You digest and absorb your life by turning it into stories, ' he says, 'the same way this theater seems to digest people.' With one hand, he points to a carpet stain, this dark stain sticky and growing mold, branched with arms and legs. Other events-the ones you can't digest-they poison you. Those worst parts of your life, those moments you can't talk about, they rot you from the inside out. Until you're Cassandra's wet shadow on the ground. Sunk in your own yellow protein mud. But the stories that you can digest, that you can tell-you can take control of those past moments. You can shape them, craft them. Master them. And use them to your own good. Those are stories as important as food. Those are stories you can use to make people laugh or cry or sick. Or scared. To make people feel the way you felt. To help exhaust that past moment for them and for you. Until that moment is dead. Consumed. Digested. Absorbed.
I would like to believe and give in to my naivete, I would like to embrace the fact that I am back in the place where the long fingers of civilization cannot reach me and rip my heart out. At this moment, I would like to embrace myself. I would like to be unconcerned with the rest of the world and take pleasure in knowing that I have found my home. All of my life, all of my adult life, which began with the first notion of understanding, I have been searching for this sensation. You, cruel world, have tried to bring me down, tried to crush me with your code of conduct, your ethics, and your preconceived limits on liberty. You have raped me and robbed me of happiness; you have stolen my dreams and my dignity, leaving me to rot with the rest of you. Today, I know I have escaped your poisoned web; I know your rules do not apply to me, for after all you have done to crush me, I am still standing proudly above the set of your sick play. I am in love-a feeling you no longer thought I was capable of. I am in love-living, breathing, dreaming again-triumphant over your sick schemes.
Watch out, brother, ' his professor had told him more than once, 'you have talent; it would be a sin to ruin it. But you're impatient. Some one thing entices you, some one thing takes your fancy-and you occupy yourself with it, and the rest can rot, you don't care about it, you don't even want to look at it. Watch out you don't turn into a fashionable painter. Even now your colors are beginning to cry a bit too loudly. Your drawing is imprecise, and sometimes quite weak, the line doesn't show; you go for fashionable lighting, which strikes the eye at once. Watch out or you'll fall into the English type. Beware. You already feel drawn to the world: every so often I see a showy scarf on your neck, a glossy hat... It's enticing, you can start painting fashionable pictures, little portraits for money. But that doesn't develop talent, it ruins it. Be patient. Ponder over every work, drop showiness-let the others make money. You won't come out the loser.
What if it turns out there really are witches and vampires and werewolves living right here alongside us? After all, what better disguise could there be than to get your image enshrined in the culture of the mass media? Anything that's described in artistic terms and shown in the movies stops being frightening and mysterious. For real horror you need the spoken word, you need an old grandpa sitting on a bench, scaring the grandkids in the evening: 'And then the Master of the house came to him and said: "I won't let you go, I'll tie you up and bind you tight and you'll rot under the fallen branches!"' That's the way to make people wary of anomalous phenomena! Kids sense that, you know-it's no wonder they love telling stories about the Black Han and the Coffin on Wheels. But modern literature, and especially the movies, it all just dilutes that instinctive horror. How can you feel afraid of Dracula, if he's been killed a hundred times? How can you be afraid of aliens, if our guys always squelch them? Yes, Hollywood is the great luller of human vigilance. A toast-to the death of Hollywood, for depriving us of a healthy fear of the unknown!
