Sunday, August 20, 2006
short short "Jonah and the Whale"
in a different setting...
Jonah and the Whale
by Carl Johann Schroeder, copyright 2006
"Jesus fucking booger tuna! Hep hep hep!"
We waited patiently for Jonah to stop cursing, then we looked to our singer for advice. John Christy would know what to do, he always does.
But John just pulled on his beer and gazed heavenward. It had been a long day's night in the practice basement of the ever so glorious, soon to be famous, neighborhood heroes of the J. Christy band.
Finally I broke the anxious reverie. "Jonah's the best drummer anyone could ask for! It's divine justice that no one else would have him. I don't care if the talent scouts are coming, Jonah just can't take his meds. We'll sink like a stone if he hasn't got his edge!"
We all nodded but Jonah, who wailed "But Darlene is going to be there!"
Tim looked shocked. "Jonah, don't tell me you still haven't told her about your condition?"
Jonah shook his head, which just kept shaking harder and harder, until finally it stopped. He said, "It's like I'm swallowed up in her presence. All I can do is stare and play. It's so beautiful the way she dances alone and just keeps smiling back at me. Afterwards, I slip out as fast as I can."
John counseled, "When you get around to explaining, I'm sure she'll understand. She loves you as much as she loves your playing, that much is evident."
But Tim complained, "It's the press that won't understand! You know they're going to interview the winners on live TV, and you know we're going to win. It's a Christian Battle of the Bands for chrissakes! How's it going to look when Jonah... I mean, when Jonah hasn't got his drums to keep him busy?" Then he leaned toward Jonah. "Buddy boy, you've been practicing with your anti-seizure pills like I told you to, right?"
Jonah sighed with defeat.
I spoke in his defense. "Look, Jonah is Tourette syndrome powered. He was honest with us in the auditions, and he blew everyone else all away. So what if he curses like a sailor, so what if he tics. The music is what matters, all else will be forgiven."
John raised himself to standing, with that special dramatic flair that always commands everyone's attention. But then that's why he's the leader of the band.
Holding out his hands to the drummer, he said, "Jonah, we've come this far together. How do you feel about the contest?"
Jonah look so pained, and it wasn't just the twitches. "You can't imagine what it's like, every day wondering which side of life to be on. Do I give this to my illness or the medication? Which is better, which is worse, how can I be two different people?"
"Then you must decide based on the situation. What does your gut say about tomorrow night?"
Jonah jerked and spat and bleeped before he replied. "My gut says go ahead, Tourette's will steal the show. If I pop a pill on the last song -- if I time it right and you guys cover for me -- I can keep the tics to a minimum while the judges are deciding. After that, I'll be ok."
I reminded him gently, "And Darlene?"
"She'll learn sooner or later, I can't hide it forever." He smiled at me. "Thanks again for the astrology readings man, you gave me confidence."
I patted his knee. "She's gonna marry you someday, it's written in the stars."
Then the great John Hieronymus Christy raised his arms to give the benediction. "It is decided. Give unto seizure what belongs to seizure, and give unto gut what belongs to gut. Bless us this and every hour, we're going to win that recording contract."
Then rehearsal was over, and the next night we did.
Author Notes: I didn't read the Bible in detail until recently, when I discovered that there's actually really weird stuff in there that no one understands, so I'm
developing occult theories about Jesus and his dealings with aliens and his
use of time travel. However, “Jonah and the Whale” references nothing too obscure, because that was the writer’s group exercise which Kate in the group picked at random, and everyone said oh Carl will like that, and I said pick another if you want, and they tried two more and preferred the first exercise. Basically, in about one page, set a familiar Bible story in a different setting for similar metaphor.
On one level “Jonah and the Whale” is a setup for a pun, but on a
deeper level the pun is actually psychologically valid and spiritually symbolic. In the Gospels, when they tried to entrap Jesus by asking him who should we pay taxes to, they hoped he would be an arrestable radical who would oppose the government. So the story goes that Jesus asked, who's face is on the coin? Ceasar, came the answer. Therefore give to Ceasar what belongs to Ceasar, and give to God what belongs to God. Ceasar is symbolic here of the worldly ego, our limited and often hoarding frightened controlling personality in the material world. God is not an opposite, God is not an anti-Ceasar that would oppose paying taxes, God is God who can guide the safe course through life.
So my story "Jonah and the Whale" is not really about the story of Jonah and the Whale. That's a bit of a red herring, except for some
symbiotic word play like: Jonah wailing, Jonah feeling swallowed by love
and tourette's, and Jonah slipping out of the night club to avoid love's
threatening consuming nature. But the story is mostly a setup for the pun
"Give unto seizure what belongs to seizure, give unto gut what belongs to
gut." This works because the seizure is Jonah's tourette's syndrome, a
neurological spasming condition which artists and musicians, especially
drummers, actually do have to choose between medicating to fit into society,
or letting loose to empower their art. The seizure is like the worldly ego:
wild, offensive, kinetic, useful in situations and capable of serving
expression. There's nothing wrong with ego tools of governments or money,
it's all in how you use them, whether you let their crasser forms run your
life. Listening to your gut, trusting your gut, is an idiom for considering
intuition. Intuition is a spiritual phenomenon, a gestalt sense for what is
right and where we belong. Intuition can be consulted to know the limits of
any situation, for how much to let loose our baser selves in the world, and
how much to be ego-suppressed in an altered state which can facilitate
growth, especially as grounded in society.
So a fundamental duality of the human condition is living on the ego limited
self-serving side of life, versus living on the ego-less altered
trans-personal God side. Victims of tourette syndrome, or masters of
tourette syndrome, have a remarkably apparent challenge to balance a
personal duality, but we can all notice dualistic options for being in our
daily lives. Let your gut advise, let yourself be seized and immersed in
life when appropriate, and rise above competition to trust your unique
excellence in life. That's the moral of my story "Jonah and the Whale",
which I guess can take longer to explain than just read and find a level to