A NIGHT OF LOVE:
A MASTURBATORY FANTASY:
PHILOSOPHY FOR FUN AND PROFIT:
THE SINCERE HYPOCRITE:
THE ART OF PHILOSOPHY:
A POCKETFUL OF LIES:
AN IMPRESSIONISTIC PORTRAIT:
A FANTASTICAL VOYAGE:
THE MERRY GO ROUND:
THE BIG PRETZEL IN THE SKY:
AN EXISTENTIAL IDENTITY CRISIS:
FL AT ON IS M:
IMAGINATION IS FUNNY:
A FAIRY TALE:
CAPTAIN HOOK’S REVENGE:
LOVE AND UNDERSTANDING:
ETC . . . . . . .
Once upon a time there was a mouse who lived in a maze.
It was a huge labyrinth with many twists and turns but no exits.
The mouse smelled cheese and ran hither thither,
round about throughout the maze, searching for it.
But pity the mouse, for there is no cheese within the walls of the maze.
It is outside of it and he can never reach it.
Our mouse forever smelled the cheese but died searching for it.
But then again maybe there is no cheese at all. Poor mouse.
-- a guru in the East Village
I am bored. Yeah, I’m pretty sure of it. Bored!
Here I sit at the bottom of a nice, lush, green valley. It’s surrounded by hideous, steamy, deadly jungles, or so they say. But the valley is cool and safe. A stream, ponds, and a few shacks mark the landscape, hut mostly there are trees - big ones. And oh yes, the sun is shining. The sun is always shining.
A sparrow flies by.
No doubt about it.— I’m bored.
We all sit around the sacred chartreuse altar and contemplate - and wait. Waiting? Waiting for what?
I don’t know - waiting for something to happen, I suppose.
Yes, the sun is shining and we all sit around the altar twiddling our thumbs...
Maybe there’ll be a war. Bands, parades, stirring songs. Hundred thousands of soldiers goose-stepping in rigid columns, arms clenched in salutes. Shouts of patriotism: “Kill the enemy! Destroy, tear, maim them!”. Bombers zeroing in on their targets. A small set of crisscrossing lines below. A peasant village — the objective. Bomb bay open. Release bombs. A long windy silence. Little dark puffs on the ground. Then soft popping rumbles. Building exploding in orange mass of flames. Debris thrown in the air raining all about, ceiling crumbling, walls collapsing. Armies invading, tanks crushing trees and shrubs in its way. Guns, bullets, search and destroy, gas masks, defoliate, pacify. People - blood spurting from gash in stomach, a face blown away, limbs strewn about a scarlet splattered room. A muffled scream, the smirking skeleton face of death - a baby crying...
No, there is war and I am terrified of it. Besides we all know that war is evil. They always told us that. It’s a cloud blocking the sun you know.
Maybe it’ll rain.
Come to think of it the world might come to an end soon. Oh, there are lots of ways it could happen - overpopulation, War, pollution, ice ape, intergalactic disaster. Haley’s comet, you know, might collide with the Earth. Or perhaps, an invasion from an alien planet. Huge indestructible space ships, death rays, scaly, seven-eyed, blue fish-beings. Humans running trough the street, screaming — trying to hide. But there is no escape. Billions packed together, squirming, gasping for air, clawing for some open space. The oceans swelling. New York, London, Tokyo flooded by massive tidal waves. Millions drowned. The end approaches —
I do suppose though that it might be a bit unpleasant. Death and all, you know. I hear tell that if you’re not careful, it can be an awfully grueling experience. And besides if I die I won’t be able to see the sun anymore. After all, it’s still shining — through all the clouds and everything.
I could kill myself though. - No! Completely out of ‘and. besides I know I’d miss, for sure.
But if I knew how to make one, I could tie a noose to a rafter. Stand on a stool, put my neck through the loop - jump. A cracking noise, sharp pain, neck wrenching. Darkness. A limp body swaying right rand left, back and forth, right and left...
Pills maybe. OD. I’d throw up.
There are no two ways about it. I’m a coward. Face it. You’re scared, terrified of a little bit of death and war. Makes your skin crawl, doesn’t it kid? But that is what life is all about — Death. We all die. And you’re scared. You are a coward, kid.
So be it.
I like being a coward. I can sit here nice and secure, away from the jungle, basking in the sun and smelling the flowers. I prefer honeysuckles myself. There’s a lot to live for, you know. The future’s bright. The sun is shining. How could - be any happier than among all these beautiful trees and streams and honeysuckles...
Wonder what I’ll do next?
How about a little education. Why yes, that’s it, I’1l go out and get edified. Get some knowledge under my belt. Learn big words like tintinnabulation. Go out and learn something. Something useful. That’s the spirit.
I know, I’ll read some philosophy. I always did like philosophy. But philosophy useful?
Of course it’s useful, my dear man. Full of the stuff that makes you wise. Teaches you truth and goodness. Teaches you how to think.
Then philosophy it shall be.
So let’s see, what shall I read? I could do some Hegel, or perhaps Hume, Aristotle maybe. Why how about a little Kant? Kant will be just fine. — Here it is. Let’s see -umm- Critique of Judgment. Why that sounds nifty.
In order to distinguish whether anything is beautiful or not, we refer the representation not by the Understanding to the Object for cognition, but by the Imagination (perhaps in conjunction with the Understanding to the subject, and its feeling of pleasure and pain). The judgment of taste is therefore not a judgment of cognition, and is consequently not logical but aesthetical, by which we understand that those whose determining ground can be no other than subjective.
You know I really can’t think of anything duller than curling up in bed with Immanuel Kant. Just imagine a roaring fire, pine cones popping on a winter night. Enwrapped in a fur blanket and your little glossy paperback edition of Critique of Judgment for company. How dreary. It’s not that I don’t like philosophy you understand, it’s just that it’s so dull. I guess those kind of thinkers just weren’t the best of writers. Of course, Plato’s not so bad and I’ve got to give Nietzsche a little credit. They could certainly write some. But enough of this meandering — back to Kant. I must be edified.
——Every reference of representations, even that of sensations, may be objective (and then it signifies the real 1ement of an empirical situation); she appeared in the doorway, save only the reference to pleasure and pain, long black silky hair, smooth white complexion, crystal blue eyes, by which nothing in the object is signified, but through which there is a feeling in the subject, she came forward, her hips undulating with each step, as it is affected b the representation. She smiles, gleaming white teeth. To apprehend a regular, purposive building by means of one’s cognitive faculty, her hand reaches up to the top button of her shirt and she undoes it (whether in a clear or a confused way of representation) is something quite different from being Conscious of this representation as connected with the sensations of satisfaction she undoes the other buttons one by one and slithers out of the shirt, her breasts are white and large, faded pink nipples alluringly erect. Here the representation is altogether referred to the subject and to its feeling of life, her tongue moistens, her slightly parted lips, under the name of feeling pleasure or pain her hand reaches out touching my face. I feel her body next to mine, my hands caressing her luscious soft flesh. I kiss—
STOP! STOP IT! I can’t stand this any longer. Fantasy. It’s all dreams. Fantasy after fantasy. My hands slips into her jeans. It’s all fake, all unreal, all phony. Stop. She steps out of her jeans. NOOOOO!!!
Discipline! Concentrate, you lecherous fool.
This establishes a quite separate faculty of distinction and of judgment, adding nothing to cognition, but only if she slips under the fur covers next to my naked --
It’s no use. I can’t read this stuff. It’s ridiculous.
Who cares any way. The only thing that can keep a human mind interested is sex. Critique of Judgment versus Fanny Hill? There’s no contest. If Kant would only spice up his writing a little bit — a little bit of ribald sodomy here, a virginal seduction there, a hint of perversion. He’d have it made. Kant would be number ONE on the best-seller list. People would read him like crazy. So instead he writes this stuff: “Given representations in a judgment can be empirical.” Who gives a shit? Just some academic freaks in some school somewhere. Nobody reads this stuff. Nobody. What’s the use of it, if nobody reads it. If you want to have effect you’ve got to get the people to read it.
Now don’t go ahead and get the idea that I don’t like philosophy or something. I love it. Really. I just don’t like reading it.
All right, so I won’t get educated just now - a little later maybe. So now what’ll I do?
1 could take some drugs. A little grass maybe. I’ll just close my eyes and drift off into clouds of swirling red, purple, and green - geometric cubes, checkerboards, designs mushrooming — shrinking. Bosch cartoon creatures limping about. Stripes, circles, stars. They’re all there, you know. Just as real as real can be. It’s all in the mind. Another world where all that one touches cuts to the core and quivers there. All is subdued and cushioned, yet so alive. Music is crystal. You look at all its glistening facets. Its golden ambers and turquoise hues. You can pick your way through those fields of crystalline flowers. You can see the music dribbling from the sky. Yellow streaks that go off slithering into my head, swallowed by my ears...
But then the high is gone, vaporized with the passing of time. Time - that’s my biggest problem. What to do with it. Time - that's my biggest problem. What to do with it. If I could just bend time, so I could skip the dull parts and savor the good parts, like, a wine-taster. Kind of like on a record when you move the needle and skip the adagio in a symphony and move it up to the allegro. I always did that as a kid. My mother says it’s because I’m hyperactive.
I wonder who’s around who could entertain me. There was that Strolling Theatre Troupe that came by last week. They were really good with all sorts of plays about princesses, dragons, and. wizards and knights. Quite fine. 1 highly recommend it, especially the one about the jester who falls in love with the princess and dies to save her from the dragon.
Their plays are nice because they’re all about dreamlike worlds, where there is magic and good and evil, and everything is simple and turns out for the best. It makes you forget where you are for a while. You really believe in all those incantations of fairies and warlocks.
I know it’s all just fantasy. But fantasy really is quite nice. You can play God. You have all the cards, so the story comes out just the way you want it to. The fantastical world is so much sweeter than the real one. Everything is just perfect there. I guess that’s what a play is. It’s dream world that you make real. You let your imagination go wild and then you bring those dreams into the real world.
Just like a midwife. An artist is the midwife that brings fantasy into the reality so that others can see it. Far out.
Hey, that’s what I’ll do. I mean I fantasize all the time. Mostly sex and ego trips, but they’re nice too. I’ll write a play - just like the tro1ling Theatre Troupe. It’ll be something great, beautiful, and meaningful. It’ll have lots of action - you should always have action. It’ll be chock full of lust and sin — you need lots of that nowadays if anybody is going to come and see it. It’ll be funny — so that the kiddies will .like it. It’ll be wholesome - so that it will get a ‘G’ rating and the whole family will come. But most of all it’s going to be deep - really deep. Lot of meaning and relevance. Why yeah, why didn’t I think of this before. My own beautiful creation. My own fantasies come to life. I know just what I’ll say. It’ll be fantastic.
Now all I need is a pencil. Pencil. a pencil? Ah, here’s one. Now some paper. Paper. Where can I get some paper...
(Scene: Bedroom with moderately sized double-bed with a burgundy red bedspread. Typical bedroom fare of dresser, closets, rugs, lamps, dressing table, etc. Drapes with tassels on the windows.)
(A couple enter from stage right, Harold first, followed by Sheila. Harold is a tall, thin, bespectacled, intellectual type. Sheila is beautiful and sensuous - the perfect fantasy of thousands of pubescent boys trying to masturbate their way to sexual competence.)
HAROLD (gesturing all the time with his hands): Hey, wasn’t that some really interesting lecture on Hegel?
SHEILA (sleepily): I was bored.
HAROLD: But that guy was just sitting there and saying that he knew truth and wisdom and all sorts of things like that.
SHEILA: Still I was bored shitless.
HAROLD: But he was claiming that he had real knowledge, like the truth.
SHEILA: (yawning): I’m tired, let’s go to bed, Harold.
HAROLD: (beginning to pace back and forth): But don’t you see, that he is claiming that he really knows the Absolute Truth, real honest-to-god Truth.
SHEILA (becoming a bit peeved): Truth Shmuth- I couldn’t give a fuck. I just want to go to sleep.
HAROLD (turning around to her): How can you sleep at a time like this? When you know perfectly well what I believe. I mean like this guy, what’s his name - Dr. Von Hooferthauerhahoo or whatever - makes a challenge like this to me.
SHEILA (sighing disgustedly): Could you undo my zipper, Harold?
HAROLD: For Chrissake Sheila - Don’t you realize that this is a personal attack on me. You know that I believe that the very concept of Truth is inherently paradoxical, Meaningless, absurd. A mere figment of our imaginations.
SHEILA: And I also know enough of your foolish philosophical indulgences to know that at times Truth does have some validity and - (catching herself delving into philosophy also she stops abruptly) - but of far more importance is whether you’re coming to bed or not.
HAROLD: No, not yet. I’ve got to think a bit. (Turns away and paces.)
SHEILA: (folding .her arms and drumming her fingers she speaks sarcastically): You’re not getting any tonight, Harold. That’s for sure.
HAROLD: Shhh, quiet. I’ve got more important things to do.
(This is too much for Sheila and she explodes with a loud wail and falls onto the bed. The harshness displayed before is replaced with an almost childlike despair and anger.)
SHEILA: (crying): My mother told me I shouldn’t go running around with an intellectual Jewish snob like you.
HAROLD: (perturbed): What?
SHEILA: All you want from me is my blonde lily white shikseh body, and cute little nose, my social register, and my money.
HAROLD (stumbling): That’s not true- I-I like you too. I mean, I just think a lot.
SHEILA: Who’s paying for this pad?
HAROLD: You, but I’ve important thinking that’s just got to be done.
SHEILA: And what about me? You’re so far up in the fucking clouds you forget about me. You forget about the real, the physical.
HAROLD: That’s not true. We screwed last night, didn’t we?
SHEILA: Aaaargh! That’s just it. You think of me only as a sexual object - and someone to pay your bills. We learned all about your kind in my Women’s Lib meeting last week. You’re the intellectual egotist who is so wound up in himself and his ideas that you think of me as an intellectual inferior because I don’t show off my brains. And so you use me only to gratify your physical needs. Here it says so (picking up a leaflet from a bedside table) right here on page seven. See -“the intellectual… Ooooh (flings herself fully on the bed sobbing). Well, you’re not getting any tonight.
HAROLD (beseechingly): Oh God, Sheila. I’m so…
SHEILA: You don’t believe in God.
HAROLD (sitting down next to her): I really am sorry. I know I don’t deserve you. You really are quite wonderful and kind and I wouldn’t love you any less even if you had a big hooked nose.
SHEILA: Yeah, but if I had a big hooked nose, you wouldn’t even have bothered to find out if I even had money.
HAROLD: That’s my hang-up, not yours.
SHEILA (sitting up and sntiff1ing): That’s OK Harold. But just if I only knew what you were always muttering about. Paradoxical untruths and all that. I just don’t understand. And you don’t even really try to explain it to me.
HAROLD: It’s not that you’re stupid or anything. Really, you’re one of the brightest people I know. It’s just that my philosophy is in a way quite inexpressible. A rationally articulated attempt to explain it is bound to fail. I mean that’s its very point — part of its essential nature. I can’t express it in words or even in clear-cut thought. It’s a kind of feeling. It’s like sex. How can you express sex in words? If you’ve never had it, all the words could never give you the proper impression of what it’s like. Put once you’ve started screwing and fallen in love, all the words and songs and poetry make perfect sense.
SHEILA (shaking her head incredulously and muttering to herself): Phi1osohy and sex. Philosophy and sex. That’s all he ever does or thinks about. (Reflects a moment.) Occasionally he takes a shit, but that’s it.
HAROLD (ignoring Sheila, he rises to his feet, and looks upward): It’s like I’ve seen a vision.
SHEILA (the sarcasm creeping back into her voice): Now he thinks he’s Jesus Christ.
HAROLD (not noticing): It’s not a mental picture or thought or something like that. And it’s more than a feeling. I don’t know how to express it to you directly - maybe through some other means. Words can only talk around it and not really get at it, you see. Maybe if I talk about it long enough, especially in an arty way since art has to do with feeling, I can get you to feel it too. But Sheila you have to feel it yourself. I can only help, maybe guide you. I really just can’t sum it up and tell you what it is. That’s impossible.
HAROLD: The whole concept is really Socratic, Platonic, Kierkegaardian, Nietzschean, to name a few. They all said that they couldn’t express what they wanted to directly. They had to use other means like irony and poetry to prod their readers a bit and head them in the right direction so that the readers could see what they saw. You know it’s kind of really cool to be in such a position Sheila. To know that you have experienced something which is a very real thing to you, yet inexpressible. Maybe it’s the same type of psychological manifestation as some people term a religious experience and use as a justification for the belief in God. But not me, no siree. I’m not going to fall for any of that God stuff. I guess I was a devout atheist before I saw all this and so that’s why my interpretation comes out like this. You know, I use to believe in God when I was a little kid. I prayed every night and asked God to take care of the world and give me all the things I wanted. But then puberty struck. Boy, did that ever mess things up. I even went to my own Bar Mitzvah muttering under my breath that it’s all lies, lies, lies, And I spent all of my time trying to disprove the existence of God. I was sure a messed up kid. You know, I proved it to and sort of believed it until I found out what a waist of time it all was. Hey, Sheila are you listening to all this?
SHEILA (warily): Yeah.
HAROLD: Good. Anyway, back to the point. I know all this talk of visions and things must sound a little queer as if it came from some drug I took. But really it isn’t. It’s not quite an intellectual experience and it’s not quite aesthetic either. Also, it’s not something I feel all the time, only sometimes. And I really
SHEILA (interrupting): You know, Harold, my mother has this psychiatrist that works wonders with people like—
HAROLD: Look, I know I probably sound crackers with all these visions and things. But really when you look back on history, many of the greatest thinkers often came out in the same place. Socrates, Plato, Nietzsche, well, even Hegel. They all saw something and tried to describe it. They all had a vision of sorts, whether it be the Good, Beauty, Absolute Truth, Spirit, or Pure Divine Thought. They all saw something. And of course a lot of people interpret such visions as being divine — God and all that, you know. But know what I wonder, Sheila?
SHEILA (becoming sleepier all the time as she lies on the bed): Hmmmm...
HAROLD: I wonder if my experience is really the same as all these other people’s and that we really all have the same psychological experience and we just all interpret it differently. But that’s OK because my interpretation covers everybody else’s anyway.
