Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Dust of the Earth, chapter 13

Welcome to the continuing serialized version of Phantom Limbs' bassist Jim Parks' novel, Dust Of The Earth, a Tucson story about Tucson history, mystery, other worlds, desert mojo, forbidden love, and the fledgling Tucson music scene... (c) by Jim Parks, reprinted with permission

We left off last time with our narrator interviewing Pedro Luis Martin as part of a "Tucson Oral History" project...

Chapter 13
"Yeah, I've met a few people like this. Medieval wannabes. Society for Creative Anachronism types. Witchy women. Dress in black.

[laughs] Truly, I think that a big driving force behind all these orders - the Freemasons, the Rosicrucians, the Golden Dawn - is the need for ritual in our lives. Protestants in particular have been attracted to these sorts of mystical orders. They grew up in sanctuaries devoid of sensory appeal - four walls and lectern some have called it. In turning their backs on what they consider the Roman mumbo-jumbo, Protestants starved their imaginations. Perhaps Calvin considered imagination something that leads to sin. Which, of course, it can. (laughs) But imagination also leads to truth and beauty. And what is imagination without the senses? There may be Platonic forms, but the only way we have of approaching the Ideal world is through our senses. So I think that participation in these mystical orders is an attempt to recapture the sensual beauty of our higher leanings. Smells and bells, as some call it.

You know, I've never been to a Catholic service.

Really? Well, it's a pity you never went when the liturgy was still in Latin. Honestly, the vernacular service is why I rarely go to Mass anymore.

That, and you don't believe.

[laughs] True. But I believe that others believe. And I believe in tradition. Many traditions, really. Mexicans, for the most part, are varying degrees of Spanish and Indian. There are also Mexicans with other European blood-the Germans in northern Mexico come to mind. But the Spanish colonists themselves were not wholly European - nor even wholly Christian. Most of the Spanish colonists came from southern Spain, which has a rich tradition of Muslim and Jewish influences. There was a time in the Middle Ages when southern Spain was governed by Islamic caliphates who were relatively tolerant of their Christian and Jewish subjects. As a result, there was a florescence of high culture. The Arabs had preserved classical texts that the Western Christians were unfamiliar with. At the time, the Arabs were much more knowledgeable about science and medicine than the Europeans were. The Jews shared in much of this knowledge and gave us some of our greatest medieval philosophy. Compared to Muslim culture in the Middle Ages, the Europeans -- even their kings -- lived like savages.

The Europeans learned from their Islamic conquerors, but they fought against them, eventually returning Spain to Christian rule. Yet the Christians were not so tolerant of the Muslims and Jews. The Spanish Inquisition forced mass conversions of Jews and Muslims. And if those who converted were found to be holding on to any of their traditions or trappings, the Inquisition would...how should I say...rub them out. However, many Jews converted outwardly to Christianity, while remaining secretly Jewish.

Perhaps you have noticed the menorah on that shelf. That was passed down through my mother's family. It was hidden and never displayed until it came to me. Times have changed, and my family's Jewish ancestry is no longer such a stigma - though it's nothing any of us trumpet from a mountain top. For one thing, we are perfectly assimilated Christians, and other than a few stories and traditions, there is nothing Jewish about any of us. And I would not presume to insult a real Jew by claiming to be Jewish - which after all is a religion and not a race or really even an ethnicity. But for my part, I am proud of this ancestry, and I honor it. I have spoken with local rabbis, and I have studied the religion.

Oddly, my first exposure to Judaism was through the Golden Dawn, which derives partly from the Kabbalah - Jewish Mysticism.

And we've come full circle. Back to the Golden Dawn.

[laughs] Just so."
To Be Continued...

No comments:

Post a Comment