Monday, June 26, 2006

Walking in the cemetery with Al Stewart,
Nostradamus and missed opportunities

At noon I often walk in the cemetery near the office. Four times around my circular, hilly route is two miles, good for trying to get rid of the extra pounds from last winter and spring. There always seems to be a bit of wind rustling in the pines, and it’s a peaceful place to sort things out.

I’m listening to Al Stewart’s “Past, Present and Future,” that haunting meditation on the blood-stained history of the 20th century. It’s a reminder that our parents and grandparents lived through terrible times -- including the rise of the Nazis (‘the last Day of June 1934”), World War II and the gulag (“Roads to Moscow”), postwar traumas and assassinations (“Post World War Two Blues”).

The events of the last century have taken on the burnished glow of history. Looking back now is like looking through the wrong end of a telescope -- things seem small and distant, and the miniature images seem sharper and clearer than they really were at the time. History has sorted things out, and we think we know who the good guys were. Many of them are buried all around me.

Now the iPod is playing the last track on the album -- “Nostradamus.” The song finds many of the events of the 20th century foretold by Nostradamus, often with names misspelled (hey, nobody's perfect), including the rise of Hitler (Hister) and the Kennedy assassinations. But Stewart’s oracle falls strangely silent after that. While seeming to look ahead to the end of the Cold War, there’s no Osama, no Saddam, no George Bush after that. We’re on our own.

I’m afraid that Yeats better spoke to our condition than old Nostradamus.
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all convictions, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
The “worst” would be Karl Rove, of course. Who but Rove could orchestrate blaming Democratic senators for wanting to “cut and run,” while having the military talk about troop withdrawals a couple days later?
At first, many Republicans thought it was time to start talking about drawing down U.S. forces. But in the White House, Karl Rove decided that talk had to be squelched. Many hours of arm-twisting later, GOP legislative leaders are back following the president's script. It's called staying the course - keeping soldiers in Iraq keeps the war on terror from U.S. shores and keeps Americans safer.
My walk’s over, and nothing is resolved. Time to go back to work.


h de m said...

Some of the best have conviction. Isn't it strange to realize all the best are anonymous. We don't even get leaders. We are allowed only humorists. I wouldn't say Rove in fact has conviction. Well, it's conviction of a sort. About nothingness. Winning. Power. Capitalism. How does that breed conviction.

You know this one, I'm sure. Epitaph of a Tyrant

Perfection, of a kind, was what he was after,
And the poetry he invented was easy to understand;
He knew human folly like the back of his hand,
And was greatly interested in armies and fleets;
When he laughed, respectable senators burst with laughter,
And when he cried the little children died in the streets.

dr diablo said...

Perfection, of a kind, is what we are after here too. In that spirit, I point out that "the best like all CONVICTION" (singular) and that the Epitaph was ON, not OF, a Tyrant.

Hopefully, these renditions were errors rather than presumptuous attempts at improvement.

dr diablo said...

Now I have to correct myself. We best don't LIKE all conviction. Far from it. We LACK it.

Madison Guy said...

Madison Guy appreciates Dr. Diablo's setting the record straight and would probably have been better off trying to quote from memory. You just can't trust what you finds on the internets.