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The Ballot Boy: adult or YA?

I began writing the first draft of The Ballot Boy in Venice in 2008.

I conceived the book as a standalone novel for adults, written in the past tense, in the third person. I soon realized the story was too big for one book and broke it down into a trilogy. That was at the height of Harry Potter and Hunger Games, and, given my hero’s age (14-17) someone suggested I write it for the YA audience, where trilogies are de rigeur. After another draft, YA, third person, I opted for the intimacy of first-person and the immediacy of the present tense.

Another three drafts later, thinking my work was done, I asked an agent friend to read it. Her comments were hard to hear and spot on. She said, “I started out shelving books at Barnes & Noble. My first question is always ‘which shelf does it go on?’ Your book falls between shelves. It’s too YA to be adult, too adult to be YA. You need to decide which shelf you want it to go on.”

I took a deep breath, set the manuscript aside, and thought about it for two years while writing other books. Everything – target audience, tone, voice, and r-rating – was up for grabs. Underlying those issues was the big one: my intent. I felt constrained writing The Ballot Boy as YA. Adopting the no-holds-barred freedom of writing adult fiction I could write the book I originally intended.

A final draft followed, first person, present tense, adult, still with a distinct cross-over potential by virtue of the hero’s age which, thanks to the laws of the Venetian Republic, was non-negotiable. The Ballot Boy, more about longing than lovemaking, can easily be read as YA. That is not the case with the remaining volumes where Nico’s sexuality flowers and sex becomes crucial to character development.

Despite Nico’s “youth” in The Ballot Boy, I see the trilogy as one adult book, a life from age 14 to 27.

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Do you see a pattern?

This is the “black belt”. Originally named for its dark and fertile soil, it became the plantation belt of the old south with the preponderance of slaves.

Once the Confederacy, it was later home to the “Dixiecrats” and now has the highest concentrations of Trump supporters. It was the focus of “Reconstruction” after the Civil War and the locus of voter registration and integration (“separate is not equal”) drives in the 50s and 60s, the kingdom of Jim Crow laws, lynchings, and terror against the black population.

It is also, not coincidentally, the “Bible Belt.”

The subsequent maps show various metrics, including poverty, life expectancy, infant mortality, education, obesity, access to healthcare. Pick your metric and you will find a similar map.

IMHO this region is the political backbone of reaction in the U.S.

Draw your own conclusions.

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Time Pieces

i. haydn’s clock

The mainspring
uncoils,
the intricate
interlocking gears
mesh perfectly,
the elaborate
eighteenth century
Bavarian clock
counts off
the seconds, minutes and hours.

The chain is pulled
by an unseen hand,
infused by love or
sublimely indifferent.
From Epicurus via Lucretius,
translated by Newton,
orchestrated by Haydn,
the classical universe
counted infinity
on the jeweled movement
of its hands.

ii. The Chrysler’s Disbributor Cap

We had a 1949 Chrysler
that my dad drove ’til it died.
In the late fifties we used to drive
over the Cahuenga Pass
on the Hollywood Freeway
to visit my aunt
in the San Fernando valley.
The car had a faulty distributor cap
that would pop off erratically,
stalling the car.
We never knew when it would happen,
only that it would,
like his anger, which smouldered
under passivity until it exploded
like a car crash on a deserted street.
That violent, unpredictable anger
said everything about the man.
He never brushed his teeth,
rarely took showers, had smelly feet
and died when I was seventeen.
And when I think of him,
I remember, above all, his
anger, ticking away like
an unseen clock going off
with the maddening irregularity
of the distributor cap popping
in heavy traffic, on the
long uphill grade toward Barham Blvd.
on a smoggy summer Sunday
on the way to the valley.

iii. Elke

Every morning at exactly 5:15,
fifteen minutes before the
alarm goes off at 5:30,
Elke bites Phyllis’s feet
to wake her,
then sits by Phyllis’s pillow
purring loudly
until Phyllis gets up,
goes into the kitchen,
and feeds her half a can
of food.

iv. Larry’s Dream

“Watch,” Luke’s playmate
screams, pointing. “Somebody’ s coming
on something!”
Luke squeaks around the corner
on a sit-down hand scooter
contraption, smiling.

Seated at the dining table:
to my right, Lucretius,
no madder than I;
to my left, Newton.
Across the table, Einstein.
Each in his own world,
those worlds converging.
We join hands.

“Are we on time?” Newton asks,
and we all laugh.
“Better late, than never,”
Lucretius replies.
Einstein’s fingers tap
lightly on the table:
Haydn’s “Clock.”
He smiles.

