Tuesday, December 12

the bark at the end

So the angel passed along thinking aloud to himself, doing his business, barely taking note of me, but taking note of me nonetheless. We recognized each other. Of course the other thing is that this "I" is not "I." I am not this body, this "self." I am not just my individual nature. Yet I might as well be, so firmly am I rooted in it and identified with it--with this which will cease utterly to exist in its natural individuality.

In the hermitage-- I see how quickly one can fall apart. I talk to myself, I dance around the hermitage, I sing. This is all very well, but it is not serious, it is a manifestation of weakness, of dizziness. I feel within this individual self the nearness of disintegration. (Yet I also realize that this exterior self can fall apart and be reintegrated too. This is like losing dry skin that peels off while the new skin forms underneath.)

And I suddenly remember absurd things. The song Pop had on the record forty-five years ago! "The Whistler and His Dog." Crazy! I went out to the jakes in the rain with this idiot song rocking my whole being. Its utterly inane confidence! Its gaiety. It is in its own way joyful--the joy of people who had not seen World War II and Auschwitz and the Bomb. Silly as it was, it had life and juice in it. Confidence of people walking up and down Broadway in derbies in 1910! Kings of the earth! Sousa's whole mad band blasting out this idiot and confident song! The strong, shrill whistle of the whistler! ("O fabulous day, calao, calay!" and the bark at the end (that I liked best). Brave Whistler! Brave Dog! (As a child I had this Whistler confused with the one who painted his mother!)

-- Thomas Merton, journal entry 4 December 1964 Dancing in the Water of Life