Thursday, August 17, 2006

Narcissus, Unimpressed

“Know before whom you stand” is inscribed on the top of the Torah case in many synagogues. I’ve written the same message on the top of my bathroom mirror, though hardly as an exercise in megalomania.

Most of us don’t get ourselves crucified, but the path of even a more or less satisfactory life is marked off by such stations of the cross as the moment when you realize that your plans have failed and you’ll have to make do with fantasies, and the moment when you discover that you have to imagine that you still have desires in order to go on dreaming, and the moment when you recognize that dreaming is as much of a chore as doing the dishes.

I’m anything but a good person, and yet I have a certain automatic generosity. I don’t much care who enjoys something as long as somebody does. It’s as if I believed that there was only one actor behind every part in the play, the self-same crazy hunger chanting “I am the eater, I am the eater, I am the eater!” through its innumerable ravenous mouths. (Or “Feed me!” if you prefer the Little Shop of Horrors to the Upanishads.)

The sad fact that a question isn’t necessarily profound just because it doesn’t have an answer.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The Fifth Rerun of Wagon Train

It is gradually dawning on quite a few people that last week’s terror plot probably wasn’t all that it was cracked up to be. Indeed, since none of the villains of the piece had made any bombs or bought airline tickets and many of them didn’t even have passports, it’s not clear that they were ever ready to even rehearse, let alone pull off a massive attack. The charges against the group depend on the testimony, probably extracted under torture, of a man in Pakistani custody. Meanwhile, both Bush and Blair stood in urgent need of a renewal of public panic; and both have a long track record of exaggerating and misrepresenting facts for political gain. Now it is true that even the most relentless bluffer is sometimes dealt good cards. There may indeed have been some sort of plot. Chances are, however, that our boys are just blowing smoke again. Granted the extreme incompetence of these administrations, a real plot would have most likely have been revealed by planes plummeting to the ground. If these guys are able to thwart it, the threat can’t be too serious.