First Graf: VALIS

IN FEBRUARY AND MARCH OF 1974, science-fiction author Philip K. Dick had a series of experiences which might have been psychosis, hallucination or divine grace. Phil often tended toward the last explanation, at least in print, and based a handful of novels (and more than a million pages of exegesis) on trying to figure out what happened to him. VALIS is one such novel; its thesis (in part): through an ancient satellite named VALIS (for Vast Active Living Intelligence System), a rock and roll musical, and a little girl, God or something like It is trying to comfort us all — most especially the broken ones. There’s much more to it, but this — and the fact that Phil once lived around the corner from where I live now — is what makes VALIS this week’s First Graf pick.

Horselover Fat’s nervous breakdown began the day he got the phone call from Gloria asking if he had any Nembutals. He asked her why she wanted them and she said that she intended to kill herself. She was calling everyone she knew. By now, she had fifty of them, but she needed thirty or forty more, to be on the safe side.

Prosatio Silban and the Mayor of Ixtachet

EVERYONE WANTS TO BE THE Mayor of Ixtachet, at least until they become so: this Prosatio Silban discovered on a chance visit to the edge of the Blue Void which forms one border of the Uulian Commonwell.

Ixtachet was one of the few villages in the Commonwell not blessed with verdant pasturage and running streams. Instead, its inhabitants lived in a series of cliffside huts, each with a breathtaking view of the Blue Void’s eternal twilight and a small landhold containing a handful of roosts for the precarious-clinging snoat, whose richly flavored eggs were the economic foundation of Ixtachet’s existence. The village consisted solely of the cliffside huts, one public well, and a great warehouse called the Mayor’s House, and was largely unvisited save by those lost or seeking snoat eggs.

As a wandering cook, Prosatio Silban was both – rather, he had been lost until he realized (as one long-schooled in Uulian delicacies) where he was, and the prosperous figure before him had introduced himself as the Mayor of Ixtachet. He certainly looked the part: well-made red and yellow silk robes set with small gems, and well-fed mouth set in a disapproving frown.

“Unless you are licensed by the Victualer’s Guild, I can sell you no snoat eggs,” said the Mayor of Ixtachet. “They have each one of them been marked or spoken for.”

Prosatio Silban displayed a confidant’s smile. “Surely you could spare a single egg – say, sufficient for a half-dozen custards to adorn the table of a discerning Heir Second, as a complement to clinking crystal and after-dinner laughter?”

“Alas, no,” replied the mayor. “I could no more spare an egg than I could spare an Ixtachetian.”

“Why so?” Prosatio Silban asked.

The Mayor of Ixtachet then related his particulars: that his village was the only spot along the Blue Void’s rim where the tentative snoats would roost, and then only under such conditions as could be guaranteed through constant supervision by the entire village. The eggs brought almost incalculable wealth, but so busy were the Ixtachetians with snoat maintenance that they could spare only one day a year to enjoy it: the day they buried the old Mayor of Ixtachet and elected the new. Everyone wanted to be Mayor of Ixtachet – it meant a rest from the ceaseless toil of snoat-watching – and the election generally picked that year’s most charismatic and beloved person; it was considered an act of both mercy and trust.

But the Mayor’s task it was to guard the village’s health as well as its wealth: the vast treasure would also have been his pleasure were not his the hands which repaired and rebuilt, his the tongue which dealt with (licensed) traders, his the eye which oversaw everything and his the shoulders which carried it all, day by day.

This lesson was only learned on the first day, and confirmed by slow experience, because those who learned it were too enfeebled and used up by their service to warn their successors on Election Day.

“All they see — all I saw — is the robes and the restfulness,” said the Mayor of Ixtachet. “Not the responsibility.”

And as Prosatio Silban bade the village an eggless farewell, he reflected: Everyone wants to be the Mayor of Ixtachet – and probably, always will.

Pithyism #9

Fig. 1.

YOU HAVE NOT LIVED UNTIL you have allowed a small animal to sleep on you.

Pithyism #+1

THANK GOD, OR THE GODS, or Fate, or Luck or Fortune or Purpose, or just feel grateful, that you still have one more thing to do.

5 Thoughts: The Idolatry of Gay Bashing

1. READ A LETTER TO THE SF Chronicle’s editor this morning by a gentleman saying he voted for Prop 8, the anti-gay marriage initiative, because heterosexuals own the word “marriage.”

2. I’ve heard this argument before, and like the other arguments favoring less freedom for minorities it does not persuade me. In essence, this particular argument, a favorite of Bible-lovin’ folk, makes a word more important than people.

3. But Bible-lovin’ folk (of which I consider myself one, in some sense) must needs believe that people were created in “God’s” image.

4. And the word “marriage,” like other English words, came to us long after Biblical Hebrew. Like other words, it’s an artifact — a man-made thing — and by definition, not nearly as important as a living, breathing, bloodbeating human being made in God’s image.

5. So why are some Bible-lovin’ folk so quick to commit idolatry?

Come Out To Sonoma

HAVING MENTIONED THIS ON FACEBOOK yesterday in the wake of U.S. District Chief Judge Vaughn R. Walker’s 136-page ruling against Proposition 8, I’d better repeat it here:

Neal Ross Attinson offers his services as secular ULC minister to marriage-seeking gay California couples

My only balk is doing anything in Jesus’ name, since I’m both unqualified and uninterested. (“Bob” is okay, though; I’m biordanial.) And may I suggest this spring in Sonoma?

All Purpose Disclaimer

THE VIEWS OF THE AUTHOR may not reflect whatever he’s thinking about now, or however he’s thinking about it, although they most likely did when he wrote whatever you read; thus and likewise, he is not responsible for anything you do before, while, or after you read whatever he wrote. The author’s responsibility is to communicate as clearly as he can at the time he’s writing, and if he’s failed in that mission then by “God” buckle up and try again. While his views may differ from yours, he is a creature like yourself, although perhaps a bit wittier (unless you’re his wife) and with a great delight in Lower North America’s free-speech guarantee, which, despite that some rascals who would abolish it like to hide behind it, he feels to be the greatest thing since Gutenberg. The author further notes that any disagreement is best handled a) openly, b) tactfully, and c) with the calm assurance that “God” makes us all special, and that if you continue to be offended, irked, troubled, disturbed, bored, annoyed, disgusted or negatively impacted by his words, the author sincerely suggests consulting your pineal gland. (Or maybe, read something else.)