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?

The difficulties of interpretation.

A small cronopio was looking for the key to the street door on the night table, the night table in the bedroom, the bedroom in the house, the house in the street. Here the cronopio paused, for to go into the street, he needed the key to the door.2:06 am

First it happens, then it means something. Rarely, the bolt of lightning will hit one directly (perhaps from a forty five degree angle like a shot off a shovel) and there within the simultaneity of the electrical discharge and the acoustic report you know as it’s going down that this now this is it is this moment (this very instant) that means already in advance and simultaneously what it will come to mean. But really what are the odds of an event and its significance occurring simultaneously? We can’t know all the conditions so there must be some sort of calculable probability. Twenty to one? And this is assuming of course that there is indeed such a thing as simultaneity, but this is no time for parlor games. There is no simultaneity, event and meaning intersect only with lovers, and there is no free will. Oh yes, also: do not risk, do not expect, do not be disappointed, be satisfied, sustain no positive loss, bring positive gain to others. Now, finish carving that on the tablet, make a duplicate to use as light to the gentiles, and bear it down the mountains in your arms, the secret of the race, graven in the language of prediction.

Noble words coming. Look out. Could you try your hand at it yourself?

12:46 pm

[Scene:  Atop Mount Pisgah in Madaba, Jordan, two men gaze to the west and the southwest and reminisce.]

Manetho:  This view transfigures the soul.  Do you have a light?

Moses:  Use the bush.  Yes, soultransfiguring.   I never lived there you know.  I came this close.

Manetho:  Frustrating.

Moses:  Yup.

Manetho:  [bends over the flames, his unglazed linen collar appears behind his bent head soiled by his withering hair.  He rises and the men smoke together, their smokes ascending in frail stalks that flower with their speech]  Handy, that.  Yes, so close.  And for what dear Moses?  Why did you Jews not accept our culture, our religion, our language.  We were the greatest, the biggest, the baddest of them all.  What were you?  Not much.  No wealth, no country, no nothing.  Primitives.  Babies.  We had ages of history, polity, priesthoods, literature.  It boggles, your choice, it boggles the mind.

Moses:  I died here.  No I didn’t enter the land I was promised.  I died instead, a sudden-at-the-moment-though-from-lingering-illness-often-previously-expectorated-demise.

Manetho:  And with a great future behind you.  You must feel such regret.  All this way, intoxicated by an obscure idol.  And just one, imagine!  We had Isis!  We had Ammon Ra!  Not to mention Osiris, Horus, Anubis, Seth, Nut, Thoth.  I could go on.  As above so below.  How can you Jews create a civilization with just one deity?  And we had more.  We were strong with armies and with ships.  We had trade.  You were weak, plagued with daylabourers.  The world trembled at our name; they heard your name and said who?

Moses:  And then what?  As much as you rose you were destroyed, over and again.  You rose and you decayed.  We could have stayed and bowed our will and our spirit, and we could have prayed to your armies and deities.  Yes we might have stayed by the fleshpots tasting the salt bread.  And then?  And then?

Manetho: [belches] Then assimilation into Egyptian life.  You realize that even those things which are subject to decay are good.  Nothing can be corrupted if it were not in some way good.  And yet that which is corrupt is still good, for if a thing were deprived of all good, it would not exist at all.

Moses:  Ah, curse you!  That’s Saint Augustine.  And he is talking about the creations of the obscure idol we chose instead of your life, your will.  And that God of obscurity, that soultransfiguring God led us in a pillar of smoke, like these we create together, but singular and beautiful, swirling and undulating shapeless shapes.  We followed that pillar of cloud by day and left our house of bondage.  I spoke with the ineffable.  Have you any idea of that?  The eternal spoke to me on mountaintops.  On this one, here.  This very place.

Manetho:  You Jews became outlaws.

Moses:  We were  given the law, and we shine even now with the light of inspiration.  Had we stayed we would have been enslaved.  You did us evil, you Egyptians, and you tortured us, saddling us with punishing work.  Our God, the Pure One who dwells on high, raised up a community, a people beyond counting.  And let me ask you this, Manetho, whose name is more remembered: mine, or any in your lists of kings?

Manetho:  Ok.  Ok.  Next year in Jerusalem.

Moses:  You’d better believe it.

Manetho:  I do take exception to your last point.  What has ever been greater than Egyptian civilization or lasted so long?  And what people today are so kind, so beautiful.  But Moses, remember please, all things that rise must fall and then must rise and then must fall and then rise again and fall again.  The masters of the Mediterranean are fellaheen today.  We all have our day.

