Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Krapp's Last Blog Entry

Oh, the hours I’ve spent inside the Coliseum
Dodging lions and wastin’ time
Oh, those mighty kings of the jungle, I could hardly stand to see em
Yes it sure has been a long, hard climb . . .
Someday, everything is gonna be smooth like a rhapsody
When I paint my masterpiece
Someday, everything is gonna be different
When I paint my masterpiece.
---Bob Dylan, "When I Paint My Masterpiece"
(The scene: a weary looking man, about the age of 61, although the scowl on his face adds about 5 years to any estimate. He is dressed in a pair of ratty pants that may have been a decent pair of blue jeans at some time in the past, and a white undershirt, stained with sweat and the remains of drinks gone by. He is seated in a recliner in a sparsely furnished apartment; on the endtable near his chair sits a glass of milk with a water ring forming underneath.

He holds a bound journal in his lap, the brown cover worn at the places where his fingers would usually hold it, and he absent-mindedly turns the pages. At one page he suddenly stops. He stares at it for several minutes, and then begins to read.)

The man: "I went to services this morning for what I think will be the last time. It's not that I don't believe in God anymore, I do. Or I think I do. But the whole thing leaves me wishing I were somewhere else. If I want to sit around and have people not talk to me I can stay at home and accomplish that goal while I sleep. I can just imagine God himself sitting in the back thinking, 'You know, they invited me, but they don't seem to care if I'm here or not. I gave up a $6 breakfast at Denny's for this?'" (The man chuckles, but maintains the scowl. He continues to read.) "Was it always like this? Does turning fifty mean that the things you formerly took comfort in are now drained of their meaning? Surely it must have meant something at some point. Ten years ago it wasn't like this...."

(The man stops now and stares at the page for a moment. He lays the book on the end table and slowly extricates himself from the recliner. He ambles across the room and over to a small closet. Opening the door, he begins to pick through an accumulation of years of detritus. He is undeterred. Finally he finds a cardboard box, the years having left the packing tape bereft of its stickiness. He carries the box to his chair and sits down. With the box on the floor he digs through a collection of journals and notebooks in varying conditions. He settles on one and turns the pages as quickly as his elderly fingers will allow. Finally he stops at an entry marked "August 27, 2005", and begins to read.)

The man: "What drives Jennifer and Father Michael and the beloved baklava makers and the choir members who sang so beautifully I wanted to weep? Is it the same thing that drives Pastor Jeff to preach out of the authorized King James Version of the Bible every Sunday and go out of his way to see people brought into the fold? Is it the same thing that causes some Evangelical Protestants to make a spiritual U-turn into Catholicism, becoming book-worms and tape-worms and following speakers around from conference to conference like 1970’s Deadheads who want to hear “Dark Star” just one more time? Is it the same thing that drives that one person out of 10,000 to put up the John 3:16 banner because they actually want someone to read the Bible verse and not just to get on camera? What is it? And how can I get me some?"

(He stares off into space for a moment, and then starts talking to himself.)

The man: Has it always been like this? Today I look back ten years at myself looking back ten years. Has there ever been a time when these things that people fight wars over, these things that people devote their lives to.... (he trails off for a moment, lost in thought. He then bends over and looks into the box, allowing the book he was reading to drop to the floor. He finds a spiral notebook marked "1995". He opens the book about two-thirds of the way through and settles on an entry marked "February 15, 1995." He reads slowly, his voice trembling.)

The man: "I miss Mike, I miss Johnny, I miss the meetings in Marie's apartment, I miss Toledo Bible Fellowship, I miss Christian Assembly, I miss... I miss that sense of immediacy, of spontaneity, of closeness to God... the idea that you can crack open the Bible and that's all you need. The experience. Something tangible that you can grab ahold of and know that God is there. The correctness, the (seeming) sterility of having all your doctrines in a row isn't as important as the fellowship of believers with JESUS CHRIST!!! at the center of the conversation. I fear that I have lost something that will be well nigh impossible to regain."

(A tear slowly rides the valleys of the passage of time down the man's aged face. The memories come crawling across the screen of his mind. Hand-clapping guitar Masses. Friends old and new shouting the verses of hymns. Six guys getting a hotel room and spending a whole night trying to figure out what an apostle was. And now he had reached the point in his life when the only thing left to hope for was that he would have a painless death.

Surely this was not how it was meant to be.)

Like a song I have to sing
I sing it for you
Like the words I have to bring
I bring them for you
And in leather, lace and chains
We stake our claim
Revolution once again

No I won't, I won't wear it on my sleeve
I can see through this expression
And you know I don't believe
I'm too wrong to be told 'exactly who are you'
Tonight, tomorrow's too late

And we love to wear a badge, a uniform
And we love to fly a flag
But I won't let others live in hell
As we divide against each other
And we fight amongst ourselves
Too set in our ways to try to rearrange
Too right to be wrong, in this rebel song

Let the bells ring out
Let the bells wring out
Is there nothing left
Is there, is there nothing left
Is honesty what you want

A generation without name
Ripped and torn
Nothing to lose, nothing to gain
Nothing at all
And if you can't help yourself
Well, take a look around you
When others need your time
You say it's time to go
It's your time

Angry words won't stop the fight
Two wrongs won't make it right
A new heart is what I need
Oh God, make it bleed
Is there nothing left
---U2, "Like A Song"

(my thanks to Samuel Beckett for the inspiration)


Post a Comment

<< Home