Sunday, December 20, 2009

narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life

Little cat, so
thin on love
and barley.

--Basho

I have been scattered for the past few days. This post will bear the heavy mark of that. After a heady first week of work, I fell off a little. The intention is to recover, but with the holidays it is likely that little will be done between now and the first of the year. What has gone wrong? Perhaps my cooking hasn't been spicy enough.

A friend passed recently, a dog named Tess. I had known her for seven years. She was the companion to Liam, who comes to the Pub every day at noon and drinks a few pints of Hen. Tess was a fine old black lab who, in her younger days, would occasionally come by the pub without her old man and we'd have to call him. (This was before my time.)

In the past year she lost a great deal of weight and her trouble walking became more pronounced. She lost interest even in the treats we would give her. Liam had her put down last week.

Off to the Pub in the sky, old girl. I'll see you when I get there.

I found a new dangerous place in Santa Cruz, a bookstore called Logos. Despite the dandified sneer of the middle-aged host, or maybe because of it, the shelves are filled with odd and old used books for very little money. All the poor remaindered Tuttle editions of Natsume Soseki, two of which I hadn't found previously, and a number of old volumes of Andre Gide's work... I read and was much impressed by The Counterfeiters years ago, but hadn't sought out the rest of his work at the time. I devoured Strait Is the Gate in a single sitting.

The distance between such writing and writing now is too sad to really think on this morning.

But, like many major foreign writers, (Pessoa, Soseki, etc) Gide is hardly if ever read even by literate people in the country. The culture of reading has changed, I guess, and turns to books for reasons different from my own.

I read somewhere that the percentage of books published each year by foreign writers in translation hovers around 0.4-- Oy. It's probably higher, at least statistically relevant, if the books were limited to Fiction/literature, but still.

The Orthodox church nearby is devoted to St. Lawrence. I do enjoy all the stories of the saints, so I looked him up. The story is not usually told as a joke, but it is, and an excellent one.

St. Lawrence lived in pre-Christian Rome where to be elected to an office in the church almost assured martyrdom. St. Lawrence was elected Treasurer. He was promptly brought before the judge who ordered him to turn the treasure of the church over to Rome.
"But your honor, I will need three days to gather up all our riches."
Three days were granted to St. Lawrence.

During those three days, St. Lawrence tended the poor and sick and desperate just as he always had, but asked all those who were able to appear outside the courthouse when he was being tried inside.

One the appointed day, the judge asked St. Lawrence if he was ready to turn over the church's riches to Rome.
"I am ready, but our wealth is too great to fit in the courtroom. It lies outside. Come."

So the judge and the soldiers and all the observers followed St. Lawrence out of the courtroom. They found the steps and the streets filled with the poor in their rags and the sick in their torments. St. Lawrence turned to the judge.

"This is the treasure of the church. I entrust its care to Rome."

And when they were flaying him and roasting him on a spit, he couldn't stop laughing.

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