Posts Tagged ‘Nietzsche’

An inferior version of  The Pagan Fire was published in Metropolis.  The editor was a good-guy.  I rewrote it for him three times, but that wasn’t enough.  So after getting spanked by a female critic who goes to the University of Pennsylvania, an Ivy League School, I’ve rewritten and republished the piece here.  Hopefully, dear reader, it’s finally as coherent as it is crazy.  That, combined with truth, is the grail.



You see these kiddies who leap from sidewalk-square to sidewalk-square. Everyone knows the stakes: step on a crack and break your momma’s back. And then you see these homeless magi who conduct the cosmic clockwork from a park bench. The sunrise. The sunset. They’re also deeply staked. They know that all it would take for the world to end is one false move. Like crossing left-leg over right-leg, or breaking their daily pigeon feeding routine.

Its funny and not so funny. Personally, I have rarely flattered an artist or a comedian by calling him “crazy.” When you have mental illness in your blood-lines, you develop an insider’s concern.

Imagination is like fire. Only the controlled-burn serves a sane purpose.

Okay. Okay. I live in a rooming house in Philly. I’ve got stories of drifters who found their way back to “reality”, and drifters who succumbed to their haunt. It’s a place for men on the bubble. One could even say that it’s a place for men straddling worlds: the realm of Newtonian physics and the realm of pagan metaphysics. Let me break it down. You have the dominant daily realm of cause-and-effect that makes business and The Golden Rule the “working” mentality. Practical thinking! The Modern Way! Then there is the ancient realm of woof and warp, fickle-fates, and divine humors. That is the pre-Modern way. Even learned Philadelphians, men of science, appeal to the latter when buying lotto tickets, betting on horses or playing an inspired game of poker.

Well, I had a hunch the night before the roaring fire. It led me to YouTube videos of lions devouring wildebeest calves, and then hyenas massing-in-force to drive the lions from their kill. A lesson in merciless nature. I thought about it at yoga class in the morning. I know. I know. I was supposed to be dovetailing into an urbane Judeo-Christian idealist. Lions lying down with lambs from the Old Testament, the meek inheriting the earth from the New Testament, and All of Creation converted into Eden’s long lost twin. But I kept thinking that maybe Nietzsche was right. Maybe we’re not living in a Moral Universe and maybe love can’t rule the field. Maybe the dominant force is Will to Power. Which like fire, can serve or get out of control.

Too much heavy thinking. I was taking a post-yoga nap when the fire alarms rang. Do you ever tire of tech’s stimuli? Do you ever pull the covers over your electro-shocked head? When I finally left my bedroom, there was black smoke lacing the air. Ashen negligees streamed like ghosts in flight. I walked against the current. I went towards the source. I experienced a slow-motion rush as time swirled in a bubble. Meanwhile, the corridors and doorways pulsed as prime archtypical forms: passageway and threshold.

When I stepped into the ol’ cigarette puffers room at the aft end of the rooming house: flames dancing on the bed and blankets, and flames traveling atop the dirty clothes stuffed between bed and walls. Flames that weren’t scary because they were large. Rather, flames that were scary because they were liberated from any kind of man-serving purpose, accelerating with wild abandon, and hypnotically beautiful on their own fierce terms.

Well, this was it. This was the danger foretold by YouTube videos. I might as well have been looking into the jaws of a lion or hyena. There was no moral appeal. There was no petitioning for mercy. And though my physical life wasn’t in danger because I had ample time to flee, my metaphysical life was in danger along with my yoga-mat, my library and my altar that takes me back to the future of Paganism. Maybe a television is your centerpiece. I’ve constructed an altar using the Secrets of the Parthenon: Sacred Geometry, Divine Ratio and all that esoteric engineering that synchs the material and ideal stuff. My altar: a manifest table of visual harmonies that have, at least, therapeutic value. Music for the eyes and a plum composition to contemplate before facing the goddamned mirror. The Big Issue: is it me or the Modern World that’s nuts? Ha. Ha. Not so funny when flames are threatening a pal’s similar, but different, chapel: sports calendar, VFW magazines and beer bottle sentries atop a television with a tin-foil antenna. No mercy. No pity for any man’s stake.

And let me say this in deference to the ol’ Roman Catholic doctrine: the fire was pure appetite. Pure lust. Pure gluttony. Pure self-immolating fire, if you’ll excuse the redundancy.

I fought the fire and the fire won. My deputies were a buck-naked drunk who’d been warned against smoking in bed, and a 50 year old idiot savante with foggy eyeglasses, crumbs in his beard and pee-stains on his tennies. My fraternity. My clique of rooming house insiders. We beat the fire down twice but it continued to travel underneath the surface of things while smoke, the silent killer, poisoned the air. I left for a breather. I returned to get a blast of fire-extinguisher spray in the face. Perfect slap-stick comedy under extreme pressure. It took a cop to pull us away from the madness and, another silent killer, the tug of lost victory. Like gamblers, we wanted to stay. Keep trying. We almost had fortune in hand!

After a round of interrogations on the street, we landed in a Red Cross Shelter in West Philly for a month. They treated us well. I got post-traumatic counseling. The social worker suggested that I write about the burn. Well, okay. I’ve had trouble sleeping. When I turn to the right I’m an hero who contained the dragon until the firemen arrived. When I turn to the left I’m an infernal priest who merely molested the fire, beautiful as it was, with a promiscuous glee. Either way, I survived with questions intact: am I an abysmal loser or the master of my own tragic-comic fate?

