There are things I've done that I've got to undo, and things I've left undone that I've got to do. And it's a little more urgent for me than it was for St. Paul, because I have only nine days before the world comes to an end. He had 2,000 years to dilly or dally in, to shilly or shally away, to put crap off until.
There are 5,000 books scattered around the house, and maybe 4,000 of them have never been explored. I don't know if I can read 4,000 books in nine days, but I feel like I have an obligation to try. Several hundred of them I can throw out to start with — Rick Warren's, Tim LeHaye's, creationists', books with vampires, books by ex-presidents, books by conspiracy-theory subscribers, history books by Arnold Toynbee and Will Durant and the Marxist revisionists, books by known plagiarists such as Doris Kearns and Stephen Ambrose, books from the Moody and Regnery Presses. Great piles of worthlessness. I'd donate them to Farenheit 451 if they weren't going to be gone in nine days without the bother, without me having to call a truck.
I've got to make a stand on the question of blue jeans with a U-shaped crotch vs. those with a V- shaped crotch. That's about the only substantive issue to come out of 2012 as far as I can tell, and my spirit wouldn't rest if I didn't announce myself one way or the other while there are still crotches to U or V.
I'm not studying this fiscal cliff, though. I don't care about any fiscal cliff. Not in my gut. Not in the way I care about what's the daily special on the lunch menu at Homer's. Because this particular fiscal cliff is just a news construct, a metaphor hoked up to fill time or space between sales pitches for erectile dysfunction remedies. Nobody's going over it if for no other reason than that the world's going to end nearly two weeks before it first hoves into view, before it rears its ugly head, if cliffs had heads, and with the world ended there won't be any cliff for us to go over, and no us to go over it. The fiscal cliff will be a little nothing out there in the middle of a bigger nothing. Nothing as far as the eye can see, if there were an eye left to see it. Not an iguana's eye; not Chicken Little's eye; not an eye-in-the-sky because they will all crash.
I've got to go on a diet. Surely I can sustain one for nine days.
There are riches to be got shut of within nine days. All of it has to go. Down to the last dab. The CDs cashed in and given to the poor, the house sold with proceeds to the needy, the hundred shoes given to him with no feet. If you keep only enough to stay comfortable, you've kept far more than the Founder demanded from His would-be followers. If you keep enough to know where your next meal is coming from, you've similarly failed the Means Test. You've no more chance of getting through that needle's eye than a damned old camel does. Less of a chance than a Camel cigarette.
Two objections to this. Your sacrifice won't do the poor any good because the world will end for them, too. But the point is not their getting it; the point is your giving it away. Your willingness to. Freeing yourself from the burden of it and taking the leap. Nobody said getting there would be easy.
The other objection is, you don't get credit for the divestiture because you couldn't take it with you anyhow. You can't take it with you and there won't be anybody left that you can leave it with. It'll become just more of the debris, the rubble, as you will, and your otherwise heirs will, and the poor will, and the debris, the rubble, will white dwarf down to the very edge of Buffalo Bill defunctness.
In the alternative, you drag it into the hereafter like a heavy sack. Mitt drags his car elevators, the Koches drag their floor-warmers, Bro. Pat comes dragging his diamond mines, and Huckabee his new House Built upon the Sand, log-rolling it along like the Easter Islanders, like the Stonehenge Druids, throwing offspring tublets out one by one along the way to lighten the load. A big sack heavy with the heaviness of doom. A dead giant bird hung around your neck, pulling you down like a weighed anchor into the black deep of Sheol. Your stash counting against you there in direct proportion to how much it counted for you back on this side. I don't mean to sermonize. There's been enough of that. But just saying —
Just as you can't build anything — building something is always a collective effort —neither can you really own anything in this life. You can only rent it. You can claim custodial exclusivity but your mortality laughs at the claim.
Much to do and undo, and only nine days to do or undo it in. Further hindered by an ordinariness of mind and an enervated will, living in a bad century, lazy, stupid.
Bob Lancaster, one of the Arkansas Times longest and most valued contributors, retired from writing his column last week. We’ll miss his his contributions mightily. Look out, in the weeks to come, for a look back at some of his greatest hits. In the meantime, here's a good place to start.
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