So you see, Sheila, it’s not your fault that you don’t understand. - Sheila? (Sheila has finally dozed off.) Hey, Sheila, are you asleep? (shaking her)
SHEILA (startled): Will-what?
HAROLD: We can go to bed now.
SHEILA: Good, it’s about time.
(They begin getting undressed)
HAROLD: Hey, if you’re so much into Women’s Lib, how come you wear a bra?
SHEILA: I’m big, stupid.
(They continue undressing.)
HAROLD: It’s interesting how that Professor Hofenhooferhaffer, thought that Hegel had really gained knowledge of the Truth.
HAROLD: Well, you know how I feel about it.
HAROLD: Don’t you want to hear how I-
(They climb into bed. Sheila in a sheer silk nightgown, Harold in his dirty underwear, and go under the burgundy covers.)
HAROLD: Well, you see it’s difficult to find a place to plunge in, since like I told you before that no articulation of my philosophy can adequately express it.
SHEILA: So don’t plunge in.
(Harold sidles up next to Sheila’s warm lithe body. He raises himself on his arms, leans above her. Smiles coyly and tries to kiss her. She turns away.)
HAROLD: Well, to begin with philosophy is concerned with, or at least has always been seemingly concerned with, is Truth - with a capital ‘T’. The way things really are - that good old absolute concept. Philosophy is the search for Truth. Right?
(Harold kisses her on her cheek and cups her breast with his hand.)
Well, let’s see what that concept really implies. OK? (Sheila grimaces.)
When we speak of Truth we are naturally speaking of knowing Truth. Philosophy is concerned with the knowledge of Truth. We want to know something. And what is that something you ask?
SHEILA: I didn’t ask.
HAROLD: Oh, you devil you. (He manages to kiss her on the lips.) Knowledge of Absolute Truth is a correct way of knowing. It is knowing things correctly - how things really are. Truth, you see, is not something that exists all by itself; rather it is a certain kind of knowledge, an accurate knowledge. Truth is actually correct knowing. Do you see?
SHEILA: I don’t give a fuck. Now will you shut up.
HAROLD: Oh, come on, answer me this one question and I won’t bother you again.
SHEILA (relenting): Well, God all right - just to keep your mind occupied.
(Harold’s creeping hand fleets along Sheila’s nightgown - lower and lower - it slips under the sheer silk - and rests on her soft warm leg - and then slowly her side.)
First of all, shouldn’t you make a distinction between Reality and Truth. Truth as you say is a kind of knowing, a correct knowing as you say. Reality has very little to do with Truth. They are two completely two different aspects. Truth is a correct knowing of reality, but Truth is not reality. Oh for Godsake, I can’t really believe I’m doing this. Playing your game.
HAROLD: Shhh. That’s precisely the point, my dear. (Harold slowly raises the nightgown over her head, revealing Sheila’s lush fragrant body.) Knowing, however, implies a knower. Somebody has to do the knowing, right? So having a knower naturally means there is a perspective from which the knower looks. When you look at a table, since you are the looker, you see it from a certain vantage point. You see the table in a certain way from your perspective. And if you move, the perspective changes. Therefore, when a person knows something he is knowing it from just one perspective and couldn’t possibly grasp the whole truth. Do you know what I mean?
SHEILA:(the frenzy of passion has been building up in Sheila and she can no longer contain herself - she flings her arms around Harold and passionately kisses his neck and chest): No—
HAROLD: Well, let me give you an example. You know that cousin of yours - what’s-his-name - the one with the red hair and acne and is always taking pictures - the camera bug.
SHEILA (panting): Oh, you mean A-Arnold.
HAROLD: Yeah, that’s the one.
(Sheila’s hand slides up and down scratching his back)
Remember last year when we had that huge Venus Flytrap and he just had to have a few pictures of it eating a fly?
HAROLD: OK, so he takes a picture of this Venus Fly Trap, eating a fly. And what does he get? A photograph - a two-dimensional representation of a three-dimensional object. The partly digested fly is the reality and the photo is the truth of it. The picture of the plant and fly is a true representation. The plant is analogous to the reality and the accurate photo is analogous to true knowledge or better yet Truth itself.
SHEILA: Ooooh... -
(Sheila’s torso undulates rhythmically - she pulls Harold’s head down up on her white bosom.)
HAROLD: There’s a catch, however. After Arnold took one picture though, he wasn’t satisfied. He had to have a picture from a different angle using his telescopic lens. That’s when he broke the Persian vase - remember? So he took that other picture. And what did he get? Another true and accurate representation of the plant eating the fly. But this picture is different from the first. Both photographs are true representations of the Venus Fly trap, but different. And just like Arnold did, you can go scampering around taking scads of pictures of that plant - all different but true.
SHEILA (breathing hard and gasping): S-so if you like - you can take an infinite - number - of snapshots from different - a-angles -- all of them d-different but truthful -- and knowledge is - the same knowledge - must — must have a knower - therefore a perspective - to know from. And therefore any - view it holds - can change - if the perspective changes – Ahhh!
(Sheila clenches Harold in an arduous embrace - her face wet with perspiration. Harold smiles, kisses her lightly on her forehead, and twits her nipple.)
HAROLD: So first of all, right there you can see that the concept of an Absolute Truth is mistaken for all our knowledge is relativistic in that no knowledgeable perspective grasps all the facets of what we are talking about. You can hold up any picture of that plant, and we’ll admit that it’s true. But we can also show you other pictures, pictures that are different, even contradictory, and they are also true.
SHEILA (Her body heaving upward): But wh-what if you looked at a th-thousand - pictures of - of the plant - all - all at once. Then w-wouldn’t you be getting - at the Truth.
HAROLD: Maybe that would be the case if you could take in and see all the pictures at once. But come on, you couldn’t possibly look at and intellectually grasp all those pictures at the same time. The best we could do would be a few at most, and even that would be difficult. But hold on there, Sheila, I have an idea that might help explain it.
(While being buffeted by Sheila’s voluptuous body, Harold reaches over to the night table and picks up a pad of per and pencil and draws.)
You see, in the first picture each spoke represents a different perspective point from where a person looks at the reality and sees the Truth. All the spokes converge at an approximate point. Now a fool, like your cousin Arnold, might say that the common ground of all the perspectives, where the spokes cross, is what is the Truth. That is point ‘A’. But rather what I would claim is the picture number two is true. In this picture the spokes form somewhat of a confusing disarray. All the spokes tend to be in the same approximate area, but they do not necessarily converge at a common point. In this diagram each spoke represents a valid legitimate perspective. Each spoke is valid even though it might be contradictory to the other spokes. They are all correct. Each spoke, each perspective point represents a facet of Truth. (After a few final convulsive jerks, Sheila slowly relaxes, her breathing becoming deeper and more even.)
SHEILA (breathing deeply): Very interesting Harold, but you’re forcing yourself into another problem.
HAROLD: Which is?
SHEILA: Well, first you would say that one could never have absolute truthful knowledge, for it is all relativistic and partial. That we can only possess partial, inadequate, incomplete truths, or if you prefer perspectives of the reality. Everything just depends on where your perspective is. Everything is just relativistic.
HAROLD: Yes, that’s what I mean to say.
SHEILA: But couldn’t you say that once you have knowledge of all the perspectives - or a good many of them considering that there could possibly be an infinite number of perspective points — that you have at least a semblance of the total truth.
HAROLD: Well, isn’t the trouble with that being that you cannot grasp all the perspectives at once. The moment you have a rational logical thought or articulate something, aren’t you trapped in certain perspective? Here, let’s go back to the analogy of the spokes. Look at the picture.
We’ll now reduce the picture to just the perspective points or in other words the points from which we perceive the reality. The spokes are nothing really more than the sight lines from the perspective points -- the points being delineation of exactly where our perspective lies.
The trouble is, Sheila, with your point is that whenever we make an articulated thought either mentally or verbally, we come down on a certain perspective point. We can only rationally grasp one perspective at a time, for the other perspectives are different and at times contradictory. The inherent nature of a logical thought is free from contradiction and paradox. But when we combine all the perspectives at once, we run into all sorts of non-logical contradictions and paradoxes. A rational thought is logical and therefore can only accommodate one perspective point at a time. Hey, Sheila, will you scratch my back.
(Harold rolls over, Sheila gets up, sits on him, and scratches his back.)
HAROLD: Aaahh... That feels so good. Anyway as I was saying, we must also remember that the space which is surrounded by these dots, the perspective points, in the picture is not the truth. Oh sure, there might be some reality qua reality there, but that in a sense is irrelevant to us. We are only concerned with the how of our knowing. Truth and Reality are different. Truth is true knowledge from a certain perspective. Absolute knowledge might very well be grasping all the true perspectives at the same time. Could you scratch right under the left shoulder blade, please? - Ahh thanks. I believe that this might possible be so, but actually we can only conjecture about this, for each time we try to rationally know or say something, we are stuck working from only one of the perspectives. If we try to grasp a bunch of perspectives at once, they would be chock full of irrationalities,
illogic, contradiction, and paradox.
SHEILA: OK. But aren’t you then bringing up the specter of irrationality?
HAROLD: Well, yes, of course, that’s exactly what’s happening. We go around and around our points of perspective, examining each point to see how it is true and how it is false. While you cannot grasp the whole totality, it is possible that you can get a feel for it. That you do have a kind of knowledge for it, but it is an irrational, maybe intuitive grasp of the idea. Actually, it really is quite Platonic.
SHEILA: Platonic? Oh c’mon. I know enough about Plato to know that he held up rationality as an almighty god. Intellect was supreme.
HAROLD: Not so. It says so right here in a copy of a lecture I have. (Harold gets up, walks over to dresser, brings back a thick notebook, and climbs back into bed.) Right here - in this lecture by Professor H. Humbert - “Plato as Existentialist”. Actually it’s quite an interesting lecture and covers a lot of ground. I must admit that I did get a lot of my ideas from it. Here listen. (Opens notebook)
SHEILA (horrified): You’re not going to sit here and read a lecture to me, are you?
HAROLD: Yes, of course.
SHEILA: But it’s one o’clock in the morning.
HAROLD: The night’s young. Be quiet and listen.
SHEILA: Oy Gewalt.
HAROLD (reading): Ladies and Gentlemen, first of all, I’d like to thank you all for inviting me here today to speak before you here at the Hilton. I must admit this is the first national convention I have ever attended of PLACA -- the Platonic Lovers Association of Christian Americans. I find it very gratifying that you should even consider an old time radical like me.
As I understand it, your organization is trying to preach the gospel of Plato across the land, so as to bring peace and justice to us all. To give us an ideal state like The Republic. I find that very admirable. Very, very commendable. As I see it the basis of your gospel is the Platonic relationship. Again, highly laudable. And as I see the way you see the Platonic relationship, it is one of pure spirituality, a fine intellectual relationship without all the encumbrances, distractions, and evils of the physical. Yes, again very admirable but here is where I take question with you-
Quiet - Quiet. Shhh— Please let’s have some semblance of peace. Yes, yes, I know you all disagree... Now look here - throwing rotten vegetables at me like that will not change my mind. It’s really quite childish. I’ve been paid to speak and I intend to speak. Look, I know you need a certificate of chastity before you can be a PLACA member and I think that is very fine, but it just so happens that I have an interpretation of Plato that is somewhat different from yours which I think you should listen to, for one of the crucial points about Plato is that he is so open to interpretation. So if you will quiet down and permit me to continue I. will begin. You might find it interesting. I’ll try to be brief. Ha - you missed. Now if I may begin.
We have all been told over and over again that the important notions in Platonic philosophy deals with the Good, the Forms, Platonic love, justice, harmony, etc.. There, I knew you would like that. Well, I intend to show that all of these concepts are really in effects subservient to something else and are really mere illuminations of what is the true and most important principle in Platonic philosophy.
Please, please - no violence. Thank you. The most important and crucial factor in Platonic philosophy is not the Good as is often preached but rather something much more obvious. It is a principle that can be found on any page of any Platonic Dialogue. Go ahead and open your little red books of The Republic. Open up to any page and the principle I speak of stares you in the face.
What is it you ask? Why it’s the Dialectic itself. The most crucial principle in all Plato is not any of these metaphysical Forms and some such nonsense, but rather the Dialectic itself. Of course, you would say that the Dialectic is a means to reaching the Form and the Good. That it is a means to an end. But I say No! I claim that the process of the Dialectic is not a means but rather an end in itself. The Dialectic is supposedly there to help us search out Truth. I interpret Plato as saying what is important is not the attainment of Truth but the search for it. The searching for Truth is the crux of the matter, not the Truth itself.
I presume you want some evidence. Well, as I said just turn to any page and there it is. But why is that considered evidence? First of all, you will recall in the Phaedrus we are warned against the dangers of the written word, of how misleading it can be to have a one-sided monologue, preaching at us, not permitting us to ask it questions — making pretences to the Truth. He warns us that words cannot get at the Truth, that they are mediators between the Truth and ourselves. They are not the Truth. We can only grasp the Truth ourselves individually, that each person must ultimately make the leap from the words to a true understanding of the problem at hand. One must grasp the idea immediately, words can only guide him; but one must make the final leap to an intuitive and immediate grasp and understanding of the idea himself. And the best method to achieve this is through the Dialectic, an interaction of two living people, who can continually challenge each other’s positions, forcing each other to think for himself. Forcing the person to go on and on rethinking his position. To learn you must be an active participant not merely passive receiver.
Socrates was true to this principle of teaching. He engaged people in the streets of Athens and talked to them, goading them, showing them how their knowledge was faulty. He never would dare to write anything down.
True, Plato does break that ban and writes things down. But how does he do it? In the form of dialogues, of people speaking to each other, giving various points of view. True, at times especially in the late Plato, the arguing becomes one-sided with Socrates dominating the dialogues, and his opponents making occasional interjectory comments often becoming little more than “yes’ men, as Plato’s Socrates winds them around his little finger. However, even though it is admitted that at times Plato does violate
the rules, he does attempt to put everything down in dialogue form.
In this light of the Socratic method we can take the Platonic Dialogues as not necessarily pontifications of supposed Truth, but rather as a teaching tool. A device to get us to think for ourselves. Also, in the Dialogues we can see the function of art reflected. In the Republic Plato disparages art and bans if from his Utopia if used merely for frivolity. One can argue whether or not Plato is pro art or not. I personally think he is pro art and that in fact the entire Platonic philosophy is essentially an aesthetic philosophy. Maybe we will go into that later. But what is important is that Plato does acknowledge the power of art, especially to educate. He is willing to permit music in the education of his Guardians only if it is carefully controlled -- so as to teach them nobility and courage. The use of art in education is an example of how rational words fail and that we must delve into the irrational world of the arts, for they communicate things that are rationally inexpressible. So we see that the Dialogues are also great works of art, for art communicates too, but irrationally. It accounts for Plato’s use of beautiful poetry and lovely analogies that parallel the truth. It is all for the sake of education.
With this in mind I think that Plato would have no objections to the various interpretations the Dialogues are given. In fact, if he was here standing over there in this very room, swathed in his toga, and you asked him what do the Dialogues really mean; he would probably be very coy in his answer. Stroking his beard he might mumble: “What do you think they mean?”
Let us further pursue this topic and see where we go. Let us analyze a typical dialogue, the Charmides for example. In this work the topic under discussion is temperance. The players involved want to find out exactly what temperance is. Even though they can’t agree on what is temperance, they all do agree that the fair lad, Charmides, has sure as hell, has “it.” So they call for Charmides to come and elucidate the matter. And Charmides is a beautiful boy indeed. All the men, jockey for position next to this gorgeous creature. Even the hoary Socrates moves in for the kill. I now quote from the Charmides. Socrates is speaking. “He (Charmides) came as he was bidden, and sat down between Critias and me. Great amusement was occasioned by everyone pushing with might and main at his neighbor in order to make a place for him next to themselves, until at the two ends of the row one had to get up and the other was rolled over sideways. Now I, my friend, was beginning to feel awkward, my former bold belief in my powers of conversing with him had vanished....All the people in the palaestra crowded about us, and Hurrah!. I caught a sight of the inwards of his garment, and too the flame. Then I could no longer contain myself. I though how well Cydias understood the nature of love, when, in speaking of a fair youth, he warns some one not to bring the fawn in the sight of the lion to be devoured by him, for I felt that I had been overcome by a sort of wild—beast appetite.”
We can see here evidence against an asexual Socrates. He’s as horny as the rest of them.
Please, my friends, a little decorum. Please. Thank you.
Well, no doubt about it. Charmides has got temperance. So Socrates asks him what is temperance, for who, should know better than a temperate man.
Charmides answers that it is quietness. Socrates perceives though that it is every bit as much a quickness as it is slowness. And the same follows for every argument that is presented. It is always shown how any definition of temperance can be transfigured into its opposite. And at the end of the Dialogue it appears as though that we haven’t come up with any hard fast answers to what is temperance. Yet, surely all are agreed that Charrnides has temperance, but even he can’t say what it is.
However, it is foolish to say that we are no better of than before. We have seen many facets of what temperance is like, we just haven’t been able to nail it down.
One is unable if one tries to rationally articulate what temperance, or any-thing else is, to come up with any concrete answers. The Dialectic is always able to make it slide somewhere else. The answer never stands still. Whenever we try and grab it, it merely slides through our fingers like so much sand.
Fine and dandy you say, but what about all of Plato’s Forms and the Good?
True, at first sight Plato does appear to be claiming that one can obtain absolute knowledge and truth. I believe that the Good an the Forms can also be seen as a representational system in working out the Dialectic. It is a further, filling out of the process of the Dialectic in a more complete systematic way, yet, it is still merely a subheading under the Dialectic. It is one possible system.
This is also partly a problem of the development of Plato, of late Plato versus early Plato. It is conceivable that Plato began his career as a disciple of Socrates and as a pure Dialectician, but in later years developed into a metaphysical philosopher, who felt he could obtain absolute knowledge. This can be supported by the fact that talk of the Forms and the Good does not appear until the later Dialogues.
Kierkegaard is one who saw this. He upheld Socrates as a great philosopher, for he was no metaphysician. Socrates was concerned with the questions of life, of existential questions, questions of love, and justice, and human existence. Socrates saw through the falsehood of the supposed metaphysical truths.
Kierkegaard paints Plato though as a speculative philosopher, one who thinks transcendental thoughts and ultimately corrupts Socrates.
