Begin the Bowdeen
Just when you think Bowdeen has gone off the rails to the Seminary of the Damned you realize he is talking about the history of the unthinkable from Ancient Mayan to Argentina to Vietnam. Of ten million natives dead of smallpox and a hundred million buffalo removed. You try to put that up and get a bad connection. How can his genre be called nonfiction when in the midst of charging the gold statue of sacrifice they are running the corridors of the Pentagon to retrieve their files, the farmers from Hanford, Washington with their gold tumors, the one breasted women from Utah, uranium miners wheezing, squads of wolves and mountain lions to discover what happened to the forests, glowing radioactive tortoises, mobs of shoeless Mexicans, dolphins and orcas with embedded radio collars each lunging for their files where their lives are buried alive? He brings those responsible to the bar. Run by Uncle of course, so-called, and Christopher Hitchens of Oxford, Harvard men also, graduates bludgeon into consciousness the minds of the sodden. Read all in reverse. Bowdeen takes us to where flesh and blood scent moral outage. Liberals and puritans in the seminary of hell? This public service brought to you, hosed in paragraphs over tourists in writing.
The only difference between Bowden exposing the MX test sites, the folders of the Cabez Prietra gunnery ranges, the killings of the wastelands and the hundreds of websites on everything from the poles of Saturn to the depths of the Denver Airport are that millions read and believe those, but only hundreds read Bowden and believe or care. Even if he is one of those post-human voices you hear for the last time: "I step over a dead secretary—her head apparently severed by a now serene one-breasted woman who is resting in an ergonomically designed chair—and walk down the corridor with the file" (229). No wonder there is gunfire and murder, prostitution and drug dealing throughout, it is all that is left. "We have all we need—except, ah except, we have no beliefs" (230). He shows it for what it is, no different from Micah flying over those "who also eat the flesh of My People, and flay their skin from them; and they break their bones, and chop them in pieces, as for the pot, and as flesh within the caldron" (3). The only ones who don't want Bowdeen to sound the Bible are all the scientists, all of the secularists and all of the rest. But what goes around comes: "you shall not have a vision and it shall be dark to you that you shall not divine, and the sun shall go down on the prophets and the day shall be dark over head."
If you want to be a prophet, be a loner; a writer, be a brooder. Nobody knows the progress of the migrante like Chuck. It is the burden of Arizona to the barren, Bowden and Abby, not Goldwater, McCain and Keating, not the Mormons of Snowflake, the bears and elk of the White, pasture of wilderness, the rock sky. Get to the concrete, but you won't like it, cruelty of the milkweed human. Prophecy in the end is always about the human and what it means.
It must be a gift to excite such rancor and contempt in people half your age to judge you by their callow ways as they do the war torn Bowden, who don't want to hear the prophet, "the two groups I know who are most alike are environmentalists and pornographers," (95) pious and subpious as grammarians. The oldsters pay him no mind, don't read him at all. "I feel like I am escaping from a crypt." (92) Bowden is a lost Christopher Hitchens without a creed or a Way or junk energy from cigarettes and booze enough to kill him, it takes a dope, a revolutionary '68 whose revolt failed when the parakeet in the cage died, and then... "what went wrong with my life, my country, and my times?" (xv)
Bowden and Bowdeen
Looking for hopelessness in a hopeful world he finds Loren Eiseley's Star Thrower fin de siecle homily, "the last land tortoise had fallen victim to the new expressway. None of his kind any longer came to replace him. (78, 89). Bowdeen wants apocalypse, wants to "piss into the fires of hell" but Heracles turned the rivers to clean his mess, not that Bowden hasn't been to desert or river, but that's why I like him, me for whom miracles happen and the tortoises amble down the street of our town looking for a mate. I ask Big Guy, all full grown and clean as glass of milk,—
"WE'VE BEEN IN A LONG WAR AND WE'VE LOST THAT WAR AND THE WAR HAS POISONED US AND OUR GROUND...IF WE ADMIT THESE FACTS, WE MIGHT BE ABLE TO SURVIVE. IF WE DON'T, IT REALLY WON'T MATTER BECAUSE WE WILL BE FUNCTIONALLY DEAD." (xvi) — What, do you think your ideas even make sense to yourself?