The War Has Been Declared. Your Ally Been Ensnared. It Is Now Or It Is Never. Break The Code Or Die Forever. Time Is Running Out Running Out Running Out To the Warrior Give My Blade By His Hand Your Fate Is Made But Do Not Forget the Ticking Or the Clicking, Clicking, Clicking While a Rat's Tongue May Be Flicking With Its Feet It Does the Tricking For the Paw and Not the Jaw Makes the Code of Claw Time Is Standing Still Standing Still Standing Still Since the Princess Is the Key To Unlock the Treachery She Cannot Avoid the Matching or the Scratching, Scratching, Scratching When a Secret Plot is Hatching In the Naming Is the Catching What She Saw, It Is the Flaw Of the Code of Claw Time is Turning Back Turning Back Turning Back When the Monster's Blood Is Spilled When the Warrior Has Been Killed You Must Not Ingore the Rapping Or the Tapping, Tapping, Tapping If the Gnawers Find you Napping You Will Rot While They Are Mapping Out the Law of Those Who Gnaw In the Code of Claw
CREONTA: Rope! My rope! Hang those two thieves by the neck until they are dead. THE ROPE: Alack, but vile and ill-natured female! Upon wherein did thine affections tarry when I didst but lie here and rot for many a year? Nay, but those fellows tooketh care to remove the wetness that didst plagueth me of late and hath laid me upon the cool ground to revel in a state of dryness. Nay, I wouldst not delay them in their noble course for all thine base and bestial howling. CREONTA: Then, you, dearest donkey, precious beast of burden, tear those two apart and eat their flesh! DONKEY: Nay, but alas for many a season didst you but keep the food of the tummy from me and my mouth when it was that I required it of you. These fine gentlemen of fortune didst but give me carrots of which to partake which I did most verily and forthsoothe with merriment. I havest decided that thou dost suck most verily and no longer will I layth the smackth down in thine name but will rather let such gentlemen as these go free of themselves. TRUFFALDINO: [To the audience.] Well, what do you know? Fakespeare!
DO YOU KNOW WHERE THEIR CHILDERN ARE? DO YOU KNOW EHERE THEIR CHILDREN ARE?...DO YOU CARE?/THEY'RE WITHERING AWAY ON DESERT PLAINS/ROTTING FLESH IN WITHERING PAIN/SICKLE SKELATONS WHO SLEEP IN PISS/COVERED IN FLIES AND FUCKING SHIT/ DO YOU CARE?/THEY'RE QUARANTINED BY BARBED WIRE FENCE/FILLED WITH DISEASE AND MASSIVE STENCH/THERE IS NO SHELTER THEY SLEEP ON STONE/THEY WATCH EACHOTHER TURN TO BONE/DO YOU CARE?/THEY'RE RETARTED ZOMBIES IN HUDDLED MASS/LEFT TO ROT LIKE FUCKING TRASH/ATTENTION DROPS AS BODIES MOUNT/TOO MANY VICTIMS TO FUCKING COUNT.../DO YOU CARE?/ THEY'RE WITHERING AWAY ON DESERT PLAINS/ROTTING FLESH IN WITHERING PAIN/ SICKLY SKELATONS WHO SLEEP IN PISS/NO HUMAN BEINGS SHOULD HAVE TO LIVE LIKE THIS/YET YOU KNOW WHERE THEIR CHILDREN ARE, YOU SEE THE PAIN AND THE SUFFERING FROM YOUR LAVISHLY FURNISHED MATERIALISTIC SHITHOLE/YOU CRY CROCODILE TEARS FOR THE POOR WRETCHED CHILDREN THAT INHABIT THE TWO-MINUTE TIME SLOT BETWEEN YOUR FAVORITE SITCOMS THAT SEEM TO MAKE EVERYTHING BETTER/WHO SHOULD YOU CARE, AFTER ALL, TEHY'RE NOT YOUR CHILDREN...FOR NOW!
Beauty is one of the great facts of the world, like sunlight, or springtime, or the reflection in dark waters of that silver shell we call the moon. You have only a few years in which to live really, perfectly, and fully. When your youth goes, your beauty will go with it, and then you will suddenly discover that there are no triumphs left for you... Time is jealous of you, and wars against your lilies and your roses. You will become sallow, and hollow-cheeked, and dull-eyed... Ah! realise your youth while you have it. Don't squander the gold of your days, listening to the tedious, trying to improve the hopeless, or giving away your life to the ignorant, the common, and the vulgar... Live! Live the wonderful life that is in you! Let nothing be lost upon you. Be always searching for new sensations. Be afraid of nothing... The world belongs to you for a season... how tragic it would be if you were wasted. For there is such a little time that your youth will last. The common hillflowers wither, but they blossom again. The laburnum will be as yellow next June as it is now. In a month there will be purple stars on the clematis, and year after year the green night of its leaves will hold its purple stars. But we never get back our youth. The pulse of joy that beats in us at twenty, becomes sluggish. Our limbs fail, our senses rot. We degenerate into hideous puppets, haunted by the memory of the passions of which we were too much afraid, and the exquisite temptations that we had not the courage to yield to... Youth! Youth! There is absolutely nothing in the world but youth.