I did good? I did bad? I’m on the bubble when it comes to defining reality. And I’m not talking about the Metaphysical vs Nominalist rub between theologians and scientists. Neither am I talking about the Heart vs Mind rub between artists. Or the Lucky vs Good rub between sport fans. I’m talking about the abnormal vs normal rub that blisters deep inside myself.

Happily, fate has put me in my place. I’m back in the rooming house where everything and nothing is understood. There’s a smokey mindcraft here, always on the verge of inflammation, and it feels like my home in the world.

Fire Crown



The  story “Never Thrown a Punch” inspired me to write about my meta-experience in the boxing demimonde.


Boxing and Related Haunts


JJ Przybylski

You see what you want to see, sure.  But you also see what you’re fated to see.  All of which begs the question: why does one pug experience boxing as a Holy Innocent and another pug experience boxing as a bedevilled voyuer?

“Never Thrown A Punch” brings to mind my own story.  Unsatisfied with turf fights in Rustville, I had one under-the-lights fight in Hollywood, Florida.  The headliners were two golden-gloves champs.  The winner was a brutally handsome whitekid who soon went on to murder his girlfriend, escape from jail, and be recaptured on an airfield in the bush while the getaway plane was warming-up.

His dad was a golden-gloves champ too.  He’d masterminded the escape.  I remember being with them in the locker room, watching the dad cutting the tape on his son’s hands after the victory.  The pride.  The intimacy.  The raw beauty.

Later on, I saw the winner with his raven-haired girlfriend at the concession stand. Backlit by greasy lights and raked by shadows, they nursed a Pepsi-Cola.  They seemed too delicate with each other.  They seemed to be foretasting disaster instead of god-like victory.  What could be so  deeply spoiled, so internally malignant, that it couldn’t be cured by a conquest that pointed upwards to the US Olympic Trials?  Personally, I hated boxing but it was something that I had to do.  Fate dictated it, just as fate dictated that I  make a study of the reticent lovers whose story would unfold in the back-pages of the local papers.  They had an afterglow whose tarnish I  couldn’t put into words. Thus my quick eye preceded my sluggish talent.

Boxing packs a punch. I’ve had my bell rung inside the ring and I’ve had my bell rung outside the ring.  They’re phenomenon of different orders: physical and metaphysical. One disorients physically.  One orients metaphysically.  I wasn’t born to box even though my dad was an amateur with 60 fights. Rather, I was born to force myself into the boxing demimonde in order to behold stunning things  that taunted my art of explanation.  Again, this is how vocation precedes sluggish talent. It’s also how resonant moments that remain fresh-unto-death predicate many passing  bouts with oneself while slogging through life as a writer, a man-of-faith or anything else. Learning this truth was my real education.  It had little to do with learning hooks and upper-cuts.  It had little to do with testing  courage and taking my proper place amongst good sports.  It had quite a lot to do, however, with resisting the fraternal pull of hustlers of every color, stripe and counterfeit.

I had an “appointment” to be on the undercard that night in Florida. I’m 100% certain that I’d  trained for it since being handled by a priest, whereas I’d only trained  5 months with a punchdrunk Army vet for my debut in the ring. No sporting poet has written about the “touch” conferred by pedophiles in God’s perverted corner.  They restain your soul a darker shade of Fallen. They put a counter-spin on your spirit, too, that gives forbidden knowledge its own twist and aura. A writer of Nietzsche’s revolting vigor or Villon’s criminal mirth would be thankful for the jolt. That’s why I’ve always thought that it would be sissy-pink to go to a shrink.  Real men don’t do it.  And neither do their sons who have ambitions to be unreal writers who animate their material with inklings of heaven and hell.

In any case, I  had a multi-level appointment to be on the undercard that night in Hollywood, Florida.  I had  sparred with the Black champ at the Fort Lauderdale YMCA, on his off-days when he wasn’t training  at the legendary 5th Street Gym in Miami Beach.  I met the White champ, as I’ve mentioned,  in the locker room in the Hollywood arena. All in all, I had the inside track on a titanic battle between many worldly things.  A battle betwen the races, a battle between country-boy and city-kid, a battle between studs of the same weightclass, rank and fame pedaling circuit. And I had an inside-the-inside track on what I’d like to call a prescient spiritual vein. But it was probably just a low-grade psychic receptivity,  bequeathed by the diddling priest, to  auras that only appeared to be silver-gold halos.  Father-son love.  White knight and raven-haired damsel love.  Legendary lineal love.

Love of expert destruction, too.  Think  of the the higher-animal magnetism of  the renegade USN Seal who can almost, but not quite, match his personal code to the governing law. He passes before your eyes like a mere trouble-shooting mechanic on his way to a blast-furnace in Rustville.  You see what you want to see.  You see what you’re fated to see.  And, expounding upon the latter, you see what you can see by “virtue” of a  haunting familiarity. So I saw tragedy from the very start, in the germ of an otherwise winning character, before it festered and popped. The fatal clusterfuck became a time-released tale in the local papers. The crime-of-passion.  The jail-break. The recapture.  The tailoring to a just end.

To write the entire episode off as the foibles of low-lifes, the foul ecstacies of White Trash,  would be to miss the smart cut of father/son, the strained public poise of the lady in question, and the Shakespearean hint of the dynasty question gone mad. There is also the Shakespearean arc, lifted from The Fall of Man  and the Birth of Christ, of order ruptured and order restored. All of which I’ve come to realize after the event as a terribly sluggish writer.  A meatball talent and, in my dreams, the pride of Rustville.

I learned, through boxing, one  thing:  I have a third-eye with a “telling” speck of dirt in it.  This optic separates me from the Holy Innocent.  For better.  For worse.

I won my match, by the way, against a greaser from New York.  But that’s a menial story.