I have the only full grown momma tortoise on at least the block, so bring him in, and he has lived so since, not in her arms when the small rain down Would rain, but near her den. Today he is following her, bobbing up and down and there is funny business of the 20 and the 70. This is to say if you don't like Bowdeen you must be too serious a sinner and should lighten up, for "we were too happy with the raw liver smeared against our lips to worry about the vanishing hoof prints" (5)
THE BLOOD ORCHID IS THE ATOMIC BOMB, the greed, the labor of thousands in its making, the belief in government, the killing of the buffalo by the ten millions until the orchids turn from fibrous roots into cables of our being "the roots getting thicker by the year, the first fine lines like lace on the bark of our lives...then coarsening as more and more wealth and power and energy surges through [a living gasoline explosion-Dario] and at first the roots begin to look like snakes, then like cables and later like giant aqueducts, the hidden heart pounding to the beat of explosives." (8) But in its truest essence the blood orchid is a metaphor of the post-human, which in short is the replacement of humanity by artificial intelligence. Granted, when "biological" this hardly seems artificial, but it is the ultimately conscienceless pretense even while it assumes the moral high ground of its own self arrogation. So whether we speak of social networks or hybrid life forms all are ultimate goods to benefit the human, understanding that as the post-human. How does it feel to be one of the beautiful people? As Leonard Cohen says, all the important mass murderers listened to the Beatles. These destructions and extinctions Bowdeen witnesses are but tangled weaves and counter weaves of DARPA, to call it by just one arm of its tentacles.
That's why we have lost the war. Get over it! But the blooms of the blood orchids, image of America and its ways, are more fearsome, all consuming old and young, a narcotic unresisted, but as he says later of the Indian, maybe the hundred year drunk, our high, was the only way the old ways could have survived, for they were not assimilated, they were drunk and rejected and all the efforts to acclimatize their language away failed-because they were drunk. "They say the blood orchids cannot be removed, they say we have grown dependent upon them" (12)...for centuries people have faced manifestations of the blood orchids, they have seen strange clouds, felt something seize their bodies they did not fully understand, died painful and surprising deaths. Felt the heel on their necks. And not given in or up." (14) So by the metaphor you know that maybe the survival of humanity is a drug-drunk century necessitated while the machines take over. Would it were so to have mastered the art of the anesthetic. Bowden perfectly predicts, blindly, the arrival of H+, "We had to kill the thing we love [ourselves, Humanity] to prove our love...We had to sacrifice our women to prove our love—so many one-breasted ones now ambling around as testimony to our adoration. Kill the thing we love. That is our central legend" (15).
The mutilation of earth, the mutilation of woman, the mutilation of health, nobody can say why fish have sores in the gulf, autism rates rocket, rocket is our favority epithet, it all rockets, everything but the GNP, that rocket fell to earth, I knew not where so I made a list of it here, called it Pray It Not Strange, add to it often, links, back links, vids, arts... Potheads among the gold, "We have achieved our Historical Absolute like good Doktor Hegel promised us so long ago. We have made our entire nation into a reservation" (17).
How to tell the minor prophets from the major, the body of work, the lyricism, the suffering. "And at the end of the rainbow, by God, there is pot" (18). He says pot but we read all the other emollients, dilutions of our six minds right up to the point where we believe we are no longer valuable or even that we are what we are. Pot like rockets. "We have the best orchid garden on the surface of the earth." If you're a major prophet they divide you into thirds. There is no deutero Amos. Isaiah was sawed in two. It remains to saw in two the minor Bowden. "I now think that things are occurring so far beneath the daily patter of our civilization that we can both feel the tremors and at the same time ignore them. I think we are dying, and what we are dying from is from what we are" (85) "I am a provincial. I am incapable of sacrifice. I need to violate myself" (99, 100). If you can't see it yourself, the culture of death, then see it in him, in Bowden, "I feel I am with the dead" (101) I can now look for a miracle." (102)
All you need to be a prophet is the truth. Truth, inherently prophetic, shattering, "because Ephraim made altars to sin, altars shall be his sin" Hosea. Is there iniquity in Gilead? they sacrifice bullocks in Gilgal. "The sacrificers of men who made idols of their own understanding kiss the calves."
One thing you have to admire about Chuck, he lives in the midst where we all of us be dead, like Johan flailing up on the beach, Jonah, but I think he is Johan with a second breath, the two halves of Isaiah coming together in the resurrection, the three boys dancing in the furnace, these things go on and on. Among the prophets axeheads float and angels breathe in the face of Sennacherib. "I cannot tell if I am waiting for someone to kill me or waiting for someone to turn on the lights." (126) Bribed to say these things, to laud the unlaud, the details, dust, people, the story, the escritoires, each idol crushed.
Prophecy isn't in words it's in tropes, mystery plays and silent allegories, examples of being. He is a prophet in this sense, not a saint. He bears in his own body and mind the marks of our depravity and defeat at forces bigger than ourselves, not just sex and commercialism but greed and fear, those two most bestial nodes. "I believe in the instant we forget we commit a sin" (110) He is a prophet like Hosea who marries a whore to mirror the unfaithful, like Ezekiel who ate dung, like Elecuria who says the poor are all prophets who mirror our poverty for us so no wonder we hate them and mistreat them. He is a prophet the way woman abused is prophetic of the earth abused everywhere. It is useful to know these people are even on the planet. "In that day one shall take up a parable against you with a doleful lamentation and say We be utterly spoiled." Micah