Time dissolves.
Einstein prays.
Newton admires the
elegance of his notion.
Lucretius weeps at
the infinite, stark
and sublime.
Luke sings the
William Tell Overture while
Elke eats a spider
on the floor.

Phyllis is cooking supper,
not in the least surprised
that against all odds
this random superposition
of possibilities
coheres.

It’s dinner time.

12/10/89
Los Angeles

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Holocaust memorial

Museum of the Art of the Children of Terezin, Prague

[Terezin (Theresienstadt) was a Nazi concentration camp outside Prague where  Jewish artists and intellectuals (and many children) were sent]

Memories of the Children of Terezin.

Dogs.

Flowers.

Hopscotch.

Barbed wire.

Gestapo.

Poems.

Ricordi dei bambini di Terezin.

In the adjacent synagogue

Two German boys with earrings

And cutoffs sing close harmony.

Their sweet adolescent chant echoes

In the women’s galleries.

No kites or balloons here

But those imagined or remembered;

Childrens’ games obscured by

Distant clouds.

Beautiful young students,

The language of Goethe and Hegel

On their lips, bright, fresh-faced,

Pass through thickets of gravestones

To see the dead childrens’ art.

Trinnerungen an die kinder von Terezin.

Barbed wire encircles the

Ancient brick walls;

77,000 dead;

tears on stone;

sunlight through glass

on

hopscotch,

a kitten,

children lined up for food,

games never played,

lives never lived.

Les memoirs des enfants du Terezin.

The shamefully beautiful scent

Of jasmine blooming,

A funeral cortege,

Stark floodlights,

A yellow star;

Neither blood nor carnage,

Only the long shadow

Of the distant smokestack.

Memories of the Children of Terezin.

Sleep, children, whisper the echoes;

Dormi;

Schlaf, meine kinder;

Dormez-vous.

Remember, children, sing the birds,

Ricordi;

Trinnert, meine kinder;

N’oubliez jamais.

Peace, children, whisper the leaves,

Pace, bambini,

Shalom,

Friede,

Paix.

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Paradise regained

Three hours in the Scrovegni Chapel with Tom and Amy Worthen

Three uninterrupted hours in the Scrovegni Chapel in Padova is a big deal. A fifteen-minute turn in the chapel cost fifteen euros (in the spring of 2010). On summer evenings it was possible to book a double turn, 30 minutes, barely enough time to view forty major fresco panels stacked three high and not counting all the other painted wall decorations. No time for details. There is too much information to process.

I opined about this to Amy and Tom Worthen over lunch one day. Amy said, “I may be able to help you out.” Without saying what, she promised to get back to me.

By way of background, the chapel was added onto the Scrovegni palace beside a Roman arena in the center of Padova at the end of the thirteenth century. Scarcely half a block away, the Chiesa degli Eremitani, a vast gothic structure, was substantially destroyed by Allied bombing at the end of World War II. The Mantegna frescoes on the walls of its Ovetari Chapel were shattered. The shards were preserved and early this century at attempt to reconstruct the Mantegna frescoes from the fragments was begun. What remains is beautiful but scant.

Scrovegni Chapel, on the other hand, is a compact, unprepossessing brick box of no particular distinction. The palace it abutted is gone; the Roman arena is an ovoid park strewn with skeletal remnants. In the Last Judgement covering the west wall of the interior of the chapel, Enrico Scrovegni, one of medieval Padua’s richest and most infamous usurers, kneels and presents his pristine pink chapel to the Virgin. He built the chapel to buy his way into heaven. It might easily have been reduced to small pile of rubble by an errant bomb during World War II, when the nearby Eremitani was bombed, shattering the priceless Mantegna frescoes in the Ovetari Chapel. That Scrovegni Chapel  survived is a miracle.

As for the artist, more is known about Giotto than many early artists, either because he towered so high above them, or because he had influential admirers.  The facts of his existence, derived from contracts, letters, and other legal documents, are bare bones; as for his character, we have primarily Vasari’s hagiography in his Lives. He was, the story goes, a particularly clever and happy lad of ten, tending sheep, when the great artist Cimabue chanced upon him and saw that he was drawing incredibly lifelike sheep on flat rocks with a sharp stone. That would be Panel #1 in the fresco cycle of the Life of Giotto. Although his life as we know it is a piece of semi-fiction, his frescoes are indisputably real, palpable, unsurpassed in the breadth of their humanity. Giotto eschewed the heroic physiques of the Greeks and the countless copies the Romans churned out like pancakes. Instead he took his inspiration from real people in real situations, animating both Testaments with a humanity not seen since pagan antiquity.

