Friday, July 7, 2017

July 7: The Curious Scarecrow, Art, Anne Frank

The candle in the hospital had gone out.  Poor old Edgar Derby had fallen asleep on the cot next to Billy's.  Billy was out of bed, groping along a wall, trying to find a way out because he had to take a leak so badly.

He suddenly found a door, which opened, let him reel out into the prison night.  Billy was loony with time-travel and morphine.  He delivered himself to a barbed-wire fence which snagged  him in a dozen places.  Billy tried to back away from it, but the barbs wouldn't let go.  So Billy did a silly little dance with the fence, taking a step this way, then that way, then returning to the beginning again.  

A Russian, himself out in the night to take a leak, saw Billy dancing--from the other side of the fence.  He came over to the curious scarecrow, tried to talk with it gently, asked it what country it was from.  The scarecrow paid no attention, went on dancing.  So the Russian undid the snags one by one, and the scarecrow danced off into the night again without a word of thanks.

The Russian waved to him, and called after him in Russian, "Good-bye."

An American meeting a Russian on German soil.  Hmmm.  Sounds familiar.  Seems that Donald Trump met with Vladimir Putin today in Hamburg at the G20 Summit.  I haven't had much of an opportunity to listen to the news today, so I'm not sure what kind of embarrassment happened.  I'm sure Donald Trump opened his mouth and said something completely idiotic.  And I'm sure Putin sat or stood next to him, stone-faced, looking a little reptilian.

This is not going to be a political post.  I just found the parallels between the passage from Slaughterhouse and reality interesting.  It's strange how life imitates art and vice versa.  I often have moments like this.  Just finished reading The Handmaid's Tale, and Atwood's version of the future left me a little unsettled, considering everything that has been going on in Washington, D. C., over the last seven months.  A year ago, I would have said a totalitarian state was unimaginable in the United States.  I'm not quite so convinced now.

Art is, often, a reflection of its time.  Vonnegut wrote and published Slaughterhouse when America was eye-deep in Vietnam.  It's a book about war and violence and death and humankind's destructive nature.  However, the best art also transcends time.  To use Vonnegut's term, it becomes unstuck in time.  So, now, in 2017, Slaughterhouse seems just as relevant.  The Handmaid's Tale rings out a prophecy or warning.  Walden's call to civil disobedience and environmental consciousness speaks even more loudly as Donald Trump withdraws from the Paris Climate Accord.

Art is important.  It gives voice to things that aren't being said.  Things that should be said.  Writing a poem or novel, painting a portrait, composing a song--any creative endeavor--is an act of hope.  I put pen to paper because I believe in beauty and kindness and compassion and grace.  As Anne Frank said, "In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart." 

Saint Marty is thankful tonight for art.

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