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Saturday, August 20, 2016

After San Rocco's Feast Day

Corleone watches Fanucci (in the white hat under the San Rocco sign)

The Feast of San Rocco has come and gone again.
August 16 is a great day for remembrance; great folks were born that day and Ob/Gyn staff have looked at each other in wild surmise on an August 16, sure that they would never forget those moments...

I had the pleasant discomfort of people calling me on the telephone and getting as far as "Happy...", at which point I interpolated "... San Rocco's day. Thank you. We are doing the parade this year."
I was referring to the traditional parade held on the feast day of San Rocco in various Italian communities, and even though I am not of Italian descent, I have taken to singing Ghirlandaino Veta Mia and swinging my arms about in the carefree manner of one of Johnny Caspar's thugs walking in the woods at Miller's Crossing.
(As if I were from if I recognized that the cathedral in Modena was that of Santa Maria Assunta e San Geminiano... as if August 15 did not precede August 16 and Santa Maria Assunta precede San Rocco... cycles and cycles!)

If you have seen Godfather II, the parade featured was a parade on the feast of San Rocco;  you know, just before Fanucci has his unpleasantness; the parade with the statue of the saint covered with currency attached by the devotees along the street.

Oddly, Coppola's film has everyone dressed as if it were fall instead of in the heat of summer, but it could have been one of those years without a summer when some volcano in the Philippines or Sumatra blew up and the ash cut down on the amount of sunlight reaching the earth's surface.
Mary Shelley skilfully used such a vulcanologists' trick to write Frankenstein, if you recall.

Shrine to San Rocco in New York, 1888,  photo Jacob Riis
...Writing a decade later Riis said the shrine shown in his photographs was one of many erected on August 16th each year within the "darkest and shabbiest" of the back yards in the Italian neighborhoods. He said one of his few pleasing memories of an area he called "foul core of New York's slums," was seeing Bandits' Roost lighted up in honor of San Rocco:
An altar had been erected against the stable shed at the rear end of it and made gaudy with soiled ribbons, colored paper, and tallow dips stuck in broken bottle-necks. Across the passageway had been strung a row of beer-glasses, with two disabled schooners for a center-piece, as the best the Roost could afford. In sober truth, it was the most appropriate. It made a very a brave show, and, oddest of it all not a displeasing one. At all events, I thought so. Perhaps it was the discovery of something in the ambitions of the Bend that was not hopelessly of the gutter which did it.[1]

and then we read:
...Riis does not mention a practice which a journalist reported a few years later: "Every one of the faithful who has an ache or a pain will buy from the liberal stores kept in the church a wax leg, or head, or arm, or hand, according to where his or her ailment is, and place it as an offering at San Rocco's shrine. Those who are sound of body and limb will offer decorated candles with their prayers and light them themselves at the shrine."[2] The reporter was wrong about the source of the effigies. They were called voti di cera (vows of wax) and were sold by street vendors. In 1906 a reporter told readers of these "hands, feet, legs, and heads, the latter with the flush of youth on their rounded cheeks, the other members painted with gaudy ribbons" that were sold by a street vendor at a make-shift stand.[3]
which makes a connection with vast antiquity, for such images of body parts are found in old shrines to Aesclepius.
I am fascinated by intelligence, in that it unites all things. It takes suffering and disease, gives it symbolic form, and then approaches the powers of the world and creation seeking a return to a memory: that state of wholeness and health.
And I have no doubt there are "powers" in the world. That is fairly obvious. Where this line of thought breaks down is the point where intelligence tries to make an equations between a power and The Holy. I do not think that works too well.

I have not posted for a while.
You would think in this election year I would have a lot to say. Well, it is all too obvious to comment on.

I have a few observations:

1) Donald Trump

The candidate's entrance to the Republican Convention was mortifying; it was directly from the professional wrestling circuit. Applying such contrivances to sports is a silly enough and harmless exercise, but when applied to Politics and Power and Persuasion, it becomes a little too Leni Riefenstahl doing a documentary in Nürnberg for my tastes.

In this juxtaposition of photo and comment, I do not wish to compare Mr. Trump to Herr Hitler. I do wish to say that the glorification of power opens an abyss, and Mr. Trump is but a new form of the American taste for the celebrity of power.

2. Among the Powers of the World in the present day are

(a) Weapons
The moment of silence that the US Congress has for the most recent victims of mass shootings has become very frequent and begins to resemble an invocation to the Aztec gods of death rather than a memorial.

(b) Drugs
Drugs have won the war and drive us on, demanding more and more sacrifice of lives and wealth in a potlach heavily weighted to the dark side of the gods of intoxicating madness.
A saner policy would recognize the beneficial side these powers.

and the last observation is

3. Brexit

As long as the EU covers the area once covered by The Holy Roman Empire, it shall remain integral, unified, and successful. The central dynamics that let the old empire continue are available to be used more efficiently to ensure the success of the EU as a going concern.
The outlying countries are a drag on the EU, and Britain... well, in Orwell's 1984, Britain is merely a small part of Oceania named Airstrip One.

Fonderia USA


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