Amy called me back to tell me that we had an appointment at 9-30 on March 18, 2010, for an unlimited visit to Scrovegni Chapel. Unlimited. We could stay as long as we wanted. It was a dazzling gift.

Tom was an art historian who specialized in the Italian renaissance, especially in Venice. He was the perfect companion for the visit. Amy, sketchbook in hand, spent her time drawing the chapel while Tom and I circled it slowly. He didn’t mind my endless questions or strange theories. He pointed out details I hadn’t noticed and told me what part they played in the big picture so that I could grasp the overall design and inner connections of this overwhelming cat’s cradle of interconnections across four dimensions. “They can be read vertically as well as laterally,” Tom said. “The story runs across; the up and down links are thematic.”

The Virtues panels below the bottom tier of frescoes face the Vices panels across the room. They were painted in a ancient Roman technique so as to appear carved in marble. I was drawn to Charity, so famously characterized by Proust:

“…when [Swann] inquired after the kitchen-maid he would say: “Well, how goes it with Giotto’s Charity?” And indeed the poor girl, whose pregnancy had swelled and stoutened every part of her, even to her face, and the vertical, squared outlines of her cheeks, did distinctly suggest those virgins, so strong and mannish as to seem matrons rather, in whom the Virtues are personified in the Arena Chapel. And I can see now that those Virtues and Vices of Padua resembled her in another respect as well. For just as the figure of this girl had been enlarged by the additional symbol which she carried in her body, without appearing to understand what it meant, without any rendering in her facial expression of all its beauty and spiritual significance, but carried as if it were an ordinary and rather heavy burden, so it is without any apparent suspicion of what she is about that the powerfully built housewife who is portrayed in the Arena beneath the label ‘Caritas,’ and a reproduction of whose portrait hung upon the wall of my schoolroom at Combray, incarnates that virtue, for it seems impossible, that any thought of charity can ever have found expression in her vulgar and energetic face. By a fine stroke of the painter’s invention she is tumbling all the treasures of the earth at her feet, but exactly as if she were treading grapes in a wine-press to extract their juice, or, still more, as if she had climbed on a heap of sacks to raise herself higher; and she is holding out her flaming heart to God, or shall we say ‘handing’ it to Him, exactly as a cook might hand up a corkscrew through the skylight of her underground kitchen to some one who had called down to ask her for it from the ground-level above.”

Other plaques are painted between these faux-marble panels. Tom pointed to one of them in particular, its corner chipped off.

“I never fully appreciated that before,” he said. “Look at that masterful rendering of time. Every detail tells us something. This is a memento mori. The chip in the ‘marble’ represents the passage of time, an illusion reminding us of our mortality.”

He pointed at another decorative plaque between panels 19 (The Crucifixion) and 20 (The lamentation of Christ) showing Jonah’s legs sticking out from the mouth of the whale into which he is disappearing. The viewer sees neither all of Jonah nor the whole whale. “It’s a perfect miniature masterpiece,” Tom said. “The part stands for the whole. We see very little and know everything we need to know.

“The Old Testament images,” he said, “prefigure the events in New Testament panels. Jonah in the belly of the whale prefigures Christ’s death. The whale can also be seen as swallowing him and regurgitating him, which prefigures the resurrection.”

I needed Tom’s binoculars to see the lioness with three cubs high on a decorative band. “The newborn cubs were dead for three days and then the mother breathed life into them.” Tom said. “Christ lay entombed for three days.”

Bit by bit the organic and self-reflecting design of the chapel came into focus.

 As we stood before the Flight into Egypt, Tom asked me what I made of the gesture the green-robed figure on the left was making with his right hand. I said it looked to me like a narrative device to carry the eye diagonally, along the line of the strap, across the donkey’s rear haunches, toward the angel hovering above Joseph.

“All the gestures are symbolic,” Tom said. “You have to assume Giotto was making a statement with it. It’s worth looking into.”

“The storytelling is so different here from the St. Francis cycle,” I said. “There he aggressively directed my eye from event to event. These seem more self-contained.”

Tom blinked and smiled. “I was just noticing each panel is arranged to lead the eye from the foreground into the background. They turn inward.” He noted that by this point Giotto had reached a very high level of spatial awareness.

