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Arthur Meiselman

Timendi causa est nescire - the cause of fear is ignorance

In the Ancient World, that time before Judeo-Christian morality and the steam engine, Art was usually not segregated from the days and nights of journeying through life. The vast sum of it was identified with the craft of the 'artisan' who created works out of fear, by threat, commission and the possibility of sale, often driven by the ignorance of religion. The artist as an impressionistic window into the where and why of life was uncommon and often ignored. Later, Art evolved into a primary activity of decoration, and then, for a brief time, became that impressionistic window, created for its own purpose. Eventually it morphed into the massive merchandising megalomania of today where everything is 'art' and everyone is an 'artist' and the impressionistic window of past, present and future is a disposable slide-show. The prevailing visage can be summed up in the words of another Roman sage:

Tempus edax rerum - time, the devourer of all things.


Here is a story that was told to me by a college chum of mine who later became an intelligence operative for the American government. I'll keep it short with cloudy details because I haven't retold it much and I'm uncertain as to the outcome of the events and the relevance or danger of the facts today.

In 1972, a young man came to the attention of authorities and other interested non-governmental parties. He was eyed because his old Hungarian uncle began to talk about him indiscriminately whenever the old man loosened his tongue and sense of discretion with too much to drink. It was hotly rumored that the young man had developed or come into possession of a "Thing". Let's just call it that – a Thing. In all of its float-around variations, the rumor focused on a core fact: the Thing had the power to make other things happen, to change anything into anything.

Imagine that. No one seemed to know precisely what that meant, how this device (was it a device?) worked, what its limits were (was it limitless?), and who did, could and would control it. Imagine that. Imagine the possibilities because that's what everyone else did at the time, imagine the possibilities, the facts, as they sprayed out into the visage, the fantasy of the imagineer.

Apparently, the first to get to the young man and his Thing was not the government and its FBI/CIA minions. It was a consigliore from a New York Mafia family. His name was Tommy the Jew, (a typical gang moniker because Tommy was married to a Jewish woman and lived on the lower Eastside). His smooth-tongued, silky white-suit manner washed in and out of the "deaf" ears of the young man. So he returned with two friends, hulking well-dressed no-necks named Vincent and Votan (Vinnie and Vo to their friends and victims). They offered him a life of riches, they threatened him, they horrified him. They tried to convince the young man to show&tell the miracle of the Thing. How he avoided their persuasion and made them leave is unknown (they came back again many times in greater, grinning, darker numbers).

The next invasive wave that haunted the young man appeared as two FBI agents. Both had short crew-cuts, both wore tailored dark suits and both wore dark glasses. They told him that he was on the 'list'. What list? They didn't say. What they did say was that he was a threat to National Security, that he could be sent to a "rendition" camp, that they would extract the information they wanted with great pain and harm to him. The young man was silent. They then did an about-face and with slight smiles urged him to be a good American citizen, to be loyal to flag and country, to save the American Dream. He was still silent. They told him: they wanted the Thing. He told them: he didn't know what they were talking about. He told them: there was nothing, he had no Thing. They gave him a card and said they would be back (they came back again many times with many more crew-cuts).

Another significant univited visit was a religious delegation: a Rabbi, an Imam, and a Monsignor (like many funny stories). They addressed him in that order, for some reason, perhaps it had something to do with Tommy the Jew. They told him that Mankind has been waiting for the Thing since the dawning of... well... Mankind. They told him they knew that he was not the Savior but with a new vision of all of the scriptural writings, of all of religious history, they knew he had the Savior in his hands, or wherever he had it. The young man was calm and silent. They cried, they pleaded with him. They held hands and danced around him, three holy men sweating in their holy garments. They fell to their knees moaning and singing and begging him to give them the salvation of all people, the instrument of the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth. He told them: he had nothing, he had no Thing. They stared at him for a long, long time. Then they left, shuffling and muttering about reading the holy words again and telling him that they would return (which they did, many times, with more and more crying and pleading and singing people).

The waves and floods of visitors and beseechers became unbearable. A crowd of unorthodox, ungainly, uncontrolled, imploring beggars entreating, pleading, pressing, demanding. There were times that if they weren't so menacingly bizarre, they would have been hilarious: Mafioso elbowing FBI agents, priests shoving missionaries, doctors back-handing hookers and lawyers (or vice versa). All desperate, yearning, obsessed. The chaos forced the young man to move, to hide again and again. But each time they found him. Until he evidently located a place that was invisible, off the map, a house behind a house. He lived there with a woman, a girlfriend, his lover. And he felt safe.

She was also young, lovely, bright, and exciting. And she was blind, from birth. They were happy together. One day, after many days of reclusive quiet, he sat in the living room reading. At one end of the room was a staircase that led to a bedroom loft with a balcony. She appeared on the balcony clutching the railing with both hands. She said to him: she needed his help. She said that now they were truly alone, that the craziness had disappeared, she wanted him to help her... she wanted him to use the Thing to give her the sight she never had. After a long moment, he said quietly that there is no Thing. She said, more adamantly: There is, I know there is. He said, again: No, there is nothing... no Thing. She raised her voice: Why, why if you love me, why if you want me, why won't you do this for me? He said: There is nothing. She said, her voice trembling: I've heard you, I've seen it, I know it exists, I've seen it. He closed his eyes, his face tightened, he said: You see nothing. She screamed at him: HELP ME! He screamed back at her: I CAN'T! 
WHY she screamed as she ran to the top of the stairs... and tripped, and fell down the stairs, first one flight, then another, until she lay at the bottom. He ran to her and evidently saw the pool of blood forming around her head. Evidently he thought she was dead (she wasn't). He ran out of the house and hasn't been seen or heard of since.

She told all the interested parties everything she knew. They searched for him for years. They had many leads, many sightings, many hopes.

He had disappeared. Not a trace of him... nor the Thing.
Imagine that.

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Arthur Meiselman is a writer and the Editor of
 Scene4. His latest books include The Lyriana
and Of Modigliani in Midnight Mourning.
He also directs the Talos Ensemble and produces for
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©2018 Arthur Meiselman
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June 2018

Volume 19 Issue 1

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