I prefer to see Plato as rather somewhat of a transition. He is still essentially a pure Dialectician, an existentialist with a leaning toward metaphysics, and that even these metaphysical truths can ultimately be collapsed and seen as a part of the Dialectic, as an existential formula for using the Dialectic.
It is with Aristotle that philosophy becomes truly speculative and takes a downhill turn as Kierkegaard suggests. Pure Divine thought, pure actuality, contemplating itself — what nonsense.
But enough of this, back to Plato. The Good is a goal we set up for ourselves to strive for, but it is something that is ultimately unobtainable. In The Republic all the talk of achieving Forms and the Good and studying math, etc. are merely ways or stops along the path of the Dialectic, of searching out Truth. Though Plato makes references of catching glimpses of this Divineness - as in the Phaedrus where the chariot is able to catch glimpses of Heaven - you are never able to really obtain it. You may keep striving, but the goal you search for is unobtainable and more than that, very possibly it is illusory, nonexistent. The Good and the Forms are merely carrots dangling in front of our eyes to lead us on. As we search for the Good, we are led out of the darkness and begin to see the illusory nature of all sensible things and opinions.
But surely, you retort, the Good and the Forms are more than that? Then how does Plato conceive of them. To be brief we can say that we reach the Forms through thought. When engaged in the Dialectic we first find ourselves enchanted by another person’s mind. Soon we see that we are actually enchanted by not one person’s mind but by mind in general. Then we note that actually we are enamored of thought - pure thought. As we revel in thought we study the sciences and ultimately mathematics and geometry. It
is when we delve into the abstractions of the mathematical sciences, that we first encounter the Forms. We see here in math the basic concepts and principles that govern the world. Concepts such as equality, sameness, difference, unity, totality, plurality. Something along these lines I think Plato has in mind, in regard to the Forms. The Forms are the concepts upon which the world is shaped. But there is also another step — the ascendance to the Good. And what is that? Plato suggests that the way to get there is to study the science of the sciences. The Good is in a sense a vision of the totality of all thought. It is seeing all the Forms, all science, everything in its unity. Seeing everything in its total harmony - in all its beauty. And that is the other name for the vision of the Good - the vision of Beauty. To catch a glimpse of the Good or Beauty is a great aesthetic experience. But it is a vision and a fleeting one at that. As best we can catch a glimpse of it. It is unobtainable, though it is something we can strive for through Dialectic. It is our own goal despite it being beyond our grasp. And yet we are better people for striving after this Quixotic dream. For the Dialectic does makes us wiser, though not necessarily more knowledgeable. The wisdom being the realization of the power of Dialectic, of our lack of knowledge, how all claims can fall under the scrutinous eye of a philosopher, ultimately even the notions of the Forms and the Good.
Once you have seen the Dialectic at work decimating so many claims to knowledge, you can go right ahead and make your own claims to knowledge, such as claims about the Good. Those claims can be stated quite glibly, but in the back of your mind there should be a little cynic chucking for he knows that these claims are not absolute deliberations and could easily by picked apart by the Dialectic.
It is upon this background of the Dialectic that Plato paints these other pictures. Pictures that are mere watercolors that will run with the slightest moisture. You, of course, retaliate by saying that I’m just simply ignoring the manifest evidence, which is so overwhelmingly in favor of a real existence of a Good. That I am just muttering wild, mad interpretations.
But I would like to call your attention to a section of the Phaedo, though it is a relatively early Dialogue. This work deals with Socrates’ death. The participants are arguing over the immortality of the soul. This is a crucial discussion because one of the reasons that Socrates is facing death so cheerfully is that he is convinced of the soul’s immortality.
However, in the course of the Dialogue Socrates is defeated by Cebes. It is a critical defeat for Socrates was pinning his entire system on the fact that all our real knowledge came from recollection of the immortal soul’s previous existence. If there soul is not immortal there is no knowledge. Socrates entire system lies in ruin about his feet.
And what is his response. It is a very human one - he’s scared. He’s now afraid of death. The argument of immortality is so critical to him that Socrates admits he can no longer be an impartial judge. Here let me read the passage. “For at this moment I am sensible that I have not the temper of a philosopher: like the vulgar, I am only a partisan. Bow the partisan, when he is engaged in a dispute, cares nothing about the rights of the question, but is anxious only to convince his hearers - of his own assertions. And the difference between him and me at the present moment is merely this — that whereas he seeks to convince his hearers that what he says is true, I am rather seeking to convince myself; to convince my hearers is a secondary matter with me. And do but see much I gain by the argument. For if what I say is true, then I would do well to be persuaded of the truth; but if there be nothing after death, still, during the short time that remains, I shall not distress my friends with lamentations, and my ignorance will not last., but will die with me, and therefore no harm shall be done.”
Yes, Socrates is frightened, but even in the face of a meaningless death he is ready to start arguing again. He is willing to begin at the very beginning and try to find a new semblance, a new order. We must begin again to search for the truth.
Even Socrates arguments and rational systems ape susceptible to the Dialectic. For it is supreme. Even Socrates has to remind himself that it is the searching that is of utmost importance, not the truth. By constant searching we may not find answers, but we might lead wiser, better, more intelligent, and ultimately happier lives. We should be dedicated not to metaphysical abstraction but to a living process, a process that effects and concerns our daily lives. It’s Plato as existentialist, whether he knows it or not.
Now for a moment. I would like to delve into a matter that is important to all of us who are here today – the Platonic relationship. You would all like to think of the Platonic. relationship as an asexual affair, concerned with higher values instead of the physical, as can best be shown by Socrates’ refusal of Alcibiades’ seduction attempt in the Symposium.
But this I claim is really a false picture of what Plato really means. Socrates is portrayed to us as a demigod and in effect he reflects the ideal. All of Socrates’ seductions are totally mental, such as found in the Phaedrus. However, for
us lesser mortals he has completely different advice.
The Platonic relationship is Plato’s greatest device for working out the Dialectic. It is very much akin to our notion of a love affair. Two people meet and fall in love and start working out the Dialectic together in a very fruitful manner. The lovers work together in a gentle way to help each other in discovering through Dialectic the facets of knowledge. They don’t try to hurt each other by using the Dialectic maliciously. Rather they use it constructively with compassion.
The basis of this love though is one of extreme passion. So since we are physical beings the passion is sometimes physical, in short sexual. It is not something that should be abhorred, but rather should be given its due. The passions are very important t Plato’s analysis of the soul. Without them we would be mere intellect that had no enthusiasm or interest to even think. The passions are necessary to our existence. In the analogy of the chariot in the Phaedrus it is decided that the black horse of passion that strains at its reigns, trying to pull the chariot ahead, must be given its due and permitted to run wild and fulfill itself. Without the energy of the black horse the chariot would not have enough energy to rise up and catch a glimpse of Heaven. Note this passage from the Phaedrus and see; even though it speaks in poetic metaphors, how could it not be referring to anything but the most erotic of experiences. “But he whose initiation is recent, and has been the spectator of many gloried in the other world, is amazed at seeing anyone with a god-like face or form, which is the expression of divine beauty; and at first a shudder steals through him, and again the old awe steals over him; then looking upon the face of his beloved as of a god he reverences him, and if he were afraid of not being thought a downright madman, he would sacrifice to his beloved as to an image of a god; then while he gazes upon him there is a sort of reaction, and the shudder passes into an unusual heat and perspiration; for, as he receives the effluence of beauty through his eyes, the wing moistens and he warms. And as he warms, the parts out of which the wing grew, and which had been hitherto closed and rigid, and had prevented the wing from shooting forth, are melted, and as nourishment streams upon him, the lower end of the wings begins to swell and prow from the root upwards; and the growth extends under the whole soul - for once the whole was winged. During this process the whole soul is all in a state of ebullition and effervescence - which may be compared to the irritation and uneasiness at the time of cutting teeth — bubbles up, and has a feeling of uneasiness and tickling; but when in like manner when the soul is beginning to grow wings, the beauty of the beloved meets her eye and she receives the sensible warm motion of particles which flow towards her, therefore called emotion, and is refreshed and warmed by them, and then she ceases from her pain with joy.”
Plato is not anti-sex. In fact he revels in it. It is something that is essential to his philosophy. In short, I’m saying that Plato now and then probably enjoyed a good old-fashioned fuck -- or considering the tastes of his age, a good rim job. Hee hee hee—
Quiet. Hey — watch it. Quit. Please, please. It was only a joke. Stay in your seats. Shhh. Come on. Stop throwing things. If you’ll just give me a chance. I’ll finish shortly.
Please I’m getting hoarse from all this yelling.
Now we can begin to see the beauty of the many-faceted platonic system. Now will you all sit down and be quiet. The Dialectic, the search for truth, reigns supreme. The process of searching is the most crucial thing, but within these bounds we can have systems to help elucidate the search. And in this - would you in the third row please stop throwing those marshmallows — yes you - I saw you. And - and in this sense we have the goal of the Good, though unobtainable. And the best device there is to achieve this Dialectical process is the Platonic relationship, love — Ha, ha - you missed that time. Please be quiet. I can hardly hear myself talk even with the microphones. When we are following the Dialectic properly and are in love we are fulfilled people. We will be happy and harmonious.
Would you all please sit down and stop threatening me. Remember this is a nonviolent group. Right? Please. . Well - um - now I would like to read one last passage - if you don’t mind. You can find it in your little red book on the last page of the Phaedo -— Ouch! that hurt. You know this isn’t funny. Ow’ -urn- well -maybe we can all read together.
“They were his last words - he said -- Hey, you could hurt somebody with that —“Crito, I owe a cock to Asclepius; will you remember to pay the debt? The debt shall be paid, said Crito.” - Look out — “is there anything else? There was no answer to this question.” — Ouch! - “but in a minute or two a movement was heard, and the attendants uncovered him;” — That’s dangerous, damnit! - “his eyes were set and Crito closed his eyes and mouth.” -Fuck, that hurt. — “Such was the end, Echecrates, of our friend;” - Hey,, sombody get the police - “concerning whom I may truly say, that of all the men of his time that I have known,” - Please — “he was the wisest and justest and best.” .
There finished. At last. Ouch! Thank you for listening. Thank you. Goodbyeeeee...
(We regret to note the passing of Dr. Humbert as he was assassinated with a hara-kiri knife as he tried to leave the auditorium by an enraged PLACA member.)
(Harold puts notebook down. Sheila is sleeping sound1y, snoring audibly.)
HAROLD: Well, how did you like it, Sheila? It was pretty good, wasn’t it? Huh, wasn’t it? Hey, Sheila are you asleep? Well, I’ll be. (He shoves her.) Hey, Sheila, huh, are you asleep? Huh?
SHEILA (slowly rousing): W—wh-what’s the matter? (rubbing her eyes)
HAROLD: Hey’, were you asleep?
SHEILA (tersely): Yes, I was. What did you want?
HAROLD: You mean to tell me that you didn’t hear anything of the lecture?
SHEILA: Harold, for Godsakes, why — why (looking at clock) it’s two-thirty, and you have been reading that lecture till now out loud.
HAROLD: Why, yes, it was beautiful.
SHEILA (getting angry): You woke me up to tell me that. To tell me that you have been talking to yourself for two hours about all that crap. Why you fucking little…
HAROLD: You know, Sheila, I really wish you wouldn’t use such language. It really is unbecoming.
SHEILA: Why you little prig. With all your fancy talk of the unimportance of words, you should give a flying fuck about what I say. What could be wrong with any sound a human being makes? Why you little shit. You know there was a guy like you who was in my ‘T’ group last year. He was always spouting off about how open and liberal he was, but went into psychotic shock whenever anyone told him what an asshole he was.
HAROLD: W—well, I’m sorry, Sheila. Really, I am.
SHEILA: Now you’ve gotten all my adrenalin going and I can’t go back to sleep. Shmuck.
HAROLD: Really, I’m sorry, but you should have heard that lecture. It was awe-inspiring. It brought tears to my eyes.
SHEILA: (resigned): What was it all about?
HAROLD: Oh, that’s hard to say. It had to do with an irrational, intuitive grasp of knowledge and-
SHEILA: Something like your philosophy isn’t it? In what you are doing in all of these cases you speak of is really going past philosophy or in a sense rejecting it.
HAROLD: At least, I reject the simple straight forward rationality and prescribed logic of philosophy. You might say that I’m throwing away rationality and logic as the ultimate divining rod and saying that there are other factors too.
SHEILA: You know, I just noticed, my dear young philosopher, that you really have contradicted yourself here to what you said before. You claimed that we could never have any hard and fast knowledge, for we could only perceive one perspective point at a time. All our knowledge is transient and relative; yet then you go on and say that we can have knowledge, but it would be through irrational means. There’s the contradiction.
HAROLD: So what? There’s no problem. I revel in paradox and contradiction. That’s the very point of the whole thing. All the perspectives are right. All the contradictions and paradoxes are actually compatible.
SHEILA: Now I’m completely confused.
HAROLD: So let’s start from the very beginning.
HAROLD: Well, before we even start, you’ve got to realize the absurd task we have set for ourselves. Frankly, I’m going to try and show you the basic limits of philosophy, or even more than that, the end of philosophy, to possibly show its essential invalidity. However, before we take one step forward we must realize the absurdity of using philosophy to show the faultiness of philosophy. By using philosophy in such an offensive, it is actually a kind of validation of philosophy in itself.
You know, Sheila, I should give credit where credit is due. I got all this stuff from some guy in the East Village. I met him by accident. I was going to visit my Aunt Hilda, you know the one who runs the head shop on 3rd street. Well, I was going to visit her, but somewhere I must have copied down the wrong address or something. So I go up to this old run down tenement and go up the stairs. The apartment number was suppose to be 3D, but I was in the wrong building. Boy, was it filthy. Anyway, so I go up to apartment 3D and knock and a man’s voice says to come in. So I walk in and instead of my Aunt Hilda, there’s this guy with long shaggy hair, white beard, wrapped in filthy bed sheets, sitting in a lotus position in front of a purple candle.
“Sit down, my son,” he says.
What could I do? So I sat down on the other side of the candle. It smelled sweet. It must have been Bayberry or something.
In the meantime he’s smoking this huge hookah. Just inhaling nnd exhaling. Inhaling, exhaling. After about five minutes he finally opens his eyes and says:
“My son, tell me what you believe.”
So what could I say? So I told him about some Aristotle and Kant, and even some Hegel that I knew.
He .Just smiled a bit, kind of chuckled, and then began.
“Oh my poor son, you just don’t see the obvious. You must always catch a philosopher right at the beginning. Once you let him loose he is a slippery devil that is difficult to catch. You must grab him from the beginning, attack his basic premise, for those wily devils can prove anything they want to if left alone with their logic.
“So let us zap the very basic premise of all philosophers. For you see the philosopher keeps his basic. premise sacrosanct. It is his God. It can do no wrong. It is the god of Reason.
“But it’ is useless to tell them this, that their God is suspect. They will not listen. For they will give you reasons why reason is so good. And what is more ridiculous than for me to try and use reason to attack reason. You can’t. So why try.
“I just prefer to sit here and smoke. Ahhh- that is nice.
“How can we use logic to criticize logic, I ask you. For if we do, we find ourselves in a foolish quagmire. Come - look and see. If we criticize logic logically and are correct in our criticism, then the logic we used to criticize it is faulty, and if that if so then the whole logical criticism crumbles. You cannot win, no matter how hard you try. Logic and reason are closed systems. You must accept it or reject it — there can be no substantive arguing about it.
It might be a bit clearer, my son, if we use a more technical term for all this denying of reason. Why it is Skepticism, my Son. However, you will find that in this cruel world of ours, the so-called philosophers think Skepticism is a dirty word. So let’s call it something else - just to keep it on the up and up. Let us see. How about - Dialectic. Ahh - I see that rings a bell with you. ‘Where do you know it from?”
“Plato,” I responded.
“Ah yes, good old Plato, knew him well. Fine chap, except that he was hung up on Charmides - the little bastard. Even the best of them are unbearable when they fall in love.
“Oh well, where were we — ah yes, Skepticism as Dialectic. This Dialectic of ours had been described as negative reason. If they want to call it that, then so be it. Anyway, one can use this negative reason, or Dialectic if you will, to show how any truth really js in a way false. It is used to negate all claims. Many of these so-called philosophers decry this, bewailing the loss of their truths. They say it leaves us nowhere.
“Of course, they are wrong. The Dialectician shows us all the partial truths to any one question. But do not think, my son, that this Dialectic leads to a notion of the real truth. That is foolish. Each dialectical move is a switch to another viewpoint of the question at hand. We use Dialectic to show how every claim to total truth is false, but it can also be used to validate every position as a partial truth.
“Now, my son, we once again run into the problem that we ran headlong into before. If we can use the Dialectic to deny every position, then ultimately it can be used to deny itself. It is just like when the cynical old Skeptic that denies everything is finally forced to look upon and deny himself. So just like every other claim to truth, the Dialectic must logically deny itself as truth.
“Does this mean that we have run into that hopeless quagmire? After all if the Dialectic is wrong, then all the criticism that it had been making is wrong and then all the truths that it has been attacking are not wrong but correct. Thus is the ramifications of logic. Ugh! What a paltry thing this logic is. We are led around in circles, for if the positions that we said were false are now true because the Dialectic is false, then we can also say that the Dialectic becomes true again, for its criticism of itself is now false. Now that the Dialectic is true again, then all the positions which were first true, then false, then true, are now false again, et cetera, et cetera, etcetera. It is hopeless.
“No, it is not quite all that hopeless, my son, for as we were saying the Dialectic like all philosophical positions has some value. It is relativistic. It is partially true and not true.
“I know, my son, I’ll give you an analogy. Analogies are so much fun. Let us think of the whole problem temporally, as in time. It is a poor analogy, but we will try. Are you ready?”
“Good. Let us say that at times the Dialectic is true and sometimes it is not true. When the Dialectic is true all views are relativistic. When it is not true, you can say that whatever views a person preaches are not relativistic but absolutely true.
“The only catch being that when one is claiming that all views are relativistic, the view that all things are relative is relative.
“The fact, however, that all things are relative is true and not true. When the relativistic theory is not true, then whatever philosophic position you pick is true — absolutely. That is why the real relativist of integrity finds himself saying that while all things are relative, at the same time all things are true, really and absolutely.”
