2006.07.26 The end of man

Written by David Green.

By JEFF PICKELL

“I decline to accept the end of man.”

The new situation in the Middle East had me plenty depressed before I learned last week that Mark Miller, my father’s best friend, had dropped dead, of nebulous causes, leaving behind his wife and teenage daughter.

It was easy enough to hide from the fighting in Israel and Lebanon, to sleep from dusk to dawn, to watch the same movie over and over, to read the same book, to wiggle my toes atop a bed of myopic routine. But the loss of a kind, thoughtful loved one, such as Mark, and so suddenly, was enough to jar me from this, and I had a period of immense feeling.

It was like the terrible things of the world sat at the base of my brain, like feathers and dust—every thought jostled them, they crashed and collided, built momentum off each other, filled my head with the unbearable noise of hurt.

I was in a funk—one causes the other. It happens sometimes.

As my mother and I sliced through Detroit’s downriver suburbs Saturday morning, bound for Grosse Ile and a funeral that was something of an extended family reunion, I found myself silently mouthing the words at the top of this column.

William Faulkner spoke them during his acceptance of the Nobel Prize for literature in 1950. Advising that the Cold War had planted in young people a fear of the end of time, he implored listeners to forget this terror—forcibly—for such a terror leads us to look over the problems of the human heart.

Instead, we should focus on the struggle of man’s soul, of his spirit in turmoil, he said—these are the only issues worth our writing. Dwelling on death—actual, metaphorical, sensational and otherwise—is a sign that death has won, he said. That man is here and that he has made it this long is a sign we have prevailed over death, that we will continue to prevail over it, he said.

But as we sped past the colossal, abandoned steel plant in downtown Trenton, as I nudged with my shoe the kinked carcass of a snake near the bank of the Detroit River, as I stepped into the church and glimpsed the prostrate profile of a man I had always admired, it was hard to believe Mr. Faulkner.

I’m not wise. It has been said that young men should not utter maxims, so I won’t. But I also won’t be untrue and act as if my thoughts and actions are tempered with experience, act as if I don’t feel miserable and passionate and inconsequential and angry and euphoric sometimes.

Sometimes I want to hug everyone. Sometimes I want to scream at the sky. Sometimes I want a bowl of soup.

Last Saturday, in that sanctum, crowded with Mark’s friends—auto workers doubtlessly as worried about their jobs as Mark was, the desperate crew of a foundering vessel, fighting in turbulent tides—I wanted to decline to accept the end of man.

But I don’t even really know what that means.

“It will get better, won’t it?” I asked mom on our way back to Highland.

I don’t remember her reply. I don’t believe I was looking for one.

I went back to Trenton that night to bid my friend Joe, who’s leaving for Thailand, farewell. My friend Dolley was there. My friend Emo was there. My friend Kyle was there.

In the morning, we ate leftover pot stickers and argued about Neil Young.

I drove home, listening to the same episode of A Prairie Home Companion I heard on the way out. At one point, a tire on the car in front of me blew out and I swerved into the next lane to avoid the debris.

Darla the dog was waiting in her cage in mom’s room. After she piddled, we watched “You’ve Got Mail” on TV. I made a salami sandwich and cut it into halves. The smell of salami drives Darla up the wall. She slapped her paws into my thighs as I ate.

Finally, Jamie got home from work and we set off for the theater, where we watched “Clerks II.” We laughed and bumped elbows and stayed until the credits were over.

Afterward, I folded my laundry and left for Morenci. I listened to John Updike talk about his new novel, then listened to a piece about Emily Dickinson’s poem “Because I Could Not Stop for Death, He Kindly Stopped for Me.” I listened to a documentary about the redistribution of land in Africa and India.

I set my laundry on the desk at the top of the stairs. I had a glass of water. I realized I had forgotten my toothpaste in the back seat of my car, but was too tired to fetch it.

I laid myself down and closed my eyes. I wiggled my toes.

   - July 26, 2006

 

  • Front.train
    WRECKAGE—Morenci Fire Department member Taylor Schisler walks past the smoking wreckage of a semi-truck tractor on the north side of the Norfolk and Southern Railroad tracks on Ranger Highway. The truck trailer was on the south side of the tracks
  • Front.sculpta
    SCULPTORS—Morenci third grade students Emersyn Thompson (left) and Marissa Lawrence turn spaghetti sticks into mini sculptures Friday during a class visit to Stair District Library. All Morenci Elementary School classes recently visited the library to experience the creative construction toys purchased through the “Sculptamania!” project, funded by a Disney Curiosity Creates grant. The grant is administered by the Association for Library Services to Children, a division of the American Library Association.
  • Funcolor
    LEONIE LEAHY was one of three local hair stylists who volunteered time Friday at the Morenci PTO Fun Night. Her customer, Aubrey Sandusky, looks up at her mother while her hair takes on a perfect match to her outfit. Leahy said she had a great time at the event—nothing but happy clients.
  • Shadow.salon
    LEARNING THE ROPES—Kristy Castillo (left), co-owner of Mane Street Salon, works with Kendal Kuhn as Sierra Orner takes a phone call. The two Morenci Area High School juniors spent Friday at the salon as part of a job shadowing experience.
  • KayseInField
    IN THE FIELD—2004 Morenci graduate Kayse Onweller works in a test plot of wheat in Texas. She’s part of Bayer CropScience’s North American wheat breeding program based in Nebraska, where she completed post-graduate work in plant breeding and genetics.
  • Front.winner
    REFEREE Camden Miller raises the hand of Morenci Jr. Dawgs wrestler Ryder Ryan as his opponent leaves the mat in disappointment. Morenci’s youth wrestling program served as host for a tournament Saturday morning to raise money for the club. Additional photos are on the back page.
  • Front.bank.2
    SHERWOOD STATE Bank opened its Fayette office at a grand opening Friday morning, drawing a large crowd to view the renovated building. Above, Burt Blue talks to teller Cindy Funk, while his wife, Jackie, looks around the new office. The Blues missed the opening and took a quick tour on Tuesday. Few traces remain of the former grocery store and theater, however, part of the original brick wall still shows in the hallway leading to the back of the building. The drive-through window should be ready for customers later in the month.
  • Front.make.three
    FROM THE LEFT, Landon Wilkins, Ryan White and Logan Blaker try out their artistic skills Saturday afternoon at the Morenci PTO’s first Date to Create event. More than 50 people showed up to create decorated planks of wood to hang from rope. The event served as a fund-raiser for miscellaneous PTO projects. Additional photos are on the back of this week’s Observer.

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