Yet, at the same time, as the Eastern sages also knew, man is a worm and food for worms. This is the paradox: he is out of nature and hopelessly in it; he is dual, up in the stars and yet housed in a heart-pumping, breath-gasping body that once belonged to a fish and still carries the gill-marks to prove it. His body is a material fleshy casing that is alien to him in many ways-the strangest and most repugnant way being that it aches and bleeds and will decay and die. Man is literally split in two: he has an awareness of his own splendid uniqueness in that he sticks out of nature with a towering majesty, and yet he goes back into the ground a few feet in order to blindly and dumbly rot and disappear forever. It is a terrifying dilemma to be in and to have to live with. The lower animals are, of course, spared this painful contradiction, as they lack a symbolic identity and the self-consciousness that goes with it. They merely act and move reflexively as they are driven by their instincts. If they pause at all, it is only a physical pause; inside they are anonymous, and even their faces have no name. They live in a world without time, pulsating, as it were, in a state of dumb being. This is what has made it so simple to shoot down whole herds of buffalo or elephants. The animals don't know that death is happening and continue grazing placidly while others drop alongside them. The knowledge of death is reflective and conceptual, and animals are spared it. They live and they disappear with the same thoughtlessness: a few minutes of fear, a few seconds of anguish, and it is over. But to live a whole lifetime with the fate of death haunting one's dreams and even the most sun-filled days-that's something else.
It was a black and hooded head; and hanging there in the midst of so intense a calm, it seemed the Sphynx's in the desert. 'Speak, thou vast and venerable head, ' muttered Ahab, 'which, though ungarnished with a beard, yet here and there lookest hoary with mosses; speak, mighty head, and tell us the secret thing that is in thee. Of all divers, thou hast dived the deepest. That head upon which the upper sun now gleams, has moved amid this world's foundations. Where unrecorded names and navies rust, and untold hopes and anchors rot; where in her murderous hold this frigate earth is ballasted with bones of millions of the drowned; there, in that awful water-land, there was thy most familiar home. Thou hast been where bell or diver never went; hast slept by many a sailor's side, where sleepless mothers would give their lives to lay them down. Thou saw'st the locked lovers when leaping from their flaming ship; heart to heart they sank beneath the exulting wave; true to each other, when heaven seemed false to them. Thou saw'st the murdered mate when tossed by pirates from the midnight deck; for hours he fell into the deeper midnight of the insatiate maw; and his murderers still sailed on unharmed-while swift lightnings shivered the neighboring ship that would have borne a righteous husband to outstretched, longing arms. O head! thou hast seen enough to split the planets and make an infidel of Abraham, and not one syllable is thine!
Remember Barbara It rained all day on Brest that day And you walked smiling Flushed enraptured streaming-wet In the rain Remember Barbara It rained all day on Brest that day And I ran into you in Siam Street You were smiling And I smiled too Remember Barbara You whom I didn't know You who didn't know me Remember Remember that day still Don't forget A man was taking cover on a porch And he cried your name Barbara And you ran to him in the rain Streaming-wet enraptured flushed And you threw yourself in his arms Remember that Barbara And don't be mad if I speak familiarly I speak familiarly to everyone I love Even if I've seen them only once I speak familiarly to all who are in love Even if I don't know them Remember Barbara Don't forget That good and happy rain On your happy face On that happy town That rain upon the sea Upon the arsenal Upon the Ushant boat Oh Barbara What shitstupidity the war Now what's become of you Under this iron rain Of fire and steel and blood And he who held you in his arms Amorously Is he dead and gone or still so much alive Oh Barbara It's rained all day on Brest today As it was raining before But it isn't the same anymore And everything is wrecked It's a rain of mourning terrible and desolate Nor is it still a storm Of iron and steel and blood But simply clouds That die like dogs Dogs that disappear In the downpour drowning Brest And float away to rot A long way off A long long way from Brest Of which there's nothing left.
