One year Marie gave up TV for Lent. If Jesus Christ could bear His cross, then kite on it three hours so we’d repent, sacrifice in return was merely right. I swore off sweets, only to break my fast with thieved chocolate, watching Lord of the Flies, a film exposing my black soul. Aghast, I rushed to my sister’s room for advice. She was asleep, my parents too. Spilling from the TV, English schoolboy savages marched the house, whetted for blood and killing. I screamed for Jesus. But His ravages snared Him, like a film, in cruel depiction— as if it were my own crucifixion.
The pale bits—twigs, fibers, pine needles—sun-struck, fall through the lazy air as if yearning to be embodied in my knitting, like gold flecks woven into a ceremonial robe.
Then surprise—a new marvel! Like a parachutist, a very small beetle lands on the greeny stitch I have just passed from left needle to right; the creature’s burnished carapace mirrors precisely the loop of glowing, silky yarn that he has chosen.
When this shawl ends up warming someone’s shoulders, will she sense the unexpected— this glance, this gleam, this life spark?
What are the things I should know about being homeless That I would never imagine myself? I ask a girl who was Homeless from age thirteen to age seventeen. You never Saw a nicer more pleasant neatly dressed kid in your life, This kid. The only way you can tell who she used to be is That she has a bunch of steel teeth. Any hint of difficulty, She says, you move. Move anyways, on general principle. Any safe spot you find will eventually be found by others. As for new friends, trust but verify, as some old president Said. Learn to lie with a totally straight face. Brush teeth! I still have trouble not lying immediately and defensively. That’s a problem for me. I got so good at it that it’s tough To not be good at it anymore. The best way to get by is to Perform, to not be who you really are, so the actual you is Not in danger. You can shuck the person you perform like A snake shucks a skin. Teachers here tell me I ought to be In theater, I should try out for plays and musicals, but that Is exactly what I am trying not to be, which is good at not Being the real me anymore. Does this make sense? You’d Be a natural, my teachers say, and I have to laugh because Natural at not being me is who I don’t want to be anymore.
Consider the case of a mathematician, in this case My oldest brother, who is (a) halved by an illness, (b) stilled completely by it, and (c) reduced to ash. Trust me, he would be the first to note that finally He finished his travels at 0.00416666667 of what He weighed for a long time. I bet then he’d spend Weeks poking into what else weighed exactly that. I’d get a terse note with a list in his meticulous ink: The cardinal on average weighs 0.992 of a pound, And the long-tailed weasel weighs exactly a pound. A letter like that is exactly like a zen koan, I think. It’s as much a door as a statement. Let us consider That we have all just now received this terse letter. It sits there grinning on the table next to the coffee. I don’t know about you, but I am going to dive into The whole weasel question. We have so little time, And there’s so much to be discovered. I want to be Able to be conversant about this the next time I see My brother. He’ll want to know. He’ll have missed A lot of time that could have been devoted to these Things, and someone has to carry the ball, whether It’s weasels or cardinals or cancer. How mortifying It will be if he asks me about something, and I have To say I didn’t pay attention, man, and he will stare At me with that laser stare and not even have to say, And what was it you did instead of paying attention?
Study war no more
Mar 18, 2011
Michael Izbicki grew up in a nondenominational church in California. A National Merit Scholarship finalist, he chose to go to the U.S. Naval Academy out of a sense of duty to his country during a time of war. At the naval academy he began to doubt whether the career to which he had committed himself could be squared with the tenets of just war doctrine. He got in trouble when he responded no to this exam question: "If given the order, would you launch a missile carrying a nuclear warhead?" After a four-year legal battle, the navy discharged him as a conscientious objector. Izbicki may have to reimburse the service for part or all of his education (New York Times, February 22).