Giotto exploded the static and stylized iconographic conventions he inherited. Calaphas is so angry at Jesus he tears open his shirt (the same gesture seen in the Ira – anger – panelof the Seven Vices). The ass Jesus rides into Jerusalem is docile, humble, eyes sweet, serene, resigned. The mothers weep real tears as their children are hacked to bits in the Slaughter of the Innocents. The religious drama unfolds through human dramas. The characters’ faces grow familiar; they wear the same clothes so that we know who they are even when their backs are toward us. The images conspire toward purpose and understanding. As architecture meets our need for shelter, these pictures meet our need for transcendence. For an instant, we experience the sublime.

Tom, only six months older than me, died suddenly and inexplicably on May 22, 2019. What a privilege and honor that memorable day turns out to have been. When I was young we called such fortuitous events “brushes with glory,” moments touched with magic, radiant and rare.

It was a rare day indeed and here is what I learned:

The Scrovegni frescoes provide a key to the mystery at the heart of everything. They are a gift to us all, to remind us of the heights of which we are capable and the depths to which we can sink. Whether by virtue of, or in spite of their religious language, they encourage us to transcend ourselves.

The west wall is devoted to the Last Judgment. Everything is there, unfolding in complex narrative waves and swirls: the ecstatic peace of heaven, the torments of hell, and the peculiar existential crossroads of greed and mortal terror where Enrico Scrovegni kneels and offers his lovely pink chapel to the Virgin hoping to win her favor. He was betting on her eye being delighted and her heart warmed by the felicitous beauties Giotto created, and which still provide a direct connection to the love animating the universe.

Thanks, Tom.

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IMAGES

These are IMHO the most powerful images.

West facade, Doge’s Palace
The above, from the inside, with the Lion of St. Mark atop his “Pillar of Doom”
Main portal/west facade, St. Mark’s basilica, with great POV
A sottoportego
Front, Palazzo Dario (ca. 1480)
Rear view, Palazzo Dario
Clothing of the period
A hundred years later

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MAPS

All of these maps are public domain from Wiki Commons. The first set shows the “big picture” (including Trieste). They may look fuzzy here, but the originals are not and can be easily sized with great clarity.

THE BIG PICTURE

VENICE / LAGOON

(This one is free to use but requires crediting source [Museo Vaticano])

This is the most famous, a woodcut by Jacopo di Barbari, 1500. A huge file of it can be downloaded and scaled. I used many extreme closeups in The Balloy Boy blog. It actually has just about every single building in Venice at the time.

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Spontaneous Combustion

SPONTANEOUS COMBUSTION

August 16, 1965

I boarded a state-of-the-art 747 at T5, the futuristic TWA terminal at JFK airport. I was 20. I had long hair, a flowered shirt, bellbottom pants, and everyone treated me like an extraterrestrial. My seat was beside a middle-aged black man in a pinstriped suit, impeccable if slightly out of style. His hair and beard were grizzled gray, his eyes were dark and soulful.

“Good afternoon,” he said, waiting for me to return the greeting.

We both settled into our seats. The inflight movie didn’t start for an hour. My seatmate pulled out a compendious tome on WW2 by Basil Lydell Hart but before opening it he said, “My name is Chuck,” and offered his hand.  “Nice to meet you.” 

His hand was rough, the joints knobby with work and arthritis. It didn’t go with his suit.

 “You live in L.A.,” he asked, “or just visiting?”

“It’s home.”

He nodded. “I’m from Minnesota originally,” he said, “but I live in Watts now.”

He leaned in close to me.

“Some of these white folks look scared. I heard two of them talking in the airport. One said to the other ‘I hear they’re shooting at planes from Century Boulevard’ and the other one just nods. The dumb son-of-a-bitch believed him. No black man from Watts is gonna drive to the airport to shoot at an airplane full of white folks when the Police are whooping their asses on 103rd Street. You ever try getting to the airport from Watts? It’s next to impossible. And with all hell breaking loose? A brother wouldn’t make it past Avalon Boulevard. But you’re from L.A. I’m preaching to the choir.”

“How did it start?”

“A white cop pulls over a young black kid for drunk driving when he wasn’t. The neighborhood folks gather around to watch what happens. It’s 95° degrees and everybody is sweating. The kid’s mother comes to see what’s happening and the crowd gets rowdy so cops arrest the kid who did nothing, his friend who did nothing, and his mama for talking back to them. By that time a couple more trucks full of cops arrive and they all start swinging their batons. Boom. The whole place is burning down. That’s anger, man. Righteous anger. You keep turning up the heat and eventually it boils over. That’s what happened on 103rd street. Watts blew. That’s no riot. It’s an uprising.”

