Science may scorn, Reason may rescind
The sound of the unseen, the shadow of the departed;
To me it is more sentient, sensuous to my heart,
One peculiar delight, than the luster of intellect.
P.S. It’s Halloween, the most popular pagan day of a Gregorian calendar year in the States. Originally a Celtic custom, the celebration of Halloween has been voluntarily and willingly observed as an innocuously playful day of entertainment that gives a celebrant, consciously or unconsciously, a jocund license to consider a daring magical excursion to a thin borderline between the id in the form of expressing the primeval supernatural awe and the ego of purging it in a way that conciliates such restive primordial instinct under the aegis of cultural tradition. In fact, it is a way of letting people have outflows of the rigor of contemporary lives in a socially accepted way. In this regard, the Halloween celebration in American is something of a folk carnival, a carnival of Sleepy Hollows, obscure witches and wizards, the headless huntsman, and Charlie of the chocolate factory, all in a phantasmal march for Trick or Treat with satchels full of candies and chocolates at night. After all, who would defy the sweetness of the sweet?…
This is the beginning of my novella about a woman striving against the limitations imposed on her by reality with her fierce individuality and queasiness in her belief in destiny or fate. Her investment of spiritual discernment is her congenital gift, but that which makes her special defenestrates her to the perimeter of society like a cunning woman or herbalist in the Elizabethan England. Is she then a middling between an angel and a demon? Her search for the meaning of her so-called life, the secret of her existence is the linchpin of this daringly attempted story I have decided to conjure up in the peculiar alchemy of fiction.
It was a cool, bright mid-Monday morning, but Julie was still in bed, in bed with her still tenebrous somber spirit returning to possess her once again because she – yes, that is Julie Faustine, a single, plain woman nearing to the acquisition of stoicism in life – fell into a reverie of perfidious rebelliousness. But let the description of Julie not complacently settle on your a priori premature postulation that she was one of those feckless, mediocre, and nondescript women deprived of what the world could offer to be a woman. Nary a bit. Her inner world was always in a perpetual restive tempest propelling her to sail adrift on her sea of life fraught with existential strains of life, which stunned her venturesome spirit and moored it in the stony stasis of inertia that was killing her softly. She was a hostage to fortune confined in existentialism that did not allow her all the privileges and rights of womanhood and femininity due to a covenant arbitrarily made and entered into by and among her ancestors and an ancient entity prior to her birth.
All this, all this preposterous truth was nothing but a real, physical one that was intractably lodged in Julie’s mind, and it was killing her softly. Nothing would be changed on my own, except the sure case of death, which would be a total force majeur situation. Christopher Malowe’s Dr. Faust was in league with me. And if I physically – and metaphysically – disappear from this earthly place, nothing would change. With such monologue in mind, Julie’s wish was to find herself in netherworld when she woke up in every new morning. No, it’s not pessimism or fatalism, but realism, whether you would agree or not with a sneer. W.H. Auden confirmed it in his poem, “Museum of Beautiful Arts.” Just as all the world’s great and terrible events, such as martyrdoms and nativities, took place amid everyday life, other people continued to do what they had been doing for their own interests. Whether or not you existed would not matter to the continuation of the world.
But as luck would have it, Julie woke up in this world yet again this morning, in this dysphoria of her failed and failing dreams, dwindled and dwindling aspirations, disappointed and disappointing facts, and frustrated and frustrating desires. How shall I die? It’s got be without inscrutable pains and gory details. Painless suicide will be the most cherished and coveted solution to expunge all my baggage. Thus contemplated Julie in her usual serious self. Then came the phantasmal display of the last day of Eva Braun and Adolf Hitler. When Eva and Hitler knew that their ends were impending as the Reich was soon to fall, they hastened to kill their lives together. Hitler chose a pistol, but Eva – being nothing but a woman herself with a reason none other than being a woman – mulled over which method she would employ to murder herself in the least painful but the most feminine fashion. Out of the musing came a method of poisoning herself because it would preserve her pretty face even after death in order that anyone, the Allied or her German volks, finding her corpse would still think she was a pretty being.
