Mercy and Marigolds

“The quality of mercy is not strained.” Another story teller said that. I have to decide whether to show mercy on an enemy. A post about ethics? Stock in trade, my friend. What do you think we story tellers do? We aren’t talking about bean dip and Budweiser, even if we are. We tell lots of lies, but some things aren’t. And the transcendent things – that’s our bread and butter. The bread and the butter, the bean dip and the Bud – those are just useful metaphors for what the story teller says is really real about life – meaning.

Orange Marigold by Petr Kratochvil
Orange Marigold by Petr Kratochvil

Having enemies: Don’t be one of those annoying people who says they don’t have enemies. If you’ve ever done anything worthy of note, you do, even if they haven’t mentioned it. Might be the guy who passes gossip about you in chess club, because you beat his King to the ground senselessly one too many times – might be the neighbor who keeps reporting your parking violations because she’s got no life – but you got enemies. Do anything in public, and you got more. I was the hand sinister for a magazine – the hatchet man when need be – and I took a few hits from things that had to be done – try telling a writer it’s not good enough (in so many words) – it can be like unleashing demons from literary hell. We all got someone who’s got it in for us, somewhere, or will, even if they only keep us down at some job. The person who claims to be above it all is just boring, and I’d like to know where to sign up to *become* that person’s enemy to add zest to his life. And don’t get all pious, you fundamentalists – Jesus didn’t say “I got no enemies” – look what happened to him, after all – he said “love your enemies” which means he assumes we all got them – he get it wrong? “Beware when every man speaks well of you” – in other words if you’re the kind of person with nobody against you, you’re probably a dick, and we just don’t know about you yet.

Having mercy: I got mercy shown to me recently. Yeah, I was a dick. And I deserved to get smacked down for it. But I didn’t. The other person cut me a break – showed mercy. What do you do with that? Well, I’ll tell you what *not* to do with it – you don’t turn around and do the opposite back or to other people. That’s asking for lightening bolts from the gods. Hubris. Danger, Will Robinson. And it’s an honor thing – I take honor seriously – because without it, we’re all really capable of anything – just some of us will figure it out faster than others. It’s like when the zombie apocalypse happens, and some people are standing around not catching on yet, while other people are loading up, revving up, and locking down. No honor means you’re going to need a bigger barricade. You nihilists who roll your eyes at honor are just stupid – yeah, I said it. That’s the word for the people who actually infect everyone else by coughing their congealed self-loathing everywhere, thus bringing about the very zombies that will try to eat them. Dumbasses. Honor matters. So, it looks like the path is clear. Cut this person a break. He’s a real arsehole, and I don’t want to. But even if he doesn’t have it coming, I owe it, because I got one, and breaks may not be deserved – but they become truly freaking undeserved when not passed on. They turn from sweet to rancid and start to fester.

Point: Just thinking out loud in the laboratory of creation. You tell tales about this stuff, and you think quietly about things, and you tell more tales, and do more thinking, and have more experiences, and feel more, hurt more, love more, want more, and so on, and on. The story teller is a petri dish. You drop something onto him and watch what grows. You can do that over and over again. He’s a virus factory for life. You know those Cold War horror stories where radiation or man’s interference with nature or excess or greed or whatever became two headed creatures that destroyed Tokyo? I’m convinced these were story tellers writing about themselves. If it rains acid rain into our lives, we start popping up gamma-radiated marigolds. Enemies, mercy – these are just a couple of the story seeds to think about and let germinate. You get me – if you’re telling stories or making art of some kind – you have stuff growing on your petri dish too. Now, instead of crawling through their duct work and eviscerating them literally, I will do so in prose – keeps me from bad, bad things.

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