At this point I coughed and interjected a soft: “I’m still confused.”
“Well, it is tricky, my son, but don’t despair. Onward to the real analogy. Let us say that Monday is Aristotle Day. It has been declared by the powers that be that on Mondays all of Aristotle’s theories are correct and all others are false. So on Mondays everybody is an Aristotelian. On Tuesdays though the powers to be declare that it is St. Thomas Aquinas Day. On Tuesdays we no longer believe in the now infamous liar Aristotle, but rather in Aquinas. Anybody who dares to preach the views of Aristotle will have his head chopped off. On Wednesdays though, Aquinas falls out of favor for it is Descartes Day. And likewise Thursdays are dedicated to Berkeley, Fridays to Schopenhauer, and Saturdays to Sarte.
“Ah, but Sundays shall be different. For on Sundays my philosophy shall reign supreme. But my philosophy is a liberal one for on my day all the other philosophers are also correct. Aristotle, Aquinas, Descartes, Berkeley, Schopenhauer, Sarte. We are all correct. What makes my philosophy unique is that it accounts for and accepts all the different, paradoxical philosophic positions of the other philosophers.
“However, again there is a catch and that being the notion of temporality. We must extract the time sequence. So now follow me carefully, my son. Have you understood so far?”
I nodded meek1y.
“Fine. Now each philosopher has been correct on his day and the others wrong. On my day we are all correct. Now forget the notion of sequence and collapse everything into one moment. My philosophic position as well as the others. If you have done that correctly you might have a feeling for the vision I speak of. — Well, do you my son?”
What could I say. I nodded.
“You see, each philosopher in a sense is true absolutely; yet at the same time relativity is true; and therefore, relativity by. its own nature and quality is not true. So that everything is and is not at the same time, including the Dialectic and relativity. Perfectly clear, isn’t it, my son?”
I was hopelessly lost so I agreed.
“If you can grasp this whole concept of how all is and is not, of the totality of all views, you might have an inkling of what I am talking about, my son. Here would you like a puff?”
“Too bad. You do realize though that you cannot grasp this whole totality of which I talk about intellectually. At most it is a feel or vision of how all is and is not. For when I talk of the vision, I am talking from one particular viewpoint and am thereby limited to speaking of only partial truths. For in the sense it is a totality, at the same time in another, sense, it is not a totality.”
Well, Sheila, he went talking like that about is and is not, and totality and not totality, for the longest time. But don’t you see what he was talking about? Hey, Sheila, are you listening?
SHEILA (quietly picking lint from her navel): Huh? Oh yeah — sure.
HAROLD: What this guy was talking about is what I’ve been saying all along. We can rationally conjecture about the total concept here, but we can never truly grasp it rationally, for every attempt to do so puts us at one isolated point on that old merry-go—round of different perspectives.
SHEILA: Well, then I guess we can grasp it irrationally, huh Harold?
HAROLD: Well, I really don’t know. How can I rationally talk of all these irrationalities. The rational and the irrational are two separate systems and never the twain shall meet. The rational tries to explain the irrational, and yet the irrational is really the controlling factor behind the rational, making the argument of the rational an ad homonym, and all that. You know, all that psychology stuff. That the real reasons why Plato, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche and others claim that chasteness is superior, is that they’re terrified of girls, and these philosophies are their mere rationalizing away this fear so as to make it seem good. In fact, it says that all philosophy is this - mere rationalizations.
The philosopher makes rationality supreme and fails to see it in its proper position in the total compass of the human psyche. The early astronomers thought of the earth as the center of the Universe and calculated all the heavenly motions by that notion. Ultimately they realized that they were wrong and had to take in account the fact that the earth was merely a minor planet in motion in a greater scheme of things. They needed calculus to figure out where other planets and stars were and how fast they were going because the earth was moving too.
Likewise the philosophers, even though they denied it, tended to look at rationality as the center of the Universe, instead of it only as a part of a greater scheme of things. For them all other factors, such as irrational ones, could be made to swirl around the rational center. But rather we must look at rationality as only a small part in motion, subject to the laws of irrationality and the sweep of the Universe. Any proclamation of the rational is tainted with the irrational, for at the base of all rationality is the inner core of the irrational. In short, the inner psychology. All attempts for the rational to explain itself must take this into account. So never the twain shall meet.
SHEILA: Harold, you lost me two miles back. So let’s retreat. You seem to be operating on two levels here, which is somewhat confusing. First you talk about how all of our knowledge is relative and therefore has no firm basis, but at the same time you intimate that we can somehow grasp knowledge instinctively. Another level and all the confusion comes in when you begin to attack philosophic knowledge, which entails turning this relativity upon itself. In other words, I don’t know what you are talking about, so let’s forget it, the whole thing, huh, please, Harold let’s just go to bed.
HAROLD: No, no, not yet, let’s give it one more try. Let’s work through the whole philosophy step by step from the beginning. OK? (Sheila’s face is a cold blank.)
But if we are going to do philosophy we must start with a premise. Since philosophy uses logic and reason, our premise is that rationality is a totally valid system that exists, can sustain itself, and can be successfully isolated from irrationality. While the premise might be false we will accept it for now. Since philosophers assume this point is totally valid, they go ahead and try to prove things to you. My problem, of course, begins right here, because I make claims to the limits of rationality, that it can’t really prove what I’m trying to say right here. My endeavor is in a sense absurd, doomed to failure, and paradoxical.
But here I go getting ahead of myself again and besides we’ve already been over this ground before. So let us start from scratch and we will follow the rational route and see where we come out.
Maybe somewhere out there, devoid of our personal subjective existence is a reality. Reality qua reality. The numinal world of Kant as it were. Whether that exists or not is not that much of our concern. What we are concerned with is appearances. We operate within this consciousness of appearances.
Now let us bring to the foreground that horrible, hooked-nosed, onanistic, cynical iconoclast of philosophy — the Skeptic.
A little boy whistling comes skipping along the road. It’s a bright sunny day. He stops and looks up. “Gee, isn’t the sky so blue today?”
Seeing his chance the Skeptic, who has been disguising himself as a Good Humor Ice Cream vendor, rips off his cap and cackles: “No, no, no, my foolish little brat, it’s really turquoise. And in a sense it’s not red, and in a sense it’s light blue, and in a sense it is just light waves of the sun passing through the atmosphere. Ha! Ha! Ha! All knowledge and claims are mere illusion.”
“No, that can’t be true,” the little boy screams, stamping his foot.
“Oh isn’t it, you little twerp. Tell me one thing that is true completely.”
The boy wrinkles his brow, smiles, and exclaims, “Man is good.”
“Oh, how so then?”
“Well, he makes great art.”
“He makes horrible wars and kills.”
But the boy is not defeated yet. He’s a spunky little fellow. “Democracy is the best form of government.”
“It never gets anything done. Tolitarinism is much more efficient.”
“Well then, one plus one equals two.”
“It’s only a system. One plus one equals ten in a different base.”
“Is anything real then?” the little boy cries.
“Maybe - it all depends on how you look at it. After all, it’s all in your mind. You can change anything to whatever you want it to be. All of our knowledge is transitory and elusive. There is nothing for us to grab hold of firmly and present before the high priests as truth, for it soon evaporates into empty air
“Yes, old man, but then if all that you speak of is true then your beliefs are no better off. You have nothing firm to stand on. Your idea that all is not is just as transitory.”
“Yes, yes my little worm.”
“And that leaves you nowhere. You cannot move, you have trapped yourself in a senseless, self-destructing cage.”
‘No, you are the mental midget who fails to see the way it really is. You are just like those mongrels — those— those philosophers, who want to hold on to something firm as currents and the changing tides swirl about them. They want things static. They are cowards. They fear the swirling torrent of the oceans of change. They fear they will be lost if they let go of their fixed posts. They are afraid of the despair of swimming freely with no landmarks to guide them. But if they could only see the joy and beauty of swimming unbridled. To strike out on their own.
“My little mouse, let us now be as intellectually honest as possible and follow our so-called skepticism to its final goal.
“All is relative, right. That very position that all is relative is relative, right. Therefore, that position that all is relative is not necessarily always true. Therefore, we find that the position we attacked with the claim that all is relative are now not relative, rather now they are true. Thus at this moment in our scheme we find that the positions are now not relative, but stable and true. This fact in turn revitalizes the doctrine of relativity, which destroys itself again, for if the doctrine is now true again, all truths are relative. Therefore, the truth that all is relative is now relative once more causing—
SHEILA (screaming): FUCK IT. HAROLD - GODDAMN IT. I can’t stand it any more. I’m sick of all this shit. FUCK IT!
HAROLD (excitedly): But that’s exactly the answer, Sheila, don’t you see?
SHEILA: What? What’s the answer?
HAROLD: That word. That word you said, you know.
SHEILA: What? Fuck it?
HAROLD: Yeah that’s the one.
SHEILA (desperately): AAAAAAAAAARRGH!
HAROLD: You’re right, we start going on this merry-go-round of that ever thinp is and isn’t. We are led around in circles, spiraling up to nowhere. Here let me show you another picture. (Harold draws another picture on the pad. Sheila stares incredulously, almost blankly, totally defeated.)
And you’re right Sheila, absolutely right. Everybody finally yells - yells - that word - you know which one or some variation of it. They all say that this is ridiculous and absurd. This is what happens if you follow pure logic honestly. You wind up in absurdity.
The problem is solved when you say forget the whole thing. For when you do, when you tell philosophy to do that thing to itself, everything begins to make sense. You say: “I’m not going to bother with philosophy anymore, it’s absurd.” And when you say that you go out and live your everyday life, right? When you yelled “that word” you stopped the merry-go-round of absurdity - it being absurdity, of course, in terms of our everyday lives. We decide to go out and live our lives despite philosophy.
But what does this mean? It means that we finally stop the merry-go-round and pick a perspective from which to operate. Instead of swirling about lost, we find a place to settle. We come to a halt. The perspective we chose to settle upon can, of course, can be shown not to be totally true. But so what?
Everybody finally stops and picks a spot from which to live his or her life. He can be a Liberal, Democrat, Republican, Conservative. But he picks out his truths in which to operate, his standards by which he lives.
Why even philosophers do it. They not only live a real life, but they pick a philosophical perspective. They pick a point of view in philosophy.
SHEILA (without expression): But what if their view disagrees with yours? What if they say our whole notion is wrong?
HAROLD: My philosophy though involves more than one level of consciousness - it has several levels or perspectives. In one way it says, I am right, but by its own credo, it says that I am wrong too. It is a philosophy that encompasses my own as well as my opponent’s position. While in One sense my philosophy stands firm as a philosophical treatise, it is also only one point on the “merry—go—round,” one point on the wheel of perspectives. Put it is a unique point that involves all the other perspective points.
It’s all right to criticize my work, for it is so set up that its negation is its own affirmation, and likewise its affirmation is its own negation.
However, there is another dimension involved here. Let’s look at the decision to say - say “that word.” We followed a rationale route and we seemed to end up nowhere. We were on the “merry-go-round. A hell of a lot of people, including thinkers, said, “fu—f-fudge - there must be a better way.”
The decision though in seeing that one must look else for answers is ultimately an irrational one. If we follow pure abstract rationality as honestly as possible it swirls us ever upward going nowhere. Some say forget it. Others to get out of that helpless despair of fear of the ever changing waters, make constructions and various schemes, schemes that will make it seem that there is static, easily knowable knowledge. Their schemes are hopeless too, for they are as just as relative as all else. They are mere partial truths of an entire situation. So everybody finally throws up their hand and yell f-fu- oh fuck it. There I said it.
And that move, motivated by a hopeless frustration, whether one is conscious of it or not, is a move of irrationality. At least irrational in the sense that it rejects the narrow rational system that we started with.
Once you have made the rejection, you can now and find a point to land on, on the merry-go-round of perspective points. The people want to possess these perspective points. They hover over it, jealousy guarding its claims to absolute truth. It makes them feel better that way.
It is here that we bring in the whole factor of ad hominem arguments and psychology. The ad hominem argument says that there is an underlying psychological reason why somebody says something. Normally your philosopher would say that the ad hominem argument is interesting but irrelevant to the value of the real argument. Well, the fact is that in a sense it is crucial to the argument. It is the irrational force, drawing upon the fear of despair, change, or whatever, that makes a person create an answer to his questions - a philosophic scheme.
It deals with the whole question of psychology. The rational is only a small part of the entire mental process. The unconscious is there too. Rationality, pure and by itself, leads to knowledge that is illusory and despairing. All philosophic constructions are shaped and motivated by irrational urges. All intellectual rational creations are based on an underlying plateau of irrationality.
No intellectual endeavor is immune to it - including my own.
Philosophers may talk about the irrational but are wont to extract it from their, own works. Impossible. It is implicit in its very nature. Pure abstraction gets us nowhere. Once we have seen this and rejected it as truth, we go out and live life and enjoy it. We must reject the intellectual and logical as an ultimate deity and see it in its proper perspective.
Philosophy can give us a lot of insight into our selves and our world, but we should never take it to seriously. It certainly can be helpful, but we should not try to fashion our lives with philosophy as king, because we fool ourselves to think we can be totally rational, and are even more foolish to think that it is totally good.
SHEILA: Whew! You really do talk a lot. But are you trying to tell me that philosophy comes from fear.
HAROLD: Maybe - in a sense yes. But think it is more than that. Yes, people are upset by the apparent meaninglessness, confusion, and lack of standards. They don’t like it. So they make up standards, such as the dogmas of religion and society. Philosophy is just an intellectually more sophisticated version of the same thing.
But I think that there is still more. There are people like myself who really do enjoy philosophy. By God, it’s fun. I like it. In a way it’s like sex. It’s a pleasure. It’s fun. When you do it by yourself it’s somewhat indulgent like masturbation. If you have a dialogue with another able thinker, it’s much more satisfying - like intercourse. And if you have a bull session with a lot of people - it’s an orgy! Not terribly satisfying , just a lot of bits and pieces flying about.
SHEILA(shocked): Do you mean to tell me that all this time you’ve been thinking of philosophy and sex as the same thing?
HAROLD: Wait - there’s still more. Philosophy actually is a form of art. The philosophers create great beautiful monuments of thought. We, the viewers, sit back and glory in the grace and beauty of the construction. This is what makes the contemplative philosophic life so nice. It’s an aesthetic experience. When we discover the beauty of philosophy there’s a wonderful excitement kindled in us. It is an intense excitement, for we create the philosophic constructions in our minds, using thoughts as paints. The philosophers give us instructions to follow and we have to put the thoughts together ourselves to see the total beautiful picture. And when we follow the instructions correctly, it is quite a sight to behold the finished product, very satisfying, for in a sense we made it ourselves.
You see, studying philosophy is like walking through an art gallery: On your right you will see the great Platonic work, The Republic. Note the symmetry. How every object and color has its place. How everything is in perfect harmony. How each depiction symbolizes many things. And if you will just follow me over here you will see on your left Aristotle’s Ethics. Note the golden hue every-thing has - how everything points to the center, the median of the work. How there are no extremes, just moderation and…
SHEILA: Hey, hey, wait a minute. Stop soliloquizing. Philosophy isn’t a construction. It’s a revelation of the way things are. Maybe it reveals only partial truths, but still it’s a revelation. Even your analogies talk of revelation. Arnold snapped pictures, he didn’t paint them.
HAROLD: Well, philosophy is really both, a revelation and a construction.
SHEILA (screwing up her eyes): I should have known? Why do I bother to ask such questions?
HAROLD: Let’s go back to ‘the’ original analogy, but this time envision a sphere as the reality instead of a plant. The sphere is what we want to know about. The viewer, or the knower’ mind if you prefer, shall be represented by a piece of cardboard. The spokes once again represent the sight lines through which we perceive our appearances.
The sight lines or spokes touch the sphere, our reality, and reflect this reality onto the cardboard, forming a pattern of dots.
These dots are our picture of the reality. It is our two—dimensional representation of the three dimensional rea1ity of the sphere. Yes, it is so far a revelation of the reality. If we change the position of the cardboard, we get a different pattern of dots but it is still a revelation. However, what if a person instead of using three spokes, decides to use four spokes and change the arrangement of them. The pattern of dots changes even though the cardboard is in the same position.
A person could use a hundred spokes if he so desired and as long as each spoke touches the sphere he is still revealing the reality. Every time he rearranges the spokes or changes the number of them, he alters the picture we see of reality. In other words, yes, philosophy is a revelation, but the construction comes in in the way the philosopher choses to look at the reality. He constructs his vision. He can choose whatever arrangements of spokes, or philosophic scheme, and as long as they touch upon the sphere it is all right. Philosophy is both a construction and a revelation.
It is more or less like a portrait painter. The painter paints a vision of reality — anybody could see that. Yet, even though he did portray reality he did paint it with his own subjective approach, an approach that makes it distinctive and recognizable as creative art work.
SHEILA: So Harold, do we now have to study the philosophic nature of the aesthetic experience, because that is what philosophy is really concerned with?
HAROLD: What is more irrational than our emotional responses to artistic creations. If we try to rationalize it, we will be doing exactly what all the rest of philosophy does. Besides, many of the great philosophers have wrestled with the question of the aesthetic experience, and as far as I’m concerned nobody has come close to giving an adequate explanation of it. In fact, according to my philosophy, it’s impossible to.
We don’t have to understand why aesthetics works. We merely have to enjoy. Of course, we can also aesthetically appreciate the attempts of explaining aesthetics, if we like.
SHEILA (yawning): So now after all this bother, where does it leave you?
HAROLD: Well, you come to see that while you live and operate in a world of absolutes and that things tend to be stable in your frame of reference, your perspective point, you can also see that it is not necessarily true in a broader sense.
Things are true and harmonious within a certain framework - perspective point. But there can other frameworks that are different but true within their bounds. And if those frameworks entwine there will be all sorts of contradictions.
An example of a framework is a person. You can believe that God exists and I don’t. Each of our respective positions is true — absolutely. Each position is true for us. There is no such thing as what is really true, it is merely what is true for us. We believe deep down in our hearts, as the saying goes, that we are right, yet the two positions are obviously contradictory.
Are we both wrong?
No, we’re both right!
