Having my way with Ulysses

Three seekers of the pure truth.

They never listen to the voice of reason without being tied up by their prejudices, as Ulysses was by his fellow travelers, and giving them the order in advance: "Pull the rope tighter, the more I squirm and beg to be set free, until we will have lost sight of the Sirens."2:17 am

[Scene: Atop Mount Pisgah in Madaba, Jordan, Moses greets two more Moseses who have come to play a little chess, grill up some lamb, and argue, always argue. Always the same fight about the same damn thing.  Move on already.]

Moses: Welcome gentlemen, Moses, your face.  Not this again.

Moses Maimonides: [His badly scarred face sports wounds in varying stages of freshness. Some of them weep a yellow pus. Stinks. Moses, put a bandage on or something. A mask. Nobody wants to see that.]  Nothing.  A mirror.  Nothing.

Moses Mendelssohn: [Back bent double but nicely dressed]  Oh I’ve done that. Hurts.

Moses: You have to stop. This ridiculous pursuit. It must end. Let it go.

Moses Maimonides: I just wonder, if I could just, if I could just hear it from him once and for all.

Moses Mendelssohn: He was not Jewish. Aristotle was not a Jew. Don’t waste his time asking him that, please, man, have some dignity.  Remember who you are. From Moses to me there was none like you.  You talked Aristotle into the void! Why does his faith mean so much to you?  My closest friend is a, well, not a Christian per se, certainly not a Spinozist or some sort of athiest, more of a pantheist. He’s not Jewish anyway and you don’t see me trying to make him into a Jew.

Moses: It is Plato who is Jewish, not Aristotle. Or Socrates rather.

Moses Mendelssohn: Nonsense. Must anyone be anything? Aristotle. He dealt in reason: his philosophy conjures the purity of truth found only in mathematics. If this equals that then that equals this. Mathematics, not superstition. Most of humanity embark on the journey of life with delusion of superstitions and with the firm resolve to complete that journey with them.  You think a man who rejected the infinite and the void with an even greater resolve was a Jew?

Moses: Stop. Superstitions! I did not lead my people, God’s chosen people, all the way to the holy land for superstitions! With kids too! Are we there yet? Are we there yet? And feeding everybody, and everybody all cooped up together bickering and sick to death of each other already, and can we stop here, and can we stop there every five minutes.  I can’t tell you how many times I threatened to pull the whole thing over and turn around.

Moses Maimonides: And you did it for what? You died here!

Moses Mendelssohn: But the view, Moses, it’s soultransfiguring.  The light in the morning hours must be magnificent.

Moses: It’s a nice place to end up, I’ve got to say.

Moses Maimonides: Your barbeque pit is phenomenal, you could roast just about anything in there. How do you keep such a good smolder going?

Moses: Eternal fire. Really, it comes down to how you shape your burning bush. I like a nice pyramid with a pan of water next to it.

Moses Maimonides: Get that from the Egyptians?

Moses: Yup. You know, Moses, I’m going to ask Plato if he was Jewish. I just have to ask.

Moses Maimonides: I know, right?

Moses Mendelssohn: I can’t listen to these words.

Moses: It’s too late Moses, we are deep into the quicksand now. Our world without end is a different kind of world without end, so don’t give us your mathematical rationality. Parallel lines meet at infinity now.A = A + B.  Mathematics has been entangled in strings of its own making for infinities beyond infinities now.

Moses Maimonides: And all that bound into a finite space too.

Moses: Exactly. Everything is made from infinity and void as you well know. And was Aristotle a Jew? It was Socrates I’m sure of it, or Plato rather.  Was Aristotle Jewish? Let Moses ask him.  See what he can do.

Moses Mendelssohn: Fine. Go ahead Moses, it’s your face.

Moses: Good. Now how do you like your lamb?

Seems a long way off.