That was true, Iris would sometimes think, about marriage: it was only a boat, too. A wooden boat, difficult to build, even more difficult to maintain, whose beauty derived at least in part from its unlikelihood. Long ago the pragmatic justifications for both marriage and wooden-boat building had been lost or superseded. Why invest countless hours, years, and dollars in planing and carving, gluing and fastening, caulking and fairing, when a fiberglass boat can be had at a fraction of the cost? Why struggle to maintain love and commitment over decades when there were far easier ways to live, ones that required no effort or attention to prevent corrosion and rot? Why continue to pour your heart into these obsolete arts? Because their beauty, the way they connect you to your history and to the living world, justifies your efforts. A long marriage, like a classic wooden boat, could be a thing of grace, but only if great effort was devoted to its maintenance. At first your notions of your life with another were no more substantial than a pattern laid down in plywood. Then year by year you constructed the frame around the form, and began layering memories, griefs, and small triumphs like strips of veneer planking bent around the hull of everyday routine. You sanded down the rough edges, patched the misunderstandings, faired the petty betrayals. Sometimes you sprung a leak. You fell apart in rough weather or were smashed on devouring rocks. But then, as now, in the teeth of a storm, when it seemed like all was lost, the timber swelled, the leak sealed up, and you found that your craft was, after all, sea-kindly.
EXCISED AND ANATOMISED, DEVISCERATED DISARRAY THE TORSO DIVERGED WITH PRIDE DEFTLY AMPUTATED, EVULSED LIMBS NOW DEFUNCT THE TRUNK IMBRUED, TATTY STUMPS USED AS LUGS FOR A CHONDRIN PUZZLE SO QUAINT HEAD AND BODY DECOLLATE A HEAVING MASS SO QUIESCENT... SCATTERED AND SCRAMBLED, YOUR TEASEMENT GROWS - A BLOODY CARICATURE TO MAKE WHOLE A SQUIRMING GRISLY JIGSAW, DETRITAL FRAGMENTS FIT SO SNUG - THAT MISSING PIECE WILL LEAVE YOU STUMPED TOTALLY DISASSEMBLED, NICELY SLICED AND DICED - A HUMAN BEING THIS ONCE RESEMBLED REAL CRANIUM TEASER, CARVED FROM FLESH AND BONE - SO MYSTIFYING... BATTERED AND DIFFUSED WITH PLACATING BLOWS - A HUMAN JIGSAW TO MAKE WHOLE A SEQUACIOUS PATTERN WHICH ONCE FITTED SO SNUG - JOINING TOGETHER EACH DUBIOUS LUMP RAVAGED DISASSEMBLY, NEATLY CUBED AND DICED - A COLD MANNEQUIN ONCE REASSEMBLED ASTUTE BRAIN TEASER, INCORPORATE FLESH AND BONE - SO MORTIFYING... AN INCESSANT GAME - METHODICALLY MADE WITH EACH CUMULATIVE PIECING - OF COMMENSATED MEAT... BI-MANUAL RECONSTRUCTION, ELDRITCH PROBLEM COMPLETE A CONVENED EFFIGY A PATHOLOGICAL TOY, EACH CHUNK RIGOROUSLY INTER MORTIS LOCKING, AS YOU PATHOGENICALLY ROT SUCH A PERPLEXING TASK TO FIT THE REMAINS IN THE CASKET ULIGINOUS MESS SO QUIESCENT... AN INCESSANT GAME - METHODICALLY MADE WITH EACH CUMULATIVE PIECE - OF COMMENSATED MEAT...
