Mashup/Remix

Genesis 1:1-10

In the beginning, God created the Vietnam War. Now the war was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the violence.

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.

And God said, “Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.” So God made the vault and separated the water under the vault from the water above it. And it was so. God called the vault “sky.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the second day.

And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” And it was so. God called the dry ground “land,” and the gathered waters he called “seas.” And God saw that it was good.



‘Do ladies always such a hard time having babies?’ Nick asked.

‘No, that was very, very exceptional.’

‘Why did he kill himself, Daddy?’

‘I don’t know, Nick. He couldn’t stand things, I guess.’

‘Do many men kill themselves, Daddy?’

‘Not very many, Nick.’

‘Do many women?’

‘Hardly ever.’

‘Don’t they ever?’

‘Oh, yes. They do sometimes.’

‘Daddy?’

‘Yes.’

‘Where did Uncle George go?’

‘He’ll turn up all right.’

‘Is dying hard, Daddy?’

‘No, I think it’s pretty easy, Nick. It all depends.’

They were seated in the boat, Nick in the stern, his father rowing. The sun was coming up over the hills. A bass jumped, making a circle in the water. Nick trailed his hand in the water. It felt warm in the sharp chill of the morning.

In the early morning on the lake sitting in the stern of the boat with his father rowing, he felt quite sure that he would never die.





Nick stood at the end of time, half his head blown away, his right index finger curved gently; his other fingers lazily formed the grip of the gun. Dying was indeed easy, just like Daddy said; living was difficult. He saw his father first, a mirror image. The Indian next the gash across his throat flared luridly. Uncle George seeming unmarked was there too, his suicide a lifetime of booze and cigars. Finally, there were just too many things that they couldn’t stand, they shared that in life and death.

This, of course, was his story and it should have stood on its own. However, as always, others appropriated it to tell their stories, stories of gender, race, oppression and privileged masculinity. At first, it was wives, kids, and friends; later it was strangers telling his story for themselves, their purposes. Deriding the telling because of what it was not and missing what it was, just another kind of violence, and simply too much to stand.

Ernest Hemingway: The Life as Fiction and the Fiction as Life
Jackson J. Benson
American Literature
Vol. 61, No. 3 (Oct. 1989), pp. 345-358
Published by: Duke University Press
DOI: 10.2307/2926824
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2926824
Page Count: 14

For one thing, I think we have missed Hemingway’s humor, and for another, we have tended to overlook his expressions of gentleness, as well as his attachment to the natural world. We have missed the sense in his work of the complexity of what it means to live… and with our biographical blinders on, we have missed his deep conviction of life’s essential ambiguities.

Benson, J. (1989). Ernest Hemingway: The Life as Fiction and the Fiction as Life. American Literature,61(3), 345-358. doi:10.2307/2926824



‘How do you like being an interne?’

Nick said, ‘All right’. He was looking away so as not to see what his father was doing.

‘There. That gets it,’ said his father and put something into the basin. Nick didn’t look at it. ‘Now,’ his father said, ‘there’s some stitches to put in. You can watch this or not, Nick, just as you like. I’m going to sew up the incision I made.’

Nick did not watch. His curiosity had been gone for a long time.



Nick was young, less than eleven, probably. He discovered that experience of the ancient, just not interested, not curious, and exhausted and there is nothing to do with it or about it. The dying of curiosity is among the just too many things. As are the polite lies, hundreds, thousands of polite lies, mostly simply of omission, but stacked up in an enormous dirty pile. They became an impossible obstruction to self-reflection, each tiny little lie hides us from ourselves and in the end are impossible to stand. It is there as well though quiet and subtle, the matter of approval, father for a son, or rather the lack. It is almost never forthcoming. It is usually unapproachable. The father dies, by his hand, and it is forever irreconcilable. The depth of despair at never being deemed good, let alone good enough is among the too many things.




‘You see, Nick, babies are supposed to be born head first, but sometimes they’re not. When they’re not they make a lot of trouble for everybody. Maybe I’ll have to operate on this lady. We’ll know in a little while.When he was satisfied with his hands, he went in and went to work.

‘Pull back that quilt, will you, George?’ he said. I’d rather not touch it.’

Later when he started to operate Uncle George and three Indian men held the woman still. She bit Uncle George on the arm and Uncle George said, ‘Damn squaw bitch!’ and the young Indian who had rowed Uncle George over laughed at him. Nick held the basin for his father. It all took a long time.

His father picked the baby up, slapped it to make it breathe, and handed it to the old woman.

* * *

‘Ought to have a look at the proud father. They’re usually the worst sufferers in these little affairs,’ the doctor said. ‘I must say he took it all pretty quietly.’

