Monday, December 31, 2007

After Midnight Mass

Behold the night sky this Christmas morning.

Gaze upon the heavens and the silent night
of galaxies, stars, and planets beyond,
embedded in the dark of the cosmos.

Behold the gargantuan gods of old,
those mummified constellations of myth,
frozen so brightly in play, love, and war.

Pause and consider the vast ambit of
physics, biology, philosophy,
mathematics, and all human knowledge.

The only sounds are the stampeding ghosts
of raw winter wind, the mournful rocking
and muted wooden murmuring of trees.
Every bleak, naked limb mirrors myself;
every shaking branch mocks my aloneness.

I am an atom, a mere iota,
an infinitesimal of space-time,
journeying through the trough of an abyss.

Yet, I reject the void. It is not my end.
It was like this, on the road, for Joseph,
the shepherds, and magi of Zoroastor.

Before my birth, before I was nothing,
Someone took pity on my nothingness.

But who am I, and what is my purpose?
Never-the-less, amid my confusion
I have hope, for I am accompanied
on my journey, by the Word within me.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Overcoat, by Gogol

I recently rented to movie The Namesake, where Gogol and his short story, “The Overcoat,” were featured prominently. It prompted me to read the short story.

The story is about human dignity, and that is what the overcoat symbolizes. Akaky Akakyevitch is a person of no worldly consequence, influence or power, without even a wife or family. He lives in material, social, and spiritual poverty. What little human dignity he has is constantly under assault at the office. He invests all of his human dignity in a new overcoat which he purchases at great sacrifice. Soon, he is violently robbed of his overcoat. The police offend Akaky by having not the slightest inclination in investigating the robbery. And then, a person of Person of Consequence adds mortal insult to the original injury. It is no wonder Akaky dies.

Ultimately, I find the story disappointing. Yes, there is a retributive justice. To make up for his loss, Akaky’s ghost robs many others of their coats. He flusters the police, just as they had flustered him, and, finally, Akaky’s ghost confronts and terrifies the Person of Consequence while freeing him of his overcoat. It was sad to see that the justice achieved was only transactional, as opposed to transformational, and that none of the characters redeemed themselves, repented, or were significantly changed for the better in anyway. It is no wonder that these social conditions of Russia resulted in revolution.

After reading the story, I also read Frank O’Connor’s, “The Legacy of Gogol’s Overcoat.” O’Connor talks about how groundbreaking this story was, but of course, I cannot read it as if I had never ready anything written afterwards.

I think O’Connor is going too far in stressing that the story is an analogy to the crucifixion of Jesus. However it is very much a Judaic-Christian story, in that it is about the innate human dignity of a person regardless of their station in life