When is a Love Letter a Polemic

{ Tuesday, November 13, 2007 }

"They cast down the dragon out of heaven into the earth, and he becomes Satan, and ceases entirely to be interesting."

"What we have been looking for in the Apocalypse is something older, grander than the ethical business. The old, flaming love of life and the strange shudder of the presence of the invisible dead made the rhythm of really ancient religion."

-- D. H. Lawrence, Apocalypse

Sometime you may be in the frame of mind to wrap your arms around the bungee-jumper and go right off the platform with him. Sometime you may want to read a writer who wants to make you see the biggest thing he can almost name.

He walks close to it, puts his arms around it, puts his eye against it, scrapes it, hugs it, tries to bite it, attempts to climb it, bares his skin to it, pummels it with his palms and fists, hurls himself against it, tries and tries and tries because his heart tells him he ought to be able to do it to merge himself into the thing, lose himself there, and still be able to report to you what is happening.

I can't name the thing that D. H. Lawrence wants to get me close to. (I don't like calling him by his initials or by his last name. He is not distant. I will call him Boots.)

Boots could pick anything in the world to layer against the invisible thing so that it takes a shape. He picks the book of Revelation, from the Christian New Testament. He has a bone to pick with Revelation. He has a bone to pick with the weapons of moral superiority. He sees in Revelation not the heaven that modern Christianity uses the book to regiment with, but something revealed about our relations with nature and each other and desire. (For an experiment, substitute "corporation" where he writes "state.")

Now, if it seems as though I am even remotely listening, Boots starts hauling pagan symbols and myths out of his overcoat pockets to show me. He spreads them out on the lunch counter. Look! he says. This is part of who you already are! It's written right there in the book! Look, the sun! He wants us to recognize the things that isolate us. It takes a lot of words to show those things, so he shows their opposites. The sun, the stars, the dragon of our passions, the blood of birth. He wants our waitress to feel every ounce of her humanity. He wants her not to get taken in by promises of small, officious kingdoms and jeweled walls that don't belong to her even if she gets to continue living caged inside them.

Above all, what he wants is for us not to live faking it.

He wants this so much that sometimes he starts running toward the edge before his bungee cord is fully fastened. Sometimes you're in mid-leap before you say, uh-oh, Boots a crazy mo.

And then it's okay, because it's just a book, and you close the book and it's like that very clean air right after it rains.

So as Boots says, breathe that sparkling air before you get all sooted up again like we always do:

"My soul knows that I am part of the human race, my soul is an organic part of the great human soul, as my spirit is part of my nation. In my own very self, I am part of my family. There is nothing of me that is alone and absolute except my mind, and we shall find that the mind has no existence by itself, it is only the glitter of the sun on the surface of the waters . . .

"What we want is to destroy our false, inorganic connections, especially those related to money, and re-establish the living organic connections, with the cosmos, the sun and earth, with mankind and nation and family. Start with the sun, and the rest will slowly, slowly happen."

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