Saturday, May 14, 2016

Myths, They are All Around. The Lamentations of the Dumped

We all need myths to sustain us. Even the seculars or the atheists or the ones who look into the future (futurologists?). Of course, some myths are older than others, are more traditional, but that's matter of type than anything substantial.

Not sure how it's related, but I once dated a woman whose grandfather, out in Eastern Europe, died in a car crash. This was during the downslope of our relationship, but I stuck around to pick up the pieces, if only because I loved her (our worldviews, however, were irreconcilable).

The first day after she was back, we sat in silence eating Viet-Thai take-out and watching some God-forsaken TV show that was pro-Statist propaganda at best. I'm not sure why but I wanted to talk to her, to bring up her thoughts and feelings and reaction to a man she was very close to. I even wanted to hear stories about this grandfather—selfish bastard that I was—telling myself that it was my belief that stories, reliving the presence of a person passed was one of the best ways to remember them.

But when she'd said she wanted to watch her favorite show, I suppressed all my hatred for the TV and was soon settled in on the couch watching quite the narrative unfold, and enjoying her presence like I always did.

She fell asleep and I threw a blanket on her, sleeping on the floor as there was no space on the couch.

The next day the distance between us seemed insurmountable, so I decided to ask her to speak of her grandfather.

She spoke before I could ask:

"He had a pet wolf as a kid, you know, he was very good with animals."

I listened as she went on: not really a pet wolf, but one from the forest nearby. It was caught by a trap and he released it and helped to nurse the wound it sustained. When his parents found out they beat him, trying to make him stop befriending the sworn enemy of the village.

But he took his licks—and I think I could see that stubbornness that she'd inherited—and went back to helping the wolf, though now he made sure to be surreptitious.

Soon he grew into a young man and was preparing for a big test when the wolf, or a wolf, stole a sheep from a herder's flock. The villagers gathered a hunting party, which he refused to be a part of.

Being that he was the best hunter about, this was a big deal. The villagers exchanged glances, but left it at that.

The grandfather, knowing that they were out for revenge ignored their suspicious remarks (he was called the wolf-lover) and watched them leave.

He immediately left, found his wolf, and led it to safety—a place he knew the villagers wouldn't look.

He went home and slept comfortably. The next day the villagers were tired and angry and even his parents questioned him. He soon built a wall of silence with all his rational hatred for their irrational hatred.

The day after a wolf carried away a young child. Now the villagers were livid. The grandfather knew he couldn't refuse, or else they might take their anger out on him.

But when they set out, he broke away from them and found his wolf and led it to safety. When he returned, the villagers were waiting for him. An ad hoc trial was set up and they questioned him because they were certain he was with the wolf—and thus responsible for all that ailed them.

He denied it all, of course, and he knew he was right because his wolf had no blood on it and only the remains of small animals near it. He didn't say this.

The parents of the missing child were especially livid. They demanded justice. Grandfather did not budge. Soon they threatened him with exile, which in those says was close to a death sentence.—where would he go?—he would be at the mercy of the world. And so faced with the extinction of himself or the animal he sat in his room, wondering what to do.

You see, to him the wolf was as good as a human being. But he had to give an answer or else the villagers would be done with him. He knew he couldn't use reason with them for they were too angry. And there at night, as the moon sulked in the sky, the wolf visited him. He tried to get it to leave, but it didn't understand. He watched it leave by dawn and he knew what to do.

He led the villagers to the wolf, turning his back as they tore the wolf to pieces.

"Did this really happen?" I asked.

She shook her head, disgusted. "For a writer you really have no idea about stories, do you?"

That distance I mentioned before exploded and I knew...

We broke up. That story was her way of doing so, of cementing that which she couldn't feel. It was only later that I remembered her having told the same story. In the first version the grandfather accepted the exile and left the wolf alive. In the second he agreed to take them to the wolf and instead took them to another wolf.

She was a better storyteller than I. But she never became a writer. I suppose it's obvious that she was also much smarter than me.

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