He pulled back the blanket from the Indian’s head. His hand came away wet. He mounted on the edge of the lower bunk with lamp in one hand and looked in. The Indian lay with his face toward the wall. His throat had been cut from ear to ear. The blood had flowed down into a pool where his body sagged the bunk. His head rested on his left arm. The open razor lay, edge up, in the blankets.



Violent birth and violent self-immolation mirrored, Nick looked away and avoided one and stared into the empty eyes of the other. A coin toss of the universe as to which Nick would glimpse and an unanswerable, unbalanced question torn into his psyche. It is easy to celebrate one over the other, and it is nearly impossible to hold both simultaneously in attention; birth and death. Oh, the words yes, but not the real particulars of a birth, or a death. And certainly not when they are piled up on each other spread across a lifespan perhaps, but violently brought together into simultaneity it rocked Uncle George and the doctor, but it crafted Nick. Birth is sex played in reverse, perhaps? Nick, watched three men hold down a screaming woman a fourth between her legs cutting violently. He struggled to connect emotional and sexual intimacy his entire life. Gentleness was just too much and yet he wanted desperately, starving to give it and to receive it. His children and his role as father an unnatural, calculated, performance of sanity, and goodness and secretly a burden of guilt and fakery. The difference, of gender and race, were impossible, after that night, the power of strangeness, sudden violence, poverty, and helplessness swirled comprehension, human connection away and any otherness only amplified his disconnection.

And, Nick sobbed and sobbed chest wrenching, head aching…



Nick gasped awake heart pounding, the dream, the sobbing, again, he only ever grieved in his dreams. He sat up, scuffed his slippers on, and shuffled to the bathroom and later to the kitchen, the restless night echoing in his head. He made coffee, poured some cereal into a bowl with a splash of milk. Ate. His wife bustled about with her morning, chatting and busy, a peck on the cheek and she headed off to work. He dressed and went to work by the usual route. Statistics indicated that if he lived to sixty-five, his life expectancy was eighty-three another thirty-one years sixteen more years at this job or another like it and then fifteen years of sitting in a recliner and watching reruns.

His wife said he needed a hobby that he needed to rediscover his passions as she swirled out the door with friends to do whatever it was they did it always sounded shrill and condescending when she said it. He mused darkly about becoming a serial killer but knew he did not care enough even to finish the thought.

Work that morning was the usual gray drudgery of paperwork and email punctuated by the hell of other people. At lunch he ate a salad with tuna, his Doctor wanted him to lose fifteen more pounds. He said that managing his blood pressure with lifestyle changes was better than medication. Nick had lost ten pounds, kept it off, and just could not care anymore, fifteen pounds might as well be a hundred. The afternoon was a wreck of personnel issues, and Nick clumped through it like a broken marionette, some evil-trickster of a god pulling his strings.

He ate supper, snuck a couple of drinks while his wife chatted cheerfully on the phone, he binge-watched a silly British car show, and it was time for bed.

You have already grasped that Sisyphus is the absurd hero. He is, as much through his passions as through his torture. His scorn of the gods, his hatred of death, and his passion for life won him that unspeakable penalty in which the whole being is exerted toward accomplishing nothing. This is the price that must be paid for the passions of this earth. Nothing is told us about Sisyphus in the underworld. Myths are made for the imagination to breathe life into them. As for this myth, one sees merely the whole effort of a body straining to raise the huge stone, to roll it, and push it up a slope a hundred times over; one sees the face screwed up, the cheek tight against the stone, the shoulder bracing the clay-covered mass, the foot wedging it, the fresh start with arms outstretched, the wholly human security of two earth-clotted hands. At the very end of his long effort measured by skyless space and time without depth, the purpose is achieved. Then Sisyphus watches the stone rush down in a few moments toward lower world whence he will have to push it up again toward the summit. He goes back down to the plain….

I leave Sisyphus at the foot of the mountain! One always finds one’s burden again. But Sisyphus teaches the higher fidelity that negates the gods and raises rocks. He too concludes that all is well. This universe henceforth without a master seems to him neither sterile nor futile. Each atom of that stone, each mineral flake of that night-filled mountain, in itself forms a world. The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man’s, heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.

Camus, A. (1955). The myth of Sisyphus, and other essays ([1st American ed.]. ed.). New York: Knopf.





Revelation 6:7-8

When the Lamb opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, “Come!” I looked, and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him. They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine, and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth.



Graveyard



I leave Sisyphus at the foot of the mountain! One always finds one’s burden again. But Sisyphus teaches the higher fidelity that negates the gods and raises rocks. He too concludes that all is well. This universe henceforth without a master seems to him neither sterile nor futile. Each atom of that stone, each mineral flake of that night-filled mountain, in itself forms a world. The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man’s, heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.

Camus, A. (1955). The myth of Sisyphus, and other essays ([1st American ed.]. ed.). New York: Knopf.