From Darkness, Light

This page written circa 21 December, 1999.

Shooting in high schools, at least here in the good old USA, is currently at a high point in popularity as a pasttime. If I was enthusiastic in defence of my country I might get out my pocket calculator and discover that per unit population it is not statistically higher than other nations in the arena of beserk mass ultraviolence, but that would be a tangent. The subject is currently making politicians and leaders nervous... well, just about anything that makes news does because it moves votes, another sad fact upon which I shall not dwell. This nervousness has resulted in one teacher being dragged over the coals for asking her students to write an essay entitled "If you had to assassinate someone today, who would it be?".

Now this is, on one hand, worth a laugh. In fact, I learnt this piece of news not from the current affairs system here in the USA, but from a tape of GNW recorded in Aus and posted to us here, and in which parties were duly ridiculed. Under normal circumstances such a study topic would stimulate the grey cells on matters of morality, current affairs, history, etc. Given the timing, this hypothetical subject scared the tighter-arsed, fantasy-denying common folk who expect it to inspire the marginal cases such as their children to put philosophical musing into practice. Of course the teacher made a PR blunder by adding to the title not the words "and why?" but "and how?", or so GNW would have me believe.

Enjoying a moderate amount of psychopathic entertainment myself, I could not help reflecting upon the level of consensus that might exist in people's selections. This is the fascinating part. Whose elimination would we see as beneficial? At once we might agree on a few national dictators, but next would have to come Parking Police and Highway Patrolmen. Tax collectors have always had notoriety. This is rather ironic, as tax is what pays for roads, the inadequacy of which gives rise to the former two professions. (Allright, traffic dicks are be a misguided response to the problem, revenue gatherers instead of problem solvers---which perversion is an art form in England, by the way---but if we loved the IRS we would not have needed them at all.)

It has now been a week since Kay and Meri left for Christmas in Oz. When they left I felt disoriented, lonely, uninspired, lost, like a dry pea rattling around in this huge house. I quite forgot how to be a bachelor, how to enjoy it.

I have this vision of a huge nineteenth-century steam engine, an engine filling a whole factory building, an engine left idle for years. You know the sort of thing, now found only as a display in a technical museum where schoolboys walk under rocker arms and around huge shafts. Here it is cold, it is dark, and it is snowing outside this building. I'm left inside to get the great machine going, so I spend days shovelling coal, filling the boiler, getting light into the room, oiling parts, figuring out what all the valves and gauges do. After a few days it builds up steam, but it takes a week before the great pistons move. Once it is running there is light and warmth and everything becomes easy.

I have thoroughly enjoyed the last couple of days here; I have sorted the central heating to suit my movements, I have got the dishwasher installed, the laundry done, the fire working, there are stews and soups cooking (with vegetables from the garden) and bacon or croissants for breakfast. I have remembered how to enjoy my own company, the importance of socialising, I have regained the feel of a clean house (there are several neat mounds into which I have collected the patina of toys and unwashed cloth with which the house was uniformly strewn) and I find I have the time to bicycle into the crisp sunshine to buy a newspaper. In short, the fabulous machine of bachelorhood is again running smoothly and efficiently, though I feared for a time that it might not restart OK.

Before you become hopelessly lost in the threads of this discourse I'll tell you the connection: Lots of bad things have up sides. I went to a coffee shop and a film last night, and we saw Dogma. This movie---extremely difficult to describe---left me with many images... the difference between "chaotic" and "evil", in the D&D sense, was very clear, and if you presuppose heaven then violence is not high on the list of evils, it can even be "good". I have a powerful benefit from being left alone by K&M, and I expect that asking students to think about assassination will have a lot more benefit than cost.

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