THE E’ER INSCRUTABLE | Alpha and Omega: The Light in the Abyss

Standing beneath McGraw Tower at midnight is akin to experiencing the prolonged death throes of an eternity. Every day becomes as the instar of all time en miniature. Sunrise came today at 7:16, and sunset came at 16:34. Every passing minute sends another crumpled leaf falling in a perishing semicircle; long-since dead, each has now given up clinging to even a semblance of its former life. The flood of light at the sun’s rising and the onset of twilight mimic the life-story of the universe as a whole, the first inklings of energy stretching the cosmic fabric outward, and, having vented their smoldering fury to the point of exhaustion, their eventual extinguishment.

FOOD WEEK | The Big Red Buck: What is it Good For?

3:00 A.M. is high time for a deflated, depressed-looking bag of Cheetos. My mind steers me like a sleepwalker down a flight of stairs and into the bowels of my dorm. The lounge vending machine flaunts its wares at me as its mechanical humming becomes a soft, seductive crooning. I insert my ID. Nothing happens.

ITHACA WEEK | Building a Home for All in Ithaca

What would it be like to return to a home that no longer recognized you? Maybe the people you knew have packed up and left, maybe they are no longer on speaking terms, and you no longer feel at ease. Regardless, a place that you thought you could trust, into which you had invested yourself, is somehow giving you the cold shoulder. This is all the more troubling because of how natural it is that, over time, certain parts of what we call a home etch themselves into our lived experiences, until they are grooves worn smooth by the habit of habitation. A lived-in space has fewer surprises around the corner.

THE E’ER INSCRUTABLE | Alpha and Omega: Approaching the Issue of Time

“’Εν ἀρχή ῆν ὁ λὀγος, καì ὁ λóγος ῆν πρòς τòν θεóν, καì θεòς ῆν ὁ λóγος. οὗτος ῆν ἐν ἀρχὴ πρòς τòν θεóν. πάντα δι’ αύτοῦ  έγένετο, καì χωρìς αύτοῦ έγένετο ούδὲ ἔν. ὃ γέγονεν έν αύτῷ ζωὴ ἦν, καì ἡ ζωὴ ἦν τò φῶς τῶν άνθρώπων· καì τò φῶς ἐν τῇ σκοτíᾳ φαíνει, καì ἡ σκοτíα αὐτò οὐ κατέλαβεν.”

“In the beginning there was the word, and the word was with God, and God was the word. This was in the beginning with God.

THE E’ER INSCRUTABLE | Fimbulwinter: My God, My God, Why Have You Forsaken Me?

“WIr sind doch nunmehr gantz / ja mehr alß gantz vertorben. Der frechen Völcker schar / die rasende Posaun /
Daß vom Blutt feiste Schwerd / die donnernde Carthaun /
Hat alles diß hinweg / was mancher sawr erworben /
Die alte Redligkeit vnnd Tugend ist gestorben;
Die Kirchen sind verheert / die Starcken vmbgehawn /
Die Jungfrawn sind geschänd; vnd wo wir hin nur schawn /
Ist Fewr / Pest / Mord vnd Todt / hier zwischen Schantz vñ Korbẽ
Dort zwischen Mawr vñ Stad / rint allzeit frisches Blutt
Dreymal sind schon sechs Jahr als vnser Ströme Flutt
Von so viel Leichen schwer / sich langsam fortgedrungen.
Ich schweige noch von dehm / was stärcker als der Todt /
(Du Straßburg weist es wol) der grimmen Hungersnoth /
Vnd daß der Seelen=Schatz gar vielen abgezwungen.” — “Tränen des Vaterlandes”

It is the most logical thing in the world to yearn for the rigidity of the medieval cosmology, the moral landscape to which a stonemason, manuscript illuminator or painter could turn for artistic solace, and from whose ethereal, luminescent matter parabolic universes could take shape. This bedrock of the European imagination held fast even in its deepest moments of crisis, before its eventual exhaustion. The peculiarly medieval aura, which thrived on the starkest contrasts between light and dark, good and evil, changeability and eternity, could always create, as if from antediluvian clay, the antidote to its own blood curdling nightmares. For every grisly, teeth-gnashing demon in the grottos and impenetrable abysses of Byzantine-Romanesque architecture, there stood in sublimely-opposed chiasma, up above the clerestory or enthroned in the tympanum, the shining redeemer, Christ Pantokrator.

THE E’ER INSCRUTABLE | Fimbulwinter; The End of the World

It is not easy to imagine what an entire city on fire must look like. It would be easier to imagine what Hell itself looks like: more than two millennia of referential material survive to aid in painting that mental portrait. Perusing Dante, or staring wide-eyed at a tableau of Hieronymus Bosch, even turning one’s ear to the apocalyptic blare and bleating of any dime-a-dozen Evangelical can give one at least an inkling of this. The word itself has been cheapened almost beyond practical use: “go to Hell,” “to Hell with it,” “what the Hell.” It is as if, as the preacher in Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man explains it, the eternal punishment of brimstone were a mild discomfort. Not so: Hell is stench, Hell is immobility, Hell is an eternity of directionless torture, and by eternity is meant the elapsed time it takes for a sparrow to light upon a mountain of a million-billion grains of sand and, carrying one away in his beak, to make it flat.


