April 30th, 2020:

“And all the Arts of Life they changed into the Arts of Death in Albion.”
-William Blake

One night last November, as I was returning from an evening run around my neighbourhood, I was struck by this building (pictured at right), up on the hill, just a few blocks east of our home. I stood there on the path, gazing up at it as the street lamps turned on and the last bits of diffused sunlight faded, and felt myself overcome by a need to address this structure somehow. After short deliberation, I chose to recite William Blake’s Jerusalem at it. As I did so, I found myself moved to tears, literally gasping from the intensity of sorrow, and still standing there on the path, I wrote the following down in my notepad. This missive sat there until just recently, when I revisited it with the intention of fleshing it out into a larger essay, but upon re-reading, I felt it was actually sufficiently lucid as-is, and in the interest of exercising a rare brevity, I’m putting it up here unedited.

“The pop cultural obsession with zombies and the undead, taking prominence over the last decade or so, reveals itself to be an impossible-to-integrate fear of the past, the idea that the horrors that have brought us all here are too much to bear, too much to assimilate, too horrific to feel ok about, and that they can’t possibly be resting “back there”, they must instead by lurching inexorably towards us in the present. This fear invalidates the “ok-ness” of our current existence, built as it is from the carnage of the past - from the holocaust, from Hiroshima, from the gulags, from the abattoir, from the Satanic mills of a not-so-green Albion. Every rape that has produced a child, every war that brought peace, all of it bears down on what we feel to be an impossibly fragile present, reminding us of our own complicity in our ancestors’ demise. We are the strange fruit borne on the hanging tree of history - we see the past as a horde of zombies trudging through the muck of time towards us, as we cower in what we feel to be the diminishing light of our last rogue campfire. That they want not just to devour us whole, but that, in the purplest lore, they specifically hunger after our brains, indicates that what we fear most is not our own demise, but rather the loss of knowledge, for the accumulation of knowledge is seen as the true justification of this fraught past we seek to outrun.”

Months later, I walked over to the building itself, never before having stood directly in front of it, and discovered that it’s a retirement / assisted-living facility. I’d always assumed it was just an apartment building, albeit a bit out of place in a single-family home neighbourhood, but finding out that it is, in fact, a place where the elderly begin their exit from this world, seems to cast a new light on the writing I did that November evening. In my mind, at least, homes like this are usually where the...overwhelmed...stick their parents once they’ve become a bit too much to deal with on their own. I’m aware that’s perhaps a bit harsh, but it seems disingenuous to say that that’s not the general consensus on what these places are for, right or wrong. With that in mind, if we read this building as being the material manifestation of that storehouse of the past, of all those old things we don’t have the time, strength or understanding to deal with anymore, then the impressions I felt upon gazing up at it last fall seem to make quite a bit of sense. It would seem that building had something to tell me, that I was open to hearing what it had to say, and that the message came through with remarkable clarity.

Funny how secrets travel...I’d start to believe...
© 2020