There are also contradictory frameworks within us. All the time we believe firmly in contradictory paradoxical positions. “A stitch in time saves nine.” “Haste makes waste.” They are both correct. Paradox is not something to be avoided. Rather it is something to be reveled in and enjoyed.
Perfect consistency is not only dull but impossible. We are hypocrites. All the time. My attempt, Sheila, to tell you this, this my philosophy, is inconsistent with things I said before, that it could not be expressed. That’s one of the reasons why it is impossible to grasp my philosophy rationally. My philosophy is basically self-contradictory, wrought with paradoxes and hypocrisy. And that’s the way it should be. Pure rationality is opposed to paradox - it’s illogical, but we all do it anyway. Before I said that we can’t have true knowledge for it is “is relative,” but we can achieve knowledge irrationally. Of course, it’s paradoxical. That’s precisely the point. I am a hypocrite. I am aware of it. It’s the only way that it can be.
All absolute knowledge of Truth will one fine day fall apart and be seen as half truths. In fact, the whole concept of Truth will have to be radically altered. However, we do operate on an existential level with apparent knowledge. In other words we do function. In order to function we make use of our knowledge, knowledge that is true for us. We learn good and bad. We learn how to avoid fire and how to use it.
Now let us once again gaze upon the philosopher, who dangles on to his fixed post as the swirling waters of change rage about him. He is terrified of the ocean. He’s afraid to let go and swim freely. He fears that if he lets loose of his post, he will be swept out to sea, hopelessly lost only to drown. He believes that his post is the only one. But he is blind. If he would only let go of his post and swim out for awhile, he would soon see that there is not only his post but another, and a third, and a fourth. That there are really thousands of posts. If need be an infinity of them. And he can climb onto any post of his choosing, climb up it, see how there world looks from there, and enjoy the new sights. After all that’s what our dear static philosopher, who clings to this single post, has done. He’s chose that particular post. He just doesn’t realize that there are other posts too. Once you realize that you’ll never run out of post no matter how far you swim, you can go about splashing happily, exploring different posts. Enjoying the view from this post, grooving to the perspective of that one. You pick out whatever post makes you happiest - or you should. Whatever post best satisfies and fulfills your desires and needs of your essential irrationality is best for you.
And if one’s inner machinations needs a post that makes claims to absolute truth and denies all that I preach...
So be it.
Yes, for I welcome the disagreement. My philosophy is only absolute for me. Only when it has been rejected by another does it take on its full beauty, impact, and totality. Remember its credo: “Its affirmation is its own negation and its negation is its own affirmation.”
The basic philosophy we have here, call it what you will, Relativism, Skepticism, Dialectic, is not a negative philosophy, not a philosophy full of despair. Rather it’s a doctrine that preaches a positive fulfilling outlook for all. We are not helpless creatures with no hope of ever being fulfilled, rather we are animals with an infinitude of good possibilities before us. There is no despair here, only prospects of joy and happiness. It’s all there if you want it.
Well, that’s it Sheila. I’m finished.
(Sheila has fallen fast asleep again.)
Hey, Sheila, what are you doing? Huh? I’m finished. (He shakes her.)
SHEILA(sleepily): What? For Godsakes, what is it now Harold?
HAROLD: Oh huh — urn - gee — like did I wake you? Oh yeah, I guess I did — huh - well - - well -- do you wanna screw?
SHEILA: Hururnph... (turns over and pulls sheet over her head.)
END OF ACT I
(Scene: Same as Act I. It is dark. Harold and Sheila are asleep. Suddenly Harold sits up. Looking down at his stomach he pats it.)
HAROLD: Hey, I’m hungry. Sheila, I’m hungry.
SHEILA(turning under her sheets and mumbling): Hmmgrahmnph...
(Harold switches on the lamp that is on the bed table, puts on his glasses as he gets up, and wanders off stage right. A few moments later he comes back balancing a plate full of cold chicken and potato chips, an apple, a glass of Coke, and a big magazine. He plops back into bed and munches on a potato chip, crumbs falling onto the bed.)
HAROLD: Do you want a potato chip, Sheila?
HAROLD: I found this really neat magazine while I was in the kitchen. It’s about fifteen years old and put out by PLACA. It’s got all sorts of interesting stories and articles in it. Here’s a cool looking one right here. Do you want to hear it?
HAROLD: Okay. (He opens up the magazine and balancing it on his legs while he munches on a chicken leg, he starts to read.)
I, Albert Gunning, have recently returned from my missionary expedition into the wilds of the most remote Central American jungles. It is a heart rendering story that I feel
needs telling, despite how difficult it is for me as I lost my own niece to that accursed jungle. But I feel I must recount my tale so that others will realize the great work that still lies before us.
My lifelong mission, as many of you know, has been to show as many of the poor unfortunate savages of the world the glory and beauty of Christ’s love, especially as portrayed through man, known to us all as the Platonic relationship. All my life I have endeavored to show dirty, scummy heathens the Truth.
Yet, it was only on my last mission, where I discovered the enormous task that we have before us. It was a mission into the dreaded rain forests of Central America, where rumors had it that there was a lost race that had not yet been discovered by civilized man - a tribe that still practiced its own sort of paganism.
We set out with an immediate disadvantage as our expedition consisted of only two whites - myself and my niece. Ah yes, my poor Diana. How could I best describe her. She was a comely girl. But I believe she was more than that. She is rather more aptly described by one of those foolish young men, who would come and try to court her. “A real zinger,” I believe was the quote. In fact I often overheard that they gave her a secret code number. 38- 25-36 - if I am not mistaken.
Now by no means do I intend to imply that Diana was anything but of the most virtuous nature. She never, I repeat, never indulged in any of those dangerous and disgraceful acts so many of her age group are susceptible to, as we all well know. I only
mention these facts of her femininity in order to emphasize the amazing spiritual power she could exercise over the natives. She was quite a gifted girl.
She was the daughter of my brother, John, who was less pure than myself. He did sin and involved himself in an un-platonic relationship. The product of that sin was Diana. But John was soon to know God’s retribution and wrath. Within a year he and his seductress were killed in an avalanche in the Himalayas. Diana was left to me to bring up in the proper Christian light,
Yes, believe it or not, Diana and I were the only Platonic Christians on the expedition. Our guide and interpreter, Haykoo, was a massive, beautifully built man. Indeed he was a man. His dark arms would bulge. Often he would wear only the tightest of shorts. His abdomen would ripple, his buttocks flexed with each step as only solid masses of flesh can. His legs were sharply defined and powerful. His manhood bulged from beneath his shorts. A true man, one of God’s finest creations. Despite the fact that he was barely better than a heathen, he did profess some belief at times. I loved Haykoo dearly.
We had several other porters, who were of little or no concern to us. They carried their burdens sloppily and the devils tried to sleep or drink whenever they could. I must say that Diana was quite good at keeping them in line though. Using her riding crop, she was able to inflict long nice ugly welts on their dark legs and backs that often oozed with a drop or two of blood.
Admittedly our journey into the heart of the jungle was rather uneventful. We searched for a week, finding nothing.
We knew that the people we looked for were elusive. It was not until the eighth day that we ran into any human contact and our goal — the lost Myatzusu Indians.
Actually they found us. It is a usual tactic that we normally encounter and even expect. At one moment we were alone hacking with nmachetes our way through the thick jungle undergrowth, and the next we were surrounded by at least a dozen Indians brandishing spears. Obviously they had stalked us for miles.
They were a beautiful lot. They wore only the skimpiest of loincloths. Their gorgeous dark stripling bodies glistened in the sun. Their hair was long, straight, and black. And their faces - they had the loveliest set of strong powerful, at times, almost Aryan features. It was a sight to behold.
Immediately Haykoo attempted several of the various dialects that he knew. For several moments the Indians stood in dead silence. Finally one nodded. They understood, we could communicate.
Haykoo talked to the leader of the band. Diana and I waited impatiently, trying to catch what they were saying, despite the fact that it was in a tongue that we could not hope to understand.
Haykoo returned to us. He spoke in a whisper, “Yes, they agree - they take us to their village.”
“Haykoo,” I replied sternly, “How are you suppose to address me whenever you speak to me?”
“Sorry - Big White Master.”
“Thank you.” Despite the fact that I loved Haykoo so much, I felt that I needed to instill in him the proper respect for us.
Our porters were nervous. So was I a bit. One is always so on first encounter. You can never tell what these savages might do. For all we knew that might have even been cannibals. Diana though, strong as ever, whipped the cowardly porters until they were ready to go on.
The Indians surrounded our little caravan and we were led off into the darkest and most hidden parts of the jungle.
After thirty minutes or so of difficult going the jungle trees, vines, and undergrowth began to clear. Eventually we came upon a small open plain, where many grass huts of various size and complexity were situated. As we entered the village itself we came upon a most amazing sight. To this day I still find it difficult to believe. There before us some horrible pagan ceremony was going on. The villagers were kneeling, their heads bowed to the earth. The Indians that had led us here, upon seeing this scene, also fell prostrate on the ground. Our troop were the only ones left standing, except for a priest dressed in coat of bird feathers, who intoned some weird chant.
But it was what they were praying to that was most incredible. On a large stone platform - I had to shake my head to believe it - on the platform was a huge roadside billboard of a twisted salted pretzel. Above the pretzel were the words in English: “Eat Nabisco Pretzels.”
Suddenly a curtain was drawn over the huge billboard, much like the end of a theatrical production. Diana and I were aghast. All the villagers rose now, and upon seeing our whiteness expressed surprise and milled about gesturing. We were use to this reaction, as we missionaries are often the first white people these savages have ever seen.
It was quite a sight, all these brown-skinned natives pointing, giggling, talking to each other. They really are quite innocent and childish. A woman walked up to Diana and myself and beckoned us to follow. She led us into a large, well—constructed hut of many rooms.
At this point I will comment on the shameless dress of the feminine heathens. To my shock and horror they wore nothing more than their male counterparts, the skimpiest of loin clothes, which exposed all that natural modesty and decency begs to be covered.
Yet there they hung. I knew then there was a great deal of work cut out for us, but I had no suspicion of what was to follow.
We past a warrior at the door. His naked buttocks beneath his loincloth quivered with every leg movement. He was another of Cod’s great creations. I was thrilled at the very core at the sight of such divine beauty.
The shameless girl of which I spoke of before led us into an inner chamber, and there upon a mat sat a white man. You can imagine my shock at finding in such a desolate place another of God’s chosen children.
He was quite an old man, but still had a good deal of life left in him. He smiled, displaying his yellowed teeth, “Come in, come in and sit down. You do speak English don’t you?”
“Could I offer you some tea? Well, it’s not exactly tea, but it’s the best substitute I can find, around here. It’s not bad once you deve1or a taste for it. It’s from a special root that grows here abouts. Temya. Temya.
Another brazenly bare native girl entered. He spoke to her in the native tongue, “Fsaelp nirb su emos autnam werb.” She exited. This gives you an example of the strange language these natives spoke.
The old man grinned, “My name’s Joe Crater.” What’s yours?”
My name is Albert Gunning and this is my niece Diana,” I answered circumspectly. I always feel that a bit of formality is necessary at a first introduction.
“You’re a most beautiful girl, Diana.”
Diana flared, “I beg your pardon, Mr. Crater. Would you please keep this conversation, on a decent and proper plane.”
Crater raised his eyebrows. Diana certainly was a good girl, no denying her that.
“Mr. Crater,” I injected,” Could I ask you how you came to be here in this God-forsaken land, so removed from the Kingdom r of the Lord?”
The native girl, who he referred to as Temya, entered at that moment with the “ tea.” It was a foul smelling brew that was barely palatable, but obviously a delight to
the uncultivated native tastes. Even Crater seemed to enjoy it, making it obvious to me that he had long forgotten the joys of a good proper English brew.
At this juncture I think it necessary for me to point out that it soon became clear to me, by what he said, that Mr. Crater was obviously demented and in need of psychiatric care.
Maybe he had escaped from an institution, had been sick, or more than likely he had been tortured by these savages till his mind snapped.
“Well, Albert,” he began, “oh, excuse me — Mr. Gunning. Well, my story began quite a long time ago - it’s so many years now I forget. It must have been 1930 or so. I was a judge back in the States and one day I woke up, looked at my sleeping wife, and - you know how it is - I knew that I had enough. That that was it. Through. Finished. I don’t know why, but that’s just the way it was. So I got dressed, went to the bank, took out my money - about five thousand worth - and lit out on a steamer for Latin America. You know, I still have a good deal of that money with me… right here, unspent. I wanted to see the world and I decided to start with a safari through some jingle. I was quite foolish back then, having no idea what such a trek entailed. I hired some men to come along, and before you knew it we were lost, out of food and sick. Many of those poor chaps died, but luckily a few of these natives found us, brought us to the village, and nursed us back to health. These people can do uprising things with these herbs. While I was recuperating I was able to study this people’s life style, and I kind of liked it. So here I am.”
At that moment from an antechamber in the back, the priest who had conducted the service still enrobed in his brilliant feathered garments entered. The judge stood up, “Aha, Anatayae. This is Mr. Gunning and his niece Diana.”
Antayae, who like all the men I had seen excluding the judge, was a young beautiful specimen.
“Please - to meet — you - Mister Gunnung. Please to meet you - Deeana,” Antayae greeted us stiffly in a faltering speech.
“I have been trying to teach Antayae English, so that one day he might travel forth and see the other world. He’s still learning and I’m afraid he’s not all that fluent.”
Antavae stared fixedly at Diana. Already her great spiritual powers had taken hold of him. She was an incredible girl. She stared back, increasing her blessed spiritual hold over him. I felt then that it would only be a matter of time before she would
have him converted to the Truth, and he would lead his people to their enlightenment.
“Why don’t you children go out and talk,” the judge suggested.
I smilingly agreed, knowing full well what to expect. Diana smiled back at me and firmed up her grip on the riding crop as they walked out.
“Well now, Mr. Gunning,” the judge sat down again, “could you tell me why you have come here?”
“Sir, I am a member of PLACA - the Platonic Lovers Association of Christian Americans - and it is my mission in life to spread the truth and glory of Christianity and especially the teaching that we should envelope the Platonic relationship and forsake the evils of the physical world. I trust that you have been living up to your duty and to the teachings of Christ.”
“Oh, Christ, why yes, of course, I remember. Living up to it? Oh well-urn-why- of course, naturally.”
“Good, good.” It was here that I began to suspect his sanity. “I see though that it appears that the natives have not yet embraced the Light of the Almighty. There seemed to be some sort of pagan ritual going on outside before. The people appeared to be praying to that huge Nabisco salted pretzel. Could you elucidate that matter for me please?”
“Oh, yes - urn - that pretzel.” He was manifestly reluctant to reveal the meaning of this pagan rite.
“Well, okay, I’ll try. You see, the natives here have an interesting sort of religion. The pretzel is a kind of symbol for their notion of the Divine.”
“Ah, an idol. I thought so.”
“No, no, not at all. The pretzel is merely a visual representation, if it is possible for there to be such a thing, of a vision these natives have of the Divine. Actually it’s a kind of geometric description of a certain visionary concept. This concept or “vision’, once you have understood it, can be conceived of as resembling a salted pretzel. By having a picture of it, it merely helps in training the uninitiated and serves as a rallying point in the rituals, which are really quite secondary to the true religion. Really it’s much less of an idol than the crucifix is.”
“Sir, how dare you imply idolatry.” He was sick, I was sure of it. The poor man.
“Oh yes, of course, I’m sorry.”
“But how on earth did they you ever manage to get that billboard out here?”
“Oh that was easy. I just had one of the Indians take a letter I wrote to the Nabisco Company to a jungle outpost about fifty miles north of here. They mailed it. In the letter I told the Nabisco people how to get to the village and then told them that there were plans underway to build one of those new-fangled highways thru here and that if they hurried they could have their billboard up before any of their competitors. So about three weeks later a helicopter fleet flew in carrying this huge billboard. In a few hours they had it set up and they left some gas generators to power the lights. I suppose you haven’t seen them operating yet. Besides you and Diana, the Nabisco people were the only contact these people have had with the outside world.”
“But weren’t you just lucky in getting a pretzel sign? They might have flown in a fig netwon billboard.”
“In my letter I mentioned something to the effect that I thought there might be a big market here for pretzels. So we got our sign and, of course, there’s no highway. Everything turned out perfect.”
“Of course.” I pondered the question whether he was dangerous or not.
Suddenly Diana ran into the room shrieking, part of her shirt torn away. “That savage tried to rape me.”
Antayae staggered in, stark naked, looking perplexed. His masculinity hung magnificently between his legs. Yes, he certainly was one of God’s finest. It was a pleasure to revel in the Lord’s masterwork.
“Oh dear,” the Judge exclaimed, “I should have warned you. It is customary in this land for strangers upon meeting to make love - as a way of getting to know each other better.”
“Don’t worry,” I assured the Judge, “Diana can take care of herself arid as well the disgusting uncivilized ways of these magnificent animals.”
“Yes, Mr. Crater,” Diana remonstrated regaining her assurance, I can perfectly well take care of myself.” With that Diana firmly lifted her riding crop and began to beat Antayae back into the antechamber. “Back, back you brute.”
They disappeared with only occasional muffled cries and screams issuing forth from the room.
“Are you sure your niece will be all right”
“Absolutely, I have the greatest confidence in her,” I replied. “I would like to herar more about this religion of the pretzel though, so I could know how to attack it better and give these poor, stupid creatures the Truth.”
“Well, I must admit first of all that they were quite impressed with the production I was able to give them, so that’s why I live here as well as I do. They do take good care of me.”
“Ha! Now I see - personal lust, they consider you a kind of deity, who bought flying miracles to their doorstep. Yes, we often find these dumb people quite gullible.”
“No, no, you’re jumping to the wrong conclusion. These people are not dumb at all, actually they are quite intelligent. They don’t think of me as a god, not at all, they’re just grateful to me for bringing them the billboard — that’s all. If I was left alone in the jungles I would die for sure. I have none of the skill or knowledge needed to survive. No, my friend, they are just as every bit as intelligent and skilled as you or me - just in a different manner.”
He was stark raving mad. I trembled to even imagine the tortures that those savages must have inflicted on him to make him believe such drivel. I further inquired into this incredible tale>
“Well, it’s hard to describe you understand. Bu it’s based on the belief that each person is sacred. Everyone is divine. Everybody is, as far as he is concerned, the center of the Universe. In short, every individual sees himself as an absolute. He has to. Every person considers his view of the world as being correct. He must in order to function. Therefore, everybody is God unto himself and the preacher of Truth. All else is falsehood.”
