty of words and ideas were used repeatedly to uncover and diminish the sorcery that is racism. Richard Wright, James Baldwin, August Wilson, W.E.B Du Bois and Maya Angelou weaved eloquent depictions of the folly and decadence that are synonymous with the fevered madness that are the hallmarks of this rapacious disease.
The great god of Capital is offered sacrifices everyday. Many are thrown into the fiery pit of consumption and neglect in order to placate the formidable icon of wealth and power that stands astride the countryside like a thunderhead rising ominously into the sky foretelling of a great storm. This rapacious god demands order. It is order of a very special kind. It is an order that erects a mighty fortress to buttress the superstructure of the temple. This temple was built by generations of slaves and requires a prodigious amount of energy to be maintained. The slaves are numerous and are expected to be obedient to the whims of the affluent, who are forever hungry and insatiable. Such is the way of empire.
Law and Order is the mantra of the powerful, for it is through the maintenance of order that power is retained by those who possess it. There are no real limits to the constraints placed on the freedom of the many except when they rebel with massive and vociferous opposition. Totalitarian societies are the steadfast friends of law and order regardless of whether such regimes describe themselves as fascistic, democratic, communistic, socialistic etc. There is a heavy price paid by such constraints and that is the ever-present possibility of Chaos. Chaos is Capital’s alter ego. They represent the Ying and Yang of the modern world. Those with everything to lose, brand this Chaos as terror and its purveyors as terrorists. A war on terror by its nature would be endless, for the only way to put an end to terror is remove Capital from its lofty throne.
The daunting age of Bits and Bytes. Where data is everything. Where everything can be monitored, saved, preserved, analyzed, diagramed and ultimately archived. Where a person’s life history including all his accomplishments, failures, mistakes, misgivings, fornications, miscalculations, all his syndromes, the frailties of his body parts no matter how intimate, the weaknesses of his organs, all the medications ever taken, all the help ever received at the behest of all manner of experts, all the cars ever driven, all the sites ever seen, all the men or women ever ogled, all the thoughts of questionable purity, can be stored on devices no larger than the testes of a tree shrew. Mountains of records ripe for government evaluation and storage. Armies of beauecrats stationed at their laptops mining the giga-mega-terabytes of profoundly useless data that pass by each second on its way either in or out of storage. Everybody is or will be watched for no precise reason other than the technology is present and there are mountains of profits to be made doing it. It is a veritable orgy of surveillance performed by those who have been estranged from Eros and the innocent and sensual manifestations of the flesh.
Inundated and ravaged by the storm of images and messages of no consequence that infect the airways and impale upon the human mind misshapen ideas in distorted time. This barren concrete tundra stands in juxtaposition to the vagaries and wonders of nature. We have become idle and irrelevant derelicts without boundaries and hopelessly disconnected from the cosmos from which we sprang. We have misallocated the stardust from which we were made. We have perjured ourselves badly and have held the very things that sustain us in contempt.
Profitability has become the watchword. Human pursuits are measured against the possibility of amassing wealth. Human endeavor is not valued for its intrinsic worth relative to the public good, but rather for its relationship to the man-made laws of economics. What is not for sale and can not be sold is of little consequence within such a society. Within such a myopic and abysmal world, products are everything, and everything becomes products. Even living organisms have become the objects of patents. In the not too distant future, individuals will be patented, especially those who have been genetically modified to enhance some important human characteristic such as the size of the male genitalia. The future in the eyes of commerce is pregnant with many possibilities that would make the poets cringe.
Yet, even within this human world as crazed and haphazard as it may be beauty is still evident. The compassionate caress of a mother encircling her exhausted daughter’s distress as they ride the bus in downtown Seattle. The scantily clad runner moving gracefully in Central Park as the dawn is fracturing the sky with explosive color. The coterie of homeless men seeking shelter from the profoundly cold air as night descends, each depending upon the generosity and ingenuity of his friends and allies. The gleeful laughter of children playing in the wind-swept snow in the streets of Philadelphia. Red Cross volunteers offering aid and comfort to a family deeply afflicted as they watch as their house and all of their possessions are consumed by a raging and deadly fire.
