November 20, 2017 (Monday)

by Yule Heibel on November 19, 2018

Monday, Monday. Cloud and sky are again colluding this morning to create a spectacular light show. Water vapor chariots, as solid as gray-painted oaken ones, rimmed canyons, mountains, and a panoply of chiaroscuro in heavenly pastels, which means silver, gray, a touch of white, a hint of gold – all playing out against an empyrean blue.

The air is dry – winter is coming. Two black birds pop up near the horizon. They whirl about together, then disappear in the now almost completely bare tree canopy. A few brown leaves hang on – not for dear life, obviously, because they’re already dead. From habit?

Last night I did something I rarely do: let my thoughts drift to all the trauma that goes on continuously among humans – and all sentient beings. Torture, that kind of thing. It’s odd, because not only is this line of thought something I typically am able to avoid, so “going there” is out of the ordinary. But I also have to say that when I can’t avoid it, it’s quite immersive and literally terrifying: I am genuinely disgusted and above all frightened by all the things known or reported that come to mind, whether it’s Yazidi women and their plight at the hands of IS torturer-rapists or who- and whatever else is out there perpetrating evil. In my mind, I realize at a deeply visceral level that in some ways these are not outlier events, even if the vast majority of people will never experience anything like that kind of evil, that kind of terror. But because it exists for one person (or, say, for one animal on a factory farm), it can exist for all. We’re replicating beings, the line between imagination and deed shifts easily. Too easily.

Anyway, not often do I fall into this rabbit hole, but the other odd thing is that I was reading a book about writers and what they wore (Legendary Authors and the Clothes They Wore, by Terry Newman). Promoted as a “gift book” (mine is a library copy), it’s actually a fascinating series of vignettes. The authors are all North American and European; there’s nothing about torture in this book. W. and I have also started watching “Wolf Hall,” based on Hillary Mantel’s books. We’re only through the second episode. No torture here, either. And yet, as with authors and their style habits, their clothing choices as described by Newman, as well as the portrayal of the Tudor period, when proximity to power meant proximity to turmoil, violence is somehow just beyond the surface.

Style – and if the authors in Newman’s book had style in what they wore, the costuming in “Wolf Hall,” too, is something to behold, a view perhaps into how the One Percent lived in the early sixteenth century (I’m including the rather comfortable-looking houses and halls, too) …style …it’s this thing we put on. But also, no, …much more than just mere thing. It’s a uniform, a protection, something that brings some kind of order to delineate from the roiling chaos that exists when we’re naked and vulnerable.

So I think it was just this contrast created by the human will to style compared to actual vulnerability and misery in the world which set me off. Every once in a while something does that, and it reminds me that I (we) live in an unbelievable bubble of safety and comfort. A power outage will do it, too. Next, imagine the whole grid going down, and no power for months …in the north, in winter. We wouldn’t live like the Tudor One Percent, that’s for sure. “Squalid” would, I think, be that season’s style keyword…

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