I once read an interview with a Taoist farmer in New Age Journal. In the spring he’d throw some rice grains on the ground as he walked around his land, then forget them. Around August he’d notice plants growing. One day, he’d pick the grains. Later, someone visiting his house would offer him money for them. “Years go by and I forget I’m a farmer,” he said.
When we finally reach the street, it’s like moving into the current of a mighty river. We pass the White House, the Treasury, the Justice Department, all the cornerstones of empire that remind us this is Washington, where decisions are made that affect everyone, the way one careless moment, one broken promise — one broken condom — can affect your whole life.
I’m also a fag. Which means that I regard my accomplishments and abilities and virtues with considerable irony. Not because I think any less of myself in the abstract, but because I know how little my accomplishments and abilities and virtues protect me from self-doubt.
The night of the day that Dr. Martin Luther King was shot, my parents had gone to the art museum in Cleveland to see a stunning painting by Titian of Mars and Venus, a fat naked Venus and a Mars clad in Renaissance armor. But instead of eating a fancy dinner or making love in a motel room, they were frantically trying to book a flight back to Newark, New Jersey, which was burning to the ground.
We were all terribly sorry we’d made the earth pay for our pleasure these last 200 years. We had a fear-taste in our mouths. Maybe the earth is preparing revenge. In comic books, an exposure to toxicity creates superpowered heroes, but in this world we are not so lucky.
Kevin Murray, retired, one-time police chief of a small midwestern city, turned on his electric typewriter and began his third letter of the day. “Dear Abbie Hoffman, It says in the newspapers you killed yourself because you weren’t getting enough attention. Makes sense. More sense than most of what you said. . . .”