Archives‎ > ‎

Beckoning Madness - Preface, by Ray Zwarich

Two chapters written, and already 'published' in rough draft, and a third half done, when it occurs to an old ape that a 'preface', (a face to come before the face), might be in order. It's all a work of madness, after all, surrounded by the constant din of madness that now contains all our lives.

Beckoning Madness
Seven Breezes Blow, and a Cold Coyote Calls, in Frosty Burning Warning

Some months ago my oldest daughter, (I have three), my oldest babe, a young woman now in her early 40s, who bears the title of 'doctor of philosophy', whose own babes are now playing baseball beneath foreboding dark clouds of spring doom, suggested that I write my "memoirs". 

"Memoirs??" LOL....What a strange thought for an old has-been carpenter, now a lonely chicken farmer, to ponder. Only a short time later, however, a friend of mine who lives by a charming warm misty lake down in Mexico, (I live with my wife of 47 years on a small farmstead in the boondocks of rural Massachusetts, where winter stays long, and even Mays are yet shivery with frost), said the same, (or at least similar). "Maybe you should write an autobiography", my friend Roger Tucker had said.

Hmm...Memoirs....Auto. Bio. Graph. I'd never really thought of that. Not seriously anyway.....Bio is from the classic Greek. 'Life'. It simply means 'life'. Graph is also Greek. It simply means 'to write'. Auto...Yep...Greek, meaning 'self'. Rememorari is a Latin word. Mem is the Latin root. 'To call to mind'. Meminisse. To remember. 

Try to remember. Hear the call. Who's that calling? What mother calls us home? What father calls to warn us? Try to remember when grass was green and grain was yellow. (Surely a prophet's beckoning warning song).

The words of poor Hollis Brown echo through my skull. "Rats done got yer flour. Bad blood it got yer mare. Is there anyone who knows? Anyone who cares?" Any ONE? (Interesting question). Who would want to read about a tired old ape-man's life? Any ONE? To whom would I write? Who would be my audience? (The first question I always ask of ANY writer, who is your intended audience? Whom are you addressing as your fingers clatter over the keys?). I need at least ONE to bear in mind.

I had thought of writing books before, (or rather 'a book'), but had always doubted that I ever would, or even could. I have been writing for many years, enough to fill a shelf, or maybe two (or several) if all that futile madness was ever printed up and bound, but it was all in disjointed small pieces. I have written 'essays'. Occasionally (not often) a poem. Even a couple songs. Small discrete pieces. Every one written 'to' some ONE. Every one an epistle. 

I had always written with a purpose. And I had never wanted to 'be a writer'. Only on a few very rare occasions, (maybe three times over these decades, over these many thousands of 'epistles) did I ever submit any writing for publication. I always had a specific person, or specific people in mind. I was always writing 'to' someone. I was always teaching, (or trying to), preaching, (detractors might say). 

I always was trying to affect people's thinking, but I always knew that one more voice added to the general cacophonous din of our absurd modern lives would not serve the purpose I served, (or tried to, anyway). "The world has plenty enough writers already", I had always thought. One more will not make the difference I felt compelled to try to make, the difference that needs to be made, the difference that I had always felt called to make. It would not be enough to 'be a writer'. I had to affect what the plentitude of other writers wrote. That is what I had for so long felt so foolishly 'called' to do. 

By whom? By what voice? I cannot say. It is a voice I have always heard calling, from some distance never known, like a mother calling her children home for supper from down by the pond, or a father calling in warning from far down the hollow as he rushes hither to protect his beloved family with his life. A primeval voice, calling from across all the dusty millennia, across eons, from even beyond time, from beyond the sweat and blood and tears and stink of lost fur and burgeoning mind. 

I had heard so many prohpet's voices calling, warning. "The winter time is coming, the windows all filled with frost. I went to tell everybody, but I could not get across. I just want to be your lover. I don't want to be your boss. Don't say I never warned you, when your train gets lost". Well well well....Who's that calling? "If I die on top of the hill, if I don't make it, you know my baby will". 

Who's that calling?

I was a carpenter. I swung a hammer. For decades. A 20 oz Estwing straight claw. A marvel of simple efficiency. If Humanity survives the fast approaching crisis, 10,000 years hence they'll dig these simple Estwing's out of the ground, my own sweat bonded chemically with the handle, and marvel at the wonderful culture that could build such an amazingly powerful and beautiful tool. 

I had swung that small piece of steel, in my right hand, for many years. I sweated and grunted like a stupid dirty work beast, pitting my strong back, like John Henry of old, against all the pain of life itself. I toiled and steeled my own spirit in July against the oppressive heat and steaming humidity of the North American Midwestern plains, and against the cold January winds that sweep down those plains from the Arctic ice furnace. My life had mostly been an exercise in drudgery and daily pain. (A high pain threshold is an essential prerequisite for earning one's living through that sort of toil). I was blood brother to Sisyphus, rolling a large rough boulder up a steep hill every day, like slaves once felt the Pharaoh's lash to build the Pyramids, to an apex that was my daily goal, only to have it immediately roll back down because there is no place for such a rock to rest at such an apex of such hills. 