Rising up, rising down! History shambles on! What are we left with? A few half-shattered Greek stelae; Trotsky's eyeglasses; Gandhi's native-spun cloth, Cortes' pieces of solid gold (extorted from their original owner, Montezuma); a little heap of orange peels left on the table by the late Robespierre; John Brown's lengthily underlined letters; Lenin's bottles of invisible ink; one of Di Giovanni's suitcases, with an iron cylinder of gelignite and two glass tubes of acid inside; the Constitution of the Ku Klux Klan; a bruised ear (Napoleon pinched it with loving condescension)... And dead bodies, of course. (They sing about John Brown's body.) Memoirs, manifestoes, civil codes, trial proceedings, photographs, statues, weapons now aestheticized by that selfsame history - the sword of Frederick the Great, and God knows what else. Then dust blows out of fresh graves, and the orange peels go grey, sink, wither, rot away. Sooner or later, every murder becomes quaint. Charlemagne hanged four and a half thousand "rebels" in a single day, but he has achieved a storybook benevolence. And that's only natural: historiography begins after the orange has been sucked, ; the peeler believes in the "great and beautiful things, " or wants to believe; easy for us to believe likewise, since dust reduced truth and counterfeit to the same greyness - caveat emptor. But ends remain fresh, and means remain inexplicable. Rising up and rising down! And whom shall I save, and who is my enemy, and who is my neighbor?
William T. Vollmann
There is a tree. At the downhill edge of a long, narrow field in the western foothills of the La Sal Mountains - southeastern Utah. A particular tree. A juniper. Large for its species - maybe twenty feet tall and two feet in diameter. For perhaps three hundred years this tree has stood its ground. Flourishing in good seasons, and holding on in bad times. "Beautiful" is not a word that comes to mind when one first sees it. No naturalist would photograph it as exemplary of its kind. Twisted by wind, split and charred by lightning, scarred by brushfires, chewed on by insects, and pecked by birds. Human beings have stripped long strings of bark from its trunk, stapled barbed wire to it in using it as a corner post for a fence line, and nailed signs on it on three sides: NO HUNTING; NO TRESPASSING; PLEASE CLOSE THE GATE. In commandeering this tree as a corner stake for claims of rights and property, miners and ranchers have hacked signs and symbols in its bark, and left Day-Glo orange survey tape tied to its branches. Now it serves as one side of a gate between an alfalfa field and open range. No matter what, in drought, flood heat and cold, it has continued. There is rot and death in it near the ground. But at the greening tips of its upper branches and in its berrylike seed cones, there is yet the outreach of life. I respect this old juniper tree. For its age, yes. And for its steadfastness in taking whatever is thrown at it. That it has been useful in a practical way beyond itself counts for much, as well. Most of all, I admire its capacity for self-healing beyond all accidents and assaults. There is a will in it - toward continuing to be, come what may.
I Choose Love... No occasion justifies hatred; no injustice warrants bitterness. I choose love. Today I will love God and what God loves. I Choose Joy... I will invite my God to be the God of circumstance. I will refuse the temptation to be cynical. I will refuse to see people as anything less than human beings, created by God. I will refuse to see any problem as anything less than an opportunity to see God. I Choose Peace... I will live forgiven. I will forgive so I may live. I Choose Patience... I will overlook the inconveniences of the world. Instead of cursing the one who takes my place, I'll invite him to do so, Rather complain that the wait is to long, I will thank God for a moment to pray. Instead of clenching my fist at new assignments, I will face them with joy and courage. I Choose Kindness... I will be kind to the poor, for they are alone. Kind to the rich, for they are afraid. And kind to the unkind, for that is how God has treated me. I Choose Goodness... I will go without a dollar before I take a dishonest one. I will be overlooked before I will boast. I will confess before I accuse. I choose goodness. I Choose Faithfulness... Today I will keep my promises. My debtors will not regret their trust. My friends will not question my word. And my family will not question my love. I Choose Gentleness... Nothing is won by force. I choose to be gentle. If I raise my voice may it only be in praise. If I clench my fist, may it only be in prayer. If I make a demand, may it be only of myself. I Choose Self-Control... I refuse to let what will rot, rule the eternal. I choose self-control. I will be drunk only by joy. I will be impassioned only by my faith. I will be influenced only by God. I will be taught only by Christ. I choose self-control. Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-Control. To these I commit my day. If I succeed, I will give thanks. If I fail, I will seek His grace. And then when this day is done I will place my head on my pillow and rest.
