A creepy house in backwoods Wisconsin funded by bloodmoney, built by a minion of the Aztec Night Lord Tezcatlipoca, and a talking Chihuahua seeking redemption and to end the millenia-old feud with the Ho-Chunk culture hero Red Horn. Must be Thursday.
The first and most cardinal rule of any heavy drug habit is to hold fast to your center, not allow yourself to panic at the inevitable bad trip. Assenine braggarts are likely to tell you that it’s an inborn character trait that you simply either have or do not have, and that it is not possible to cultivate a tolerance.
Utter and complete bullshit. Dangerous bullshit. Because it denies the essential primacy of DISCIPLINE in the process and is a telltale sign of the feckless self-indulgent irresponsibility that means imminent death or at least a lengthy sanatorium stay. No, what is required is a steely willfulness and intense focus.
There are several techniques to achieve this focus and they all work, even under the most insane sensory assaults--provided you employ them with an iron discipline. One method is to always remain in the company of a responsible, experienced user whenever you take a new drug for the first time. But even more important is the technique of listening to your heartbeat. It alerts you to any potential medical problems early enough to seek professional care should that be necessary and it grounds you, reminds you that you are still John or Jane Q. Ordinary living in Normalsville, Planet Earth, complete with all the standard plumbing. You know that you have a living, breathing material avatar to take care of here, even if you can see and count the quarks vibrating through your hands. Or, as in this particular case, if you haven’t taken any illicit substances (that you know of), but find yourself engaged a in a twelve hour conversation with a Chihuahua dog1 claiming to be the exiled ruach2 of the Paul Ryan, the Republican chair of the House Budget Committee.
“So you see? I couldn’t tell ANYONE about this stuff until you’d spoken my name out loud and broken the taboo.3 You’re the only one who understands this nefesh/ruach/neshama stuff AND gives a flying fuck about my welfare. The ONLY one.”
“YOUR welfare? Let’s not exaggerate here; I only care about stopping your wholesale destruction of the—“
He grimaced and interjected impatiently: “Okay okay okay! You’re the only one who gives a shit about what my neshama is doing.”
Fair play. I wasn’t going to argue with a frantic talking dog. Especially one that was such a cutie pie, complete with the lisp of a five year-old child. If he said I was the only one who could save all three of his souls from eternal damnation, who was I to argue? I continued.
“Okay. Agreed. I don’t want you to destroy the country by undermining its social and economic infrastructure . . . “
“You don’t want my NESHAMA to destroy the country by undermining its social and economic infrastructure, you mean! Get it right! Not me, my NESHAMA. Remember, I'M the ruach, that blabbering gobadaw you see prattling away on television is just an empty shell of a soul--an impoverished neshama leaning on a hollow nefesh. I was ejected by the force of pure moral disgust when that eejit proposed the 'Roadmap to America's Future'".
"Er, yeah. Got it.' I recapped the nonsense as best as I could, as much to keep my own mind from imploding under the stupifying weight of its absurdity as to placate Pavlov's wrath. "And when you ended up in the netherworld, Red Horn pleaded on your behalf for a second chance, a chance to defeat the dark corruption of The Roadmap. But the only way you could do that was to incarnate in an avatar, an avatar that reflected the nature of your sin and wouldn't provoke Tezcatlipoca's wrath or attention."
"Okay. Now I get you. You didn’t mean for all this to happen. You just wanted a little attention, wanted to be loved. You didn’t think all this would happen, that it’d spin out of control so quickly. You didn’t mean for grandmothers to get thrown out on the streets ‘cause they couldn’t make rent AND afford their meds or little kids to get pulled off chemo because the insurance company—“ But I couldn’t go on that line. The little fella had melted into the settee, whining as his eyes began to tear up.
I could hardly believe this. Not the part about Paul Ryan being a Midwestern hayseed who didn’t know what he was doing and found himself sucked into something he didn’t really understand on his first trip to the Big City. That’s the oldest and saddest story in the world. What I couldn’t believe was that I FELT SORRY for the sonofabitch who was planning to do all this horrible shit . . . er, that his NESHAMA was planning to do, anyhow.
I couldn’t take in all of this in one sitting. It was all too much. I wasn’t yet ready to feel sympathetic towards this scumbag, and I wasn’t yet ready for Pavlov’s description of the building of the House on Maiden Lane. Nor was I ready to hear an epic narrative describing the battle between the Ho-Chunk culture hero Red Horn and the Aztec Tezcatlipoca, Lord of the Night. And the sun was sinking fast, too, covering the sittingroom in a cold shadowy blanket. I got up and made my excuses, saying I was going to the back yard to get lumber for a fire.
Pavlov just curled up into a fetal sleeping position and quietly ignored me. He had no reason to fear that I was going anywhere. We were in the middle of Bum-Fuck, Wisconsin, and Siobhan had cobbled my truck the prior night. No one was going anywhere without Pavlov.