This story and image of Eva Braun still imprinted in Julie’s mind and imbued her with the selfsame way of beautifully saying adieu to her pitiful life. Nevertheless, this was never realized or did not seem to be realized at any time soon for some clandestine reasons made by the Fate, or the Fury, or the beautiful goddess Fortuna. And where would God be placed among these pagan elements? He would eventually come and vanquish all in the name of one Omnipotent, Transcendent, and Infallible of All in no time.
So much so that in Julie’s religiously conditioned mannerism of reconciling herself to the limits imposed by the Reality of This World, the image of God existed as a Bureaucrat aged somewhere between the fifties and seventies with a Victorian-style mustache and gravitas that would sting you to fumble with awkwardness, making you feel like a nincompoop. Julie was not a forceful character, and she would turn herself away from this humiliating embarrassment and would figure things out for herself, even though it meant a series of trials and errors over a long period of time all alone. That was her daring independent spirit. That was her most treasured possession. That was what kept her going against her senses and sensibilities. That was her lifeline and only one.
So it was another morning and the very first morning of a new week into the bargain. Intentionally waking up late in the morning, Julie forced herself to breakfast against her prior determination of foregoing food until she would find employment that would make her earn the bare necessities however little it would pay her. Would this be my home forever? Would I become visible in this new land? Would I start anew in this place? Then Julie’s innermost secret and hidden questions came to surface at last: Could I chance to love? Could a man love me despite my plainness? My paroxysm of moodiness? My humdrum presence? CUT THE CRAP, concluded Julie, for all these supplementary wishes and vain hopes were verbose and verbatim Without A Job. Surely, not all pretty women with jobs – good jobs like professional ones held by the writers of all those popular memoirs bestriding NYT bestseller list for weeks – promenaded with their beaus, but Julie, always angst-ridden and precariously sentient – moped around the whirls of her mental pagoda of melancholy. She could not help making parallels with her life, comparing herself with the illustrious careers of her peers.
The third week of unemployment was hard to bear, and it was daunting to bear even with her renowned stoicism, but her real passionate self defied it, cursed it, and bitched it. Still worse, radio silence following so-called officious interviews was the worst bitch. “Don’t take it personally,” was a bromide, a humbug, hokum out of human kindness, only to be cruel. Of course, it’s PERSONAL, when the parties engaged in the formal occasions were all humans made of blood and flesh, not robotics of steel and wire. That’s an infallible truth, n’est-pas? That’s a res ipsa loquitur case of negligence of truth, no?
All of this in her mind pushed her into the brink of a life’s cliff, leaving her one choice, and the only choice she could resort to: a Mephistophelean pact, it was. Yes, that’s darn right. She resolved to make a pact with the devil, and she was going to do it no matter what, either out of sheer spite against her fate or pure supernatural adventure or innocent curiosity. She’s up for it, and when she was in for the kill, she sure meant it. And it was today she would do it when the frivolous west sun was set, and the shadow of darkness began to cover the horizon in the way the sky god Oruanos covered the earth goddess Gaia to make love to her furtively in the dark.
Everything about Rome – the Eternal City – was grand and majestic, including the Pantheon, Roman Coliseum, Library of Celsus and Pont du Guard, all of which represented the magnificence and loftiness of the Empire stretching from the West to the East, from the North to the South that meant to last for eternity. And the size did matter to the ancient Romans; the bigger the artifacts were, the better they got to be. Proud champions of Bigness, the ancient Romans developed a cartographic masterpiece called “Forma Urbis,” meaning a city map, only on a bigger-than-life scale like you had never seen before had you been a Roman citizen at the time.
During the reign of Emperor Septinus Severus (193-211 AD), this behemoth map delineating a street plan of Rome mostly with symbols came into being as a cartographic statement of grandeur and power, practicality and divinity of the Empire. The map took up an entire wall of Temple of Peace measuring 60 feet wide and 43 feet high. It also depicted Rome’s urban landmarks across 5 square miles from grand temples of various warehouses of the city. This majestic map of the Eternal City bestriding the wall of the temple, however, lacked tax collection information and other bells and whistles of administrative functions. Hence, its manifest function was believed to be no more than an august ornament, a source of civic pride and awe to the spectator.
