Paving the road to nowhere, one word at a time.

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Location: Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico

American born, living in Mexico since 1992.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

The Cup Runneth Over


A grail, from both ancient Hebrew and ancient Greek, was a vessel on which a course of a meal was delivered. The Latin translation is all encompassing, words like grade and gradual and graduate take their roots in the gradus, or the grail. The Holy Grail is the container which Jesus of Nazareth was reported to have partaken wine in during the Last Supper, the last meal of the Christ. Joseph of Arimathea, the receiver of the dead body of Jesus, is believed to have captured the blood of the Christ in the grail itself.

Two courses of the meal of life, delivered in the same dish, should one choose to believe in that sort of thing.

Or, should one so choose to believe that the grail was more of a chalice, or maybe even nothing more than a large tankard, then it could have also been used as an instrument of death. Socrates drank his wine, knowing it was poisoned, from such a cup; as did Caesar Claudius. It was once a nice way to tell someone to fuck off. Permanently.

"Hey, Jesus, a glass of wine?"

"No, thanks," he told them, according to Mark the apostle.

So those who had offered the poisoned wine decided to crucify Jesus, instead.

And so, to add to the conjecture concerning the authenticity of any Holy Grail, I offer the obvious: If Jesus had taken the easy way out, if he had drank from that poisoned cup, then perhaps some of us would be just as full of sin and evil as anyone else in society is who refuses to get nailed to a cross. Like Socrates and Claudius and a host of others who chose a quick and relatively painless death over some sort of violent martyrdom. Like a lot of good people.

Like one day, one twenty-sixth of April in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and ninety-two, when a lot of other peoples whom had put up with a lot of other bullshit that had always been beyond their ability to control decided to take an easy way out. Every so often, people who are not so stubborn as some son of a deity is decide that opportunity only comes once in a lifetime. People who feel as though they have had the shit beaten out of them all of their lives decide that drinking from a poisoned chalice beats the hell out of being hit over the head by one.

* * * *

The quest for the Holy Grail - that chalice searched for by King Arthur’s knights - was meant to be a test of faith in the end; that ultimately each knight looked inward in order to find humility and courage and sacrifice and so on. Each knight looked inward in order to find all of the necessary qualities of a good knight. And truth, the most important quality according to Merlin, certainly lies buried deep inside of us all.

For the Knights of the Round Table, redemption was a constant exchange of servitude – to serve their King, to serve their God, to serve the land, while forever looking inward in order to draw the fuel necessary to be a good knight. In return, wearing the cross of the Christ of their God and the crest of their King, they were free to conquer foreign soil and unite any and all lands under their God and their King. Camelot aside, the Middle Ages pretty much worked this way.

Conquering and uniting were every bit as popular back in those days as they are now, maybe even more so.

And when things generally weren’t going so swell, so was rioting and looting. According to the legend of King Arthur, when the King fell ill, the land began to die. The people of the land then began to fight back, to pillage and burn and rape and loot and do all of the things once only reserved for those who held enough power to perform such atrocious acts in the name of their King or their God and so on. And when the knights were set out on a quest for the grail – in order to save the King and the land and so on, as one version of the legend has it – it was Percival who finally recovered the life-saving chalice. Percival, once nothing more than a thief who roamed outside of Camelot taking what he could from anyone he could.

What a great story that turned out to be!

* * * *

Too bad that Rodney King couldn’t pull a Holy Grail out of his back pocket when those police officers started to beat the living shit out of him. Maybe the looting and rioting in Los Angeles would have never happened.

Of course, that wouldn’t have changed the fact that the poor become poorer, the victims become more victimized, and even though all people were created equal, some seem to be more equal that others.

Others have to wait until the corner store is ablaze in order to afford olive oil instead of something far nastier and much more unhealthy. So, eventually, even if not on one twenty-sixth of April in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and ninety-two, the Los Angeles riots would have happened anyway.

"Can’t we all just get along?"

Sure. Just as long as you back away from your grail. Keep your hands up where I can see them and lie flat on the ground…

* * * *

Poor people in New Orleans are stealing guns for the same reason that rich people in Florida are stealing votes; the same reason that beet-farmers and bible-thumpers are listening to conservative ideals; the same reason that Mexican illegals are embracing the ghost of Chavez.

Because, like some hurricane blown in by a powerful and unpredictable God, we really have no idea what is going to happen next.

But I will admit one thing: I honestly couldn’t tell you whether I would choose to drink wine laced with myrrh or be nailed to a cross. Nor could I tell you, were I on my ass all of my life, whether or not I would steal shotguns out of a Wal-Mart if the city that I lived in suddenly became thirty feet underwater.

After all, who really knows what potion the grail offers, until one has actually drank from it?

I only know that anyone who would steal a DVD player from an electronics store in a city with no electricity has probably faced issues on a level that I will never have to endure. Even in a place that can be as poor as this place can be. Even here.

I have learned that what is going on in New Orleans isn’t much different than what went on in Los Angeles, the last time that I lived there.

Different hurricane, same grail.

Or lack, thereof.

And some people prefer crucifixion over a nice glass of get-it-while-you-can.

And the press will rub this in your face like you are some mangy dog who pooped on the rug. Because you let them.


Blogger Julio Sueco said...

I actually have my swedish blog named "poisoned chalice", that is Malört i Glädgebägaren. I named it so because many swedes don't really want to hear immigrant travails. As far as New Orleans goes, we find ourselves dumbfounded at the flow of news coming this way to this household. Saludos Nórdicos van Gringo.

9:41 AM, September 02, 2005  

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