* Again, people, this is allegory. A fictional narrative attempting to describe certain social realities using poetic or figurative language. Don’t get your knickers in a bunch or hit the DEA on your speed dial. Check out the friggin’ footnotes already, will yah? Sheesh! . . . . The readership of William F. Buckley’s “National Review” got this when they published it, why can’t you?
1 Pavlov, the Chihuahua dog who called out to Liam at the end of Part II of this story.
2 This is NOT a trivial point that you can just gloss over in order to get to the punchline. The Kabbalistic scheme of the soul’s architechture is a primal key component of this plot and you’ll never be able to achieve any satisfaction until you have a working knowledge of it. I’m not claiming that it’s necessarily a factual reality that you’ll need to function adequately as a moral human being, but it’s one of the cornerstones upon which this narrative is built. According to the simplified (purists would say ‘bastardized’) version of Kabbalah that I’m cobbling together here, the human soul is comprised of 3 parts:
a. The Nefesh: Representing man’s base physical, instinctual or ‘animal’ nature.
b. The Ruach: Representing man’s emotional or moral character. This describes the ways in which a person relates to others. It recognizes the non-materialistic links of psychic interdependency between individuals that transcends the immediate claims of biology.
c. The Neshama: Representing man’s rational, intellectual character. This describes the meta-cognitive structures and biases that inform a person’s thought processes. In and of itself the concept of neshama is completely value-free.
However in practice the latent bias of its various particular structures has profound spiritual consequences that can either amplify, complement or negate the moral polarity of the ruach. For example, a simple, earnest man such as the image of St. Patrick conjured for us in his Confessio seems likely to have originally been possessed of a rather kind, but simple ruach despite lacking the polished social graces or academic credentials favored by the Roman hierarchy of his day. Patrick’s quintessentially compassionate brand of holiness seems to shine forth all the more brightly because of his neshama’s lack of sophistication.
On the other hand, an urbane Church Father like St. Augustine seems to have been possessed by a considerably more impoverished ruach, though it was more than offset by an uncommonly refined neshama. Turning his back on a youth spent in debauchery and the thoughtless indulgences of a citified sophisticate, he devoted the rest of his life to creating the foundational intellectual doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church regarding numerous moral issues such as slavery, the role of women in society, the extent to which warfare may be considered morally justified.
St. Augustine’s legacy is considerably more complex than that of St. Patrick and I will not attempt to make a final evaluative comparison of the two here, but merely emphasize again that the careers of these two exceptionally influential and holy (though not uncomplicated) men serve as excellent illustrations of the interaction between ruach and neshama.
3 Pavlov, the Chihuahua-dog avatar of Paul Ryan’s exiled ruach could not explain himself or plead his case, could not deal openly with Liam, until Liam had spoken his name, as occurred at the end of Part II. This is just one variation of a narrative trope repeated ad infinitum throughout the world’s fantastical and spiritual literature (e.g., the Grail King cannot be healed or turn the Grail to its destined guardian, Percival, until the king had been asked the specifically what ailed him; Rumplestiltskin’s devious plan to steal the princess’ firstborn cannot be foiled until she has pronounced his name; Superman cannot defeat the villain Mxyzptlk until he chants his name aloud, etc., etc.)
I was inspired to use this motif here by further meditation on the Obama’s disconcerting betrayal of his own legislative caucus in December, which I satyrically treat here. My current thinking (admittedly wayyyyyy behind the learning curve of many Disinformation commentors) is that as parties, both the Democrats and Republicans are whoring shams whose platitudinous rhetoric is a stark contrast with their actual immoral actions, and that perhaps the only way to achieve any real progress will be to get the public and the media to call this thing like it is. It’s not a deistic democracy, it’s not a ‘Christian’ republic. It’s an amoral plutocracy.
But that seems extremely unlikely in the short term because people are in such deep, deep denial. It’s easy to see why: no one’s going to any great lengths to hide the facts and the level of guilt that is incumbent upon the realization of the truth is so fuckin’ horrible that few people have the guts, the moral integrity or whatever you care to call it, to simply own up. Shame that nothing will ever get any better until we as a whole nation own up to the fact that we’ve all become soulless whores in thrall to an amoral beast.
That said, while I’m 100% certain that Obama’s lame “rain puddles in heaven” tripe will never help us confront the national demons that consume us, neither will my traditional tack of single-minded satirical focus on the obvious excesses of the right wing. That only papers over the equal culpability of limp-dicked, lilly-livered approach of traditional Dems. So what I intend the story arc to do going forward is to try to take the most sympathetic view of the many and horrible failings of our leaders as possible, while still forcibly decrying their stupidity and innately immoral character. A tough balancing act, but that’s why it took me nearly two months to come up with Part III.