27 July 2019
Today feels very bleak. (A hasty draft journal in time.)
Bleakness breeds hasty remedies. Cultish solutions seem tantalizing to thoughtful people.
The news of the day is all about the bitter tyrants winning. All over the world.
I am caught up in meditating on a death. In the public sphere, the global world, and in the immediacy of my own collective life.
A highlight today is attending the funeral.
The funeral is evangelical Christian. (I support the religious commitments of others but I am an atheist.)
A friend’s lover dies suddenly. The kind of death that is unanticipated and crushing. No time for choreographed goodbyes. I always imagine sudden unexplained death is suicide because of my father’s death. But sometimes the body gives out. A stroke. A heart attack. A quick end to a long story.
The man we are mourning is a believer and a nonconformist who has lived a life directed by the motto: “Give me too much.”
I will call him B.
(I’ve met a variation on this man earlier in my life. He died at about the same age.)
The church fills up with honky tonk piano and fiddle. The homely sound drives us home. Amazing Grace lyrics scroll down the screen at the front of the cavernous church hall. Our voices join in. Mine wobbles and refuses discipline.
A theme is introduced by the grieving brother of the deceased. The Baptist minister latches on to this excess: “He was a man who lived life ‘whole heartedly.'” And then the minister describes the deceased man’s passions – cataloguing the church’s binary columns of sin and joyful celebration.
During the service, the progeny of B’s multiple wives and partners, beautiful children – adopted and biological, mostly daughters – speak of their love for their father, his powerful spirit and reciprocal love. They count out the years and months and days, the time he took to love them. His son speaks with the halting intensity that communicates beyond words. The youngest daughter reads her astonishing daughterly love from a sheet of paper. Her sparkly dark wine sneakers could lift her up and propel her somewhere else were she not tethered here in a church.
A younger brother recounts news of B’s wild times as a youth – his almost deadly car accident, the souped up cars, the motorcycles, the speed. (Later I see this brother climb into a high gloss antique red Corvette with “Jesus” inscribed on the side in script. An object that echoes most excellent excess in itself.
The Baptist minister holds on to excess but he bifurcates the life, admonishing us to take our goodness paths up with passion.
(I sink deeper into the bench, my head feels heavy. Clearly the unsavoury paths look like more fun. Moralizing about passions earns brownie points but diminishes the intense fire of life. Bad boys make good TV.)
In the stories that unfold, the deceased man B pulls himself up Horatio-Alger-like from poverty, working class artisanal dedication, and performative talent as DJ and entertainer.
His journey twists and turns and arrives at entrepreneurial success. Let them eat cake! Cheesecake! His company managed by him and his first wife is wildly successful. Millions!
His younger brother recounts the demise of his late brother’s success. A fall. The bon vivant’s addictions recur. His relapses return time and again. “He loses his company and his family.”
The Baptist minister notes that B’s whole-hearted passions extend to his addictions. Not one but many. His multiple addictions will take him down.
The Baptist Minister admonishes us to take up excess in good things. Cake not cocaine. Etc. Religion translates lives into lessons – sometimes inadequately expressed.
In the end, I conclude:
1.) Drugs are a sign of bliss and often downfall but not necessarily the source.
2) Love and beautiful sexual liasons are worth the risk and enfold us in jouissance and sometimes progeny.
3) Expanding beyond the pragmatic makes possible the pleasure of surprise.
4) Fuck convention.
5) Find a good mentor who will support you in taking up the road not taken.
6) Love those you draw near.
- Drugs are a sign of bliss and often downfall but not necessarily the source.
- Love and beautiful sexual liasons are worth the risk and enfold us in jouissance and sometimes progeny.
- Expanding beyond the pragmatic makes possible the pleasure of surprise.
- Fuck convention.
- Find a good mentor who will support you in taking up the road not taken.
- Love those you draw near.
My beautiful friend, grieving the terrible sudden loss of her beloved parter, is a woman younger than me. I once mentored her when she was in graduate school. She is both brilliant and accomplished, a remarkable leader and tender thinker, a revolutionary writer and a caregiver. A mother, and sister, and friend, and teacher, and writer, and lover. She sits with her devoted daughters, her sister and a best friend. Her black dress is fitted as background to the curved edges of caped sleeves and turquoise fringe. An eagle feather is grasped in her hand. Her delicate white fringed beaded boots ground her.
At the internment, after most people have gone, the coffin hovers over the grave covered in pink roses left with whispers of love. Her friends gather around and she asks us to make a circle.We hold hands and weep as she acknowledges her grief and our love. We hold hands and I am so grateful for the touch.
I want to bear witness to her suffering. To acknowledge the profundity of love.The pleasure of care and eros. I want my being there to connect with others and emanate with love and care for her and for her children and for her grandchild who is about to be born. I want my presence there to communicate to her how much her love for this man, a man of excess, a beautiful passionate tender loving man, nourishes us all.
September 2019: no classes. #professorplayshookey
Pirst time since York U teaching in 1982 (give or take a couple of sabbaticals after I was hired at the University of Alberta in 1987.)