Saturday, December 24, 2016

Lies and Shadows, Silence and Time

Two quotes from ``Ceremony,'' Leslie Marmon Silko's masterpiece.

The first one is long and about the lies with harbor deep inside and shadows:

... He had a crazy desire to believe that there has been some mistake, that Floyd Lee had gotten them innocently, maybe buying them from the real thieves. Why did he hesitate to accuse a white man of stealing but not a Mexican or an Indian? He took off his gloves and stuck his hands inside his jacket to wipe the broken blisters on his shirt. Sweat made the raw skin sting all the way up both arms, leaving his shoulders with a dull ache. He knew then he had learned the lie by heart---the lie which they had wanted him to learn: only brown-skinned people were thieves: white people didn't steal, because they always had the money to buy whatever they wanted.

The lie. He cut into the wire as if cutting away at the lie inside himself. The liars have fooled everyone, white people and Indians alike; as long as people believed the lies, they would never be able to see what had been done to them or what they were doing to each other. He wiped the sweat off his face onto the sleeve of his jacket. He stood back and looked at the gaping cut in the wire. If the white people never looked beyond the lie, to see that theirs was a nation built on stolen land, then they would never be able to understand how they had been used by the witchery; they would never know that they are still being manipulated by those who knew how to stir the ingredients together: white thievery and injustice boiling up the anger and hatred that would finally destroy the world: the starving against the fat, the colored against the white. The destroyers had only to set it into motion, and sit back to count the casualties. But it was more than a body count; the lies devoured white hearts, and for more than two hundred years white people had worked to fill their emptiness; they tried to glut the hollowness with patriotic wars and with great technology and the wealth it brought. And always they had been fooling themselves, and they knew it.
The moon was bright, and the rolling hills and dry lake flats reflected a silvery light illusion that everything was as visible as if seen in broad daylight. But the mare stumbled and threw him hard against the saddle horn, and he realized how deceptive the moonlight was; exposed root tips and dark rocks waited in deep shadows cast by the moon. Their lie would destroy this world. ---pp. 177-8, Ceremony, Leslie Marmon Silko

The second quote on silence and time:

He stopped on the edge of the clearing. The air was much colder. He had been so intent on finding the cattle that he had forgotten all the events of the past days and past years. Hunting the cattle was good for that. Old Betonie was right. It was a cure for that, and maybe for other things too. The spotted cattle wouldn't be lost any more, scattered through his dreams, driven by his hesitation to admit they had been stolen, that the land---all of it---had been stolen from them. The anticipation of what he might find was stung tight in his belly; suddenly the tension snapped and hurled him into the empty room where the ticking of the clock behind the curtains had ceased. He stopped the mare. The silence was inside, in his belly; there was no longer any hurry. The ride into the mountain had branched into all directions of time. He knew then why the oldtimers could only speak of yesterday and tomorrow in terms of the present moment: the only certainty; and this present sense of being was qualified with bare hints of yesterday or tomorrow, by saying, ``I go up to the mountains yesterday or I go up to the mountains tomorrow.'' The ck'o'yo Kaup'a'ta somewhere is stacking his gambling sticks and waiting for a visitor; Rocky and I are walking across the ridge in the moonlight; Josiah and Robert are waiting for us. This night is a single night; and there has never been any other. ---pp. 178-9, Ceremony, Leslie Marmon Silko

Finally, a bonus quote from an Aeon article, ``Wild thing How and why did humans domesticate animals – and what might this tell us about the future of our own species?'' by Jacob Mikanowski


Keeping pets meant inviting animals into the family. It also created new relationships of inequality. The anthropologist Tim Ingold at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, who has spent years studying the reindeer herders of Lapland, argues that it is a mistake to regard domestication as a form of progress, from living in opposition to nature to harnessing it for our benefit. In The Perception of the Environment (2000), he notes that foraging peoples generally regard animals as their equals. Hunting is not a form of violence so much as a willing sacrifice on the part of the animal. Pastoralists, on the other hand, tend to regard animals as servants, to be mastered and controlled. Domestication doesn’t entail making wild animals tame, Ingold says. Instead, it means replacing a relationship founded on trust with one ‘based on domination’.

