Monday, April 24, 2006

1ero de Mayo and my feature reading

I started reading D.H. Lawrence's MORNINGS IN MEXICO/ETRUSCAN PLACES and the most appealing short story for me was El Mozo. I enjoyed it so much, that I personally copied/typed an excerpt of the story. This is great food for thought...

Rosalino really goes with the house, though he has been in service here only two months. When we went to look at the place, we saw him lurking in the patio, and glancing furtively under his brows. He is not one of the erect, bantam little Indians that stare with black, incomprehensible, but somewhat defiant stare. It may be Rosalino has a distant strain of other Indian blood, not zapotec. Or it may be he is only a bit different. The difference lies in a certain sensitiveness and aloneness, as if he were a mother's boy. The way he drops his head and looks sideways under his black lashes, apprehensive, apprehending, feeling his way, as it were. Not to the bold male glare of most of the Indians, who seem as if they had never, never had mothers at all.

The Aztec gods and goddesses are, as far as we have known anything about them, an unlovely and unlovable lot. In their myths there is no grace or charm, no poetry. Only this perpetual grudge, grudging, one god grudging another, the gods grudging men's existence, and men grudging the animals.The goddess of dirt and prostitution, a dirt-eater, a horror, without a touch of tenderness. If the god wants to make love to her, she has to sprawl down in front of him, blatant and accessible.

An then, after all, when she conceives and brings forth, what is it she produces? What is the infant-god she tenderly bears?Guess, all ye people, joyful and triumphant!

You never could.
It is a stone knife.

It is a razor-edged knife of blackish-green flint, the knife of all knives, the veritable Paraclete of knives. It is the sacrificial knife with which the priest makes a gash in his victim's breast, before he tears out the heart, to hold it smoking to the sun.

And the Sun, the Sun behind the sun, is supposed to suck the smoking heart greedily with insatiable appetite.

This, then, is a pretty Christmas Eve. Lo, the goddess is gone to bed, to bring forth her child. Lo! Ye people, await the birth of the savior, the wife of god is about to become a mother.

Tarumm-tarah! Tarumm-tarah! blow the trumpets. The child is born. Unto us a son is given. Bring forth, lay him on a tender cushion. Show him, then, to all the people. See! See! See him upon the cushion, tenderly new-born and reposing! Ah, qué bonito! Oh, what a nice, blackish, smooth, keen stone knife!

And to this day, most of the Mexican Indian women seem to bring forth knives. Look at them, these sons of incomprehensible mothers, withtheirr black little eyes like flints, and their stiff little bodies as taut and as keen as knives of obsidian. Take care they don't rip you up.

Our Rosalino is an exception. He drops his shoulders just a little. He is a bit bigger, also, than the average Indian down here. He must be about five feet four inches. And he hasn't got the big, obsidianglaring eyesss eyes are smaller, got the big, obsidian, glaring eyes. His eyes are smaller, blacker, like the quick black eyes of the lizard. They are just a bit aware that there is another being, unknown, at the other end of the glance.Hence he drops his head with a little apprehension, glance.Hence he drops his head with a little apprehension, screening himself as if he were vulnerable.

Usually, these people have no correspondence with one at all. To them a white man or white woman is sort of phenomenon:just as a monkey is sort of phenomenon: something to watch, and wonder at, and laugh at, but not to be taken on one's own plane.

Now the white man is sort of extraordinary white monkey that, by cunning, has learnt lots of semi-magical secrets of the universe, and made himself boss of the show. Imagine a race of big white monkeys got up in fantastic clothes, and able to kill a man by hissing at him ; able to leap through the air in great hops, covering a mile in each leap ;able to transmit his thoughts by a moment's effort of concentration to some grat white monkey or monkeyess, a thousand miles away: and you have, from our point of view, something of the picture that the Indian has of us.

The white monkey has curious tricks.He knows, for example, the time. Now to a Mexican, and an Indian, time is a vague, foggy reality. There are only three times: en la mañana, en la tarde, en la noche. in the morning, in the afternoon, in the night.There is even no midday, and no evening.

But to the white monkey, horrible to relate, there are exact spots of time, such as five o'clock, half past nine. The day is a horrible puzzle of exact spots of time.