“πάθει μάθος.” -Derived from Aeschylus’ Agamemnon. Refers to learning gained through adversary. -To the memory of the German martyrs-

Orthodoxy, ὀρθός, “correct, upright, decent,” + δόξᾰ, “opinion.” The opinion which an upright person holds. One may be forgiven for chafing under the presupposed weight of an “orthodox” opinion; after all, in some quarters, it is held to be an act of the highest arrogance to dub one opinion more correct than another. I am not of that persuasion.

THE E’ER INSCRUTABLE | Fimbulwinter: Tyr’s Wager, Part I

“ᛏ Týr er einhendr áss
ok ulfs leifar
ok hofa hilmir
Mars tiggi.”

Time does not, and has never, suffered itself to be stopped on the whim of a mortal. If all mystified fatalism, be it twine-snipping hags at the base of the world-tree and the general stuff of soothsayers, has been stripped from our cold-fact cosmology, this central fact has never been, and almost certainly never shall, be doubted. The date of a man’s birth and of his death may be preordained or may hang entirely on Zufall, stupidity, and other waste-products of the human psyche, but its circumstances cannot be altered in fact. “The apparition of these faces in the crowd; /
Petals on a wet black bough.” -Ezra Pound

Shortly after I was born, I, a rosy-faced eructation on Planet Earth, received the mixed blessing of being initiated into a certain Bohemian brand of Protestantism, whose believers, given the demonym “Moravians” after their hilled Czech homeland, practiced burial rites which, even in my ur-youth, I found unusual. The various other cemeteries of colonial Pennsylvania ranged from the solemn to the gaudy, painted, weeping Madonnas and glum little cherubs shaking their heads.

THE E’ER INSCRUTABLE | Fimbulwinter: The Rhein’s Fury Part II

“Jezt aber, drinn im Gebirg,

Tief unter den silbernen Gipeln,

Und unter fröhlichem Grün,

Wo die Wälder schauernd zu ihm,

Und der Felsen Häupter übereinander

Hinabschaun, taglang, dort

Im kältesten Abgrund hört’

Ich um Erlösung jammern

Den Jüngling, es hörten ihn, wie er tobt’,

Und die Mutter Erd’ anklagt’,

Und den Donnerer, der ihn gezeuget,

Erbarmend die Eltern, doch

Die Sterblichen flohn von dem Ort,

Denn furchtbar war, da lichtlos er

In den Fesseln sich wälzte,

Das Rasen des Halbgotts.”

“Yet now, in the mountains,

Deep beneath the silvery summits,

And beneath the merry Greenness,

Where the woods shudder to him,

And the rock heads gaze down over one another

Upon him, the whole day long, there

In the coldest Abyss heard I

The youth groaning for salvation;

They heard him, how he blustered,

And railed at Mother Earth,

And the Thunderer, who begat him,

The parents pitying; yet

Mortals fled the place,

For it was dreadful, since he, lightless,

Tossed about in his chains:

the rage of the Demigod.” (Friedrich Hölderlin, “Der Rhein,” p.t.)

Youth’s high-esteemed vitality, grace in form, and strong, prattling innocence have as their all-too-easy obverses its seething rage, misdirection, and choking, desperate thirst for the authority. The last failing, the outcome is violence. The stuffy back-closet of psychoanalysis has already vomited forth a whole host of “complexes” in the past century to attempt to explain the nebulous workings of the psyche. Jung may find his panacea in dream-analysis, in analyzing anecdotes of young men having their genitals bitten by snakes, and Freud may trawl the muck of the Archaic Greek mythos in search of a new name for the desire to bed one’s twice-removed cousin on the full moon in October. It is all, in truth, quite simpler than that.

THE E’ER INSCRUTABLE | Fimbulwinter: The Rhein’s Fury, Part I

“Jetzt komme, Feuer! Begierig sind wir,

Zu schauen den Tag,

Und wenn die Prüfung

Ist durch die Knie gegangen,

Mag einer spüren das Waldgeschrei.” -Friedrich Hölderlin, “Der Ister”

Almost two thousand years are to be retrospectively traversed from the death of Hitler to the object of my next inquiry. This is an ode to the Rhein river, the fosterer of an independent Germany, and a blessing, and a curse. In 55 B.C., Gaius Julius Caesar built a bridge over the Rhein. The river was dark, wild, and churned with the same malevolence which the peoples of the sunnier Mediterranean perhaps perceived in the spectral shapes flitting amongst the German pines.