It’s All One Thing #146: Jeremiah in the Ox Yoke

Banner design © TJ Edson

 

Performed with two figures:
The Bell Ringer by Etienne DeCroux as performed by Jean Louis Barrault
Followed by Jeremiah in the Ox Yoke by James

I have taken to attending the weekly demonstrations for human rights and peace that take
place across the street in front of Park Street Station every Saturday where usually there
are only a handful of protestors so just about anyone who wants to can speak. However,
yesterday because of the threatened U.S. attack on Syria there was a large crowd and only
a list of speakers could use the microphone. For the first time I felt like there were many
who shared the sense of crisis which has driven me to speak on the public common.
It’s not as if public speaking is my forte. The first time I tried it or rather was forced to do
it in high school I became so self conscious I couldn’t talk and had to go out in the hall
until I could regain enough control to limp through my three minute speech with a huge
gorge in the back of my throat. Jeremiah knew he was in a big crisis, too. In this passage
we feel the horror and dislocation that confronts the people of his land Judah. God, like
some super papa parent recounts how he has led them through the danger of the barren
wilderness and into a land of prosperity and plenty like a father who has given
everything, most especially life itself while as children so often seem to do they have
chosen to define themselves by everything He is not. “They have forsaken me the
fountain of living water, and dug out for themselves cracked cisterns which can hold no
water”. This recalls the young King Josiah who in Jeremiah’s youth had a religious
experience that led him to start work on the temple in Jerusalem. The head priest comes
to him with what was probably an early version of the “book of the second law”
Deuteronomy ‘found’ in the temple. When Josiah hears what it says he tears his hair and
rends his clothes because they’ve been doing everything wrong about worship all over
Judah and in the temple, too. He pulls down the high places and the ancient standing
stones and institutes reforms. It seems Josiah is the redeemer of the lost God. But how
could God be lost. It is the nation which is lost. The King and court were lost. The priests
in the temple were wrong. Everything they had been allowing to go on for a long, long
time was wrong. They were all wrong. That’s how it is in a crisis of civilization. Turns
out everything you’ve been doing which is what everyone thinks you have to do whether
you like it or not is wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Turns out that whether you want to
change or not everything is changing around you. Turns out there’s no way out of
complete and total change. That’s what Jeremiah knew about the huge empires that were
grappling for regional hegemony to the south in Egypt and where Abraham had come
from in Mesopotamia and the Assyrian city state of Nineveh. Egypt, Assyria, and New
Babylon were about to come and do to Judah what the Assyrians had already done to
Israel, the Northern Kingdom. And now we’ve all gone through many decades of glob-
blob-all-ization. It is reality. For anyone under about the age of 45 it’s been their whole
life. Mass migration and perpetual war. They’d no sooner polished off the old USS of R
without ever seeming to think how they would justify their huge security budgets without
it than they start working to create the terrorism bugaboo to replace the communist threat.
Clinton passed the first terrorism bill long before 9/11 after the Oklahoma City domestic
bombing by Apocalyptic Christian Tim McVeigh. Then Clinton initiated the encirclement
of Russia through NATO expansion. He extended the Federal death penalty to whole new
categories of crimes. Take that peace dividend to the bank and cash it. The world just got
a brand new electric birthday suit and they are out there waging total information war all
the time. Obama ramped up the Bush/ Cheney regime total surveillance. They’ve got the
keys to the cell phones and malware installed all over the internets. What would Marshall
McLuhan say at this point? Up against the wall you, you humanities you! Computer
Science and Business Management forever. There must still be a few safe places
somewhere. But they keep telling us nowhere is safe anymore, not where we live. So far
belowwwwwwwwwwwww … The world is not a grid. Any More. The world is detail.
The world is interconnected. The world is All One Thing. And therefore everything is
different. As far as we know we could be on this spaceship Earth a very long time. If we
don’t destroy our selves. We should be figuring out how not to do that, not how to do it.
We’re the Babylonians and Assyrians and Egyptians now. The contending imperial
power. Never has there been such a dominant military force. It just showed what it can do
over the last almost 14 years now. Large portions of N. and E. Africa and the heart of
the Middle East/ W. Asia, Afghanistan/Pakistan are in continual chaos and getting worse by
stages. War is business and business is war. Capital travels in milli-seconds. People travel
in waves. Hellfire comes in a flash. Heaven is the navel of the Earth. Peace is a necessity
not a mere possibility. We are already living other times. We just haven’t found words
with which to describe our new reality. Somehow we will stop digging the hole deeper.
Somehow we will find the way to live. Somehow harmonic resonance will overtake us.
Somehow we will figure out a new way to live in our All One
                                                Thing.

 

James Van Looy has been a fixture in Boston’s poetry venues since the 1970s. He is a member of Cosmic Spelunker Theater and has run poetry workshops for Boston area homeless people at Pine Street Inn and St. Francis House since 1992. Van Looy leads the Labyrinth Creative Movement Workshop, which his Labyrinth titled poems are based on. His work appears weekly in Oddball Magazine.