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Friday, February 10, 2012

rime of the ancient outlaw

and a thousand, thousand slimy things lived on
and so did I

There are outlaws and there are outlaws. When I refer to outlaws, I am referring to the casual miscreant, not the criminal deviant who keeps a petting zoo filled with teenaged runaways in a bunker behind his barn. Some people find their comfort zone somewhere in that broad gray area between the law and absolute lawlessness. These are the ones who fascinate me. They tend to be a little reckless and don't put too much thought into consequences. When they do consider consequences, they usually think that no one will get hurt; there's no way we'll get caught; if four is good, eight is better; accomplices can keep a secret; etc. That's the way that they think...hell, that's the way I think.

My motto for life should have been, "It seemed like a good idea" but it's not; my motto for life is, "and a thousand, thousand slimy things lived on and so did I." That is a quote from Samuel Coleridge's "Rime of the Ancient Mariner," one of the finest epic poems ever written and a great example of what can happen when you act on a whim without thinking of what may happen as a result. What that quote means to me is that after all the disastrous things were heaped upon the mariner as punishment for his bad decision, he looked around at all his shipmates who were lying dead, and he looked at the surface of the ocean and he saw all those terrifying serpents in the water, he knew that his penance was far from over, and that what he was left with was the realization that he'd caused all the death and destruction that they'd endured, everyone that is, except him. It was all his fault and he was being punished for his transgression...because he shot the albatross, the bird of good omen, but wait, if he was the one being punished, why was everyone else dead? Collateral damage, that's why. That was his punishment, to wind up becalmed on a ship with his shipmates with no wind to drive them, running out of water, running out of sanity, running out of life, and he had to watch it with the knowledge that it was his punishment that they were all suffering. His punishment wasn't death, his punishment was survival. Then, when it was done and the wind started to blow, and the dead men stood back up to navigate him safely to land, his final punishment was to travel far and wide and tell his tale, time and again, to confess that he was the one who brought death to an entire ship's crew when he shot a bird. So, when he was reflecting on this, his self-worth and where he stood in the big scheme of things, he found his peer group, the 'thousand, thousand slimy things' that lived on, and hey, so did he. Now that's some real Old Testament style retribution there, get pissed at one little guy and destroy, kill and wreck everything around him, just so he'll get the message.

Now, to me, that's some outlaw shit on both sides, the transgressor and the punisher. The Mariner who was just bored and fucking around, decides to shoot an arrow at a bird. What harm could come of it? Well, of course he kills the bird, which happens to be a good luck totem for sailors, and brings this incredible shit-storm down on everybody. Anything like that ever happen to you? I thought so. It's the story of my life, "What could possibly go wrong?...oh" Then the really 'outlaw' shit happens when the sentence is handed down, he has his ass kicked in such an epic way that it kills everything around him. Damn. What kind of insane, power-mad entity would go to such extravagant lengths, just to prove a point...oh wait, that's right, there is one.

Of course, that poem was written in a time when human beings, according to legend, had consciences. If something like that were to happen to some of the loathsome swine running around now, they would just be glad that it was their shipmates that dropped dead instead of them. "Screw you guys, I'm going home."
~et quod est quod sentio