Memoirs?...LOL...I had lived a life mostly filled with epochal drudgery. What fools would ever want to read about that? And now? When Woke Crazies threaten our babies in their beds? Who would have the time for reading some old ape chicken farmer's 'memoirs'? LOL .... Absurd......

But now, as raving raging madness descends around us and upon us from every side, the inmates having seized total (as in 'totalitarian') command of the asylum, and even as my grandchildren dream their futile primeval dreams of their own lives, as they dream of maidens and swains, passion and juicy human love, and babes of their own, as they dream of lives which very well may only be cruelly destined to be filled with thirst and hunger and fire and flood, now when there is nothing else left to write, now when all Reason has been spurned in pursuit of insane lust for wealth and wet warm fleshy pleasure, now as general madness reigns, now as I think back on a long life lived in soaring adventures, in kingdoms where only eagles can carry us, in places where few humans have ever gone, let alone returned to tell the tale, now that death smiles and beckons and promises respite from all the pain, now that the Demon Itself struts in arrogant freedom, now that Human Desire rules Reason with whip and lash of nine, now that Humanity's fate is so close at hand, I do think back on an old carpenter's travels and adventures.

Memoirs?....What could anyone learn from "tales told by an idiot" like me?

"I am Caliban", Wolfe had said to Maxwell Perkins. And in that very instant I knew. I am Caliban too. Half crude beast. Half spirit. And even partly human.   

And now, thinking back, I realize that in between the hours of sweat and ice and pain and drudgery, I managed to do some things that few other mortal men have ever done.  

Many years ago I offered up a 'deal'. To whom? I cannot say. To some mysterious power I have always felt guiding my thoughts and actions. It's easy enough to deal with The Devil. That horrid beast's Desire is plain enough. It just wants your soul. It's much harder to bargain with other mysterious powers, whose motives are much more 'complex' (shall we say).

I realized as a young man still in college that "all human motives are selfish". Even altruism is a selfish act. We serve others because we have a primal instinct to do so. That is what makes us 'tribal'. That is what makes us love our families and clans and tribes and nations. But we do it for ourselves. We 'do' because 'having done' makes us feel good about ourselves. It is a selfish act. We enjoy thus feeling good. And other people laud us for what we have done. And we certainly enjoy the laurels. It gratifies us to be someone's 'hero'.

And so the first 'deal' I offered was rejected. I will serve even if no one ever knows it was me who served. No deal was struck.

Awright....I get it....A carpenter can read the plans. A contractor, (I was in the home improvement bid'ness), can learn to negotiate. 

I will serve even if know one ever knows it was me, and even I never know it was me. I will serve in complete futility and frustration, never knowing whether anything I do affects any cause in the world.

Well...LOL...It's been years now, and I've never gotten an answer on that 'offer'. Hmm.....

And thus do I set my epistles on the wind, like Gandalf did the butterfly from Saruman's Tower, never knowing where or when or whether anyone ever even reads them. (That's a bit exaggerated. I do get some feedback, but it's more often negative than otherwise). Yet eagles and crows and even pigeons seem to acknowledge me when I pass by. Spirits whisper. "Be bold, and mighty forces will come to your aid". (A Message from the King). 

Such is the madness of Caliban, half beast, half spirit, and even partly human. 

"A book? He's far too 'hasty' to ever slow himself down enough to write a book", says the oldest wisest Ent in the dark mysterious forest behind my house. 

"Chapters", my oldest babe, the Dr. Scholar, suggested. Hmm..... I never thought of that. Chapters. Hmm...I like that idea. Each discrete epistle could be a 'chapter', somehow tied together. 

The Orange Man Ruse is what I 'see' that others need to 'see'. Many 'see' parts, but who 'sees' the whole?

And I am....In rough draft....I was never a finish carpenter. I have no patience to build fine furniture, or a shiny sweet sounding guitar. I'm a 'rough' carpenter. I grunt and do the heavy lifting. I bear the pain with not so much as a grimace or cry. Then I swing the steel. Whop! them nails on down. Words are like nails. Your leather hip pouch is full. 5 lbs fit nicely. And when those run out, there's always more in the keg.

Two chapters already 'published' in rough draft, and a third half written. And now even a 'preface'. LOL....Well....It may be drivel, indeed, but at least it's starting to kind of take the shape of a 'book'. These are 'memoirs' perhaps, (even the very word sounds too pretentious for a stupid old silverback), but the ONLY value in remembering the past is to serve our children's future. 

Caliban's Gambit
Sir Greenwald and the Orange Man Ruse 

(Beckoning Madness) 

Chapter 1
The Magic's In the Music

Chapter 2
Tambourines in Time

Chapter 3 
What's Going On? (half written)

Hope all are well.

Bent Birch Farm