“Do you mean to tell me that if one of these heathens thinks he is a god, that he has proven that Jesus Christ is not our Lord and Savior???
“In a manner of speaking yes, but if you convince him that Christ is indeed his Lord, the absolute truth, than his truths will change. Put still they will be truths for him. If he has faith in Christ, It is true.”
“So with all these truths, what if I decided that I should be king and that everybody else should be my slave - that if I so decree they shall all die.”
“Trouble with that though that everybody else has a truth which disagrees and says that they will not be your slave and that they will indeed live. So to preserve their truths they will fight back. That’s why there are wars back in the civilized world. One nation believes that it possesses the truth or the right and decides this truth or subservience should be inflicted upon others. The other nation naturally disagrees - they have truth. The first nation they believe is wrong, or should at least leave them be. The result is usually war.
“Finally they reach a “detente” — I won’t kill you if you won’t kill me. You can see the same kind of mechanism often working between people. A morality develops based on this “detente.”
Do whatever you like as long as you don’t infringe upon my freedom to do what I want. The result is spheres of freedom in which we can operate. Once we step past the boundary line of our freedom, we infringe upon another’s sphere of freedom. Of course, in practice it’s much more complex than that and it often doesn’t work out quite that way, but you can see that that is one way to look at it.”
I quickly noted, “If you have the love of Christ in you, you learn to love another as yourself. It is love not a standoff.”
“Maybe that is so, but even Christianity becomes too convinced of it truth. If it took that tenet of love seriously it would never proselytize.
“I beg your pardon, sir.”
“Just imagine, if you can, how these Indians think. You see, here in this small society the people are not just in a “detente.” They have a concept of how each person is sacred. A particular Indian realizes that his comrades and enemies are just as divine as he and possess just as much truth as he does, even though it might differ with his. They comprehend ultimately how in a greater scheme of things his truths are no better than his neighbors. All truths are relative. Finally he incorporates this truth into the corpus of his own divine truths. When he does this he realizes that all other people’s truth have validity too. It is this fact that becomes part of his truth.
“Once they have done this, they realize that in a sense their self-centered truth is divine and absolute but in another sense it is not, it is merely a part of the totality of truths, the totality being made up of all the equal truths of all the people. They see themselves in this totality. They are one of the truths within it. And they are a truth that is forever changing, transforming, never being stable for one is always seeing things anew, learning, changing his beliefs.
“It is very much like the Vision of the pretzel. There is the totality of the pretzel. We are each within the pretzel traveling along the paths of it, going in and out, coming back to where we were before, always changing. Yet, all our truths make up the pretzel.”
I decided to play along with his madness to prevent him from getting violent. “What do the natives see in this vision, what is its value?”
“It helps them get along with each other. If you can imagine your neighbors point of view and see that he has truth too, you can understand him better and he you. If you realize that another person has legitimate reasons for his views and you come to appreciate them and he does the same, usually the result is a harmonious—relationship. It’s hard to hate somebody you know and understand. But ultimately - you have to forsake the truth to get to understanding.”
“But with this paganism,” I countered, “you have no real truths - you are lacking God Almighty as the Absolute.”
“Admittedly they have no divine absolutes. Sometimes there is truth, sometimes there isn’t. It eternally goes back and forth, eternally recurring, truth and lack of truth. Once again much like the pretzel. It never ends, just keeps turning in upon itself, forever changing, repeating itself.’
“But with no God, no Absolutes Truths, these Indians must lead a atheistic, meaningless life. They have yet to learn the glory of Christian love, the thrill of the ideal Platonic relationship. Don’t their lives have any meaning?”
“Well, they do and they don’t. In a certain sense the meaning of their life is whatever they chose to give it, but there are certain common cultural denominators that they all share. Things that you might well call the meaning of life.”
“Just don’t sit there, man, what is it?”
“Well, if you were to insist on an answer to the meaning of life, then they might say that the predestined, theological function of man - all this of course being based on the notions of their religion.”
“Come on, sir. Out with it.”
“The word they use sounds like our English word “evil,” but they’re not at all related.”
I could barely stand the frustration of his refusal to answer me. It was quite irritating.
“The words in Myatzusu are ‘Evol’ and ‘Gnjdnatsrednu’? Loosely translated they mean —“ (I feel it is necessary to quote despite my acute distress at doing so the actual word Crater used. I feel this alone will prove how frightfully sick he was.) “The word loosely translated,” the Judge smiled, “the meaning of life is to f-—k. It fulfills man’s evolutionary function as an individual, yet I must say that ‘Evol’ and ‘Gnidnatsrednu’ do mean a bit more than that.”
You can imagine my shock at such language, no less the thought. But it was nothing compared to the horror that was to follow.
Suddenly Diana, my own niece, rushed in stark naked, tears pouring down her face, and fell to the ground. That animal Antayae leaned against the entranceway, a hideos smirking smile on his lips.
I shook her, closing my eyes so as not to see, “What happened Diana? What did he do to you?
“Oh Uncle Albert, it was beautiful, just beautiful.”
“What — What was?”
“Why - why Evol and - and,” she looked back at Antayae who was putting on his feathered coat, “What is it called?”
The monster grinned and with two grunts said it, “Evol — Gnjdnatsrednu.”
“Yes, yes Uncle, that’s what it is called. — It’s beautiful. The mad judge spoke now, “It does appear as though they did indeed f--ked, doesn’t it’?”
My heart was crushed. Diana was tainted. I drew away from her. She sobbed obviously in terrible sorrow of her unforgivable sin. She had fallen.
Antayae spoke, proudly showing off his poor, broken English, “Crater, is it time - for — the ce—remo—ny?”
“Very good,” the Judge responded, “Yes, it is time.”
Antayae strode over to Diana and with one powerful hand lifted her up. “Come”
She was led away in his arms.
Crater chuckled at his evil victory. “Come,” he said to me, “you might find this ceremony interesting.”
We walked out into the night air. The villagers milled about half naked. I was despondent.’ What could I do? What could I say? My own niece. But I still at least had God as my companion. I was not totally forsaken.
Antayae and Diana walked up to the platform. He signaled.
Powerful drummers began beating their drums filling the air with a cacophony of rnulti-rhythmic sounds. Antayae pulled the draw-rope on the curtain. The awesome pretzel was revealed. He threw a switch and dazzling blinking lights played off the sign - reds, purples, greens. Antayae raised his arms and then it began - a sight that was enough to sicken any sane man’s heart. It was as though the devil himself had been loosed upon the Earth.
Everywhere I looked people were engaging in the most sordid sexual activities imaginable - men and women, men and men, women and women. All about was flailing flesh. Mindless passiond and sounds. The cacophony of sound grew. The lights pulsed faster. I looked back at the Judge. A girl lay in his arms, he stroked her face. On the platform Diana and Antayae embraced.
There was only one course of action open to me. I must do it to save them, It was my duty. I wound my way past the writhing bodies up to the platform. I stood upon it, looking out over the dreadful scene. The giant pretzel blinked purple, red, green above me. I felt the vibrations of drums through my body. Diana and Antavae still embraced.
I screamed: “God Almighty is watching this sin! Save yourselves! Find the love of Jesus - the true meaning of life - the Platonic relationship. You will all go to a horrible torturous end if you do not stop.” The drums roared louder. “Your souls will suffer everlasting torment.” The pretzel blinked brighter, on and off. “The end approaches. You must repent now before it is too—”
Suddenly I was hit with a stunning blow. I found myself on the ground. A naked native woman was trying to wrest my clothes from me. I kicked her hard in the stomach. She doubled over and groaned. I had to do it — she needed it. I got up and reeled backwards into a powerful pair of arms. I looked up - it was Antayae. Strong dark arms embraced me. Once again I felt the thrill of God inside me at touch of such a beast. I could understand why Diana had- But no. I broke from his treacherous grasp and plunged forward into the crowd. I ran.
I made it to the hut. I picked up whatever belongings I could carry. On the ground 1yig in the dust I saw Diana’s riding crop. I picked it up, kissed it. Oh Diana! I cried.
That night I ran and ran. My sides aching, barely being able to catch my breath. I had to escape the horror I had seen, leaving Diana behind to perish.
I wandered for days, lost and confused. A jungle patrol finally found me, otherwise I surely would have died.
But thanks to God, praise be his name, I did live and am able to tell my tale. It is a tale that we should never forget. A horror story that should make us redouble our efforts. We thought PLACA was gaining, but we must begin anew. You have now seen for yourselves what remains to be done. It lays right here before you for examination.
We must destroy this madness.
(Harold closes the magazine, finishes his last swallow of coke, and burps.)
HAROLD: That was really neat. I really liked it. (He reflects for a moment.) And it was very stimulating.
SHEILA(still mumbling to herself): Hmphatoggopa- -
HAROLD: You know something, Sheila, in this thing I just read, it says that there is this tribe that thinks the meaning of life is to isto - urn - that word, you know which one I mean. I even said it myself once - remember?
HAROLD: Say do you wanna do it? You know, that word.
HAROLD: Urn - oh - I guess not, huh, Sheila. You’re sleeping, huh? Hmrn- (Turns out light.) Oh well- (takes off glasses and goes to sleep.)
The bedroom is dark. All is still, quite still. Harold and Sheila sleep.
Suddenly a flash of lightning, clap of thunder, a rumbling.
Harold starts and jerks up in the bed.
Darkness. All is still.
Another flash, thunder, the room trembles.
He catches his breath. Sheila wakes, her eyes wide with fear, her hands grasps Harold’s arm.
“What is it, Harold? A storm?”
“I don’t know. There’s no rain.”
“Maybe it’s a dream’”
An eerie illumination fills the room - a glow. A presence hovers in the air. Then a voice - huge, dark, and resonant:
“This Is No Dream, My Dear. This Is Reality. This Is The Reality. This Is Your Lord, Your Maker.”
Harold and Sheila convulsively clutch each other. Trying to hide beneath the covers, they pull the bedspread over their heads.
“Do Not Try And Hide From Me. There Is No Escape. There Is No Place Where I Cannot See. No Place Where I Cannot Find You. So Come Out From Beneath Your Coverings And Step Forth Before Your King And Master -- The Almighty Lord God.
A flash - more thunder. The room rumbles violently.
Trembling under the covers Harold sputters, “Urn - uh - God - ah — is that r-really you out there?”
A thunderbolt crashes through the window. Glass splatters around the room. A howling wind screams through the window, the curtains flying wildly.
“W-well, yeah, I guess that r-really is you, huh?”
“Come Forth. Now!”
“W-well, if you -urn — don’t mind, s—sir, we’d kind of 1-like to stay r-right where we are. C—c-considering that you can s—see everywhere it should make no difference at-”
Thunder, lightning, hail buffet the room. “Come Forth Or Suffer A Torturous Fate.”
“Oh, yes sir. C—coming. Coming.”
Slowly Harold and Sheila pull back the covers. Sheila smiles meekly, “Hi.”
Thunder, flashing lights, howling winds.
“W-what Can we do for you- God. Sheila and me have been good, really - honest—to-God.”
“Enough - You Have Used My Name In Vain.”
“You Have Been Chosen To Appear Before Your Lord God, Your Maker. So Come Before Me.”
“Could we - urn - have a minute to like just get dressed first. We’re - urn - kind of naked - nothing.”
Thunder. Wind. Hail.
“Naked I Put You Into The World Naked You Will Come Before Me. Naked. Naked. — Come!”
“Can I just pet my glasses?” Harold picks up his glasses from the bed table. Sheila runs over to the dresser and opens the drawer. “All right, we’re coming, we’re coming. Now if you’ll just give us directions, we’ll run out and catch the IRT and be there before you know-”
A blinding light fills the room. The walls split open. Flames shoot up from the floor. A gleaming path appears before them.
Harold ushers Sheila ahead of him: “Ladies, first.” Sheila shoves Harold and they stumble forward fearfully along the path.
Pink and blue clouds billow up from all sides. The gleaming silver path extends before them ever trailing upwards.
They amble forward, slowly, staring about.
“Hey, Sheila, when I got my glasses what did you grab from the dresser.”
“This.” She holds up a long narrow, pointed object.
“A hat pin.”
“A hat pin? For Godssake - why Sheila? We’re probably in enough trouble already and you want to—”
“Look, you’ve got to be prepared for all circumstances. You can never tell when you might need it.”
“But Sheila this is God we’re dealing with.”
A resonant voice echoes through the air: “Stop Talking — Hasten Forward.”
They walk onward, the path ever winding its way into the spaciousness above - the clouds ever swirling about them.
A small black dot appears along the path on the horizon. They walk on, sometimes trembling, sometimes marching with fortitude. The dot grows and grows. Soon the dot appears yellowish, then amber, then golden. They come closer and closer, it grows. It is a golden throne, surrounded by an iridescent glow. In it sits a dark figure.
With heads bowed they finally reach the base of the hundred foot golden monument. And in the throne He sits. Harold summons his courage and gazes up, despite fears of blindness. All he sees are two monumental enrobed legs up to the knees.
A thunderous, vibrating voice; “Are You Harold?”
“Yes s—sir, urn - uh - God sir. C-could I ask you why y-you summoned us here?”
“You Ask Me? I Do The Asking, Boy. It Has Come To My Attention That You Are An Atheist.
Thunder. Lightning. Flames erupting from below.
“Where did you ever hear a thing like that? Why just the other day Sheila and I were talking all about you and how—”
“How Dare You Try To Deceive Me. Do You Know What We Do o Atheists, Especially Those Who Try To Lie About It?”
“Slap their wrists?”
“Eternal Hellfire And Damnation. A Torturous Infinitude. Boiling Oil And Red Hot Thongs To Pluck Out Your Eyes. Ha! Ha! Ha!”
“Before Sentencing Is Passed Do You Have Anything To Say?”
“Sentencing? W—what happened to the judgment?”
“You Have Been Judged And Found Wanting!”
Sheila wags her finger at Harold, “I always told you so. I knew you were wrong. Didn’t I tell you, you’d get in trouble? Didn’t I?”
“That Is A Bright Girl There, Harold. You Should Pay More Attention To Her.”
“Thank you, God”
“Well, Do You Have Anything To Say Before Your Judgment Is Passed.”
Harold’s big wet, brown eyes gaze up at the towering figure. “Urn - well - God, you know, I always - er - did everything in good faith. I was only looking for answers. Like I’ve often told Sheila, I believed in you when I was a little kid. I can’t help it if puberty messed everything up in me. It’s not my fault. I was just searching for the Truth.”
“I Am The Truth -- Pure And Simple.”
“How was I suppose to know that?”
Sheila smilingly nods her head.
“But God, how could I have known that you existed? As far as I was concerned here was no such thing as Truth.”
“Then What Am I? A Bag Of Hot Air?”
Harold falls to his knees. “1 guess you really are all there, but I couldn’t have found that out. Rationality led to nowhere. No matter how hard I thought about you, I couldn’t find any reasons f or believing in you. I tried though. I really did.”
“You Cannot Find Me Through Reason, Fool. You Must Believe.”
Hands clasped together Harold beseeches, “I’m just a child of my times. Please God, Believe me. Everybody always relied on reason there. It’s not my fault.”
“If You Really Wanted Knowledge About Truth You Could Have Found I, If You Wanted To.”
“But where God? Where could I have found it?”
“You Could Have Gone To The Mountain Of Diamond.”
“The mountain of what?”
“The Mountain Of Diamond. There Is Where Truth Can Be Found. Whatever It Speaks Is Absolute Truth.”
“I never heard of it.”
“You Should Have. You Should Have Looked For It. If You Had Maybe Then You Not Be In This Position Where You Will Soon Be Being Eaten Alive By Little Daemons, Burning Bamboo Shoots Placed Under Your Nails, Arteries And Veins Ripped From Your Body, Molten Lead Poured Down Your Gullet, And Yet Never Never Dying - Never - Never - Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! —— Bye The Way Sheila, I Have Noticed That You Have A Most Beautiful and Sensuous Body.”
Sheila gasps, “God, how can you, you be such a male chauvinistic pig?”
“I Gave You That Body And I Will Admire My Handiwork If So Desire. And I Will Take That Body Away From You If I So Desire.”
“I’m sorry, Lord.” She bows her head in reverence.
“What Is That You Are Holding, Sheila?”
Sheila blushes, realizing that she still grasps the hat pin in her hand. “Oh, it’s really nothing, Lord. Nothing at all.”
“Nonsense. Let Me See It.”
Harold pleads with her. “ Oh, for gods-sake Sheila, don’t be ornery. Not at a time like this. Show it to him. Here let me take it.”
Harold snatches the pin from Sheila and runs up to the gigantic figure. “Here God, here it is, see it’s only a—” he trips over his feet, “oooff,” and jabs the pin into God’s four foot big toe.
Harold shrieks in horror. He throws himself onto the big toe, pleading, sobbing, barely noticing its strange elastic feel. “Oh God, I’m sorry. Say you’ll have mercy. Please God. Please. Say you will be easy with me. I don’t want to suffer too much. I believe in you. Oh God, say you not angry - say that you will be forgiving. Say something.”
A hissing sound fills the air. Harold notices a stream of hot air gushing from the pin puncture. He stares at the widening hole.
“Hey God - you’re leaking.”
“Hey God - like yo God - up there - yoo hoo - you’re leaking down here.
“Harold. Look.” Sheila grabs his arm and pulls him back a few yards.
The huge figure shrivels, its hard told face wrinkling under ever expanding folds of skin. Smaller and smaller it shrinks. The air escapes from the big toe till there is no more than a heap of folded skin and cloth.
Harold and Sheila stand in silence, staring at the empty bag of skin hanging from the golden throne.
“Sheila, it was a rubber balloon. God is nothing but a big rubber balloon.”
“Yeah, and you’ve killed him. Boy, are you going to get it now, Harold.”
“At least I won’t be going to Hell, Not yet at least.”
Carefully the tiptoe behind the golden throne.
“Hey, Harold, look a door.”
Harold stealthily sneaks up to it.
“Don’t open it, Harold. Who knows what you’re liable to find in there.”