Two heavy glass doors of the bank each bearing the word push. A priest and his ministry watching as the local parishioners steal the paint off the rectory walls. A patrol car turns a corner at sunset, ready to reassert the illusive balance of law. Two old men in the park accost each other with chess pieces. One lonely candle burns in the temple. On the desert, a gun is raised and yet another viewpoint is extinguished.
A man and his lady: their shadows jerk and spin, an empty bottle of gin. In harlem, glass is pushed out of windows in preparation for summer. A sprawling restless suburb spews out its traffic towards megalopolis. A blind woman with her cane as her only companion navigates the crowded thoroughfare with amazing grace and resilience. Anxious parents hover around the hospital bed fretting over their little daughter newly diagnosed with childhood leukemia. Two young lovers hold onto each other with an untamed and unruly passion under the tutelage of an August crescent moon.
Two guitarists at the window by the night as the moon glides gingerly overhead. The air is filled and we awaken to it like gypsies. Blood and violence both rushing over sanguine dreams. The hypnotist and his magician hand in hand in the alley. The highway motions, the sea distorts, and the heart empties its vessels.
First daffodil of spring blossoms near a park bench where an old man dreams of the days of his youth still residing in his waning memory. The wondrous and idle laughter of children. The young adolescent teenage girl reacting to every word spoken by her mother in admonition as if they were poisonous barbs contaminating her bloodstream. Butterfly alighting on an iridescent iris in the heart of summer. The fighter pilot daydreaming of his girlfriend as he dispatches deadly missiles to the earth below, wholly disconnected form the fiery deaths that will soon ensue. Songs of desperation sung by miners trapped in the belly of the earth as they anxiously await their rescue. A young woman giving birth in the howling vertigo of pain that will soon escalate to unimagined joy. Fireflies dancing in the balmy evening as children run after them with wildly beating hearts and open wide-mouth jars their mothers gave to them for such occasions.
The minister trying to craft a sermon extolling the creator when his own faith has been badly shaken by life’s seeming indifference. A pair of determined and fearless crows harassing an eagle who has unwittingly trespassed on their domain. An old man on his deathbed observing with studied interest as the world begins to fade from his view. A massive star giving up its existence in a great fireball of dissolution somewhere in the cosmos.
A young Palestinian, explosives meticulously strapped to his body, is stricken by hatred and the call for revenge as he anticipates his own salvation. A young boy’s first erection as he watches a young woman with slender and alluring thighs sitting opposite him in the subway.
Beleaguered cowboys struggling to rescue cows and their vulnerable calves as they remain exposed to a fierce spring snowstorm out on the plains in Eastern Colorado. The majesty of work as a huge and complex building is going up in the heart of New York. This remarkable construction is being done by an inspired co-operation of effort of workers of diverse backgrounds whose personal lives are filled with ambiguity and confusion. Such is the irony of human experience. A Wall Street broker who takes time from his short and hurried lunch to help a disoriented and disturbed transient up off the sidewalk where he had fallen.
Marion, the well-coiffured local news reporter takes time to arrange herself and apply last minute patches to her makeup as she prepares to report on a fire in suburban Milwaukee that is blazing directly behind her while she is thinking about her orgasms from the night before.
The young Mexican crossing the increasingly treacherous border into Texas where a band of local vigilantes are on patrol. Economic desperation has driven him to seek employment in a barbaric and alien culture. His destiny awaits him whether he is prepared or not. The world is full of treachery where most humans live in deplorable conditions and the economic disparity between the few who possess most of the wealth and everybody else represents an immense almost insurmountable chasm. It is a world where the parasites have come to rule and the idea of survival of the fittest has been turned on its head. It is a world where the slaughter of vast numbers of humans is viewed with a staggering and callous indifference. It is a world where the rhetoric of morality, equality and justice flows unabated from the mouths of those who are the most treacherous of all.