Rushing out the door on his way back to the street, he ran into someone with his shoulder. Turning to apologize to them, he stopped, horrified at what he saw. It was the white-eyed man he'd met a week ago. 'Watch your back.' He said standing there just long enough for Raven to take in the meat between his teeth, the milky, nearly opaque color of his eyes and the madness within them. Then, after only a few seconds, he was gone, vanished into the crowd as if he had never existed. Certain his mind was playing tricks and tired of being terrified for his sanity, he headed down the street as fast as he could in pursuit. As he rushed through the tightly packed crowd, he saw others like the man he'd just seen, and each of their white eyes gazed blankly into his. A woman here, a hunched drifter there, shapes and faces that shifted and darted all around him. 'Watch your back.' They hissed, and he tried to move faster, his heart racing and the nerves of his body jangling painfully with fear as he fought to get beyond them. Hands reached out for his clothes, pulling him in different directions as they tugged and he struggled to be free. Their fingers felt like talons clasped into the folds and gaps of his clothing, ripping and popping stitches in their fervor to gain some small grasp on his flesh beneath his jacket. Along with the horror of their cold, dead eyes, he could smell some strangeness-a sickly sweet smell of rot and decay only barely closeted by preserving fluids. The smell dug into his sinuses as their fingers and hands dug at him. He gagged, his teeth clenched tight as he exerted energy he didn't really have. He pushed away from them and on through the empty space he saw at the end of this group of pedestrians. Many of whom mingled with what he now felt must be the dead, wholly unaware of why he flailed and pushed against them.
Amanda M. Lyons
Nothing is a masterpiece - a real masterpiece - till it's about two hundred years old. A picture is like a tree or a church, you've got to let it grow into a masterpiece. Same with a poem or a new religion. They begin as a lot of funny words. Nobody knows whether they're all nonsense or a gift from heaven. And the only people who think anything of 'em are a lot of cranks or crackpots, or poor devils who don't know enough to know anything. Look at Christianity. Just a lot of floating seeds to start with, all sorts of seeds. It was a long time before one of them grew into a tree big enough to kill the rest and keep the rain off. And it's only when the tree has been cut into planks and built into a house and the house has got pretty old and about fifty generations of ordinary lumpheads who don't know a work of art from a public convenience, have been knocking nails in the kitchen beams to hang hams on, and screwing hooks in the walls for whips and guns and photographs and calendars and measuring the children on the window frames and chopping out a new cupboard under the stairs to keep the cheese and murdering their wives in the back room and burying them under the cellar flags, that it begins even to feel like a religion. And when the whole place is full of dry rot and ghosts and old bones and the shelves are breaking down with old wormy books that no one could read if they tried, and the attic floors are bulging through the servants' ceilings with old trunks and top-boots and gasoliers and dressmaker's dummies and ball frocks and dolls-houses and pony saddles and blunderbusses and parrot cages and uniforms and love letters and jugs without handles and bridal pots decorated with forget-me-nots and a piece out at the bottom, that it grows into a real old faith, a masterpiece which people can really get something out of, each for himself. And then, of course, everybody keeps on saying that it ought to be pulled down at once, because it's an insanitary nuisance.
