title:To Criticize a Rose
We criticize others far too much. This is a waste and self-defeating. In criticizing others we criticize their true selves – their essence – their Essence. Their essence is the same as our own. Our essence is the Essence too of the Creator. When we criticize others we criticize The Creator. If we criticize ourselves we direct our criticism at the Creator.
This is the reason why attacks on race creed and color are self-destructing. These cannot be separated from attacks against the Creator.
A few years ago I visited Arthur – a friend of mine. His wife Queenie led me in through a heady waft of fried bacon tomatoes sausages eggs fried bread and best butter on fresh stone-ground whole-meal plus strong hot orange-tips tea. By chance some of his relations were down from the north on a quick visit.
The atmosphere in the living-dining room was cozy and relaxed because of the decor and the warm light from the standard lamps. Having met the relatives once before I was much at home and glad to be there. George’s smiling sisters Judith Lilly Polly Big-Beatty and his niece Anna were sat comfortably round the dining table. The four were senior nurses either Sisters or Matrons.
Judith wore her hair like Dr Johnson and was the sort to make even a vicar wash his feet before he set foot in her house. Lilly had red hair and gray eyes. She smoked ‘Craven A’ cigarettes. Polly had dancing eyes and saw the funny side in everything. She liked a bag of hard pears and a Raymond Chandler paperback in the bath. Big Beatty was big and acted big. Young-Betty’s husband had died six months before down the coalmine so she still had little to say save to cut your legs off. They were all surprised and pleased to see me.
I was given a good kissing and these hearty women called and laughed back and forth with lit up faces while they got me organized with plates and cutlery steaming hot bacon and eggs and fried potatoes.
After some chatter Judith frowned and began to look concerned. She stared round for the clock feeling it was time to fidget about the last bus home and began to stand up. ‘Come along Girls!’ Judy yelled.
Picking up on this Arthur’s eyes became calculating slits. A rush of urgency went through his body and he rose like a pheasant and chunted: ‘it won’t take but a minute to get me color slides out Our Judy. I’ve already written the words!’ Arthur pushed Judith back in her chair and took pasteboard three-d spectacles from nowhere and thrust them at various angles on each of the noses. The girls’ shifted their weight from buttock to buttock and an eyes-down silence sank upon them. They looked straight ahead and their breasts heaved in one communal slow intake of breath. Arthur was already dragging the screen box in from the Hall and hauled it onto a chair. The lid was opened and bits of framework were unhinged and the screen wedged between its stays in a rather lopsided fashion. The screen box framing and screen on its chair was pushed hard against the wall to stop the lot falling over.
‘You’ll love this Our Judy.’ Said Arthur hopping about. The sisters were agape with their necks tense and turned towards Arthur’s Queenie as if to a judge of appeal. Queenie merely gazed back with a silent smile.
The slide projector was conjured up and plunked down on a pink light-alloy tea trolley pushed to center stage. This leant first this way then that because it was not rigid. Standing leaning towards the lopsided screen it looked like a goat ready to smash it to pieces.
Plug tops extension leads cables transformers control buttons all collected in a festoon of adaptors at the wall outlet. Queenie forced the plugs into their sockets with the help of an old wooden tea tray swung on edge. Lilly’s eyes were alight with warm amusement.
Slide cassettes were brought in from a bedroom wardrobe and the first one ram-loaded into the projector giving the tea trolley a diagonal thrust towards the southwest. Arthur flicked the on/off switch but produced no light and Queenie had to own up to not having switched the power supply on.
‘Better switch the lights off while we’re at it Queenie so the colors will shine up a treat.’ Queenie then plunged everyone into sudden darkness except for the streetlights shining in through the orange curtains.
Arthur turned the projector on and a blinding rectangle of white light at forty-five degrees shone on part of the wall and part on the ceiling cornice and the remainder highlighting one cheek of the backside of a chipped cherub on the ceiling. Judith choked and said something about a headache. Polly blew a cloud of cigarette smoke into the projector’s beam and made the room look as if it were on fire. Big Beatty stretched herself somewhat and Lilly giggled.