The strain on the mind is formidable; the element of time drops out of one's consciousness altogether: the building hand gropes for a pawn in the box, holds it, while the mind still ponders the need for a foil or a stopgap, and when the fist opens, a whole hour, perhaps, has gone by, has burned to ashes in the incandescent cerebration of the schemer. The chessboard before him is a magnetic field, a system of stresses and abysses, a starry firmament.

No-one is anything.  I am a ghost.  Well, I haven’t died yet, no need to look at me as if my mind is off in some happy hunting ground somewhere.  I mean I have moved to an atemporal state without ever having died.  This is not resurrection, not metempsychosis.  I have translated.  You’ve done this too, occasionally.  You’ve lost track of time, before, yes?  That can happen when your world speeds up, when so much is happening that the whirlwind around you speeds time forward until you say you were so busy, had so much fun, were so distracted with it all, there was so much, so much, that time took flight.  This is not translation.  Translation comes from a deliberate slowness.  A stretching of the nothingness between full moments.  A pulling apart of discreet events until you inhabit the eventlessness between.  Time cannot reach you there.  Try it again, you’ve done it before.  You might make it happen for short spaces of time, short times of space with practice.  Like a muscle, the more you use it, the more supple, the more pliant.  Begin by cultivating your vision.  Practice seeing without seeing:  use your unseeing eye.  It helps to develop an idée fixe.  Find something with symbolic power.  For me it is chess.  Ah chess.  It contains the entire universe.  All of being and non-being, ever facet of the soul and the spaces between the facets beautifully composed onto 64 white and black squares.  I found chess in America.  I went after an American war to purchase land cheap, thinking I would grow cotton.  Instead I grew peaches.  Peach trees need little care.  Plant them, they blossom, then they grow.  Then peaches.  All they ask is we permit their becoming by staying clear of their being.  Then one harvest and endless solitude.  While my trees grew in Alabama I went to Atlanta and played chess.  The beauty, the harmony, of Zarathustra’s great invention!  In chess our adversaries move according to our moves, and we to them.  We form a helix coiling in a beautiful deadly dance, a rhythm of infinite possibilities.  64 squares, 8 X 8, infinity times infinity.  8 is the number of judgement.  And 64, 6+4=10, the perfect number.  The first triangular number to have a center, and the only one whose center is half of its total.  Balance.  GOD MEND THINE EVERY FLAW!  A onelegged sailor with an idée fixe crutched angrily, translating himself from the sidewalk into a jagged alley.  CONFIRM THY SOUL IN SELF CONTROL!  Symmetry.  The number of the soul.  10 represents the wheel of destiny and of retribution.  This is the number that governs returns, reincarnation, transmigration, metempsychosis, and most especially translation.  Judgement in delicious tango with destiny.  Ponder it, hang your gaze over a chessboard, and you can translate into a ghostbright existence where nothing is wanting, nothing is required, and the only fear is the hell of dreaded stalemate.  And the joy!  The joy of creation!  Each game a new universe.  Each chess problem (oh the composition of chess problems!) a microcosm of temporal harmony.  Each piece on the board a representative of stillness and force.  I left America, and the glorious atemporality I found there, to become a politician in support of my younger brother.  I was his pawn in a greater cause.  We are all pawns in a greater cause.  Just what is the cause, well that is not the pawn’s business.  Pawn’s have to earn their power, to kill, to rule as Queen; that is the glory of being a pawn.  Most remain powerless.  We serve our purpose quietly, in a waking sleep, then translate to the side to await our next use.  The halls of government contain chess rooms and in my political service to my brother I played chess.  I spoke on record 13 times in five years.  My brother hated and feared the number 13 although I found it immensely satisfying to open my mouth and make 13 utterances, speak questions I didn’t care to have answered, and then stop altogether.  I played chess.  I play chess.  I thought to master it and instead learned that my salvation, my translation to the infinite, comes when chess masters me.  Elijah is coming!  Elijah, a crumpled throwaway, sails closer to the three masters, bound to its translation.