Does this giant map still exist? The question is very much similar to whether or not a megalodon, a supposedly extinct species of shark that lived about 23 to 2.6 million years ago, is still alive as there are frequent veritable accounts of witnesses of the creature elsewhere in the world. Although the existence of Forma Urbis is verifiable based on historical contexts, the actual form of the map exists as 200 fragments to this date because throughout the succession of ages, the bits and pieces were purloined by treasure hunters, especially during the Renaissance period. Nevertheless, for what’s all worth, the ancient Roman’s intention to preserve the artifact succeeded in the legacy of the grandeur of the Empire that wasn’t built a day, and to which all roads led from the four corners of the world. This vignette about Forma Urbis from an anthropological vantage point also reveals a picture of the society that tells of the standard of beauty and the glory of the Empire as contextualized into this fragment but still perennial legacy of the Eternal City.
P.S. This miscellany is based on my reading of an article about the eponymous subject from the recent issue of National Geography History; I find the magazine an excellent source of acquainting myself with many an interesting historical fact covering from the time immemorial to this date across the Atlas, leaving no one, no country, no culture behind, all of which are finely written by erudite writers whose academically impartial viewpoints of their subjects are worthy of applause. You can never be bored with new knowledge, and your mind will never be the same ever.
Our post-modernist culture is nuanced with anti-establishment of anything traditional and proper, such as decorum, mores, and codes of chivalry. The result of degradation of the values under the pretext of establishing a New Brave World is illustrated in the following cases of Manifest Grand Irony of Liberalism that is supposed to be synonymous with altruism and niceness.
According to this week’s edition of The Spectator, an anonymous former British Prime Minister revealed his hatred toward Theresa May by saying that she should be stabbed or done harmed in the most despicably atrocious fashion that reminds me of the gruesome murder of women by the Reaper of Whitechapel in the late Victorian period. Then there is a British conservative party leader named Esther McVey, who was maliciously excoriated by John McDonnell, a British Labor party politician instigating the mass in public to “lynch” her. Also, the First Lady of the U.S. Melania Trump was criticized for her supposedly apocryphal colonial fashion in Egypt by the media which also prompted the subsequent rebukes from the public. And this does not stop in the West. The first female president of Republic of Korea, Keun Hae Park was preposterously ousted by her radical left-wing contender Jae in Moon on the count of accepting bribery from a prominent business conglomerate based on unfounded grounds. Besides, Moon’s myrmidons maligned her reputation with indecent computer-generated photo-ops of her to destroy her political career as well as her personal life in prison because she was a leader of a conservative party.
What the aforesaid ladies have in common is not only their conservative affiliations but also their social defenestration from their societies that show neither sympathy nor solidarity among the members of the parties and of the humanity in general. But then, woe betides anyone declaiming against the faults of the demagogues! Criticism of a political rival on different stances with courtesy is countenanced and actually encouraged in democracy, but contextualizing it in the egregiously violent words toward the women amounts to terrorism and therefore should be publicly deplored in full force and effect. Besides, however strong-willed and imperturbable the aforesaid women might seem in public, they are “ladies” deserving being treated with courtesy, for none other than being women because they are women. Where has all the honorable, respectful chivalry gone? It’s a code of honor, civility, respect toward womanhood that is transcendent of geographical, cultural, and racial boundaries. Just because they are conservative does not give anyone a license to harass them with malicious verbal remarks or gestures marshaling a mass prompting for the behoof of their political hegemony.
To top it all off, the aforesaid betrays the usual faux-pas of declining against their contenders ad hominem, not on the ground of substantive factors or evidence, as Shakespeare corroborated thus: “Condemn the fault, and not the actor of it?” So it’s not altogether based on the standard of Reason but the manifestation of appetites, the raw emotions, the unbridled egos. Sounds antiquated, abstract, or even priggish? – Maybe so, but the men speaking about the women in the aforesaid manner are beyond the pale because it IS a violence of men in power against their women peers in a form of sordid verbal harassment. And it makes me wonder why #MeToo tweeters seem to connive at it, doing nothing to mobilize the supporters for pillorying the guilty men as usual.