Arthur got up and reaching for the projector caught his foot in a cable and the white rectangle of light plummeted to the floor then at high speed circled round the living room walls three or four times before being brought under control where the projector finally shone an intense beam of concentrated light straight into Judith’s terrified face.
The tea trolley was sorted out and Arthur still on his feet was able to more of less register the lit screen area with the view panel. This was now too low as silhouettes of heads were cast on the screen. Three cushions placed under the screen box eased the problem. Arthur took the button control and with his words in his right leant towards the projector beam to start his talk. There was a click and a series of mechanical sound movements. Then everything went black. There was a tut-tut from Arthur. Lilly started to giggle. Polly coughed Big-Beatty said nowt.
‘That must be that blank.’ Said Arthur.
The button clicked again and two huge nostrils appeared on the screen. Judith said ‘I can’t quite see anything Arthur.’ Again the button clicked and a larger single nostril with hair took over. A further click and a picture of a red rose appeared.
Arthur squirmed into a sort of protruding serpentine belly pose with feet together left hip to the left all slightly twisted to the right with lips and eyes skewed gazing up towards some other world. He said:
‘This is a red rowhze! Is there anything so beautiful as a rowhze?
Judith tried to uncross her eyes peering through the angled three-d specs and said: ‘Well yes I think I can see but – we’ll all have to be going now you know Our Arthur it’s getting a bit late.’
Young Anna said: ‘Next.’
The control button clicked again. We saw a four-floors block of flats about ten degrees off vertical leaning down back from a road with occupiers apparently trying to hold on to their balcony walls for dear life. Arthur chin in and in deep declamatory voice mode roared:
‘This is a block of flats built for rent under the local municipality’s direct labor scheme co-sponsored by the area committee of The Amalgamated Union of General Construction Industry Workers. Notice the balcony access.’ This statement was received by us masses with cold awe and further heightened by Arthur – addressing his sisters ‘…don’t worry about the last bus.’
Another click and a woodland ‘stand’ of Beech in a sea of Bluebells appeared. This ‘stand’ was again more of a lean at seventy degrees down hill. Arthur paused for the effect to sink in and then said ‘I always think of Wordsworth’s “The curfew tolls the knell of parting day” when I see this slide. It reminds us how fallible we all are.’
Judith had cast off her three-d specs and said ‘Ah! Now that’s beautiful Our Arthur.’ There was general approbation with nodding of heads and more movements of getting up and going.
Still another click and the next slide showed a row of isolated seats that must have been photographed from the back of a bus in a field of sheep. Arthur was mystified by this picture because he had no idea where or why it had been taken.
The rest of the slides were equally unique. Arthur and Queenie were on a cruise around the Scottish Islands where passing boats climbed like fighter planes into the stratosphere or ran as if before the wind downhill. There was half a bus. A phalanx of pedestrians came head-on except they had no heads. Picture mounts bisected walkers. An unseen hand off picture held a dog on a leash. A garbage collector emptied a trashcan into some imaginary tip. A tramp put rubbish into a street bin. Lettering on a parked van read only ‘…vice Laundry’ visible on its side. Slides such as these went on and on. Lilly had everyone doubled up while Queenie clapped her hands. Young-Anna glared six-inch nails. Polly lit up and Big Beatty belched.
Judith leapt up. ‘The last bus! We’re going to miss the last bus!’ Everyone screamed.
The women went berserk. They grabbed their bags hats and coats thanked Queenie for a lovely evening everybody kissed everyone and thanked Arthur for his wonderful slides and his most interesting lecture and they would come again in year or two when things had settled down. The girls streamed through the hall with Arthur picking his three-dimensional specs off noses as they passed. They barged through the entrance door and were out in the cold night. Taxi! They all screamed!
Arthur died a few years later.
Now I look back at that evening and I realize Arthur was the only one there who did not criticize. The rest of us found only fault where Arthur had in vain tried to please through his wonder at taking pictures. He needed no mind exercises no mantras and no daily reading of texts any obscure discussions no reminding him to radiate beams of Love he did not feel.
What he only saw was Essence so there was nothing to criticize.
Is there anything so beautiful as the essence of a rowhze?
Copyright 2005 John Blenkin