jolie laide

jolie laide

I started this when I lived in Brooklyn and struggled for grace in a city that grants moments of beauty and ugliness breathtakingly close to one another. Now I live in a place where things are a different kind of ugly and the beauty is pedestrian. I struggle with that.


He is standing in the doorway of the train, obdurately. The doors open and people push past him to get off, squeezing past his bulk. Then the oncoming passengers do the same, sidestepping, rotating through the constricted space. Next station, same thing.

His lips are moving and I look to see if he is immersed in music, as I am, trying to pretend away the ferocious heat. No earphones in his ears, so look down at his hands. A rosary. He is praying, with his eyes open, his hands fingering the beads, his mortal self obstructing the other commuters.

This little sin, this little un-compassion, unawareness, reminds me of an old sign I saw to which I mentally filled in some of the missing letters: moral surgery.


Blogger remue-menage said...

the violence of proximity

I have often noticed that when men (women) try to be holy - they often carry around with them a blindspot for their fellow human beings.

it's as if in their urgency to be trans-fixed with the divine they lose their sense of the corporeal realm

real saints are always fully present, fully human

real saints do exist

2:39 AM  
Blogger Dr. S said...

On the other hand, is it possible that he really had (possibly because of some great need) entered into a trance state, an abstraction from the everyday that left him seeming immorally, hypocritically rude but actually just figured forth his need even more strongly? How much of what we see in others do we misinterpret because we can't sense what might be afflicting them?

I'm not really trying to play devil's advocate here, or to be obnoxious. But the thesis of everything I do in the world is "everything is more complicated than it at first appears."

1:34 PM  
Blogger ttractor said...

Dr S, I agree that things are often more complicated than they seem. And it is an interesting possibility that he had entered a religious trance state in the subway car.

But I actually think he was being stubborn and rude, in the very particular way that NYers seek to stake out a space that "belongs" to them when they are in crowded public spaces--by spreading their legs out, putting their bags on seats that could otherwise be occupied by others, putting their arms akimbo, doing that almost subtle thing I call shoulder jockeying.

But the heat may be making me cranky and oblivious to an amazing subway yogi. And, you know, I would rather not think of this person as a flaming hypocrite, but rather as transcendent. I'll work on that!

2:11 PM  
Blogger ttractor said...

rm, I too have been often amazed by the blindspots that modern Christianity leaves with people. I grew up in the filthy filthy hypocritical south, within eyeshot of Oral Roberts University. Mercifully I don't have to suffer that anymore.

2:13 PM  

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