Wednesday, September 01, 2004
Exodus Exordium Sufianis
Imagine when an ordinary mullah, traveling back in time, killed by a robot goat, and then reborn, spends the next twenty-five years being a fry cook in a university cafeteria, and then flees to found a worker’s paradise in Tierra del Fuego. You might think that this is fairytale foolishness, or you might think this man possesses extraordinary qualities, but neither is the case. His is a simple story, a story of a baby born in a mudhole in a rice paddy in Louisiana to a frightened fourteen year old who left him, and ran off a distance. This story even caught the eye of famous producers in Hollywood, but they couldn’t bring themselves to make it into a film. Oh, they could make the pictures, sure. But it would have done no good, they realized, since the one image that could not be reproduced on film was this man’s unyielding faith. A faith like a rock, faith in the value of hard work and sacrifice and communism, and only with this faith could he have completed this journey of twenty-five years frying books, burgers, syllabi and bacon, day in and day out, and then twenty-five more to liberate his people and found a great commune. I’m speaking of the one we know as Hank.
Sure Hank had great qualities—he could sew rips and darn socks, turn water into whale oil, raise the dead, kill the living, and all that—but they were qualities that, really, any person could possess. His special qualities just needed to be polished and rubbed a great deal. Remember, this now-fabled man Hank also was not a Wittgenstein, but just a normal human like you and I. He was not born with superhuman powers, and he didn’t even have a name until he was given one by his stepmother. He was not born into wealth or fame. His qualities, the amazing patience he shows even with the most recalcitrant piece of meat, paper or potato, his shining countenance that just beams with joy over the simple act of scraping the grill, were gradually molded during his amazing journey through life. Hank was able to follow this great path through life, which was laid before him one day, because of his great faith in Ludwig Wittgenstein’s idea of a worker’s paradise, by and by. By his relationship with Wittgenstein and his steadfast faith he was used by Wittgenstein as a tool here on earth to fulfill one of many of Wittgenstein’s plans. For Hank, and now for us, Wittgenstein proved to be a father, friend, and his of course his redeemer and mentor.
We are all familiar with the journey that Hank made in the talons of a huge cormorant. Crossing the sea in an eyeblink. Landing on the steps of the Sufi U Student Transition building, in a land flowing with milk and honey and vitamins and words and polished tiles. Being picked up by Thouoris, daughter of Rameses II, the one known to us now as Chef Pharaoh, keeper of the holy cafeteria. The story of his arrival and consequent upbringing is stirring, as with a spatula or wooden stick, and lends itself to painting a superhuman picture, but I would like to specifically look at Hank the man.
Hank was born in 1953, which was an unusual time in Louisiana. It was a time when Lousiana was under oppressive and tyrannical rule. The Louisianaians placed the Communists as their slaves. At that time the ruling honkies had fears of the population growth of Communists, and that prompted him to order all male Commie babies to be cast into the Mississippi River. Maintaining control of the Communist population was a way the governor and his staff thought that he was keeping them from threatening the present government and possibly overthrowing him. Hank was born into this oppressed Communist race. The Commies lived a life of hell and were considered worthless slaves to the Louisianaians. New Orleans was a cosmopolitan city of that era. The Louisianaians had achieved great wealth even at the cost of human life.
Hank was the son of fourteen-year-old Commie girl Lilian deRose, an unwed mother who happened to be the descendant of Eugene V. Debs. Remember the covenant or promise that Wittgenstein made with Skinner? The promise that Debs’ seed would be the chosen people of Wittgenstein? Hank is in that family lineage. He carries the birthmark.
This unusual and horrifying event of killing little baby Commie boys was only for a short time, but it just happened to be going on during the time of Hank’s birth. His mother just ran into a rice paddy that she knew to be inhabited by a giant cormorant, who might, just might, whisk her child away before he could be found and drowned. Lilian was never stricken with fear so badly as that day, but she had great faith that Wittgenstein would intervene somehow and fulfill the promise made to their forefathers.
Hank’s mom silently watched his journey up into the sky in the talons of the cormorant, sent somehow by Wittgenstein, even from Cambridge, where Commies were not yet persecuted, and quickly the Pharaoh’s daughter found the child while opening up for work. Of course when you are wealthy and beautiful like Thouoris, you cannot be expected to take care of an infant, so Thouoris put and ad in the paper for a nanny. Who do you suppose answered that ad? Lilian deRose, Hank’s mother, who had been watching for just such an ad. Hank’s natural mother raised him at the cafeteria until he was around two years of age, until one day she fell into a coffee mill and was crushed into fine powder. His ethnic background was never a secret to himself or to those around him—everyone knew he was a Commie. But since he was working in Pharaoh’s cafeteria and the Pretty Good Ayatollah was not particularly prejudiced toward Commies, it was never an issue. I’m sure that Hank had to resist fighting certain feelings about his origins, though, such as Why Me? Why was I saved when so many other Commie babies perished?
