Saturday, January 7, 2012

A Descent Into The Maelstrom

My favorite story by Edgar Allen Poe is a surprisingly harrowing tale about the force of Nature. No supernatural plot point, no plunging the depths of human depravity. It's a story about brothers caught in a whirlpool off the Norwegian coast. There's a narration trick, for starters. The initial protagonist becomes a mere listener for the remainder of the story, after he visits the site of a notorious recurring maelstrom with one of it's only survivors.

The description of the watery destruction scrapes my psyche for some reason. Perhaps it's the absence of villain, the futility of escape, the visage of ships and brothers disappearing into the vast, unstoppable watery swirl. It's unlike any other scary story I've ever read.

But there's more. There's a solution to a puzzle, a mystery solved, that saves the life of the storyteller. Suffice to say that modern concepts of pattern recognition and situational awareness are keys to survival. That, and choosing the right piece of wood in the churning sea to hold onto.

I often think of the story as I stand in the center of the crowded, seething, stinking courtrooms of the Poverty Capital of America, where I beg for justice and mercy for the poor, as my father did before me before he died of a liquor-soaked, broken heart. I clutch the podium provided, and hang on for survival.

I watch for patterns in the behaviors of judges and prosecutors and cops and clients. I pay attention to the cameras and microphones and watch my every word. I note the presence of people in the gallery behind me, I expect they are gauging my persuasion, my character, with each poor meat patty in the prison/industrial complex fast food restaurant I represent, until it's their turn to stand with me at the podium.

I think of my own solution to the puzzle, my own mystery solved, that grants me an almost beatific buoyancy amid the swirling eddy of despair and prejudice and ignorance and addiction and incompetence and corruption that nearly engulfs me each day.

The solution is this: Courtroom Classroom Theater Church. And I have wisely chosen the right piece of wood.