Thursday, August 25, 2011

Murphy on the Prince of Lies

“So-o,” began the interviewer, casually checking his briefing notes.  “We understand that you actually… believe in the Devil.”
            Murphy shrugged, and took another sip of beer.
            “I’ll take that as a ‘Yes’,” said the interviewer, making a check-mark in a box.  Such an attitude, the notes said, is quite typical of those whose formal education does not extend beyond the third grade.   “But for the benefit of our readers -- can you prove that he exists?”
            Murphy looked upon the prideful little man with something like alarm.  The fellow seemed dangerously close to offering an in, whereby he might learn the answer first-hand.   But all he said was:  “Why would I want to do that?”   He gestured vaguely at the cityscape surrounding them -- the desolation, the ravaged faces,  all the detritus of our frequent encounters with that insinuating liar, throughout history
            “A man of few words, I see,” said the interviewer, pursing his lips.  This was like pulling teeth.   Why had he been given this stupid assignment?   Mindy had somehow managed to snag a choice sit with the lastest fifteen-minute celebrity.   How’d she do it?  Probably blowing the boss.  “Anyhow, I’ll put you down as a God-fearing and Devil-fearing man.”  And he made a couple of check-marks.
            Murphy made a No-no gesture as he swallowed.  “Wrong adjective, man.”   He seemed to space out awhile, thinking.   The interviewer grimaced at the seconds ticking expensively by inside his Rolex.   At last the t-shirted detective resumed.   “I mean -- I guess you could say that, same way I fear pie-trucks, that could squash me flat.  But I’m not … afraid of pie-trucks.”
            Again he paused.   The interviewer fretted how to wrap this thing up, but his object’s last utterance seemed to offer no way to proceed.   He couldn’t very well continue, in the usual newsperson’s manner, with “And so, Michael -- how do you, personally, fee-eel, about pie-trucks?”  -- That minx Mindy, she’s probably rocking back and forth right now, sharing a laugh with her complicit interviewee, her foot forward under the table in case his own foot might want to seek it out.
            Speaking slowly, Murphy resumed.  “I’m… wary of the Devil.  You can write that down and quote me.”   Now reduced to taking dictation, the interviewer did.  “But see… the Devil’s not a boxer:  any one of us could knock the stuffing out of him, in a fair fight.   He’s more like jiu-jitsu-- use your own strengths against you.”
            The interviewer was startled -- interested in spite of himself.  “I thought he preyed upon people’s weaknesses.”
            “Oh sure, sure, he’ll do that, he got nothing better to do.  But them’s small potatoes.   He goes for the strengths -- the strengths that are pointing the wrong way.”
            This made no sense, but the interviewer wrote it down anyway.  He would obviously have to go over his notes later.  And Mindy had finally gone away from his mind.
            “I mean… it’s not like he grabbed the apple, and shoved it down Adam’s throat.  All he can do, really, is make these stupid little lame suggestions.   Really pitiful, you start to think about it.   Not a patch on a cougar, or a pie-truck.”
            The interviewer now dropped his pen, and began to listen instead.
            “They call him the Prince of Lies.  And he can lie, all right.  But he can’t even make a decent speech -- he can barely form a coherent sentence.  He lets you do the talking.
            “Like, you’ll be saying to yourself?  What a blast it would be, to try heroin, or to cheat on your wife.  And he’ll say,  eyes glowing, ‘Yes, yes, go on!’   And  you’ll say, ‘That Gladia bitch -- I think she fancies me.’   And he’ll nod vigourously, ‘No more -- no less than you deserve!  Man like yourself!’ -- Heck, any flack on K Street could do better than that.”
            Now it was the interviewer who spoke slowly.  “And have you… personally… ever had any dealings with the Devil?”
            This was the sort of juncture at which the interviewee was supposed to break down sobbing and Reveal All, to the delight of the home audience, wiggling their fannies on the Barca-lounger.  Yet Murphy seemed surprisingly unconcerned. 
            “Yeh, we’ve had a few run-ins.  And he’s won a round or two, on points.  Never a knockout, though.  But yeh, he generally puts in an appearance at some point, pretty much every case I’ve ever had.”
            Now it was the interviewer who was strangely afraid.  “Okay, time to wrap things up.”   He glanced hurriedly at his Rolex -- or tried to:  wrong wrist.  “So, sum up, your attitude to the Devil is just basically, ‘God-damn him to Hell’.”   A weak smile, hoping that the object would return it, and they would be back on the familiar ground of collusion.
            No such luck.
            “No -- no!”  said Murphy, leaning forward.  “I mean sure -- I guess you could say I despise the guy.  But I… pray for him -- I pray daily -- praying that he, even he may repent, and be saved.”

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Unpardonable Sin

Poor Murphy, underinstructed, faced this problem with humor and terror.
The real story behind what was bothering him is explained here by Dr. Keith Massey, a philologist and an expert in Canon Law (and, at one time, a bit of a private detective himself, tracking down Ben Laden’s gang).

I showed Dr. Massey’s essay to the Murphy brothers, and all they could say was, “Whew!”

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Berkeley Background (A word from Dr. J)

In case you think I’m fantasizing, or slumming, or making fun of them, when I talk about how the Murphys live -- just two rooms, crates for furniture, TV in hock -- that’s exactly how I lived in Berkeley, for several years. Actually in just one room, and I couldn’t hock the TV because I didn’t even own one. Didn’t own a phone. Didn’t own….I dunno, What? What do people own, anyway? I owned one pair of shoes, and two pairs of socks. Had a radio for a little while, left over from the relative affluence of college, but it was soon stolen; then no radio for a long time after that. Of course no car; transport was by a one-speed bike I bought, used and abused, for ten dollars. -- Actually very practical for Berkeley. Anything fancier got stolen. This thing I didn’t even have to lock. (Not that I owned a lock.)
No medical care, no dental. And if you think the Murphy penchant for pizza is down-market, think about it: they get a large, with everything on it. Me I couldn’t afford so much as a slice. Lived on brown rice and carrots, period, for the longest time. (That was partly a would-be spiritual thing in any case; I was in mourning for a lost girlfriend. And it is myself I am mocking, in that story about Murphy becoming a vegetarian.)

And… How did I feel about all this? If you imagine you detect a note of resentment here, that’s a misreading. My mind was simply elsewhere; I was thinking, intensely, about other things. And if anyone had pointed to the boring issue of material conditions, I would have looked around, puzzled, then said: I live like kings. In the Middle Ages, nobody owned as many books as I owned, used-paperbacks though they were. No one owned a typewriter (ah yes, I’d forgotten that, that I did own, in fact an electric: but that was not a possession, it was more like owning hands.) And as for gathering acorns and thistles in the snow, as our forefathers did -- heck, this was California. Fresh carrots! I -- Lived -- Like --- Kings..

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Dead Men don't smoke Camels

No -- nothing -- sorry. The phrase just occurred to me, and I figured I'd post it, as a sort of mantra or proof-text or theme for meditation.
Also -- just in case someone happens to google this telling phrase -- well, it'll take'em right here, where they belong.