“Shhh.” Taking a deep breath, Harold closes his eyes and yanks the door open.
A whir of machinery hums inside. They peer in. A mass of cogs, flywheels, wires, flashing lights greet them.
“Harold! God is a machine - a big fucking machine.”
“Hmmmm, yes, it does appear so. Looks like there’s a computer over there.”
“Hey, c’mon Harold, let’s get out of here, this place gives me the creeps.”
They back out and shut the door.
“Harold, let’s go back and see if we can find our room. Please. Come on.”
“No, we’ve got to go or and follow the path and see where it goes.”
“Oh no, let’s go back. Please.”
“No, Sheila, we’ve got to find the Mountain of Diamond. It’s my only hope of finding the Truth and saving myself from going to Hell.”
“But you killed Him. You’ve killed God, Harold. You’re safe.”
“Maybe He’ll come back to life and even if he really is gone, this Mountain of Diamond thing might be the answer to what I have been searching for. It might be Truth itself. I’m going on Sheila, no matter what. You can go back if you want.”
Sheila glances over her shoulder to the down sloping silver path disappearing into the clouds. “Not on your life. Jesus, Harold, when did you ever get so brave? Stabbing God like that and then going forth into the unknown. I’ve never known you were like this before.”
“Stabbed God? Me? Oh yeah. That’s right. It’s all for the sake of Truth and philosophy, Sheila.”
Sheila smiles admiringly. “You’re amazing, Harold.” She kisses him on the cheek.
Harold beams. “Yeah, you know I waited just for the right moment. I lulled him into carelessness by all that drivel I was handing him and then when the time was right I made my famous Karate lunge, plunging the hat pin deep into his most vulnerable spot which...”
So off they trot, pink and blue clouds billowing about them. By and by the clouds grow darker, more ominous - mistier, come closer, envelope them completely. It is difficult to see. They wander on, no longer sure whether they are following the path, just ever trucking forward, holding hands so not as to lose each other. The mist is warm though and smells sweet. They are lost now, quite lost, but still all is quiet - peaceful and calm.
“So this must be Heaven, huh, Harold.”
“I guess so. It’s not so bad. – Have you noticed how everything smells of marigolds around here.”
“Hmmm -- yeah, you’re right. It does smell like marigolds.”
An old cracking, squeaky voice: “No, no, no. It’s lavender, not marigolds, lavender. Every week they come up here and spray the place with lavender. Lavender.”
“Why , hello there children. How are you today?” From out of the mist appears a wizened old, pot—bellied, snub-nosed fellow in an old ragged cloak. “Are you lost? Ha! Just as I thought. All the newcomers always get lost first time they come into the cloud bank. Just follow little ol’ me and I’ll get you out of here. A’yup, first time I came up here - why I’d say that must be more than two thousand years by now - Earth time of course — first time I got in that cloud bank I must have been in there for at least a century. I wasn’t aware of anything, just smelling that lavender. A’yup, just smelling the lavender. Ah yes, here we are.”
They emerge from the cloud bank, finding themselves on an embankment overlooking a deep canyon.
“Thanks a lot, mister, you really helped us. How can we ever repay you. We might have been in there forever. We’re lookig for the Mountain of Diamond.”
“The Mountain of Diamond – oh, really now. It seems like everybody these days is looking for that damn-blamed thing. Come on, sit down over there on that log and we’ll chat for a while.”
Harold and Sheila oblige. The old man gazes at them both, enjoying their young naked bodies - and sighs. He waddles over and wedges himself between Harold and Sheila and puts his arms around them.
“You’re a cute one, my lad, tell me what’s your name.” He lays his hand on Harold’s upper thigh.
“Harold,’ he mutters cautiously.
“What a nice name,” He rubs his hand up and down the side of his thigh.
“And what’s your name, girlie” With his other hand he does the same to Sheila.
“Back on Earth in the old days, I was AC—DC myself.”
Harold and Sheila start and try to sidle away. Ignoring Sheila the old man embraces Harold with his long skinny arms.
“Oh come back here, you little ol’ cutie-pie you.”
Harold tries to struggle free, but the old guy is wiry and strong. Harold searches for verbal tactics, “Urn - er — like what’s your name?”
“Name? Oh, back on Earth they called me Socrates.”
Harold is aghast, he stops strug1ing. “You’re really Socrates? The Socrates.”
“Yeah, that’s the one.” He tries to cuddle Harold.
Harold scrambles free. “Could I ask you some questions, huh could I? Please, huh? After all you are the Socrates, when will I ever get the chance to ask Socrates question again?”
“Oh, I guess so. But hurry up, there are other more important things, you know.” He squints his eyes at him.
Sheila’s mouth droops open.
“Well — urn - let me think —urn — uh, did you know Plato?”
“Yeah, sure — Yeeech! What an obsequious fellow he was. Always doting on me, telling me how great I was and all that, and then you could never get him into bed with you. He really was obnoxious. He was always telling me that I shouldn’t go around seducing some many boys -- it’s not respectable -for a man of my:age -- ‘not respectable.’ Why I was in the best of health till I downed the hemlock. Could beat any two of those guys with one of my hands tied around my back.”
“Could I ask you some philosophical questions then?”
“Well, if you insist, just to keep you happy,” Socrates replies tiredly leaning his face on his hand.
“Do you know what Truth is?”
“Could you tell me what it is then?”
“What do you think it is?” I don’t think there’s any such thing as Truth.”
“Then why d’ya ask?”
“Because I thought that I might be wrong. Am I right?”
“But I could be wrong, couldn’t I’
“Socrates, can you say no!?”
“We’re not getting anywhere.”
“Well, could you at least tell me where I can find the Mountain of Diamond then?”
“Well, where is it?”
“Where do you think it is?”
“This is ridiculous.”
“That’s philosophy, bub.” Socrates rises uncertainly off his haunches. He puts his arm around Harold’s young tender shoulder. “Now look, Harold—dearie, don’t you find all this talk kind of dull - a little bit on the dry side.”
“But really Mr. Socrates, you’re not even trying.”
“Well, maybe if we could find a nice tree under which we could lie down and be alone for a while, maybe I could think better.” He glowers at. Sheila.
She steps back a bit. Just then a rustling is heard and a tall, well—built man emerges from the cloud bank.
“Oh Jesus,” moans Socrates, “it’s that idiot Aristotle. He always shows just in time to ruin my fun.”
With brisk steps Aristotle stride over and slaps Socrates heartily on he back, nearly causing old man to collapse.
“Well, Socrates, old boy, how have you been these past few decades?”
“Fine, just fine. Now I’m afraid you’ll just have to excuse us. My friend and I have some important business to take care of.”
“Well, aren’t you going to introduce me to your pretty young friend here.”
“No, I’m not. So beat it.”
“You’re really a wily old geezer, Soc.” Aristotle brushes by Socrates and put his arm around the bewildered Harold.
“Aristotle’s the name and—”
Sheila is s taken with the two great men she can no longer contain herself. With a shriek she runs up and grabs Aristotle’s arm. “Are you really Aristotle — the famous Aristotle of Greece?”
“Yes, honey.” Ignoring her he returns his attentions to Harold. But she is too fascinated by the bushy black beard, the powerful arms to leave him be.
“Oh, could I please have your autograph?” She jumps up and down excitedly giggling. “Pleeease.”
Irritated Aristotle snaps, “Be quiet, woman.”
“Oh, come on, please, just one itsv—bitsv autograph. Harold, make him give me his autograph.”
“Woman! Be still. You are nothing more than a man’s chattel and should be quiet as such.”
Hearing her battle call Sheila is shocked. Did he really say that? Could the great Aristotle really mean it? Yes he did. Her anger builds. She cannot control it, it overflows. Her nostrils flare.
Aristotle returns to his prey and its seduction.
She rears back and kicks him in the shins.
“Ooww! Ouch coo... Why you little- You should be horsewhipped for that. One peep from you and I will do just that woman!” He bends over and rubs his ankle.
Sheila lets loose and lets him have one right in the old ass. Aristotle crashes flat on his face. Socrates chuckles.
He shakes his head and picks himself off the ground. “How dare you woman, you have gone too far. Now I am going to—”
“You fucking male chauvinist pig,” Sheila screams, “woman are just as every bit as good as men. Why they’re better. They live longer, have greater endurance, are smarter.”
“Woman, how dare you imply that you are my equal. We all know woman exist to bear children and raise them. Their function is obvious.”
“I know all about you Greeks. Why you’re nothing but a bunch freaking faggot perverts. Chasing after any boys you can lay your grimy fingers on.”
“Young fair men, like this upstanding example over here, are in any way imaginable far superior to anything your sex has to offer. The man is a noble creature. The woman a mere necessity to propagate the race. The man-man relationship is the only healthy one feasible, only when you have minds of equal levels interrelating with each other can you—”
“You’re disgusting and filthy, you - you pervert you”
Seeing his chance Socrates is able to draw Harold a few feet away. “You know, Harold, that little girlie friend of yours is a fiesty little cuss - kind of reminds me of my wife, Xanthippe. Haven’t seen her in a lone time - thank Zeus.
In a huff Sheila marches over, shoves Socrates in the chest, yanks Harold away. “Come on, Harold, let’s get away from these nuts.” She elbows her way past Aristotle dragging Harold along.
“Hey, She-ila, wait a minute, these are famous philosophers. I might learn something important, like where is the Mountain of Diamond.”
“Come on, Harold, I’m not letting you get seduced by any freaking faggots.” She leads him by the arm down a path into the canyon.
Aristotle waves. “Bye Harold, old boy. See you around soon.”
Socrates suddenly kicks Aristotle too, sending him flying to the ground. “Ari - you’re such an idiot. You and your big mouth. Just when I get something good going you always come by and mess it up. By Zeus...”
Harold and Sheila stumble down the stony path into the canyon. The further they descend more and more undergrowth appears till they are surrounded by a lush preen growth of trees, bushes, and vines. They hear a faint rumbling in the distance. They march on past brambles and vines, tripping, fighting past hushes but moving on. The rumbling grows louder. They push on. Louder still.
Finally they emerge onto an open plain, where hundred of men are milling about, dressed in various different garb, togas, business suits, gladiator outfits, royal robes, knight’s armor, leopard skins, loincloths. Off in the distance stands a wooden platform. Now a slim bearded figure steps onto it. The crowd grows excited, people are shouting. Sheila and Harold push their way pass the people trying to get to the head of the crowd. The shouting becomes louder forming into a chant — the words become more and more distinct till finally it is unmistakable: “Hail Jesus! Hail Jesus! Hail Jesus!”
The figure on the platform shoots his arm into the air, fingers spread. Slowly he closes them into a clenched fist. The crowd goes wild. Screams, whistles, clenched fists.
The figure speaks: “Right on, Brothers. We know why where are here today. The revolution has come!”
More cries, cries of “Long live the revolution!”
“We’ve had enough of this shit dumped on us from the Establishment. The time has come for us to change all that and we will do it. Those fucking fascist pigs have oppressed us too long. We shall rise up and conquer. We shall invade the princely chambers, we shall overrun the guard at the gates, we shall sit upon the golden throne. We shall win!” His eyes are inflamed. He breathes heavily. “The time has come. We will no-1onger be treated like second-class citizens. Angels are no better than we. We want the same rights, the same standards. And we will also put an end to this accursed segregation that inflicts this land.” He throws up his fist 1nto the air and screams, “Down with the fascist pigs!”
Down with the Establishment! Down with God! Down with God!” The crowd bellows back in unison: “Down with God! Down with God! Hail Jesus! Hail Jesus!” Hundreds of clenched fists simultaneously cleave the air. “Hail Jesus!”
Jesus steps down off the platform.
Harold realizes that he must speak to Jesus. He must tell him what he has done. He must tell him that God is already dead. He grabs Sheila’s hand and plunges through the crowd. Businessmen, gladiators, kings, knights all fail to notice the naked couple pushing their way past them. They are too incensed.
“Jesus, please wait, can I talk to you. It’s important.”
They race after him. Harold catches his robe. The man turns around.
A rather grungy thin fellow in dirty brown robes and a ratty beard stares at him with wild wide eves.
“Yes, Brother, what is it?” he asks indifferently. He notices the naked Sheila. His eyebrows rise. He begins to show interest. “Certainly, Brother, tell me the news. It probably is important.”
“God is dead. I killed him.”
This also attracts Jesus’ attention.
“I stabbed him with a hat pin and he just withered away. God is nothing but a big rubber balloon.”
Slightly disgusted Jesus sighs, “Is that all? He’s always busting open somewhere. The angels will just patch him up and pomp him full of hot air again. They always do.”
“Do you mean to tell me that God is always busting open and they just re-inflate him?”
“Yeah, sure man, all the time.”
“Then God couldn’t be the Supreme Being. I mean, how could He be if He’s always at the mercy of some angels pumping him up again.”
“Yeah, I guess so,” becoming inflamed again, “but no mater, we’re taking over the throne room and not giving it up until our demands are met.” He pounds his fist into his other hand.
“Then tell me, Jesus, what is the ultimate Truth if it isn’t God. Is it the angels? They pump him up.”
“Don’t you know, man? I thought everybody knew. Naw, it’s not the angels. And God? He’s not much we’ll get rid of him. Man, don’t you know where it’s at?”
“No, can’t say that I do.”
“The Mountain of Diamond, man.”
“The Mountain of Diamond?”
“Yeah, Brother.” Jesus now reaches out to Sheila and rests his dirty finger-nailed hands on her bare shoulders.
Harold keeps on pestering him. “Where is it? I’ve been looking for it myself. Where is the Mountain of Diamond?”
“Fuck off, Brother.” He gives Sheila a toothy grin, a tooth is missing.
Sheila stares transfixed into his wild eyes. This is the Lord, Jesus Christ, the Savior actually touching her, almost embracing her.
“Hey, Sister, do you wanna ball?”
Her mouth hangs agape. “Urn — uh - like - well - urn - you know - I - er - am not - uh — just a. - sexual - object — I’m - uh like - a - a full human - being.”
“Sure you are, kid. You wanna ball?”
“You don’t — even - know me.”
“You’re my sister, aren’tchya?”
Harold stares at the scene, eyes wide. He glances at the mumbling Sheila, over to the smirking smile opposite her, back to Sheila. What should he do? He must act — to save her honor. He grabs her hands and pulls out of Jesus’ reach. She shakes her head, the trance is broken. They scamper down the path together.
“Hey, Brother, what the fuck do you think you’re doing. Hey, come back damnit. I was only being neighborly. What’s the matter with you people?”
They run down the path leaving Jesus behind them, leaving the plain, 1eaving the milling crowds, leaving the revolution. Further and further they run till out of breath they finally rest.
But there is no stopping now, they must go on. They have come this far to find the Mountain of Diamond, they must go the rest of the way. Tired Harold and Sheila get up and march on.
Presently they come upon a village, a quaint affair of a German vintage. Lovely, but strangely deserted. All is still, quite still. They are silent. They wander about the deserted cobblestone streets looking into a pastry shop, examining a home, searching an inn for food. All of them are empty.
Then in the distance a faint clicking. What could it be? Steps. Footsteps. The clickety-clack of precisely executed footsteps. Then another sound - soft but audible. Where is it coming from? Around the corner? It’s a voice. What is it saying? It grows louder. They strain to hear.
“—heeltoeheeltoeheeltoeheeltoe—” - louder still - “heeltoe— heeltoeheltoe—”
Suddenly a little man wheels around .the corner and heads up the street. He walks quickly, precisely in a sharp, prim manner, ever muttering “heeltoeheeltoeheeltoe.” He passes Harold and Sheila by without even a sideward glance.
They chase after the starchily dressed figure, finding it difficult to keep up as he scampers along at quite a clip.
“Urn - excuse me Sir, could you help us, please. We’re lost and we’re trying to find the Mountain of Diamond.”
He responds in a thick German accent: ”Diamond? Mountain of Diamond? Never heard of it, “Heeltoeheeltoeheeltoe-”
“Oh, well then maybe you could at least tell us where we are?”
He pivots his head sharply so as to look at them, never losing a step. He snaps his head back to its original position.
“You are both naked. How disgusting. Heeltoeheeltoeheeltoeheeltoe —“
Harold and Sheila trot along side him to keep up. “But please, sir, couldn’t you tell us something to help us out?”
“Nein! Now if you vill excuse me I must pass that church over there at exactly two-thirteen. They must set the clock. Now please - heeltoeheeltoeheeltoe-”
“Set the clock?”
“Yes, the whole town runs by my daily constitutional. The town is set to me, Immanuel Kant. Heeltoeheeltoeheeltoe—”
“Richtig!” With a sneer he glances at the duo. His gaze falls on Sheila’s voluptuous naked curves. His step falters, he nearly trips. He picks up his step again, swiveling, his head hack to its upward forty-five degree angle. “The young lady may visit me at my quarters later - unescorted. Now if you please, I must make up for lost time. This conversation is detaining me.”
He quickens his pace. Harold and Sheila fall behind and finally stop, watching the little figure shrink into the distance. “Heeltoeheeltoeheeltoeheeltoe...”
“Well, Sheila, what do you suppose we should do now? We don’t know where—”
Sheila jumps and clutches Harold. Harold returns the gesture. “What in God’s name could that be, Harold?”
The wail rises again: “OOCOOOooooohhhhhhhh...”
“Could it be a wolf?”
“No, it sounds human. It must be somebody in trouble. We’ve got to help him.”
They run down streets, turn corners, look in houses and stores trying to find the source of the sound. The wail grows louder. They are nearing it. They turn another corner and there in the middle of the street on his knees is a deformed bony— looking man.
“OOOCOOOoooohhhhh... My Regina. Reegiiinaaa. 00000ooohhhh!”
Ever so carefully Harold and Sheila sidle up to him. “Can we help you?” Sheila asks softly.
The long lean man looks up. Upon seeing the naked Sheila his watery eyes light up. “Oh, Regina!” He throws himself upon her, wrapping his arms around her 1egs, kissing her thighs. “0h, Regina, Regina, you’ve come at last.”
“Ack! I’m not your Regina.” She pries his bony fingers from her legs and pulls free. The man crawls after her. She retreats backpedalling, a look of horror emblazoned on her face. The deformed little creature rises up and lunges after her. “0h, Regina.” Sheila lifts her well—trained knee.
“Owww. Ooo. Oh oh oh.” He collapses.
