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Encounter with the Oracle

The oracle is able to see all the other universes pressing in on this one. For example in our universe we use “Bohemian” to mean someone with an alternative lifestyle who eschews the rat race.  This is because in the nineteenth century the Gypsies (or Rom people) in France were associated with the central European country of Bohemia (part of modern day Czech republic).  But the oracle sees a universe where in nineteenth century France they associated the Gypsies (or Rom people) not with Bohemia but with Croatia, and where someone who lives in a converted tenement apartment and listens to vinyl records now is called Croatian.

The oracle is looking at my coffee grounds.  I am shaking in my boots to discover the ghosts of other versions of me who are pressing in from the other side.  They are all like me but different.   One of them is with his oracle looking at tea leaves. And one of them is being told, right now at this very moment of a world where in nineteenth century France they thought the Gypsies (or Rom people) came from Dalmatia and now they call people who lead a counter-cultural lifestyle Dalmatians.

For a second my eyes meet his across the gap between the worlds.  I muster my courage (in this universe at this moment in this situation I have courage) and ask:

“So, what do you call the dogs?”

“You mean the ones from the cartoon movie 101 Slovakians?”

At this moment existential terror and fear of the abyss overcome me like a pair of experienced tag-team wrestlers.  I run from the oracle’s storefront store festooned with golden Buddhas and pyramids but not before placating her with a crisp fifty dollar bill.  Looking up at me from the paper currency I see not the beatifically bearded face of Ulysses S. Grant but the mocking leer of James Polk.

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Don’t Argue with your Mother

Some day she will not be able to understand a word you say, and you will wish that every thing you had ever said to her was “I love you.”

Unless perhaps when you argue with her you let her argue with a part of herself.

And then, perhaps, when you argue with her you let her argue with herself, and forgive herself,  and say “I love you” to herself — using you.

Which, although it may not have been hers, is still not a bad reason to become a mother.

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A Dialogue on Philosophy Versus Questions of Fact

EMPIRICUS

Hey, Philosophicus!  You should stop worrying about abstract issues of philosophy and commit yourself to the real world so you can solve its problems.  While you are wasting your time pondering questions like “what is a species” I am running to keep actual species of animals from becoming extinct by direct mail campaigns, fund-raising, picketing, and writing my local congressman!

PHILOSOPHICUS

Sounds good.  What particular species of animal are you trying to preserve from extinction?

EMPIRICUS

Medium-sized donkey.

 

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Why Search for Myths and Rituals?

I used to search far and wide for myths and rituals because I thought my modern lifestyle had stripped the mystery from life and made it cold and calculable.

What a gigantic idiot I was to think that!

Now it’s obvious to me that there are myths everywhere I look.  Love, friendship, America, entertainment, the morning and the night, transportation, being bored and being interested, being lonely or being together, the Arm, the Leg, the eye, the hand, the brain, the heart, the New, the Old, the Family… They are all stories that make no sense but capture the imagination, black holes with event horizons that zap crackle and zotz us with energy.

I have to say if myth is to prose as ritual is to action, then there are even more rituals.  Talking is a ritual.  A birthday party is a ritual.  A late night walk with a friend is a ritual.  A kiss is a ritual.

What do they mean?  Why do we do them?  They bind us together, they enact our relationship with the unknown, they embody our contradictions, they make and unmake the Great Work of Time.

And if that were not mysterious enough who is to say that my kiss means the same as her kiss?   Or that my kiss today means what my kiss did when I was a child, or yesterday, or a moment ago?

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