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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

KILLING GRASSHOPPERS

     balser's traume by anselm kiefer



Entertaining myself lately reviewing major decisions I've lived my life by that were made in childhood. When it comes down to it, I've an idea in childhood is where I mapped out the life that I have lived. It's an odd notion upon first looking at it. When it first struck me, I thought of a couple and was satisfied I'd made some decisions back then that I've lived by. Time rolls on and more come to the foreground; it's beginning to look like I made all my major decisions pre-pubescent. It's kind of scary considering my mental condition at the time. Nonetheless, the part of myself connected with my innermost self had understanding parents did not have, preacher didn't have, teachers didn't have, no adult in my life had, understandings that seemed obvious to me and I could not make out why no one else could see them. It wasn't that I was "crazy" and out there in my own interior space. Like what I have come to call the absolute subjectivity of everything, which I've come to see in my adult years is consciousness.


I see a deer assessing whether to run across the road in front of my car or wait til it goes by. The deer is conscious, conscious as I would be standing at the side of the road wanting to cross it when one of those big noisy boxes is approaching. The deer doesn't know anything but these things run only on the paved lanes, highways. Dangerous places. The deer doesn't know it hurts like hell when you get hit by one and sometimes it's deadly. The deer doesn't know that. It's only a year or so old. I can just about count on the deer jumping across the road in front of me, not understanding what 50mph means, no idea of what a ton of steel means at 50 mph. Can't assess speed by standing by the road seeing a car approach. It looks like it's going kind of slow when it's approaching. I touched the brake to slow down and be ready to stop if I had to. The deer bolted and I pushed on the brake pedal just enough to give the deer a chance to get to the other side. If I'd not seen the deer or if I'd not anticipated that it would run, learned from experience, it would have been a T-bone hit in the doe in full stride. She was too beautiful to hurt, too innocent. I've been told by someone who knows that I am hyper-vigilant, but my close lookout for deer about to cross the road in front of my car has kept me from hitting deer most of the time. Sometimes, they're like a rabbit and jump out of nowhere in front of you and there's nowhere to run, nowhere to hide.


For one thing, it was in my childhood I realized I did not want to do any killing. I killed so many grasshoppers in childhood that surely the god of grasshoppers has cross-hairs on me. I had pet chickens and caught grasshoppers for them. My grandmother was happy that I kept the grasshoppers out of her garden. Kansas is loaded with grasshoppers. I was pumped so full of anger that I lashed out at the helpless, the grasshoppers, killed them by the thousands. I wasn't thinking about grandmother's garden. That was collateral benefit. It was the killing that was important about it. Redirecting my anger to the helpless innocent that can't fight back. The anger was powerful. All through that time I did not realize what I was doing. In adult years I've met two other guys who were serial grasshopper killers in their childhood. In each case was a daddy who lashed his own anger out on the helpless innocent kid, who turned his anger to the helpless innocent grasshoppers.


In adult years I have a few times caught a grasshopper to see if I still had the ability to catch one easily. I'd hold it, study its beauty close and tell it how fortunate it is that the grasshopper killer within has ceased his evil ways. I toss it into the air, its wings take over and it flies a little ways and falls into the grass. I watch it hop a few times and consider how I've changed, what I was going through in that time, what made me take my frustration out on insects. It was open season on all bugs. No big deal killing bugs. The adults approved of killing bugs. It's about all they ever approved of. Once, I did something so obvious it told volumes, but I didn't get it at the time. Daddy built a snowman one year in the front yard. Before the day was over I had chopped it down with a shovel, hitting it, hitting it, taking chunks out of it and watching it go away down to the packed snow. He never built another one and I was glad. I didn't want him to. That snowman was him and I couldn't stand looking at it. I hated it. It too was defenseless and unable fight back. In cub scouts we had to do a father-son project to work together on something. He built a little airplane out of little sticks and glue and paper. Rubber band worked the propeller. As soon as the father-son project was done and approved, I filled the plane up with firecrackers and blew it into tiny pieces and then I set them on fire.


By this time in the life I don't want to kill anything, not even spiders. Right now I have a big spider in the kitchen window. Its body is an inch and a half long and the legs that long too. Big thing, but I like having them in the house. I don't have flying bugs very long. The main reason came some time ten years ago, maybe. My neighbor had come into the house one day when I was gone, with permission, looking for something and a spider like this one jumped on him. A spider has never jumped on me in my house. Or anywhere else. He said he swept it off his shoulder with his hand. Next day a wounded spider like this one in the kitchen took up on my bedroom ceiling. I could see it had been seriously wounded. It stayed there over a week. Then it rolled up into a tight ball and stayed that way a day or two, then it disappeared, was gone. It may have gone off to die, or it may have healed itself. I don't know. But every morning when I saw it on the ceiling I thanked it for its bravery jumping on what it only knew to be an intruder. I thanked it every day for being my friend and putting itself in harm's way for my sake.


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