Moses:  We all have our day.

His blood wooed by grace of language and gesture

For Mercy has a human heart, Pity a human face, And love, the human form divine, And Peace, the human dress. Then every man, of every clime, That prays in his distress, Prays to the human form divine, Love, Mercy, Pity, Peace. And all must love the human form, In heathen, turk or jew; Where Mercy, Love & Pity dwell There God is dwelling too. 12:40 pm

[Scene: A courtroom in Denmark ornately furnished and decorated with four stone effigies in frozen music, the human forms of Mercy, Pity, Peace and Love. Mercy has a heart carved on her sleeve, Pity a human face, Love the human form divine, and Peace is wearing a strapless black velvet Atelier Versace gown worthy of the red carpet with Neil Lane jewels and a Jaime Mascaro clutch. We approve of the two diamond clips arranged on a draped section but Peace looks like the dress of unfortunate fabric choice is wearing her, and that leg jutting out unnaturally gives the effect of one trying too hard.]

Judge Seymour Bushe: Will council for the prosecution please approach the bench.

Moses: Your Honor?

Judge Seymour Bushe:  I’ve had enough of you dropping the ball.  I must repeat, that we do not wish to hear about anything soultransfigured or soultransfiguring or any other bloody thing that might become of the soul.  Stick with the law, the lex talionis if you must, but be aware that the defense is using the law of evidence.  And he has balls of stone.  Call the damn witness and let’s get on with it.

Moses: Your honor, I believe the ball dropped five minutes ago.  I call King Hamlet of Denmark.

Demosthenes: Objection.  King Hamlet of Denmark is dead.

Moses: He is a ghost, your honor, and though he comes in a questionable shape, he has full use of his voice and it is imperative to the proof of King Claudius’ guilt that we lend a serious hearing to what he shall unfold.

Judge Seymour Bushe: Proceed.

Moses: Your Majesty, you deserve to live, deserve to live.  Please tell the court how King Claudius achieved your murder.

Demosthenes: Objection, your Honor, the question assumes facts not in evidence.

Judge Seymour Bushe:  Sustained.  Moses, you must prove King Claudius’ guilt, not assume it.

Moses:  Your Majesty, please explain to the court your experience of the night you died.

The Ghost of King Hamlet of Denmark:  List, list, O List! Murder! Murder most foul, strange and unnatural. That incestuous, that adulterate beast, with Witchcraft of his wit, with traitorous gifts that have the power so to seduce! — won to his shameful lust the will of my most seeming-virtuous queen.

Demosthenes:  Objection, your Honor.   There is no evidence before this court that the witness knew of any adultery on the part of King Claudius or the Queen during his lifetime.  As there is no evidence that the witness had no personal knowledge of what he testifies to know, I move to have his words stricken.

Judge Seymour Bushe:  Sustained.  Mr. Ghost, please keep to the facts as you experienced them.

The Ghost of King Hamlet of Denmark:  Brief let me be.  Sleeping within my orchard, my custom always of the afternoon, upon my secure hour Claudius stole with juice of cursed hebenon in a vial, and in the porches of mine ear did pour the leprous distilment.

Demosthenes:  Objection, your Honor, that’s hearsay, which I move be stricken from the record.  If the witness was asleep, he could have no personal knowledge of anything occurring in his orchard.

Moses:  Your Honor, as a ghost His Highness is in a unique position to act as witness to his own murder.  He exists in eternity now and thus partakes of all eternity.  He has access to the holy book into which all things are inscribed!  I pray thee, do not blot his words out of thy book now being written.

Demosthenes:  [after a pause, a false lull, quite ordinary really]  If I may, your Honor, it is painful for children to be orphaned of a father.  Yes, but it is a beautiful thing to be the heir of a father’s fame.  And of this pain we shall find the deity to be the cause, to whom mortal creatures must yield.  As such I move the court to dismiss the complaint in this action for the reason that the complaint fails to allege sufficient facts which, if true, establish probable cause to believe that King Claudius committed any offense alleged by the prosecution.

Judge Seymour Bushe:  [takes out his matchbook thoughtfully and lights a cigar]  As I must determine the whole aftercourse of the defendant’s life, the court will recess to consider the motion.  Good Christ who do I have to fuck to get a better gig?  I could have left this job long ago, only for . . . but no matter.  Ah well, do not worry about tomorrow, tomorrow will bring worries of its own.  Today’s trouble is enough for today.