Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Funeral Oration of Lothos

Perhaps the most famous funeral oration of all time is Pericles Epitaphios Logos. Given at the start of the Peloponesian War it is basically a self congratulatory paean to city of Athens and its inhabitants for being the light of the world. It was politics as pure theater and there is a school of thought that it itself fashioned the identity of the polis , the free citizen, the spirit of democracy, the words were not merely the reflection of the light of culture shed on the ancient world by Greece but the cause of it, the logos in its truest sense, as a creative force.

So, who is Lothos, then? Lothos was the Vampire King in Buffy the Vampire slayer. He accosts Buffy at the Senior dance, despite his great power and the fact that her predecessor failed and was killed by Lothos, Buffy, the cheerleader, still manages to kill Lothos.

Yesterday I went to the funeral of Tom LaBarbera. He was an artist in Chester among other things. I knew him but I did not know him that well. My grief at his passing was not really personal, there were not tears, it was regret at the loss of a valuable member of society and the desire to show respect for an honorable life.

It is amazing how we humans are so resourceful that can turn death into so many things. Like Pericles we can use it as a catalyzing flame to weld the varied elements of society into a unified whole, or, like Buffy we can use it to discover a whole unknown dimension of ourselves that contradicts our daily life, the priest at the mass yesterday used it as a means of comforting and a means of strengthening faith. We all find ways to use death to augment and provide purpose in a life that suddenly seems purposeless or pointless,--it is perhaps the most democratic of all states of existence, despite what the priest said, in it we are all suddenly equal.
--it is in fact probably this capability to utilize death to enhance life which most sets us apart from the animals, perhaps even more than walking upright, except of course when it comes to vampires. Vampires, like Lothos, are those who have escaped the great leveler, become something else, something transcendent. It takes a cheerleader to put them back in their place, to set the universe aright, to restore democracy to the human condition.

As life imitates art, it occurs to me the war on terror is something like the fight against vampires, not that it is being carried on mostly by motivated really cute cheerleaders, but it has all the same elements, at times it seems like an attempt to kill the unkillable, (those already dead) and its purpose is ostensibly the spread of democracy. We must be cautious. Like Pericles, it may be used as a pretext to empire. As in 'Buffy' it seems to represent the permanent and final removal from the world of a seemingly indelible evil a goal which we know is a convenient fiction as long as man is man.

On another note, Tom was of Italian heritage. Everyone knows that Italians on the whole love wine more that most people. Almost every Italian immigrant to American had a father or grandfather who use to make wine in the basement, even in the midst of a confusing new life they knew they had to hold on to something that was good. Perhaps it represented to them the glories of a faded empire, perhaps it represented the means for the temporary removal from the world of the seemingly indelible forces of present despair and inevitable defeat. (I'm a Jew so I really wouldn't know, but, as a writer and a Jew I know that the real danger as always is that the portrayal of character will become caricature.) Even in the words we use when drinking it 'Cheers!'. We seem to extol the victory of Buffy over Lothos. (Not that Buffy was of Italian extraction but in her we see the possibility of the ultimate Pax Romana, the restoration of the accord with death itself, allied also with a possibly winning High School football team) In drinking it, for a time a least we seem to become our nobler selves.

So, what does wine represent really, the hope of empire, or the banishment of inequality, the eventual victory of life over death or the attraction of our darker selves as the proving ground of our souls, is wine tied to the perpetuation of culture or is culture itself dependent on the dissolution of differences between men and women of good will. Who knows, and aside from what it represents it tastes good so, in the end, who really cares. Buffy can go back to the Senior dance and have fun, there will be other vampires to slay, Pericles can build a lasting monument to his culture from mere words, in the end all we can do is try to enjoy what is best in our lives and try to preserve it for those that follow --isn't that the point?
The priest said Tom LaBarbera was already painting away in his new abode. I don't know but I hope so, and if he is I hope he has a glass of wine as well.

So, Pericles, Tom LaBarbera, Buffy, Caesar Osama Bin Laden, it all seems suspiciously random and rambling, a bunch of nonsense, a temporary insanity incurred by a recognition of our own mortality, but perhaps it has its own form of exponential sanity, a means of reaching calculably to a higher dimension through mindless blather, maybe it is-- 'blogarithmic' , maybe it is, --one more glass of wine and I won't care.

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