Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Head of the year

Like the U.S. Congress, I'm on a break today for the Jewish holidays. A damp, overcast but still warmish morning with the scent of fall in the air. I am skipping all religious obligations except for tashlik, tossing stale bread to the gulls off the Marblehead end of Boston Harbor, followed by a celebratory buffet at a friend's house. Gluttony is obviously not a sin I plan to cast away today. Or sloth. Or lust for that matter. But pride, envy, anger and greed are good to go -- the last not something I'm prone to myself, but I'll throw it off vicariously on behalf of all the recently humbled derivative traders out there. (The traditional Catholic Seven Deadlies make a convenient shopping list for sinners, even if they don't map precisely to the more comprehensive, once a year Yom Kippur line up.)

Actually I will spare some anger for everyone, Democrat or Republican, who contributed to not passing the bailout package in the House of Representatives yesterday. And for the ugliness and arrogance and stupidity of John McCain's recent carping against Barack Obama on this subject. Though maybe I should take the longer view. One small bright side of the recent crisis amidst so many dark ones is that Democratic presidential candidates always do better in bad economic times. And McCain's posturing and erratic judgement appears to be eroding his support yet further, to judge by polls in the last few days. The more McCain inflates his own role in the Congressional deliberations, the more he blames the Democrats even while touting bipartisanship, the more he's likely to suffer as partisanship by both sides drags out the process and the pain. Happy thoughts!

I don't know if it's the mental image of being on a beach, reminding me of the opening scenes of the movie "Chariots of Fire," but this song from Blake's Milton--which has become a popular Anglican hymn--has been playing in my head for the last few minutes. So let's pause the Rosh Hashanah retrospection and move ahead to post visions of Yom Kippur (as expressed in Blake's crypto-gnostic, post-Christian imagery) of the year to come:
And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England's mountains green?
And was the holy Lamb of God
On England's pleasant pastures seen?
And did the Countenance Divine
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here
Among these dark Satanic mills?
Bring me my bow of burning gold:
Bring me my arrows of desire:
Bring me my spear: O clouds unfold!
Bring me my chariot of fire.
I will not cease from mental fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England's green and pleasant land.
That is to say, I will not cease starting tomorrow.

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