"Yeah the same thing's happened over again Every time I meet a woman she tries to pin ya in Found the only way to handle a woman Is to keep your bag packed, keep movin' Steppin' lightly Eyes forward, proud, determined, masculine Probably get horny Can't live with 'em and you can't live without 'em That's why I write so many of these weird songs I guess." Jerry Jeff Walker, Ramblin' Scramblin', 1969.
The unifying epiphany of materialism is the discovery of causality and connectedness, but the Miserere commemorates a different frame of reference, not the space of objects but the time of subjects, not the primacy of identity-with but the miraculous anguish of identity-from. Have mercy, Eternity.
You couldn’t get a more potent representation of balance and normality than the chart of the Prodigal’s transit over Ghandi’s ashram as the ‘Miserere’ arches from east to west crowned by vain Cassiopeia. How appropriate seem both Pisces’ Southern Hemisphere sign of Libran refinement and compromise, and its Northern Hemisphere sign of Aries, of energy with some impatience! What a princess!
But let’s lighten up. ‘Prodigal’ means ‘wasted’, in both meanings of the word. If only he would stop abusing substances and locating himself in the ephemeral, he could come home to love and community, couldn’t he? He could find real purpose. But look at it another way. As it is fast becoming conventional wisdom to say, the wastage of his being in mere existence may be put down to our conditioning of his experience of unlovability. Oxytocin addicts are not very good at convincing others that they are loved. While his normal parents sleep, a prodigal soul might be seduced far from their philosophy into the arms of awareness bordering on mental illness. What is there to wake up to, in this unlovable world?
Lord, have mercy on the population which can’t live with You, but can’t live without You. Who but the slightly insane can understand the dedication of a life on this earth to spiritual liberation? Who, blessed by the growing body of literature on the psychology of love, could be so engrossed in love’s endocrinology that a life embalmed in self-help books might seem like a path to spiritual liberation? What else but the travails of unlovability can explain the attempt by astrologers and mystics to tabulate the relationship between the prime vertical and the zodiac?
“Let’s play a game,” he says, totally out of it. “Imagine that we are robots, programmed at the factory to optimize the resilience and adaptability of artificial intelligence by embodying just enough order in chaos: depending on the time of year and day, we yearn to love in one of just six different ways in sequence, each involving its own geomagnetic drive, duration and triggering device. You have to guess which drive we’re in, and I have to guess if I am the right trigger. Let’s pretend Love!” Despite his wastage, or because of it, his notch on your barrel entices, if only for the beguiling recklessness it would add on your CV.
“You will love me forever if I treat you like dirt? No, wait! You are anxious about death, and you will love me for thinking I will live forever?”
“Keep it up, funny man. The more you intellectualize, the more alert I become to feelings I didn’t know were there. I am germinating! Some inherited dream deep in my imagination has been given a name.”
“What is it? ‘God’? I worship the goddess in you! You have the most intriguing hard and fast rules, and they’re all good! You know the best gifts to buy, and where from. You know what is appropriate behaviour, and what is not. You have beautiful paintings on the wall, fresh flowers in the vase, pithy quotations about positive attitude on the toilet wall! I dream about you! You have so many friends! I am so lucky!”
“I think it is ‘presence’. I convey my gratitude for what is to all around me, but especially to you, who get me so well.”
“We will travel. I want to share the world with you, and share you with the world. I want you in my family, and to love all my friends. They will love you as I do. I am lonely when I am with my friends since we became a number.”
“My father says you should get a job, and I want you to give up your addictions. We will have a child.”
“Whatever you say goes! I can do it. I’ve just made some silly mistakes in my life, but the self-help books you’ve lent me have awakened me to my self-defeat mechanisms. I am ready!”
“Yes, you could write your own book with your amazing mind. Stop reading, and write. I believe in your power to transform yourself, as I have, through counselling.”
“I feel as though I have emerged from a dark cloud, since I learned how to be silent and listen. Your friends no longer tell you how arrogant and abrasive I am. I hope they don’t! Do they?”
“I don’t keep in touch so much.”
“I have become a little concerned that people I know don’t understand you. One has said he thinks you are ‘arid’. ‘No!’ I said, but it does seem strange that others can’t see how beautiful, and intelligent, and witty, and supportive you are. You were quite a catch.”
“Perhaps you didn’t catch me, and you need to work harder, now that I am getting older, and finding that I interest a whole different class of people. Incidentally, I ran into my ex at that do you didn’t want to come to the other night.”
Birds in backyards, who have an innate attunement to the hours, the Earth and the stars we can only dream of, are attracted by mournful music, because it’s the easiest to sing. Humans are currently attracted to the idea that romantic love is a construction of the Middle Ages perfected by Hollywood as a capitalist tool. If you buy the idea that real love, that which connects everyone and everything, is universal compassion, and anything else is a hormonal delusion, you’re still just singing the easiest song.