Stranger by the Day

As if times weren’t already strange, they keep getting stranger.

We’ve been living cooped up like caged animals, needing relief, finding little. We’ve hidden behind masks for so long that it’s become de rigueur, the fashion of the times.

Not that wearing masks is a new phenomenon, just one for another reason.  We’ve sought escape behind them ever since we looked at ourselves in the mirror at about age six and discovered, “Hey, I’m different.”

According to La Rochfoucald, the 17th century philosopher, all of society consists of assumed personalities, since everyone puts on a personality and outward appearance to look like what they want to be seen.

Pride is a kaleidoscope that transforms itself into many patterns, particularly when disguised to trick others when masquerading as humility. Are we really side-stepping people to keep social distance or is this just another way to mask humility?

Oh, well, masks do assure some means of silence.  Who can breathe, much less talk plainly under one? And for the non-self-assured among us, silence is a pretty safe policy if we’re unsure of ourselves.

It takes a seasoned eye reader to make out what’s hiding under the mask, a smile, a frown or sneer. It’s easy to get away with things, like ignoring someone without appearing rude.

But masks are not the sole source of these strange times. Human nature is. There is a strange analogy to the Stone Age going around.

A friend called recently, said he gets home one day to find the house dark, shades pulled, candles flickering, and walls filled with what he called ‘cave drawings.’ A small rodent roasts on a rotating spit over an open fire in the fireplace. Graffitied photos of political candidates are glued to the furniture while his spouse wears animal skins.

I ask what he makes of this strange coincidence. He allows as to the notion that self-isolation and the constant bombardment of Fox News reduces the intellect to the rudiments of a recurring Neolithic time. Says Amazon has picked up on the trend. Order your skins before they’re sold out.

He refers me to the life of Ra Paulette, the artist who lived isolated for ten years in a sandstone cave in New Mexico making latter-day cave drawings for posterity. And Covid had yet to arrive.

The advent of a vaccine is all the rage now. Sadly, who’s gonna be the guinea pig to test the cure? Is there yet an antidote for the outbreak of viral political monologues? November 3rd will soon be here…hunker down.

The latest weird call I got was from Jimmy, a good friend who has been lawyering too long. His addiction to memorizing book and page of the criminal codes has changed. He now seeks legal justifications for the crimes of deranged criminals. He has obviously undergone some spiritual transformation or found peace with self-justification for past acquittals.

Hey, guess what?  I joined the Sand Mountain No Hellers Salvation Assembly. My sins are wiped out”

What? Sins are like shadows, forever yours. There are volumes written of your transgressions. An accounting is coming. No such thing as expurgation. Forgiveness is a long way off.”

Not now. No hell for me, brother, I’ve suffered enough here already.”

“Hey, back to earth, bubba.  You give up Zen and motorcycle maintenance for this? You have to face the consequences, there’s no easy way out.  What is this ‘No Hellers Salvation Assembly’ about anyway?”

Hell is here, all around us, we’re living in it,” he says.

     “I agree, but have you not read Dante’s rings of hell? We’re only in the first ring, brother. You have a long way to go.  It’s all downhill. No absolution until you pay the last farthing.”  

“No sir. I contributed heavily, pledged the proceeds from my last settlement. No more association with murderers, fornicators, idolaters and liars.”

    “Well, life’s sure gonna be boring for you on this side of the grass. But what about the lake of fire, the weeping, the gnashing of teeth, the worms, the bottomless pit? And the seven woes for lawyers, things like straining for gnats, swallowing camels?”

     “Well, we still filter client’s bank accounts and occasionally swill a lot of Corona, but none of that counts anymore.”

He cuts the conversation short. “Gotta go, heading to Alabama for the Micro Midget Wrestling Federation match.”


Life’s going to get even stranger if things don’t change soon.  What’s behind your mask?


Bud Hearn

September 25, 2020