22 November 1963

 

huxley-marcocau-nl

[Credit: marcocau.nl.

This Friday marks the 56th anniversary of the death of Aldous Huxley.

Midmorning on that day as a fifth grader, I sensed something amiss.  Miss McCue’s eyes were red, and she sniffled as we hunched over our worksheets, but for whatever reason, she decided not to tell us that author of Point Counterpoint had checked out of this Motel 6 of woe for superior lodgings in that undiscovered country from whose bourne no traveller returns.

I guess she figured the news would bewilder us or that it would be better coming from our parents.

triple final headline

I found out on the school bus from a sixth grader, Steve Ripley, who seemed delighted at the prospect of Huxley’s not producing any more novels that might be assigned as book reports.

I, on the other hand, was devastated by Huxley’s passing because his novel Brave New World had given me reason to hope that the 21st century was going to be a blast – an endless hallucinogenic phantasmagoria that included indiscriminate sex with a variety of partners.

What a miserable weekend with football games cancelled and regular programming preempted.  What’s an early late empire tween to do but stare at the short bio on his dog-eared copy of Chrome Yellow and think Huxley was alive when the book was bought.

51PzwtLhLiL._SL600_

Sandwiched between the passing of eminent composer Cecil Forsyth on 7 December 1941 and American author Alice Stewart Trillin on 11 September 2001, Huxley’s death was especially eerie given that a very famous someone also expired on that day.

That’s right.  CS Lewis also died on 22 November 1963, a day that will live in infamy.

But let’s end on a positive note.  Those fifty years have come and gone, and many of Huxley’s prophecies have come true – we live in a hedonistic age to the tune of Cole Porter’s “Anything Goes.”  As days pour at increasingly swift rates through our lives’ hourglasses, what can we do but embrace Richard Wilbur’s sage advice:

It’s almost noon, you say? If so,
Time flies, and I need not rehearse
The rosebuds-theme of centuries of verse.

If you must go,

Wait for a while, then slip downstairs
And bring us up some chilled white wine,
And some blue cheese, and crackers, and some fine
Ruddy-skinned pears

                                        “A Late Aubade”

There Goes Peter Cottontail

Who was the first to go?

"Tooth Fairy" by Greg Becker

“Tooth Fairy” by Greg Becker

The Tooth Fairy, that’s who, that little fetishist, sneaking into children’s bedrooms, trading money for teeth. I suppose the Tooth Fairy is the least definite of the fantasy commies who distribute goodies among the masses. I can’t even tell you if the Tooth Fairy is supposed to be male or female, old or young, corporeal or diaphanous. As it turns out, virtually every google image that comes up is female. Anyway, I’m not sure I ever believed in her.

Even more preposterous is the Easter Bunny, I remember being about five or so, and my old man telling me that the Easter Bunny wouldn’t be showing up because he’d been hit by a car. Daddy claimed to have seen the rabbit’s roadkill carcass on the side of the highway. Of course, I knew he was kidding by the bemused look on his face; however, his story made me try to visualize the dead Easter Bunny. How big was he?   Was he wearing a bow tie?

8571e424cbad2765eb1500bb3fb6e4f7How idiotic — a rabbit toting a continent’s worth of tooth-rotting chocolate and jelly beans from house to house from Maine to California.

Of course, that left Santa, whom I did believe in until I was nine or so, refusing to heed the cross-my-heart-hope-to-die sworn statements of my more sophisticated buddies. By the time Mama broke the official news, we kids had been scoping out the yuletide stash for a couple of years, sneaking up into the attic when the parents were away, or, when no one was around, peeking under the door of the vacated apartment across the hall from my grandmother’s.

And they are right: Christmas was never the same after that.

Which brings us, as James Joyce might say, past Eve and Adams, to Jesus himself, whose legitimacy as the Son of God I also started doubting at a tender age, and as far as believing goes, I’ve given it my very best — took my confirmation classes very seriously, read CS Lewis, studied the gospels — but, alas, I just can’t will myself to believe, and that is that.

So I took up Buddhism instead in the hope of achieving an equanimity with the mysterious universe that can seem so beautiful but also so cruel; however, let’s face it: you can’t pray to Siddhartha, and he certainly ain’t gonna perform any miracles for you.

How wonderful it must be to have a bedrock of faith, to be certain that you are loved and can conquer death, and certainly, in my family’s current situation, it would be particularly nice to be able to “talk” to a greater power and seek solace and strength. Some of my Christian friends have seemed a bit hesitant to share with me after hearing Judy’s diagnosis of lymphoma that they’re praying for us, but as Judy said just yesterday, “I’ll take prayers, vibrations, chi. Bring it on”

“What about sacrificial heifers?

“Those, too”

In other words, we’re not the arrogant Christopher Hitchens or Richard Dawkins brand of non-believers, so please pray if you’re a praying person, and think good thoughts if you’re not.

We’ve been really humbled by the outpouring of love we’ve received so far. Thank you all!