Helen Weir
With apologies to Jack alone (Chapter Five)
By Helen Weir
June 23, 2017

Basking in the raucous applause he had aroused, the Speaker decided to add a little visual flourish to his point about "living forevermore in the light shed by this pontificate alone" or something by spreading out his hands, looking up above him, and turning left and right. This was ill-advised. While the imposing ceiling of the Fletcher Center was extensively solar-paneled, even those impressive and well-polished fixtures didn't deflect the involuntary aspergation to which this entire region was ceaselessly subject – an infelicitous detail which the Speaker had, it seems, called to mind perhaps a moment too late. Already he was obliged to remove his wire rims and rub the octagonal lenses with a dapper silk scarf from the pocket of his lapel. And then, having snuffled rather pointedly and wiped his nose while he was at it, our "worldwide expert, author, and lecturer on all things exhortational" restored his outfit to its former standard of stylishness and gamely soldiered on. But he never attempted that particular gesticular exclamation point again.

"How many Marital Self-Reformers do I have in my audience this very evening? Raise your hands, now. Don't be shy. Good. Very good! A fair number; but my point is, far from the total. Is that all of you? Well, is it? No, it isn't. No, indeed! Let us consider who else has ultimately arrived in the Grey Town due to Footnote 351 (as well as its wider context, commentary, and ramifications, of course; understand that I am referencing 'the Footnote,' here and elsewhere, as a sort of synechdoche, standing in for the entire process which the official author of AL intrepidly set out to spark. Nothing could be further from my purpose than to imply that the entirety of the verbiage necessary for the achievement of the Amoris Initiative could be found in any single pericope, even that one). Shall we permit ourselves to self-identify?

"There are the Ongoing Elective Imbibers, the Extenders of Credit for Disproportionate Self-Interest, and the 'Nonstandardists' (to employ, if I am not mistaken, the court-ordered and legally inoffensive moniker which eventually replaced the cumbersome and impractical LBQNDSRLO4vcrDSMRVT12). There are our Purveyors of Recreational Narcotics and our Insisters on Street Level Solidarity. And let's not forget the guests who graced entire continents by practicing, whether the fomenters of coprophagy cared for it or not, salutary forms of not-technically-consensual cultural diversity (for, according to the Doctrine of Substituted Judgment, reluctant Others actually would consent, if they knew what was good for them), as well as the statesmen and religious leaders who, by judicious dissimulation when necessary, proffered the Diversifiers protections both political and ideological. After all, would it be fair to deny to the ultimately sympathetic the rights and privileges we reserve first of all for ourselves?

"Which reminds me. I do wish to apologize, formally and publicly, to the many drowned in the Great Mirage about the relative proliferation in our community of individuals whose . . . personal history does not admit of . . . inclusion in the group concerning which other individuals evidently harbored . . . expectations which in the long run necessarily resulted in a certain unavoidable . . . shortage. I understand that something of an altercation took place upon ultimate discovery of this reality. Most regrettable. Most regrettable indeed. But violence never engendered an acceptable result, nor should it be allowed to; and in the end I am going to have to ask all concerned simply to make do. Forward! Forward, always!

"We are the Health Care Providers who proved courageous enough to defend, first and foremost, the best interests of the entire community over the selfish preoccupations of the patient; the exercisers of their own inalienable Right to Die with Dignity, who thereby also commendably defended those interests in the only way that was open to them; and the countless bureaucrats, whether secular or sacred, dedicated to squelching petty challenges to the shared and superlative sovereignty upon which authentic maximization of the greater good finally depends. For it is not only given individuals, but also nation-states (if they are progressive), races (if they elect to remain pure), and finally the Cosmos Herself which claim the right, and inexorably also incur the duty, of achieving their own 'highest possible well-being,' as each entity deems it best achieved, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

"And what about the humble but heroic soccer-first-and-foremost 'Moms' (of myriad genders) and workaholic 'Dads' (of various descriptions) who likewise laid down the lives of others with both alacrity and security of conscience? Theirs might not have been the glamorous, global role. Yet who would dare deny that private practitioners of Relational Management, by whatever technique, were working just as steadily towards our one true goal? Certainly, not I!

