Et tu

Posted on December 24, 2013
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Back in November, I suppose, I came across a news story about a researcher who found that he had brain activity that fit the profile of a psychopath. I thought I’d been told that we stopped trying to identify criminals by their physiology since we condemned the Germans for being better at it. But evidently Minority Report was just too implausible to worry about, so the work goes on to identify the guilty without waiting for the crime.

Perhaps one day they will discover that by some cosmic coincidence the human condition is not only fatal but also corrupt. In the meantime we must accept progress in the small steps that science offers.

I learned something about this in college. No, not in the classes, and not from the instructors. Well, perhaps indirectly. I worked in the school library in the Course Reserves department, and I remember reading one of the selections on file that talked about the characteristics of abusive men. There was a list of something like 15 characteristics, of which offenders typically had at least seven or something like that. I qualified at something like six. Maybe more; I don’t remember if I made it all the way to a bona fide criminal or just an apprentice.

No, I learned more from my friend. He is still my friend, perhaps the only friend I have kept from that time. He is a man filled with pretensions. He is a man who wishes to control the world. He is a slave of his loves and a fugitive of his fears. In him I found a man I could understand, a man in whom I could see myself. At last I could see myself: my naked scheming, my pitiable attempts to present an edifice, my tar-baby battles with the shadows I cast. He is a man I can understand, a knowledge as damning as my comprehension of Browning’s poem Porphyria’s Lover. It is one thing if you can understand the words; that means you are literate. But if you can understand the poem, that means you are a bad man.

Max, here’s to you, my friend!

Porphyria’s Lover

by Robert Browning

The rain set early in to-night,
       The sullen wind was soon awake,
It tore the elm-tops down for spite,
       And did its worst to vex the lake:
       I listened with heart fit to break.
When glided in Porphyria; straight
       She shut the cold out and the storm,
And kneeled and made the cheerless grate
       Blaze up, and all the cottage warm;
       Which done, she rose, and from her form
Withdrew the dripping cloak and shawl,
       And laid her soiled gloves by, untied
Her hat and let the damp hair fall,
       And, last, she sat down by my side
       And called me. When no voice replied,
She put my arm about her waist,
       And made her smooth white shoulder bare,
And all her yellow hair displaced,
       And, stooping, made my cheek lie there,
       And spread, o’er all, her yellow hair,
Murmuring how she loved me — she
       Too weak, for all her heart’s endeavour,
To set its struggling passion free
       From pride, and vainer ties dissever,
       And give herself to me for ever.
But passion sometimes would prevail,
       Nor could to-night’s gay feast restrain
A sudden thought of one so pale
       For love of her, and all in vain:
       So, she was come through wind and rain.
Be sure I looked up at her eyes
       Happy and proud; at last I knew
Porphyria worshipped me; surprise
       Made my heart swell, and still it grew
       While I debated what to do.
That moment she was mine, mine, fair,
       Perfectly pure and good: I found
A thing to do, and all her hair
       In one long yellow string I wound
       Three times her little throat around,
And strangled her. No pain felt she;
       I am quite sure she felt no pain.
As a shut bud that holds a bee,
       I warily oped her lids: again
       Laughed the blue eyes without a stain.
And I untightened next the tress
       About her neck; her cheek once more
Blushed bright beneath my burning kiss:
       I propped her head up as before,
       Only, this time my shoulder bore
Her head, which droops upon it still:
       The smiling rosy little head,
So glad it has its utmost will,
       That all it scorned at once is fled,
       And I, its love, am gained instead!
Porphyria’s love: she guessed not how
       Her darling one wish would be heard.
And thus we sit together now,
       And all night long we have not stirred,
       And yet God has not said a word!

 

Psalm 5

Posted on June 25, 2013
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Give ear to my words, O Lord;
consider my groaning.
Give attention to the sound of my cry,
my King and my God,
for to you do I pray.

O Lord, in the morning you hear my voice,
in the morning I prepare a sacrifice
for you and watch.

For you are not a God
who delights in wickedness;
evil may not dwell with you.
The boastful shall not stand
before your eyes;
you hate all evildoers.
You destroy those who speak lies;
the Lord abhors the bloodthirsty
and deceitful man.

But I, through the abundance
of your steadfast love,
will enter your house.
I will bow down toward
your holy temple
in the fear of you.
Lead me, O Lord, in your righteousness
because of my enemies;
make your way straight before me.

For there is no truth in their mouth;
their innermost self is destruction;
their throat is an open grave
they flatter with their tongue.
Make them bear their guilt, O God;
let them fall by their own counsels;
because of the abundance of
their transgressions, cast them out,
for they have rebelled against you.

But let all who take refuge in you rejoice;
let them ever sing for joy;
and spread your protection over them,
that those who love your name
may exult in you.
For you bless the righteous, O Lord;
you cover him with favor as with a shield.

Psalm 4

Posted on June 25, 2013
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Answer me when I call,
O God of my righteousness!
You have given me relief
when I was in distress.
Be gracious to me
and hear my prayer!

O men, how long shall my honor
Be turned to shame?
How long will you love
vain words and seek after lies?

But know that the Lord has set apart
the godly for himself;
the Lord hears when I call to him.

Be angry, and do not sin;
ponder in your own hearts
on your beds, and be silent.

Offer right sacrifices,
and put your trust in the Lord.

There are many who say,
“Who will show us some good?”
Lift up the light of your face upon us,
O Lord!
You have put more joy in my heart
than they have when their grain
and wine abound.

In peace I will both lie down and sleep;
for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.

Psalm 3

Posted on June 25, 2013
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O Lord, how many are my foes!
Many are rising against me;
many are saying of my soul,
“There is no salvation for him in God.”

But you, O Lord, are a shield about me,
my glory, and the lifter of my head.
I cried aloud to the Lord,
and he answered me from his holy hill.

I lay down and slept;
I woke again, for the Lord sustained me.
I will not be afraid of many thousands of people’
who have set themselves against me all around.

Arise, O Lord!
Save me, O my God!
For you strike all my enemies on the cheek;
you break the teeth of the wicked.

Salvation belongs to the Lord;
your blessing be on your people!

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