Monday, May 20, 2013

watchtower, whatbloodyever

On page two hundred and sixty-seven of The Broken Shore there is a woman who thinks that a pair of police officers are Jehovah's Witnesses. "Dint I tell you to bugger off last time?" she shouts. "Comin around with yer bloody Yank religion, yer bloody tower of Pisa, leanin bloody watchtower, whatbloodyever." You are a wonderful woman, I thought: I am exhausted by my doorknockers and my conspiracy theorists, all of whom have, since I moved here, been drawn to me like magnets, telling me that the United States government is flying UFOs around Las Vegas at night or whatbloodyever, and that it has built prisons in various cities, right in the open where people can see them, surrounded by barbed wire, and that it passes laws so that it can imprison its citizens in these prick-wired pens though where the jails are located in their muds of iniquity thick as pond slime the informant cannot say.

And what large stretches of contradiction our beliefs can cover, I think, and how automatically we shorten the space between one thought and another until there is no space, being certain that prison camps exist yet not being able to even nominate the name of the ground where one can be seen in all the nudity of its ignominy by the traveller or tourist.

(I think I have said all of this before.)

This absence of information is not a problem for the conspiracy theorist, the certainty is robust, it is as if the edges of a sheet have been folded together and the sheet comprehended like this, or it is the way that very fast interstellar travel might operate one day, when the dimension of space can be folded like that sheet, as in books by Frank Herbert. So if there is a dimension called thought then we have the power to fold it already, and treat our minds like the universe, going from star to star in a black space.

I read this woman's single piece of dialogue again about three times as though I thought there was a large truth here, and as if the author would give me an insight or cure, or only satisfaction, to see someone swear at those people, the Witnesses, who knock on doors and always start with the same gambit, proposing that the world is terrible and that they can do something about it -- I fight back -- I point out the sweet gleamingness of the incessant sun and how pretty the nice clouds look and in general I am hamming it up about the uncommon loveliness on all sides, even though anyone this side of degenerative senility can see that we are in one of the ugliest suburbs of an ugly city with cracked pavements running along every street and in some places no pavements at all because the people who manage streets have decided not to include any, for whatever reason, nor have they decided to build any nature strips, and they have obstacled the concrete where you want to walk. With what? With thick poles and magazine bins.

Earlier this week we were in Pocatello where they have nature strips and look, I said, falling over with shock: nature strips! All of the houses have basement windows with little curtains and everybody without exception grows tulips. Tulips, I said.

I wonder if this useless battlefield of pavement in Las Vegas is meant to repel the homeless people with their shopping trolleys, and it does, they veer off the pavements and continue down the roadway in the bike lanes. It is hard to get anywhere unless you are in a car, and ever the drivers of cars have to go on long treks across baking car parks to reach the front doors of shops. And almost nowhere do the shops open their doors directly onto the pavement, which is inhumane and neglects the dignity of the human animal that rises up with an autonomous ease of movement; there is always a large car park in front of the doors. This suburb has not been designed to meet the requirements of any human person although a completely different species with diametrically opposed interests might do incredibly well.

Go from this star to that star, say the Witnesses, but I go to other stars, I talk about the sun and remember Walter Murdoch, the Australian essayist who wrote in the 1930s --

No new and inspired religion has come to us from the United States for over a fortnight. This is very disquieting; if there was one thing we thought we could depend on, it was the steady uninterrupted flow of American religions.

(On Sitting Still, from On Rabbits, Morality, etc.: Selected writings of Walter Murdoch.

Which leads me to the reason I didn't make a post earlier this week on Wednesday as I usually do: we were going to Elko, we ended up in Salt Lake City, and there was the enormous Temple glowing in the twilight like four Sleeping Beauties Castleses.


  1. Was the temple magnificent in daylight or did it turn out to be tawdry (this is my prejudiced imagining), just a gimcrack gesture, composed of architectural exclamation marks?

    1. We didn't see it in the daylight so I can't say. We saw it at night when the white lights were on the steeples and that's why it looked so much like Sleeping Beauty's Castle, four peaks of unnatural cleanliness; and a golden angel on one spire was either blowing a trumpet or looking at the mountains through a telescope. Long object against its face. The written descriptions said that this figure is an angel named Moroni whose business is to signal the second coming of Christ, so either trumpet or telescope would work.

      It looked like an earnest person's idea of a Gothic cathedral. All lines going up. Nothing experimental except a golden window. The foundations foursquare and solid.