The Moroccan tour guide leads a coterie of white tourists sporting fashionable clothing and expensive cameras through the narrow streets of the old city where they are besieged by an army of young boys and men displaying a cornucopia of trinkets. “Look at this, only five dollars!” the young boy pleads. He is persistent, a behavior dictated by the hollowness of his stomach. Poverty has become a natural law in this human world where mindless commerce is the new messiah.
A stork nest in a church steeple in the plaza of a small town in Spain. This bird with its enormous wing span and eloquent flight is a valued member of the community. A magnificent tigress has become so inured to the invasive glances of visitors at the Chicago zoo that she denies them the vicarious pleasure of recognition. As the wondrous beasts disappear across the planet as a result of man’s ceaseless encroachment, it is their DNA that is sought after and frozen in a crazed and half-hearted attempt at restitution. It is a gleaming and shimmering technology that will be the birthright of future generations on a planet lonely and desolate save for dim-witted humanity. The desire to conquer nature will ultimately succeed leaving vast stretches of emptiness and the ultimate death of the imagination.
Old man Whitaker sitting in the spacious living room within his sprawling estate in Beverly Hills looks out upon all he possesses with a certain regret. He devoted his life to the accumulation of wealth and in the process lost his wife and family and his dearest friends. He spent a significant part of his adult existence exploiting other people’s weaknesses and using them without scruples. Now it is his turn to be used. He is so profoundly lonely; however, that he appreciates any kind of companionship no matter how loathsome. Old man Whitaker is quickly approaching the end of his sojourn on the planet and is ready to let it all go. For exactly what reason he had expended so much of his life energy to becoming rich, he is not exactly sure. He does know, however, that he no longer derives any pleasure from it. His young and buxom wife Madeline is anxiously awaiting his departure and makes no attempt to hide her contempt for him. He is more than happy to will everything to her, for he knows in that way he would exact revenge. In spite of all this fierce negativity that roils in his brain, his eyes take in the magnificent sunset that explodes over the horizon in crimson bursts and he feels instantly calmed. Such is the endless paradox of existence.
The land is parched and the thirsty soil is longing for the sweet caress of raindrops. Benjamin and his wife Harriet stare wistfully out of their farm house window at the acre upon acre of corn stunted and on the edge of demise. They desperately need new irrigation equipment, but in spite of their plight, the bank with whom they had been doing business for years denied them their loan. There is nothing left for them to do but pray that nature would somehow miraculously intervene, for they are beyond hope. They are hard working people and do not understand why that is not enough for them to survive. Quite suddenly, dark clouds appear on the horizon as if out of nowhere and the first streaks of rain appear on the glass. At first, this reality does not register in their minds for it is like a shock. They both turn around simultaneously with unabated joy in their eyes and kiss each other with a torrential passion.
Yellow cabs move up and down Sixth Avenue from Greenwich Village to the Upper West Side like a storm of locusts ferrying their anxious cargo to destinations throughout the frenetic city. Young men and women from around the world take the job as drivers because they understand in a very fundamental way that if you can hustle in New York you can make money. Vladimir left his mother Russia after the Berlin Wall came down and the Soviet Empire began to crumble. He was in the Soviet army at the time serving in Chechnya and witnessed first hand the absolute destruction of that country. He used the opportunity of the political chaos and rebellion that was taking place among his ranks to desert and seek asylum in the United States. Sometimes, while driving his cab when the sun is on its descent to the horizon, he is awestruck by the beauty of the magnificent city when its towering bridges and buildings are silhouetted against the flaming sky.