When humans start treating animals as subordinates, it becomes easier to do the same thing to one another. The first city-states in Mesopotamia were built on this principle of transferring methods of control from creatures to human beings, according to the archaeologist Guillermo Algaze at the University of California in San Diego. Scribes used the same categories to describe captives and temple workers as they used for state-owned cattle.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016


From a novel on (lesbian) love, loss and grief, remembering, and amnesia:

The possum travels light, its little brain just a bit of spit and blood, poor synapses that can't recall where it slept the day before. It's nomadic, solitary, stopping here or there to sleep, to eat, and in the spring to mate. When cornered, it'll hiss and bare its teeth, and then commit its suicide. You think it's dead, and chances are it is, but when you leave it might wake up, sneer, and move along. ---p. 60, Toward Amnesia, Sarah Van Arsdale

What is kindness? Kindness is a way of walking, of approaching subjects. It has deep roots in a view of the world based on equality. Violence comes from inequality and requires justice. In an equal world, there are swift decisions, but they are not violent!

A quote on human sacrifice:
``The practice of human sacrifice was fundamental to the Aztec's faith. Thousands of men, women, and children were killed each year in hopes of appeasing the willful gods and keeping the fragile universe in balance. On holy days, priests in black robes led victims---warrior, prisoner, slave, or maiden---up the Great Temple and carved out their beating hearts with a flint knife.'' ---p. 15, Dancing with the Tiger, Lili Wright

And a quote about listening from a strange novel:
... I listen. That's my business. Listening. That's the difference between me and the Harvard guy. The Harvard guys don't listen. ---p. 156, The Last Thing He Wanted, Joan Didion

Monday, December 12, 2016

Is There a Tiny Fragment?!?

This quote comes after a particularly disturbing and depressing description of life in the Soviet Union in early 20th century:
``Not all of me shall die.'' Shulubin whispered. ``Not all of me shall die.''
He must be delirious.
Kostogolov groped for the man's hot hand lying on the blanket. He pressed it lightly. ``Aleksi Filippovich,'' he said, ``you're ging to live! Hang on, Aleksi Filippovich!''
``There's a fragment, isn't there? ... Just a tiny fragment,'' he kept whispering.
It was then it struck Oleg that Shulubin was not delirious, that he's recognized him and was reminding him of their last conversation before the operation. He had said, ``Sometimes I feel quite distinctly that what is inside me is not all of me. There's something else, sublime, quite indestructible, some tiny fragment of the universal spirit. Don't you fell that?'' pp. 482-3, Cancer Ward, Alexander Solzhenitsyn
Is this hope or illusion? I believe Solzhenitsyn leaves it up to each of us, readers, to decide on our own.

I have felt the lack of trust and sense of betrayal described in the following very acutely:
... Cancer was a front-parlour subject, but it wasn't in the same class as a broken leg or a heart attack or even a death. It was apart, obscene almost, like a scandal; it was something you brought upon yourself.
Other people think that too, but in different ways. Rennie used to think it herself. Sexual repression. Couldn't act out anger. The body, sinister twin, taking its revenge for whatever crimes the mind was supposed to have committed on it. Nothing has prepared her for her own outrage, the feeling that she'd been betrayed by a close friend. She'd given her body swimming twice a week, forbidden it junk food and cigarette smoke, allowed it a normal amount of sexual release. She'd trusted it. Why then had it turned against her?  pp. 73-4, Bodily Harm, Margaret Artwood

In fact, there is a close, and yet obscure, connection between trust (faith?) and that tiny fragment inside ...

IT'S NOT ...

.. ``It's not your spread, and it's not how strong you are, and it's not how fast you are, because you have all those thing...