“I’m sorry I had to do that, mister, but you left me no alternative.”
She takes pity, and tries to comfort the crumpled up little figure. She strokes his sandy hair. “What’s the matter? Can’t you tell us?”
He sobs. “It’s my Regina, I will never have her. I am in such despair. We all are. You, me, everyone. We can never be satisfied or happy. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.”
“That’snot true. You can to be happy. It’s easy.”
“Noo, no, no, nooo, 0 Regina. 0000ooo—”
“Excuse me, sir,” Harold interjects, “What’s your name?”
“Søren? Just as I suspected. Søren and Regina. You must be Søren Kierkegaard.”
“Yes, yes, that is who I am.”
“And then Regina is your lost love, right?”
“0h yes, Regina, Regina, Reginaaaaoooooohhh...”
Sheila brushes his head, which now rests on her lap. She speaks tenderly, “Oh now I understand, you poor, poor man. But you’ve got to brace up, you’ve got to get over it. Everybody gets over it eventually.”
“No, no, no, you can’t. Man is trapped. He is sick. He can never be happy. He will always be despairing. Always unto death. Even after death. I thought death would be my only relief, but no it’s not. It goes on. Existence is a hell, there is no relief.”
“No, that’s not true. Don’t you see that it’s all in your mind. Despair is only there because you think it is. I’m happy. And all the talk in the world about despair is not going to convince me I’m not happy. I’m happy because I think I’m happy. If you had gotten Regina life would have been bliss. You would have said that life was a wonderful thing. You’re only rationalizing your lovesickness. Søren, please, think happy thoughts.”
“Yes, you are right, if I only had Regina.” He lunges at Sheila again, grabs her, embraces her, kissing her neck and shoulders, foundling her breasts. “0h, Regina, Regina, Regina.”
“Aaaargh!” She shoves the shallow chested being and he sinks to the ground. She wheels and takes off down the street. Harold trails after her watching the wiry man groveling in the gutter, sobbing.
“Come on, Harold, let’s get out of this madhouse.”
Down the cobblestone streets they flee, past quaint dark— wood cottages, past little shops, around corners, past church steeples.
“Wo, babyeeoooh. Where’s the fire, man? Cooool it. Keeeep Cooliecool, babeee.”
They freeze in their tracks.
“Cool it, baby. There’s no sweat.” From out of a sheltered doorway a mustachioed man in a glossy purple, sequined suit sashays out, flipping a coin. In his other hand he holds a joint. He takes a long, long drag. The tip glows brighter. He exhales sweet smelling smoke in round doughnut shaped puffs.
Sheila responds incredulously, “Oh no, not more. Who the hell are you?”
“Oh come off it,” Harold scoffs, “you’re not Dionysus. Dionysus was a Greek mythical God. He never really existed.”
The man snaps up his coin as it is in mid-flight. “Think not, baby. All right, so I wasn’t Dionysus back on Earth. Back in that old hole they called me Fritz Nietzsche. What a sirnp he was. But here baby I am the Dionysus. Pure and simple -— Dionysus.”
He takes a drag on his joint. “D’ya wanna a toke?”
Harold takes a step forward his hand raised. “No, thank you. Drugs are bad for you. They can’t give you the answer to anything.”
“That’s what you think, baby. It’s all in the mind right?
I got to where I am today because of drugs, man. Back in that hole I was the simpiest, cowardly, most pathetic creature you ever laid your eyes on. But luckily man I had that stomach thing so I had to fool around with drugs. One day, man, I just hit the right combination and ZOWIE. Man, ZAP. I was there. I saw it.”
“Well, I remain totally unconvinced.”
Dionysus looks at Sheila’s toes and follows all the curves up to her head. He nods. “You got quite a bod there baby.”
Sheila throws up her hands in disgust. “Goddamn it! What’s wrong with everybody around here. All they seem to be interested in is sex. Sex, sex, sex. They’re sick. What’s the matter?”
“Cool it, babyeeo, cool it. Don’t you know what the gig is? That’s the problem? No? Why this place is segregated, baby. Like dig it, there are no girls. There’s a separate place for them. Have you seen any girls around here? Naw, of course not, there aren’t any. Man, heaven’s a drag. Like nobody’s seen a female dellectibellis since they died. They’re all horny as shit. That’s what all the revolution shit is about. Man, they’re out for full integration. No tokenism. All the way.”
“Well, I’ll be.”
“Yeah, yeah, sure. So like what’s your hag, man. Like what are you doing up here?”
Harold takes another step forward and volunteers the information. “We’re looking for the Mountain of Diamond.”
“Why didn’t you say so, haby. Hey the Mountain of Diamond. That’s grooovvvy, man.,”
“Do you know where it is” Harold asks excitedly.
“How do you get there?”
“Well, I don’t know if I should tell you this but — ah, what the hell - you’re good kids.” He squints his eyes and quickly glances over his shoulders. He opens the flap of a pocket on his sequined shirt and reaches in. “Here.”
Into Harold’s palm fall two red capsules.
“Drugs. Look I told you, you can’t learn anything through drugs. We’re not interested.”
“Look, baby, you want to find the Mountain of Diamond, don’t you? It’s the only way. I’m telling you, man, giving it to ya’ on the line. See ya’ around.”
Dionysus saunters off, purple hips sashaying this way and that. “Bahdeebop — doobah —bodeebodah - beedobahboo...”
“Well, Sheila, what do you think? Should we take them?”
Sheila flashes Harold her Mona Lisa smile, picks up a capsule from Harold’s palm, and pops it into her mouth.
“Sheila! What did you do that for?”
“Oh dear, now what am I going to do? Oh, I guess I have to.” With clenched eyes Harold raises his sweaty, trembling palm to his mouth. He takes it with his tongue, tasting the salt of his hand. He tries to swallow it, he gags, coughs, and it finally goes down.
They wait. All is still, quite still.
“See, Sheila, I knew drugs weren’t worth anything, I don’t feel-” flashing whirlpools of greens, blues, swirling black clouds, ringing bells, mammoth bloody eyes peering-in, the world turning, flipping, upside down, inside out, around and around, in and out, the ground swelling, shriveling... Darkness.
Harold feels the grass next to his cheek. He smells it. Opens his eyes, yes, it is green. Where is he? Is it all over now? Was it all gust a dream? He has woken up.
Harold stands up and as he looks for Sheila. He turns around. The brilliant glare blinds him. He slaps his hands over his eyes. He tries to peek out. It hurts. As his eyes slowly become accustomed to the light he sees it — a towering, glittering precipice - a massive jeweled mountain - the Mountain of Diamond! Blaring trumpets, roaring tympani, clashing cymbals, strains of “Thus Spoke Zarathustra.”
His soul is filled with ecstasy. “Sheila, Sheila,” he cries, “Get up. Get up. We’re here. Look. The Mountain of Diamond.” He finds her lying on a nearby grassy knoll. He shakes her.
“‘W-what is -- is it, Harold?” She lifts her head.
Harold effuses, “Look, look the Mountain of Diamond.”
Sheila looks up and shields her eyes. She sees the thousand foot crystal, rainbows metamorphosing within its rnany facets. She jumps up. “You’re right, it is. It is. It’s the Mountain of Diamond. The Mountain of Diamond.”
“YES, I M’ THE MOUNTATN OF DIAMOND.” The earth rumbles convulsively.
Sheila and Harold freeze in silence.
WTHAT HAVE YOU COME FOR?” With each word the glistening rainbows of three-dimensional light pulsates from within
“Uh. — well sir, you see it’s like this. He came seeking Truth, and God said that only you could tell us what real Truth was.”
“THAT OLD WIND BAG?” Greens, purples, oranges flare into a mighty fanning display.
“Yes sir, He said that if I knew the Truth I wouldn’t have to go to Hell.”
“THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS HELL.”
“But He said that anyone who doesn’t believe in Him goes there.”
“HA. HA. HA.” Super multi-flashes of light illuminate the mountain. A minor earthquake rocks the ground.
“Do you mean that I’m perfectly safe?”
“Oh, thank you, but do you really know what Truth is?”
“Would you tell me? Nobody else would or could.”
“CERTAINLY. I WILL, HAROLD.” In a maze of undulating rainbows and pastels amid trembling ground the Mountain begins: “THERE IS A KEY, HAROLD. A GOLDEN KEY. A KEY THAT WILL ANSWER ALL YOUR QUESTIONS. YOU CAN UNLOCK EVERYTHING WITH IT. EVEN THE TRUTH. OH YES, THE TRUTH. TRUTH, HAROLD, IS SIMPLY THIS. THERE IS NO SUCH THINC AS TRUTH. THE VERY TERM ‘TRUTH’ IS A MISCONCEPTION. HOWEVR, IF THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS TRUTH, THEN WHAT I HAVE JUST SAID ABOUT TRUTH COULD NOT POSSIBLY BE TRUE. SO THEN IF THE STATMENT THAT THERE NO TRUTH IS WRONG, THEN THERE IS TRUTH. IF THERE IS TRUTH, THEN THE STATEMENT ‘THERE IS NO TRUTH’ CAN HAVE VALIDITY. IF THAT BE THE CASE THEN THE STATEMENT ‘THERE IS NO TRUTH’ IS FALSE, WHICH MEANS THE STATEMENT ‘THERE IS TRUTH’ IS TRUE,
WHICH INVOLVES THE FACT THAT THERE IS NO TRUTH IS TRUE, WHICH IN TURN ENTAIILS THAT THERE IS NO TRUTH.... EXCUSE ME, HAROLD, BEFORE I CONTINUE, AND THERE IS A GOOD DEAL OF GROUND TO COVER, I WOULD LIKE TO TALK TO SHEILA.”
Sheila steps forward. “How did you know my name?”
“I KNOW ALL.”
“NOW SHEILA, COULD YOU STEP CLOSER, PLEASE.”
She carefully approaches the base of the huge mountain.
She comes closer.
“WOULD YOU PLEASE LEAN AGAINST MY BASE.”
She does so. The internal lights of the mountain flare.
“YES, FINE. NOW WOULD YOU RUB YOUR BODY BACK AND FORTH.”
The lights go into a mad frenzy of changing colors and forms.
“AH YES. THAT’S RIGHT SHEILA. THAT FEELS SC GOOD.”
She realizes her compromising situation. “Aaaaaarrrgh!” She jurnps back. “Even the frigging Mountain is only after my body. What’s wrong with this place? I can’t stand it. It’s driving me crazy. I’m a human being. Fuck the whole thing. Fuck you. Fuck! Fuck everybody. Just Fuck it. Fuuuuuucckk iiiiiiiitt!!!“
The array of lights become more and more frenzied, the ground trembles violently.
“I’m sorry, Mountain. Just fuck off! I don’t want your filthy diamond surface screwing my body. Just fuck it. Fuck it!”
The cacophony of lights blaze on. The ground shakes ferociously. The mountain vibrates.
Harold grabs Sheila. “Stop it, Sheila, stop it. Look what you’re doing. He’s getting mad. Let him have your body, Sheila, for Godssakes, let the Mountain have it.”
Harold flings himself prostrate on to the ground and pleads, “Oh, she really doesn’t mean it, oh great illustrious mountain. She’s only joking. Ha, ha, ha. Tell him Sheila, tell him it’s only a joke.”
The colors blur into a throbbing orange.
“Fuck it, Mountain, just fuck it.”
The ground quakes in terrible spasms.
“She’s only kidding. She was always a kidder. Please have mercy.”
A terrible roaring. The Mountain splits open, flames belch out. The ground erupts. The Mountain begins to crumble. A cataclysmic cracking explosion. Shimmering diamonds umbrellaing into the sky. Bodies thrown about like matchwood. Balls of yellow flames. Mammoth rainbows streaking through space. Visions, stars, palpating hearts, Mars, Jupiter, flipping, sailing about. B1acknes. Silence.
Harold opens his eyes. He lies at the bottom of a nice, lush, green valley. The valley is cool. A stream, ponds, and a few shacks mark the landscape, hut mostly there are trees - big ones. The sun is shining. A sparrow flies by.
Sheila sleeps peacefully by his side. He gently touches her hare arm. She blinks open her eyes and softly smiles. “Are you all right, Harold?”
“I just had the weirdest dream, all about this sex-crazed mountain and God and-”
“So did I, Sheila, and there was Socrates and Aristotle too, right? And Kierkegaard was flinging himself at you.”
“Yeah, that’s right. That’s exactly it. So you saw it too. Then maybe it wasn’t a dream. Could it have been real?”
“I don’t know. Was it actually just in our imaginations?”
“But we had the same dream, the same fantasies. It couldn’t have been real.”
“Does it really matter, Sheila. We imagined it maybe, so what? The real, dreams, fantasies - it’s all in the mind. But I guess you’re right, it was all imagination.”
“Hey, look Harold, over there.” She runs past him and picks up a shiny object from the grass. “It’s the key — the golden key the Mountain of Diamond talked about.”
Harold takes the key and fondles it, shakes it in his fist. “I wonder what truths it can unlock. I just can’t imagine what they could be.”
“But Harold, do you really care.”
“You Can get Truth with this.”
“Throw it away, Harold, throw it away.”
“But it’s Truth... I guess so, Sheila.”
Harold swings his spindly arm and the key soars upward glittering in the sun, and then slowly it arcs downward making a small plop in the green pond below.
A sweet melody floats over the landscape.
“Do you hear that, Harold? I think it’s coming from over there. Come on, let’s see what it is.”
They run over a hillock and on the other side sits a shepherd playing his flute. They skip down to him.
Breathlessly Sheila inquires, “What’s that your playing? What’s it called? It’s beautiful.”
The shepherd stops and smiles, “Why, it is called Philosophy.” He picks the flute up to his lips and continues playing the lovely melody.
Harold and Sheila listen, then embrace.
Arm in arm they wander off further into the valley to live happily ever after, except that Shei1a’s mother insisted that they get married; they had two obnoxious kids that gave them both ulcers; Sheila became incredibly overweight and a god-awful sight; they were divorced twenty years later; and Harold died of a heart attack at age four-nine.
There finished, at last. The play is done. My magnum opus. Finis.
You know, it was kind of fun. I ought to try it more often. Let’s see, it had sex, violence, comedy, it had just about everything. And it was deep, brother, was it deep.
Oh dear, it’s late, so late. I’m sorry I can’t stay around and talk some more, but there are just so many things that I have to do and places to visit.
Yeah... I forgot to mention it. I’m leaving the valley today, going out into the jungle. I’m in such a tizz I forgot to tell you. I’m even packed already. Let’s see, toothbrush, socks, underwear, deodorant, yeah, that’s just about everything.
I’m so excited, I just can’t wait. It seems like there are just a million things for me to do. Just imagine soon I’m going to be out there in the jungle, wrestling gorillas, stalking elephants, fighting tigers, playing with anacondas, fending off ostriches, out swimming piranhas. It’s just great.
Well, I made my sacrifices to the great chartreuse altar, so I guess there’s nothing else for me to do around here. Well, I might as well shove off. This i it. Goodbye. Sorry I can’t stay longer. See you.
READER: Hey, where do you think you’re going?
— Who me? Well, like I was saying. Past that stream over there, there is this jungle which I am about to go into.
READER: Now just hold your horses, sonny boy.
-- I’m really in a hurry though, pal.
READER: Now lookie here, buddy, don’t you go calling me pal. It just so happens that I think all this crap you’ve been feeding us here is just that — a pile of crap.
— Gee, really? Well, that’s fine with me.
READER: No truth, it’s all in the mind, everything is and is not, it’s all there if you believe in it, imagination. It’s all hogwash. See this fist here, buddy. POW! — right in the ol’ kisser. Now that’s reality.
— Yes, yes, come to think of it you’re absolutely right. No question about it, I’m wrong. I got to run now. Okay? See you-
READER: Wh-what - what are you giving me? Come back here.
-- You’re right. I’m wrong. See you around.
READER: Are you being a wise guy, kid? You know what. I’d do a little motherfucker like you for just two cents — why POW! — right in the o1’ kisser. Real reality, kid. Come back here and argue like a man.
— But I don’t want to argue anymore. I’m tired of it, bored. If I come back and argue on your ground with your ru1es, I’m sure to lose. I can’t win. So I am not going to argue. You’re right.
READER: Why you little son a bitch. You’re making fun of me. I ought to let you have it.
-- I refuse to argue with you anymore, but I’ll just make one comment, and don’t go construing it into an argument, cause it’s not. The very fact that you disagree with me, just goes and proves I’m right.
RADR: What the fuck you’re ta1king about?
-- You believe you’re right and I believe I’m right. But that’s exactly what my philosophy is all about, to account for the fact that we disagree. Part of the essence of my philosophy is that you disagree with me. Without that it’s not nearly as good. It’s like I said before, it’s not until someone denies me that my philosophy takes on its full power and beauty, and becomes Truth for me. Remember, its negation is its own affirmation. Thanks fella, I really appreciate it. It was really nice of you to disagree with me like that. It’s just what I needed. Thanks. Sorry, but I’m really in a rush, I want to get out of here. Bye. Maybe I’ll come back and visit some time and we can argue some more. Okay?
READER: Cut the shit. What is this crap you’re handing me? Look, you’re wrong, sonny boy, dead wrong and that’s it.
---Thanks, thanks a lot. See ya’. Byyyyeeeee.....
READER: Come back here, You idiot, and argue like a man. You’re just chicken. You’re yellow, that’s what it is. There is so too Truth. There’s this fist, see it buddy, hard and solid like a rock. Come back here! What’s the idea walking out on me like that. All right, you’re asking for it, fella. Negation is its own affirmation. Ha! Come off it. POW! - right in the ol’ kisser. That’s reality. Come back here you little motherfucker. Why you goddamnsonof abitchlonghairedhippiefreakmotherfckingassho1eof-adog’steatshitface ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
You see, Wendy, when the first baby laughed for the first time,
the laugh broke into a thousand pieces
and they all went skipping about,
and that was the beginning of fairies.
And now when every new baby is born
its first laugh becomes a fairy.
So there ought to be one fairy for every boy or girl...
(but) Children know such a lot now.
Soon they don’t believe in fairies,
and every time a child says ‘I don’t believe in fairies’
there is a fairy somewhere that falls down dead.
-- from J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan
Haverford, Pennsylvania, April 1971