Los Angeles, Thursday, April 30, 1992, 2:42 pm

The boss called to tell me not to come in to work. Riots had broken out Wednesday night at Florence and Normandie. The four cops who beat Rodney King to a pulp had been tried in Simi Valley, home to many cops, where a largely white jury had just acquitted them.

Video shot by an amateur from the balcony of his Lake View Terrace apartment was suddenly all over the news. It showed the cops working King over with nightsticks and kicking him on the ground as other officers looked on, laughing and smoking cigarettes.

“They’re looting the Sav-on on Venice Boulevard,” the boss said. “We’re packing up the computers and getting them out of here. I’m closing up shop until after the weekend. We can assess the damage on Monday.”

Our office was in the Helms Building on Venice Boulevard, only two blocks from the looting. On the second night of rioting the flames had spread in wide arcs reaching across the Los Angeles basin. The Watts rebellion had been confined to Watts. The Rodney King riots were not, and white people were getting scared.

We lived in Park Labrea, an apartment community behind the LA County Museum, midway between downtown and the Pacific Ocean, near the center of the L.A. basin. Our building was a 13-story tower. Hearing that the fires were circling the West Side, we went up to the top of our building.

We weren’t alone. A lot of people were on the roof. We had a 360° view of the basin, from the Baldwin Hills to the Hollywood Hills and from downtown to Beverly Hills, Century City, Westwood, and, on a good day, the Pacific. People who had never talked to each other before were talking. Everyone speculated about the fires which appeared to be encircling us.

We tried buying food but everything was boarded up except for the 7-11 on Third Street which had a line around the block. We decided to drive to Oceanside and spend the weekend with the in-laws. There was only one topic of conversation through our endless card game played against the apocalyptic footage on TV, the beating, the looting, the palms lining the Santa Monica Freeway into downtown burning like torches setting fire to the city.

When we returned to L.A. on Sunday evening the National Guard was camped like an invading army at La Cienega and Jefferson, two miles from work, four miles from home, spitting distance in L.A.

There were no apparent leaders. No group or individual claimed credit. The explosion was spontaneous. Like Watts, without warning, a critical threshold was crossed and desperate people revolted against a life no longer livable. Unlike Watts, the looting and fires were not confined to South Central. The outrage turned against the surrounding white communities, raising a tocsin that was soon smothered and suppressed because it was too frightening to keep top of mind, a warning unheeded.

Skamania County, Washington, May 18, 1980, 12:36 pm.

On May 18, 1980, Mount St. Helens, in Washington State, erupted, ripping off the entire mountaintop and covering eleven states with ash.

The pressures that caused the eruption built up slowly, incrementally, over a long time, unseen, until they reached critical mass and exploded with energy equal to 26 megatons of TNT, 500 times the force of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. Ash rose fifteen miles into the atmosphere. The mountain fractured and a subsequent earthquake collapsed the entire north face causing the largest landslide ever recorded

It just happened, although in the aftermath its history could be read and analyzed.

American society is like that mountain. At its deepest and poorest levels, among the most exploited and oppressed, outrages mount daily. Young black men continue to be killed by police for no reason and with no consequence: Oscar Grant, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Walter Scott, Freddie Gray, Laquan McDonald, Philando Castile, Terence Crutcher, Antwon Rose II, O’Shae Terry, George Floyd, to name just a few. Most whites become inured to them, immune to the outrage, blinding by their own racism. Then another a critical point is reached, a straw breaks another camel’s back, another death ignites another conflagration.

The murder of black men by the police is the most flagrant outrage but the conditions of life have become increasingly untenable for 90% of the people. It is only a matter of time until they, too, refuse to take it any longer, and vent their rage and frustration. The inevitable explosion happens spontaneously, without conscious direction, no steering committee, no politburo, no talking heads. The end result of more riots and uprisings depends upon whether they are violently suppressed by the government or steered by visionary leaders to historical ends and lasting outcomes.

Independent of our wills, these social forces have reached the breaking point, despite the pundits and politicians and populist blowhards. When the uprisings occur, as they inevitably must, the only important question is who can lead them and see them through to a just conclusion? Will winning strategy and tactics yield lasting change built on the only true and stable foundation, equality? The tragedy is not that riots and uprisings occur, that neighborhoods burn, that stores are looted, that people are injured; the tragedy is that they happen for nothing. Only clear-sighted and united leadership can ensure that they lead to a brighter future free from the crippling shackles of racism, greed, and corruption.

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WE

WE

Pronoun; plural of I.

