Vanitas Tradition Continued Feed

The World Turned Upside Down

When one people, perhaps better organized, with a better Leader, conquered another, erased the loser's histories, tore down its monuments, killed or enslaved the men, burned its sacred texts, raped and impregnated the women, slew the innocents, profaned the altars, then came new histories, new monuments, new laws, a new king, new coinage, new standards for a promotion, new ribbons for National Heroes, and improved standards of decency. More civilized than the savages rightly put to the sword.

When the truth is unspeakable, guilty, when it is the truth of the marginalized and subordinated, then it is best spoken without being heard, hidden in plain sight. Told in parables, fables, allegory, and jokes; overheard, not heard. Stirred up from the bottom, this is Carnival, or Mardi Gras, madness, licentiousness, the promiscuous intermixing of high and low; riot, drunkenness, abandon, the mad world of Dionysus, the god of Alexander the Great, even now in New Orleans, staged in status contest, and as good business, by the town's elite. Stirred up from the bottom (first Carnival, then Lent), it is the crucifix after the fact, held up as an object of worship - holy, holy, holy. The priest who at midnight fornicated with the mayor's wife on the altar, as the drunken crowd (including the mayor) cheered, gives the Lenten sermon in the same cathedral, and rightly so. Coming and going, both are true, just not all at once, which is why the liturgical calendar endlessly repeats, to accommodate the whole truth.

From the bottom up, the world turned upside down, what do we do with the unthinkable, the unspeakable, at least half our moral truth?  We call it art and hang it on the wall in the rich man's house. We wear britches, at times, and sometimes not. In the confessional, in a whisper, the Mayor's wife confesses her adultery, accepting penance, again on her knees. So, Wealth and The Will of God sprinkles holy water on Wealth Bondage, as priests have long blessed fleets headed off to war. On the priest's performance, no less than the whore's, Wealth Bondage, my generous patron, has built a resilient brand. May God be thanked.

Ah, Master Jack, ye knew this already, did you not? And because you do, you consider yourself Wise, having tasted the tree of knowledge, and become as a god? Such are the double-sided-truths, like the emperor's coin in the fingers of Christ, young Audrey must learn if she is to own, rule, and save, in this fallen world? That is why Tess must keep you on retainer as her most trusted advisor? Her consigliere? Secular Priest? Man of all work? Mentor to Youth? Yet, look! There Audrey is, with Tutor, hopping about like a Well Prepared Hare.  Perhaps, one day, it will be your head on the block in Tutor's dungeon, or on a raised stage as a spectacle, lesson, and entertainment for the rabble.  But, be assured, that as a Professional Courtesy, as one Trusted Advisor to another, in my capacity as the Omniscient Author Function, I will do my best to give your inevitable fall a comic turn. At least, you can be sure I will find it funny. And sometimes laughter is contagious, the best cure for the plague we spread as healers. And if you, too, smile, then all is right with the world. The laughter then passes, the wheel turns, and we can all get back to our serious business.


King Lear and The King's Men - Lessons on the Slippery Art of Family Governance

King Lear: The History Revealed by Fintan O'Toole, reviewed in The New York Review of Books.

Family Governance for Governing Families. The role of the artist, under a patron. The role of the King's Man. Support, absorb, refactor, and subvert, for the greater good. More power than a Wise Counselor in the traditional Courtier mode. More power than Parliament. Only an all licensed Fool could do more. Were I a wise man I would join Wise Counsel, giving sage advice to families as powerful as our former Monarchs, before we broke from English rule. 

The Wise make good use of literature, as of everything else. If they were wiser yet, they would be Fools. And perhaps The Happy Tutor could show them how. He is a Secular Priest, or actually a real priest, educated at Oxford as a cleric, since under Primogeniture (how our august predecessors beat the proverb, ashes to ashes, and rags to rags), he had to go into the army, become a judge, or be a priest and scholar, with a parish, or a school, or if lazy, as Tutor is, and a drunkard, and carouser, he could set up as a Morals Tutor to his noble neighbor's brats. Mentoring the Heirs, as we now say. The Happy Tutor is also the Lord of Misrule. So are our Wise Counsel, today, if by Misrule we mean the rule of the richest forever. Fool is one thing, Coxcomb, or Villain is another.

In Lear, do we pity the pauper at the base of Fortune's wheel as it turns, or the King at the top who must inevitably fall? When the highest and lowest trade places, 'handy dandy' who goes in ermine, and who in rags? Change places, and who is the thief, and who is the justice? Who is the sighted one? Who is blind?  Who is sane and who mad? Riddle me that, Wise Counsel. But more importantly, can we like Shakespeare, speak truth in riddles to power, and still be awarded our four yards of red cloth to wear the King's livery at court? So far Tutor, buck naked in a Dumpster, must await future delivery. Advantage Wise Counsel.

If I were to write my own Book on Wealth and the Will of God, I would add the epigraph: "Wiser are the Children of Darkness." And believe me, I have learned that to my own cost. Let it be a lesson to us all.