Be brave. Even if you're not, pretend to be. No one can tell the difference. Don't allow the phone to interrupt important moments. It's there for your convenience, not the callers. Don't be afraid to go out on a limb. That's where the fruit is. Don't burn bridges. You'll be surprised how many times you have to cross the same river. Don't forget, a person's greatest emotional need is to feel appreciated. Don't major in minor things. Don't say you don't have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Pasteur, Michaelangelo, Mother Teresa, Helen Keller, Leonardo Da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein. Don't spread yourself too thin. Learn to say no politely and quickly. Don't use time or words carelessly. Neither can be retrieved. Don't waste time grieving over past mistakes Learn from them and move on. Every person needs to have their moment in the sun, when they raise their arms in victory, knowing that on this day, at his hour, they were at their very best. Get your priorities straight. No one ever said on his death bed, 'Gee, if I'd only spent more time at the office'. Give people a second chance, but not a third. Judge your success by the degree that you're enjoying peace, health and love. Learn to listen. Opportunity sometimes knocks very softly. Leave everything a little better than you found it. Live your life as an exclamation, not an explanation. Loosen up. Relax. Except for rare life and death matters, nothing is as important as it first seems. Never cut what can be untied. Never overestimate your power to change others. Never underestimate your power to change yourself. Remember that overnight success usually takes about fifteen years. Remember that winners do what losers don't want to do. Seek opportunity, not security. A boat in harbor is safe, but in time its bottom will rot out. Spend less time worrying who's right, more time deciding what's right. Stop blaming others. Take responsibility for every area of your life. Success is getting what you want. Happiness is liking what you get. The importance of winning is not what we get from it, but what we become because of it. When facing a difficult task, act as though it's impossible to fail.
Jackson Brown Jr.
To begin with, there is the frightful debauchery of taste that has already been effected by a century of mechanisation. This is almost too obvious and too generally admitted to need pointing out. But as a single instance, take taste in its narrowest sense - the taste for decent food. In the highly mechanical countries, thanks to tinned food, cold storage, synthetic flavouring matters, etc., the palate it almost a dead organ. As you can see by looking at any greengrocer's shop, what the majority of English people mean by an apple is a lump of highly-coloured cotton wool from America or Australia; they will devour these things, apparently with pleasure, and let the English apples rot under the trees. It is the shiny, standardized, machine-made look of the American apple that appeals to them; the superior taste of the English apple is something they simply do not notice. Or look at the factory-made, foil wrapped cheeses and 'blended' butter in an grocer's; look at the hideous rows of tins which usurp more and more of the space in any food-shop, even a dairy; look at a sixpenny Swiss roll or a twopenny ice-cream; look at the filthy chemical by-product that people will pour down their throats under the name of beer. Wherever you look you will see some slick machine-made article triumphing over the old-fashioned article that still tastes of something other than sawdust. And what applies to food applies also to furniture, houses, clothes, books, amusements and everything else that makes up our environment. These are now millions of people, and they are increasing every year, to whom the blaring of a radio is not only a more acceptable but a more normal background to their thoughts than the lowing of cattle or the song of birds. The mechanisation of the world could never proceed very far while taste, even the taste-buds of the tongue, remained uncorrupted, because in that case most of the products of the machine would be simply unwanted. In a healthy world there would be no demand for tinned food, aspirins, gramophones, gas-pipe chairs, machine guns, daily newspapers, telephones, motor-cars, etc. etc.; and on the other hand there would be a constant demand for the things the machine cannot produce. But meanwhile the machine is here, and its corrupting effects are almost irresistible. One inveighs against it, but one goes on using it. Even a bare-arse savage, given the change, will learn the vices of civilisation within a few months. Mechanisation leads to the decay of taste, the decay of taste leads to demand for machine-made articles and hence to more mechanisation, and so a vicious circle is established.
