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Tag: the Ten Commandments

Beethoven – piano sonata no.31, op.110 (3rd movement)‏


Woman Reading in a Garden (1902-03)


perhaps my best teacher ever was
my father, others never questioned
the orthodoxy, spewing out the
curriculum like it was sacred, dead,
untouchable, depriving it of its very

my father was a philosopher, God 
was a question, not an answer, I,
at the time, needed an answer
we were sent to a Catholic school,
my sister and I, where God was in 
everything, everywhere, omnipotent,
omniscient, and, like a father then, 
autocratic, industrious, demanding,
not unopposed to punishment
sins against the Father could be 
summarized, at that age, briefly,
do not kill, do not lie, do not 
disobey your parents, do not 
cheat on your husband, wife, 
and follow all the rituals of the 
Church, the Ten Christian 
Commandments, brought to 
you universally then by Charlton 
“Moses” Heston, under the aegis 
none of these graded offences  
applied to me, really, then, but 
lying, and disobeying one’s 
parents, the others were all so 
remote as to be inconsequential, 
though the Church kept up on 
our family’s abrogations of 
religious rites – non-attendance 
at Sunday mass, eating meat 
on Fridays, worse – while 
nevertheless tending dutifully
to our wayward souls, they told 
us, holding out for a final repentant 
we never lied at home, I’d lied about 
something once, and was so daunted
when my father probed, I sweated,
must’ve turned purple, not just red,
of embarrassment, I knew I couldn’t 
use that tactic again, I’d inexorably 
blush, flush
who put the Brylcreem on the dog,
he’d queried
not me, I trembled
my sister stood beside me, might 
not have even known anything 
about it, I can’t remember, though 
I recall her dismay, I think, at having 
been so blithely thrown under the 
bus, or maybe that’s just me 
my dad turned back to what he’d 
been doing, having, I’d understood, 
got his answer, proving himself to 
be to me thereby omniscient, I’d 
have no chance, I gathered, against 
something like that, this turned me 
into a good, an at least conscientious, 
my teachers, paradoxically, only 
ever took marks off for technical 
stuff, Math, History, French, they 
never taught me lessons   
a teacher, once, had asked me to
stand at the head of the class and 
read a passage from Shakespeare,
be Romeo, Mark Antony, Lear, I
can’t remember which
“O, pardon me, thou bleeding 
piece of earth, / That I am meek 
and gentle with these butchers!”,
I uttered, fraught with emotion,
“Thou art the ruins of the noblest 
man / That ever lived in the tide 
of times”
in my mind and in my body I was 
Mark Antony there, shot through 
with the weight of his friend’s 
brutal death, his own irretrievable 
my teacher laughed
what, I asked
you’re right into it, aren’t you, he 
replied, and shut me up right there 
to any public display of expression 
I didn’t stop reading Shakespeare 
though, but by myself
later I read Homer, Ovid, Proust,
others, did the same with music 
and art, made countless lifelong 
friends thereby, people I’ve always 
been able to turn to, even just in 
ruminative thought as their stories 
still pervaded me, diligently leading   
still the way, like guardian angels,  

a Chopin Fantasia‏, opus 61

to be specific, opus 61, you’ll more easily notice 
already the more abstract peregrinations of his
disciple, Debussyand even the first stirrings of
improvisation incidentally, which is to say the
free-wheeling of idiosyncratic jazz, the very 
inversion of Classical order, personal expression
was trumping even ecclesiastical dictates, those 
very earlier immutable fundamentals of the long
unimpeachable Ten Commandments  
Oh Moses, Moses you stubborn, splendid, adorable 
fool, as Anne Baxter, Nefertiri, pagan, therefore 
insidious seductress, would admonish in the film
pronouncementsa film which of course fashioned 
the Biblical iconography of my entire generation,
a veritable Divine Comedy” for our still recent
enough times, nothing has come up to displace it
meanwhile, though a progressively alternative
cultural morality seems steadily to harken
was Moses then a fool, a Prometheus in Christian
time alone tells, and time is an inveterately
temperamental arbiter
it would appear now that faith equals
unconditional conformity, when I thought
that faith could not, by definition, be
constrained, faith had been meticulously
a considered personal conviction, an
individual emancipation rather than a
conformist, and nefarious ultimately, it
would appear, code 
I count on thoughtful efflorescence then,
and a garden of societal consideration, 
a pantheistic and cooperative accord
not excluding, let it be noted, the indeed
worthiest, by thoughtful process, of those
very Ten Commandments 
without my own children, for instance, I
still recommend honouring one’s parents,
this will bring, I knowlegeably warrant, 
untold benefits, indeed grace, peace and
profound satisfaction, plenary solace to
the very reaches of each our indeterminate
take it right here from an appropriately  
distinctive Chopin, unparalleled poet to
the panoply of possible gods