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Tony Grist

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Will There Be Any Stars In My Crown? [Jan. 17th, 2005|10:16 am]
Tony Grist
I've got a birthday coming up. It's not a round figure one, so I'm not making a deal of fuss. Actually, even if it was a round figure one I'd want to keep things low-key. Once you're past 50 the only birthday that's worth jumping up and down about is your 100th.

I used to take my body for granted. Now I'm acutely aware of its frailty.

And its unreality.

So what is it? A column of water stiffened with carbon and calcium and other elements. Or, as Webster put it, "a little crudded milk, fantastical puff-paste."

It ain't me.


It's this thing I'm using while I work my passage through this heavy dimension. It's like a space suit or a diving suit. If I'm lucky it has another 20 or 30 years wear in it.

We'll see. But every birthday brings it closer to systems failure and the awfully big adventure.

Detachment, that's the thing to be working at when you get past 50. I like it here, but I'm hoping they won't have to pry my fingers loose at the end.

I had a flying dream last night. I said, "look, this is how it's done," spread my arms like dicky-bird wings and took off for the ceiling.

Can't do it now, but one day maybe.

Something to look forward to.

[User Picture]From: butterscotch711
2005-01-17 04:34 am (UTC)
Have you re-watched Rope yet? To me, Rope is all about dealing with the body, how trippy it is, whether or not it is what we are, what it means. The corpse hidden in the chest is the body, the dinner party going on above it is life. (This also links in with the gay subtext - Brandon and Phillip must never explicitly articulate the truth about the corpse.) Of course the corpse is also a kind of illusion, like the illusion of the movie without cuts - once it is hidden beneath the glimmer of the dinner party, who's to say it is really there? Is it a constant from cut to cut?

A few times I have woken up with a jolt in the night, acutely aware of how strange my body is - an arbitrary machine made of meat, almost unfathamobly weird. For a while I'm confounded by the fact that I inhabit it, before I wake up a little more.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-01-17 04:42 am (UTC)
No. I watched Torn Curtain last night- a movie I tried very hard to like, but without much success.
Hitch wanted Shirley Maclaine, but the Studio insisted on Julie Andrews and he gave way- a terrible mistake. Julie's character is supposed to be a passionate pilgrim and she plays it as little Miss Nice.

Paul Newman is pretty dreadful too.

So I will prioritize Rope. It's there on the shelf
along with all the other movies we bought in a frenzy of Hitch-mania. I guess I'm moving it to the head of the queue.
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[User Picture]From: idahoswede
2005-01-17 04:42 am (UTC)
Now you're going to have me singing that song all afternoon. Fortunately, it's one I really like.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-01-17 04:44 am (UTC)
I just went through a stack of CDs to see if we have a recording of it. Apparently not. Rats!
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[User Picture]From: jackiejj
2005-01-17 05:12 am (UTC)
Ellen Kuschner's Sound and Spirit radio program explored death yesterday. She spent some time on the Tibetan Book of the Dead.

She played part of a moving interpretation of the Book, meant to be read aloud, presumably to the corpse in the moments after death.

"Dear friend, the moment has come, as it must for us all. You are dead. Now you are free to go into the light. Do not allow yourself to be diverted, lest you go to a place where you should not go..."

Many cultures, said Ellen, believe that the soul spends about a year finding its way before it can rest--purification, purgatory--

Ellen, herself a Jew, said that the Jewish religion doesn't rule out reincarnation, either, and she read some references.

She played a wonderful cut from a recording by Laurie Anderson* about a conversation with a ouija board:

In 1978, I spent some time in California in the fall, looking for a quiet place to live. I finally found what seemed to be the perfect apartment. But the night after I moved in I heard a tremendous pounding sound. As it turned out, I had moved in right above a Hawaiian hallow log drum school. Every other night, it was converted into a hula school with a live band of six Hawaiian guitars.
I decided to soundproof my place but I didn't hang the door very well and all the sounds kept drifting in. About this time, like a lot of New Yorkers who find themselves on the West Coast, I got interested in various aspects of California's versions of the occult. We would sit around at night when the Santa Anna winds howled outside, and ask questions to the ouija board. I found out a lot of information on my past 9,361 human lives on this planet. My first life was as a raccoon.

— And then you were a cow. And then you were a bird. And then you were a hat, spelled the ouija.

We said “a hat?” We couldn't figure it out. Finally we guessed that the feathers from the bird had been made into a hat. Is this true?