You. Man at the machine and man in the workshop. If tomorrow they tell you you are to make no more water-pipes and saucepans but are to make steel helmets and machine-guns, then there's only one thing to do: Say NO! You. Woman at the counter and woman in the office. If tomorrow they tell you you are to fill shells and assemble telescopic sights for snipers' rifles, then there's only one thing to do: Say NO! You. Research worker in the laboratory. If tomorrow they tell you you are to invent a new death for the old life, then there's only one thing to do: Say NO! You. Priest in the pulpit. If tomorrow they tell you you are to bless murder and declare war holy, then there's only one thing to do: Say NO! You. Pilot in your aeroplane. If tomorrow they tell you you are to carry bombs over the cities, then there's only one thing to do: Say NO! You. Man of the village and man of the town. If tomorrow they come and give you your call-up papers, then there's only one thing to do: Say NO! You. Mother in Normandy and mother in the Ukraine, mother in Vancouver and in London, you on the Hwangho and on the Mississippi, you in Naples and Hamburg and Cairo and Oslo - mothers in all parts of the earth, mothers of the world, if tomorrow they tell you you are to bear new soldiers for new battles, then there's only one thing to do: Say NO! For if you do not say NO - if YOU do not say no - mothers, then: then! In the bustling hazy harbour towns the big ships will fall silent as corpses against the dead deserted quay walls, their once shimmering bodies overgrown with seaweed and barnacles, smelling of graveyards and rotten fish. The trams will lie like senseless glass-eyed cages beside the twisted steel skeleton of wires and track. The sunny juicy vine will rot on decaying hillsides, rice will dry in the withered earth, potatoes will freeze in the unploughed land and cows will stick their death-still legs into the air like overturned chairs. In the fields beside rusted ploughs the corn will be flattened like a beaten army. Then the last human creature, with mangled entrails and infected lungs, will wander around, unanswered and lonely, under the poisonous glowing sun, among the immense mass graves and devastated cities. The last human creature, withered, mad, cursing, accusing - and the terrible accusation: WHY? will die unheard on the plains, drift through the ruins, seep into the rubble of churches, fall into pools of blood, unheard, unanswered, the last animal scream of the last human animal - All this will happen tomorrow, tomorrow, perhaps, perhaps even tonight, perhaps tonight, if - if - You do not say NO.
When reading the history of the Jewish people, of their flight from slavery to death, of their exchange of tyrants, I must confess that my sympathies are all aroused in their behalf. They were cheated, deceived and abused. Their god was quick-tempered unreasonable, cruel, revengeful and dishonest. He was always promising but never performed. He wasted time in ceremony and childish detail, and in the exaggeration of what he had done. It is impossible for me to conceive of a character more utterly detestable than that of the Hebrew god. He had solemnly promised the Jews that he would take them from Egypt to a land flowing with milk and honey. He had led them to believe that in a little while their troubles would be over, and that they would soon in the land of Canaan, surrounded by their wives and little ones, forget the stripes and tears of Egypt. After promising the poor wanderers again and again that he would lead them in safety to the promised land of joy and plenty, this God, forgetting every promise, said to the wretches in his power:-'Your carcasses shall fall in this wilderness and your children shall wander until your carcasses be wasted.' This curse was the conclusion of the whole matter. Into this dust of death and night faded all the promises of God. Into this rottenness of wandering despair fell all the dreams of liberty and home. Millions of corpses were left to rot in the desert, and each one certified to the dishonesty of Jehovah. I cannot believe these things. They are so cruel and heartless, that my blood is chilled and my sense of justice shocked. A book that is equally abhorrent to my head and heart, cannot be accepted as a revelation from God. When we think of the poor Jews, destroyed, murdered, bitten by serpents, visited by plagues, decimated by famine, butchered by each, other, swallowed by the earth, frightened, cursed, starved, deceived, robbed and outraged, how thankful we should be that we are not the chosen people of God. No wonder that they longed for the slavery of Egypt, and remembered with sorrow the unhappy day when they exchanged masters. Compared with Jehovah, Pharaoh was a benefactor, and the tyranny of Egypt was freedom to those who suffered the liberty of God. While reading the Pentateuch, I am filled with indignation, pity and horror. Nothing can be sadder than the history of the starved and frightened wretches who wandered over the desolate crags and sands of wilderness and desert, the prey of famine, sword, and plague. Ignorant and superstitious to the last degree, governed by falsehood, plundered by hypocrisy, they were the sport of priests, and the food of fear. God was their greatest enemy, and death their only friend. It is impossible to conceive of a more thoroughly despicable, hateful, and arrogant being, than the Jewish god. He is without a redeeming feature. In the mythology of the world he has no parallel. He, only, is never touched by agony and tears. He delights only in blood and pain. Human affections are naught to him. He cares neither for love nor music, beauty nor joy. A false friend, an unjust judge, a braggart, hypocrite, and tyrant, sincere in hatred, jealous, vain, and revengeful, false in promise, honest in curse, suspicious, ignorant, and changeable, infamous and hideous:-such is the God of the Pentateuch.
Robert G. Ingersoll