The world’s great rivers of asphalt carry millions of automobiles. From this relentless traffic, insidious poisons ascend into the atmosphere. A polar bear standing on an ice flow within the Artic Circle feels the ice melting beneath his feet. This unmistakable reality confuses him, for he has never experienced such an occurrence in his entire polar bear existence. The ice is not supposed to melt; the water at this time of year is not supposed to be liquid. In a matter of hours, he is in the frigid water. All around him there are no ice sheets large enough to carry him. In a state of panic he starts to swim. After sometime he is exhausted and ultimately succumbs to the cold and drowns.
Matthew looks down in horror at the body of Janet, his ex-wife, sprawled at his feet. The gun he was holding drops to the ground as his entire body seems to go numb with shock. He did not mean to kill her; he was hoping in his deranged state of mind that simply holding the gun in his hand would be threatening enough to make her be quiet. They were in the throes of an exceedingly divisive separation. He left her for another woman and the affection she felt for him quickly was transformed into a blinding hatred. In the midst of the confrontation that led to her death, Janet was wildly furious and inconsolable. She could not stop herself from hurling withering comments at him that pierced Matthew’s heart, for he did love her. As he looked at Janet’s body and as he became fully cognizant of what he had done, he began to cry not only for Janet’s death but also for the fact that his life, as well, was over.
Elizabeth Wilkins wanted to be an astronaut ever since she went with her Dad to see a shuttle launching at Cape Canaveral, Florida. She was only eight years old at the time, but watching that rocket rise to the heavens on a tongue of fire etched an irrevocable imprint into the core of her being. Now as she gazes out at the earth that is far below her feet, she realizes what this desire to travel in space is all about. The planet that is her home seems like such a splendid jewel suspended in the heavens. It looks so pristine from this new perspective. She needed to see this sight in order to fully appreciate the majesty of existence. Little did she realize that this singular experience would inspire her to become an avid environmentalist and tireless advocate for peace once she returned.
Living can be such a torturous, tormenting and painful experience at times. And yet, it is, after all, a transcending, powerful and wondrous sojourn. Within the magnificent caldron of self, we move about with a kind of reckless endeavor and energy. We hunger for the transcendent; crave admiration and affection like deranged love junkies. We long for understanding and seek leadership that will guide us through the seemingly endless miasma. The choices we make driven by such a compulsive desire to be saved are usually disastrous. In our thirst for solace, we plunder the earth for its treasures. We are all members of an unfinished species that is awed and persuaded by the power of mindless emotion. We are the prisoners of our own lack of imagination. Given these imperfections and in spite of them, there remains that alluring and still possible future of a planet where the dominant species is no longer the destroyer and purveyor of ruinous chaos, but the keeper of a peaceful and harmonious Earth.
Old man Lorenzo comes to the Bronx Zoo every day when he is able. From an outsider’s point of view, he might seem like a desperately lonely old man, but that is not the case. His visits are motivated by his inexhaustible love of animals. In his purposefully baggy pants he has sequestered individual brown paper bags filled with animal feed. Along his well-worn path through the zoo, he makes his planned stops. His favorite spot is a specific place outside the gate of the two acre area reserved for African Gazelles. Vincent loves to watch them cavort and is mesmerized by the exquisite grace of their movement. He finds this particularly pleasure full given the advanced state of decline of his own body. Among the groups of gazelles, he has his favorite. He calls her Maria after his dead wife. As soon as Maria senses his presence, she stops whatever she is doing and comes over to the fence where Vincent is standing. He looks forward to these visits; they define his dwindling days. During their brief get together, he feeds her some treats and they communicate intangible and wonderful things through their senses.
Time moves along its incessant spiral forging the molecular dance that transforms us all in one brief transitory lifetime from bits of clay and dust into the organized specter of human and quickly back again into an amorphous jumble of particles to enrich the earthworms and invigorate the flower. This stuff of which we are made proceeds to reshape itself into many configurations both living and inanimate over the millennia that separate the planet from its own separate and definitive doom. The dance does not stop there, but goes on and on finding new and extraordinary possibilities in the sweeping vectors of time and space.