The same with distance: horrible invisible distances called twoo miles, ten miles. To the Indians, there is near and far, and very near and very far. There is two days on one day. But two miles are as good as twenty to him, for he goes entirely by his feeling. If a certain two miles feels far to him, then it is far, it is muy lejos! But if a certain twenty miles feel near and familiar, then it is not far. Oh, no, it is just a little distane.And he will let you set off in the evening, for night to overtake you in the wilderness, without a qualm. It is not far.

But the white man has a horrible, truly horrible, monkey-like passion for exactitudes. Mañana , to the native, may mean tomorrow, three days hence, six months hence, and never. There are no fixed points in life, save birth, and death, and fiestas. The fixed points in life, save birth, and death, and the fiestas. From time immemorial priests fix the fiestas, the festivals of the gods, and men have had no more to do with time. What should men have to do with time?

The same with money. These centavos and these pesos, what do they mean, after all? Little discs that have no charm. The natives insist on reckoning in invisible coins, coins that don't exist here, like reales or pesetas. If you buy two eggs for a real, you have to pay twelve and a half centavos. Since also half a centavo doesn't exist , you or the vendor forfeit the non-existent.

The same with honesty, the meum and the tuum. The white man has a horrible way of remembering, even to a centavo, even to a thimbleful of mescal. Horrible! The Indian, it seems tome, is not naturally dishonest. He is not naturally avaricious,has not even any innate cupidity. In this he is unlike the old people of the Mediterranean, to whom possessions have a mystic meaning, and a silver coin a mystic white halo, a lueur of magic.

To the real Mexican, no! He doesn't care. He doesn't even like keeping money. His deep instinct is to spend it at once, so that he needn't have it. He doesn't really want to keep anything, not even his wife and children. Nothing that he has to be resonponsible for. Strip, strip, strip away the past and the future, leave the naked moment of the present disentangled. Strip away memory, strip away forethought and care: leave the moment, stark and sharp and without consciousness, like the obsidian knife. The before and the after are the stuff of consciousness. The instant moment is for ever keen with razon-edge of oblivion, like the knife of sacrifice.

But the great white monkey has got hold of the keys of the world, and the blackk-eyed Mexican has to serve the great white monkey, in order to live. He hhas to learn the tricks of the white monkey-show: time of the day, coin of money, machines that start at a second,work that is meaningless and yet is paid for with exactitude, in exact coin. A whole existence of monkey-tricks and monkey-virtues. The strange monkey-virtue of charity, the white monkeys nosing round to help, to save! Could any trick be more unnatural? Yet it is one of the tricks of the great white monkey.

If an Indian is poor, he says to another: I have no food: give me to eat. Then the other hands the hungry one a couple of tortillas. That is natural. But when the white monkey comes round, they peer at the house, at the woman, at the children. They say: Your child is sick. Si señor. Ehat have you done for it - Nothing. What is to be done? - You must make a pultice. I will show you how.

Well, it was very amusing, this making hot dough to dab on the baby. Like plastering a house with mud. But why do it twice? Twice is not amusing. The child will die. Well, then, it will be in Paradise. How nice for it! That's just what God wants of i, that it shall be cheerfull little angel among the roses of Paradise. What could be better?

How tedius of the white monkey coming with the trick of salavtion, to rub oil on the baby, and put poultices on it, and make you give it medicine in a spoon at morning, noon, and night. Why morning and noon and night? Why not just anytime, anywhen? It will die tomorrow if you don't do these things today! But tomorrow is another day, and it is not dead now, so if it dies at another time, it must be because the other times are out of hand.

Oh, the tedius, exacting white monkeys, with their yesterdays and todays and tomorrows! Tomorrow is always another day, and yesterday is part of the encircling never. Why think outside the moment? And inside the moment one does not think. So why pretend to think? It is one of the white monkey-tricks. He is a clever monkey. But he is ugly, in his nasty white flesh. We are not ugly, with screwed-up faces, and we have good warm-brown flesh. If we have to work for the white monkry, we don't care. His tricks are half amusing. And one may as well amuse oneself that way as any other. So long as one is amused.


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