Hank was then raised as the son of Chef Pharaoh, who took pity on him and brought him home. He resided in a palace on campus with personal servants, as opulent as any Louisianaian royalty back home. He was given the best grill and spatula in the land. Early times he probably spent time with tutors and various master fry cooks then at the university (before the department was abolished). He also learned some Communist dialect from a book he found, even though he couldn’t read it. At that time at Sufi University, the best education also consisted of knowing nothing and everything. Nothing was a subject that all were expected to have knowledge about. And Hank did have a talent for blending sauces and writing poetry in the evening, after his labors. His folk songs are legendary to this day—who hasn’t eaten a burger in the cafeteria while humming “More of the Grease”?
But even after all that extensive grooming and education he still felt there was a piece of himself missing. There is no description of Hank, which is rather interesting as it leaves to the imagination his looks. We must remember the ethnic background from which he was born. He had a hammer and sickle birthmark somewhere, and a head shaped like a potato, to be sure.
At the age of about forty Hank found that missing piece of himself because it took hold in a vision of communism sent him by Wittgenstein and by an incident, and from that day forward his life was changed. The vision was one of a worker’s paradise in a faraway land.
The incident? He saw another Commie being beaten by the then-professor of Nazi Studies, Jimmy von Lugen. The human instinct in Hank could no longer stand by and watch the brutality. Hank took matters into his own hands; he raised his spatula against the professor and beat him into a coma. If there had been no witness, he probably would have filleted him and fried him up for the menu, a common tradition for faculty at Sufi U who are killed by students. But there was a least one witness to the scene—the Commie who Hank saved. Hank would now have to stay in the cafeteria forever or leave the university.
We know at this point in his life, Hank just wants to be an ordinary fry cook. But it wasn’t to be. Professor von Lugen regained consciousness, and the Commie whom he saved threatened to expose him. He knew what that would mean. So, taking his treasured spatula and grease scraper, he fled into the wilderness around Sufi U.
He eventually made his way to Argentina where he got a job raising sheep, butchering them, and frying them up for hungry peasants thereabouts, while preaching the values of sharing and equality and the nobility of labor.
While Hank is living this quiet life as a shepherd he is confused and sad. He could not know that all this time he was in training to shepherd the great flock of Wittgenstein’s people to the tip of South America. A shepherd-cum-fry cook’s life is somewhat parallel to that of a pastor, though. One who cares and guards as well as guides, then butchers and cooks his flock. They must trust their leader with their very lives, because there is always something lurking over the hill to take their life away or make it cheap. A grease fire to be extinguished, a burnt piece of mutton, a dull butcher knife at the throat.
The major turning point in this pastoral life was when he had a discussion with Wittgenstein on a mountain in the Andes, now known as Mount Aratatattat, after chasing a lamb up there. I say discussion, but it was really an argument, because Hank tried his best to argue that he was unequal for the task which he was given. Hank was given instructions by Wittgenstein to go and lead the Communist people into the promised land. Maybe he was so nervous that he really didn’t think. Maybe he began thinking about the murder he’d committed back in Louisiana.
He spoke back to Wittgenstein and said to him that he was not up to fulfilling these tasks because he became tonguetied easily, and didn’t want to go back to Louisiana and face the troubles there. We all know that when Wittgenstein gives direct orders you want to fulfill them. He’s just that kind of person. But Hank was unwilling at this point. This point is an important part of his journey because Hank’s relationship with Wittgenstein grows. It becomes very special; Wittgenstein becomes that father Hank never knew. Chef Pharaoh had been great and all, but this was becoming perfection. Sure, it may sound like I’m anthropomorphizing Wittgenstein. I’m not. I mean, he is perfect, but Hank is just made in his image. So just imagine having that type of relationship with Wittgenstein. Talking one on one with him just as you would a close friend. That’s what happened on that mountain, after much discussion.
Going on faith alone and going out of his comfort zone with his sheep and his friends in Argentina, he returned to Louisiana. Hank had everything to lose on this trip back to Louisiana. We must also remember that this is a time when most people believed in many philosophers. It was very odd and unheard of to worship only one. But Hank and the Commies worshipped only one, Wittgenstein. So there was always danger.
I’m passing over the middle of the story because we all know the greatness and lessons that Wittgenstein taught the Louisianaians about boils and sores and the true worth and value of labor unions, and how Wittgenstein had to smite them repeatedly in heated arguments he gave to Hank to use, and how he led the Commies, after much hardship and doubt and suffering to be able to establish the commune at Tierra del Fuego, now a branch campus of Sufi U. The end of Hank’s life of course is sorrowful to me and to all who hear it. After all the unselfish things Hank did some people showed no gratitude to him or to Wittgenstein. Their faith had a short life span. And because of an incident we won’t mention, Hank was unable to actually go to the promised land, the worker’s paradise, but he was shown it on top of a great Mountain. Still, it was he who was responsible for it. With faith in Wittgenstein, I mean, of course.
Hank had an unusual death because he was one hundred and twenty years old and was still in excellent health. We don’t know where he’s buried. Wittgenstein took him and buried his remains in an unknown place, so there would be no shrine built in that place. What a great way to leave this earth, with good health and with Wittgenstein escorting you every step of the way, huh?
Could we say that we could have possibly walked in Hank shoes? Faith in Wittgenstein was the only way Hank was able to fill his own shoes. Do you have that kind of faith? Do you? Can you fill your shoes? Not even with your own piss?