— Yes, spelled the ouija. Hat counts as half life.

And then?

— Hundreds and hundreds of rave eyes.

Now this is apparently my first life as a woman, which should explain quite a few things. Eventually though, the ouija's written words seemed to take a kind of personality, a kind of a voice. Finally we began to ask the board if the ouija would be willing to appear to us in some other form.

— Forget it, forget it, forget it, forget it, forget it, forget it.

The ouija seemed like it was about to crash. Please, please, what can we do?

*The Ouija Board
Laurie Anderson
Laurie Anderson et al
- Warner Bros. 45847

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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-01-17 06:04 am (UTC)
In one of Bishop Pike's books (I think it was) he reports talking through a medium to his dead son. Pike Jnr (who had committed suicide) describes waking up in the next world and being sat down and taken gently through his past life, incident by incident. He makes it sound a lot like being kept in after school.

I suspect Laurie's Ouija board was pulling her leg. How wonderful, though, to be reincarnated as a hat!
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[User Picture]From: jackiejj
2005-01-17 05:19 am (UTC)
Well, sorry!

First, for printing out that long lyric, and second for not touching it up first.

"Rave Eyes" is "Rabbis."

I drifted right off the subject, caught up in Sound and Spirit.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-01-17 06:07 am (UTC)
Oh dear- I pictured mad people dancing round a bonfire. Not in the least bit rabbinical.

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[User Picture]From: qos
2005-01-17 05:35 am (UTC)
I remember reading somewhere that our physical bodies are like the shells of an egg. They aren't really us, they are the container we exist in while the real us comes to maturity. Like an egg, a body must be 'broken' to allow the being within to emerge in its fullness.

It's not a perfect metaphor, but I find it both striking and comforting, especially as I am watching my parents' bodies beginning their end-of-life decline.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-01-17 06:11 am (UTC)
I remember a sermon in which the preacher compared the human being to an onion. That way there's more than the single skin to shed.

But metaphors aside, I'm pretty damn sure that death is not the end.
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From: archyena
2005-01-17 06:00 am (UTC)
I kind of fear growing old, personally, and hold out hope that we're as close to finding a cure for it as scientists seem to think we are.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-01-17 06:17 am (UTC)
But will they also find a cure for the hardening of the mind that comes with old age? To have a population of fabulously aged people, all reminiscing about the good old days and deploring the youth of today (mere striplings of 100 and 150)is a nightmarish prospect.
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[User Picture]From: greybeta
2005-01-17 07:22 am (UTC)
I've heard that it always comes sooner than you think it will.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-01-17 12:15 pm (UTC)
My life thus far seems to have taken no time at all. Why it's only yesterday that I was running round in my cowboy outfit, cap-guns blazing.
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[User Picture]From: haikujaguar
2005-01-17 08:11 am (UTC)
Flying dreams are the best. I treasure each one I've had. :)
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-01-17 12:13 pm (UTC)
In the dreams it always seems so straightforward. Of course people can fly!
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[User Picture]From: karenkay
2005-01-17 08:20 am (UTC)
I had a flying dream last night. I said, "look, this is how it's done," spread my arms like dicky-bird wings and took off for the ceiling.

Can't do it now, but one day maybe.

Something to look forward to.

I love you.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-01-17 12:11 pm (UTC)
And me a married man....

Thanks ;)
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From: morrison_maiden
2005-01-17 12:22 pm (UTC)
Well, perhaps when you're 100, you won't really be able to jump up and down, but... ;)

I think we're always aware of the frailty. It's like insects having such thin outer skeletons. I mean, I always fear death, and I'm 19 years old. I think the sense of vulnerability is there from the beginning...You're hardly an old geezer, you know ;)

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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-01-17 01:21 pm (UTC)
My attitude to death has changed. When I was in my teens and twenties it was all shrouds and scythes and grinning skulls. Now it's much more everyday. I'm aware that I could die at any time. I mean I've already lived a year or two longer than Shakespeare did.
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[User Picture]From: four_thorns
2005-01-17 06:10 pm (UTC)
dear poliphilo,
the number of comments i leave in your journal is woefully underrepresentative of the number of entries i read, and the appreciation i have for them.
i don't know how you found my journal, but thank you for friending me.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-01-18 12:35 am (UTC)
Thank you.

I don't remember exactly how I found you, except that I was looking for people who could write well and had something interesting to say- and in the process came across your vivid (and terrifying) posts about working in TV news.
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