We is our most important word because, let’s face it, I has brought us to the brink of extinction.

From the pharaohs to Aristotle, from cogito, ergo sum to superego, throughout the rise of Christianity and the modern world, it’s all about I. I am what matters. It’s every man for himself. If I steal or sin, I can repent and God will forgive me. Am I my brother’s keeper? What about what I want?

We says we’re in this together.

We is when the choir assembles. The barista, the ad rep, the Uber driver, the personal trainer, the teacher, the statistician, all coming together, taking off their hats and scarves and gloves, offloading their emotional baggage, breathing deeply, and preparing to make music. The paradigm shifts. There is no I in together. It’s all of us, and this is what most terrifies the terrified. Going from I to I to I leads to “others” being invariably called out as somehow less deserving, less righteous, not I.

Of course We is also what happens in armies, when I is expunged and us becomes the operating principle, always defined in opposition to them. Our team versus their team. But where teams are formed to win something—a game, a war, a cause—the choir’s only purpose is to sing.

In all creation, only homo sapiens operates on the principle of I. Observe the birds and the beavers. There is not an I among them. They function in tandem. The survival and wellbeing of the community prevails. Together they thrive. Ditto wolves and elephants, ants and dolphins, and, we are learning, even trees.

We don’t often think of flora as sentient but advancing science informs us differently. Trees are social beings, with individual brains linked through the fungi on their roots to a worldwide neural network. They thrive in communities. They exchange information. They have been observed healing their sick and aiding the animals and insects cohabiting the world with them. Linked by common cause, they function for the common good.

Messages are also reaching us from the farthest reaches of spacetime that all of the infinite galaxies are interconnected by mysterious, mutually influencing strands of commonality. Everything is connected, from the miniest micro to the mightiest macro, composed of the same stuff, unspooling like DNA or dervishes in a cosmic dance, numberless, moving to the music of the spheres.

We is inclusive and fundamental.

Admittedly, we has gotten us into a lot of trouble. It has been distorted by megalomaniacs to direct the collective we against an other, an outsider, an enemy, a roadblock to the absolute power of the supreme I. This is not an inherent flaw in we. It is an appropriation of its power, a usurpation, a perversion. As a result, many object to the subordination of I to we and it is easy to understand why. The lessons of slavery, genocide, and war, whether powered by religion, greed, or fear, have made collectivized society look pretty bad. But it is shortsighted to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Everything happens at a particular time in a particular place and bears the imprint of complex forces, some readily identified, some veiled and distant. Their convergence creates a unique moment. What happens then is a product of that moment. It is definitely not what necessarily happens in other circumstances at other times. Like fingerprints and sunsets, each moment is different.

Think back to the choir.

The individual voices, each with a unique range and timbre, no two alike, thirty, sixty, eighty of them, blend into a unified sound. I becomes we. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. They become music. They become that universal language requiring no specific words in common to enjoy it, no analogous customs, or particular diplomas, or religious affiliations. People across the globe all groove to the same beat even though the rest of the time they may think they hate each other. In the choir each member suspends I to become augmented, enhanced, richer, more brilliant and more beautiful.

I represents an isolated and fragmented universe of individuals. (I am nothing.) We represents the world of the community. (We are the world.)

We is all who trust that the common good, in human life as in the natural world, is more important than the wishes and wants of individuals.

Imagine a moment—now, or not far from now—when I is subsumed in a powerful WE to sing a new song vibrating sympathetically with the butterflies and the bears and the lullabies of the whales, the music of people everywhere actively healing our world instead of trashing it, sucking it dry, and throwing away the husk.

I can’t do it. Even you can’t do it.

We can. That’s what we does.

It binds you and you and you together.

We can do anything.

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Venice in winter

Recent photos of a deserted Venice in the time of the Corona Virus reminded me of December 19, 2009, when these photos were taken. The city experienced a confluence of snow and a flood tide. Most streets and squares were deserted. Curtailed by circumstances, life continued. I decided to take a walkabout and see what was going on.

The was the view from my apartment when I woke up.

My street outside the garden gate.

Campo Santo Stefano

Setting up the market at Campo San Maurizio

View from a bridge

Piazza San Marco

The porphyry Four Tetrarchs (ca. 400ad) huddle against the Basilica under mantles of snow.

The passarelle across the Piazzetta.

The water rising by the Piazzetta dei leoncini

The porticos of San Marco underwater.

Heading toward Rialto Bridge

The Grand Canal at Rialto Bridge

I took the vaporetto home.

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