August 12, 2008

Excerpt: Reverend Moss Gatlin's Sermon on Dynamite

The picture above is representative of a gallery on Miss Lisa Rybovich Cralle's website of artwork: here.
I feel compelled, because of how much it relates to just about every thing we've been writing about, to post in full an excerpt from Thomas Pynchon's Against the Day (2006). Note that this Christian sermon converts the character Webb Traverse, a disaffected miner in Leadville, Colorado, around the turn of the previous century, into a life of terrorism & anarchy - one of the first glimmerings in the novel of the new technologies of the 20th Century being used for violence. [Notes on these pages here.]

Reverend Moss Gatlin's Sermon on Dynamite

One night in Shorty's Billiard Saloon, some poolplayer had propelled his cue ball on the break perhaps too forcefully & with scarcely any draw onto it into the triangle of shiny balls, which happened to be made of some newly patented variety of celluloid. Upon being struck, the first ball exploded, initiating a chain of similar explosions across the table. Mistaking these for gunshots, several of the clientèle drew their pistols & began, with some absence of thought, to contribute in their own ways to the commotion.

"Nice break," somebody was heard to say before the noise got too loud; Webb [Traverse], frozen in terror, delayed diving for cover until it was all over, realizing after a while that he had been standing in a roomful of flying lead without being hit once. How could this be? He found himself in the street wandering hatless & confused, colliding presently with the Reverend Moss Gatlin, who was stumbling down a long flight of wood stairs from a sojourn up at Flourette's Cloudtop Retreat, not exactly at the moment looking for uninstructed souls, which didn't keep Webb, in a torrent of speech, from telling the Rev all about his miraculous escape.

"Brother, we are stripes & solids on the pool table of earthly existence," the Rev explained, "and God & his angels are the sharpers who keep us ever in motion."

Instead of dismissing this for the offhanded preacherly drivel it almost certainly was, Webb, in what you'd have to call a state of heightened receptivity, stood there as if professionally sapped for another quarter of an hour after the Rev had moved on, ignored by the pernicious bustle of Myers Street, & the following Sunday could be observed in the back room of the faro establishment where Reverend Gatlin preached his ministry, listening as if much, maybe all, depended on it, to the sermon, which happened to take as its text Matthew 4:18 & 19:

"And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, & Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers.

"And he saith unto them, Follow me, & I will make you fishers of men."

"And Jesus," elaborated Moss, "walking out by some American lake, some reservoir in the mountains-- here's Billy & his brother Pete, casting quarter-sticks of dynamite into the lake, for they are dynamiters-- & harvesting whatever floats to the surface. What does Jesus think of this, & what does he say unto them? What will he make them fishers of?

"For dynamite is both the miners curse, the outward & audible sign of his enslavement to mineral extraction, & the American working man's equalizer, his agent of deliverance, if he would only dare to use it.... Every time a stick goes off in the service of the owners, a blast convertible at the end of some chain of accountancy to dollar sums no miner ever saw, there will have to be a corresponding entry on the other side of God's ledger, convertible to human freedom no owner is willing to grant.

"You've heard the suggestion that there are no innocent bourgeoisie. One of those French Anarchists, some say Emile Henry as he was going to the guillotine, others say Vaillant when they tried him for the bombing of the Chamber of Deputies. Answering the questions, how can anyone set off a bomb that will take innocent lives?"

"Long fuse," someone hollered helpfully.

"Easier with a timer!"

"Think about it," when the remarks had faded some, "like Original Sin, only with exceptions. Being born into this don't automatically make you innocent. But when you reach a point in your life where you understand who is fucking who - beg pardon, Lord - who's taking it & who's not, that's when you're obliged to choose how much you'll go along with. If you are not devoting every breath of every day waking & sleeping to destroy those who slaughter the innocent as easy as signing a check, then how innocent are you willing to call yourself? It must be negotiated with the day, from those absolute terms."

-Thomas Pynchon
Against the Day (2006), I.viii, pg. 86-87

Also, not unrelatedly, Miss Proinseas was trying to post this edifying link about fashion & the Beijing Olympics: Neatness Counts

1 comment:

grainne proinseas said...

thanks, man :)
I don't know why the fuck I couldn't make that link work....