"We are seekers after 'salvation,' all of us, but each according to one's own phraseology, weltanschauung and inclination. For what, in the final analysis, is 'beatitude,' anyway? Must we not each interpret everyone that wonderful word in our own way? No prepackaged religious formalism, here in the Grey Town; nothing externalized or inflexible to be found. Only the shimmering and infinitely varied hues of the Great Arc long prophesied, and sure to appear at any moment across our endless skies, crowded with clouds already as though pregnant in its anticipation. Of the fulfillment of that promise we may rest assured, even if we must endure a little preliminary precipitation in the meanwhile."

"Damn, he's good," muttered Ned, not so much to me as to himself. "Recovered his own fumble, looks like."

"I don't understand what he's getting at," I protested (a bit more volubly, I believe, than I intended to). "What 'Arc'? What 'prophecy'? And why would the Speaker be talking 'prophecies' anyway, when the entire premise here is to proceed according to a soberly philosophical methodology?"

"The Official Line is that this aggravating sprinkling is going to stop," said Ned, lowering his voice while staring at me by way of indicating that I ought really to do the same, "when the clouds clear and all the colors come flooding back, filtered through a Bow in the Clouds so magnificent it might be the Platonic Ideal of all such manifestations. Or so They say. I've seen no sign of this weather letting up, myself, and I've been here quite a while. Still, one has to keep an open mind."

But Ned's remarks had roused in me a different line of thought than his own. "You mean it might be difficult to . . . see things clearly . . . in the Grey Town because of the cloud cover?" I gasped, like a desperate man informed that the governor has been successfully wired, and a last-minute stay of execution just might be forthcoming after all. "You mean it's going to get better in the end?"

"As I say, that's what They say. But after what happened to Mark, I've started to wonder a little about the Official Line. Mark was of the minority opinion, but that's not what got him thrown out in the end. It was when he . . ."

"What 'minority opinion'?"

"That The Drizzle is only a prelude to The Storm, of course – a Storm more violent than anything you have ever considered possible, where one lightning strike can consume an entire city, and the wind is wild enough to rip away all the grass, let alone the trees. And it will force us all into one place with nowhere left to go, until They come for us and . . ."

"I take it I have inadvertently managed to convey the impression that I stood in line all those hours outside the Fletcher Center just for the privilege of listening to the two of you," groused a crop-haired battleax seated right behind us, who had leaned forward far enough to insert her head into the slight opening between the chairs. While Ned cocked his far eyebrow at me, ensuring that she couldn't see, I took it upon myself to apologize sheepishly until the plaintiff leaned back again and crossed her arms.

"Twenty bucks says that one chaired her share of parish committees, back in the day," noted Ned before jerking his head in the Speaker's general direction and settling back in again.

"We are everywhere. We are the academics and journalists who chose planned parrothood over divisiveness; the teachers who refused to be chained by the strictures of objectivity; the stalwart college students trading privileges carefully cultivated over centuries for the fleeting stimulant of ideologically masked predation. We are the heirs of the riches of the Reformation who avoided bogging down in quagmires of abstruse and finally meaningless theological theory; the priests who turned the Confessional into an emotional massage parlor; the scads of religious sisters lending purpose to the very invention of polyester. We are the bishops intrepidly standing their ground against the thought police of the past; the popes who – correction! For those of us gathered here in the lovely Fletcher Center tonight, there is really only one pope (leaving aside, for the moment, the curiosity that there did, at the time, certainly appear to be two).

"And if I have left anyone off this little list, I do apologize most sincerely. It is simply not possible to acknowledge everyone. For we are legion; the 'Parthians and Medes, Phrygians and Pamphilians,' as it were, of the turn-of-the-millennium's 'Pentecost of Development,' with more being added to our numbers by the hour, by the day, by the age. Verily, even in theory, could the specification of those emancipated by Footnote 351 (properly understood) ever come to an end? No! It could not! And why not?

© Helen Weir


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