The Death of Ivan Ilyich, Leo Tolstoy. Chapter XII

From that moment the screaming began that continued for three days, and was so terrible that one could not hear it through two closed doors without horror. At the moment he answered his wife he realized that he was lost, that there was no return, that the end had come, the very end, and his doubts were still unsolved and remained doubts.

“Oh! Oh! Oh!” he cried in various intonations. He had begun by screaming “I won’t!” and continued screaming on the letter “O”.

For three whole days, during which time did not exist for him, he struggled in that black sack into which he was being thrust by an invisible, resistless force. He struggled as a man condemned to death struggles in the hands of the executioner, knowing that he cannot save himself. And every moment he felt that despite all his efforts he was drawing nearer and nearer to what terrified him. He felt that his agony was due to his being thrust into that black hole and still more to his not being able to get right into it. He was hindered from getting into it by his conviction that his life had been a good one. That very justification of his life held him fast and prevented his moving forward, and it caused him most torment of all.

Suddenly some force struck him in the chest and side, making it still harder to breathe, and he fell through the hole and there at the bottom was a light. What had happened to him was like the sensation one sometimes experiences in a railway carriage when one thinks one is going backwards while one is really going forwards and suddenly becomes aware of the real direction.

“Yes, it was not the right thing,” he said to himself, “but that’s no matter. It can be done. But what is the right thing? he asked himself, and suddenly grew quiet.

This occurred at the end of the third day, two hours before his death. Just then his schoolboy son had crept softly in and gone up to the bedside. The dying man was still screaming desperately and waving his arms. His hand fell on the boy’s head, and the boy caught it, pressed it to his lips, and began to cry.

At that very moment Ivan Ilych fell through and caught sight of the light, and it was revealed to him that though his life had not been what it should have been, this could still be rectified. He asked himself, “What is the right thing?” and grew still, listening. Then he felt that someone was kissing his hand. He opened his eyes, looked at his son, and felt sorry for him. His wife came up to him and he glanced at her. She was gazing at him open-mouthed, with undried tears on her nose and cheek and a despairing look on her face. He felt sorry for her too.

“Yes, I am making them wretched,” he thought. “They are sorry, but it will be better for them when I die.” He wished to say this but had not the strength to utter it. “Besides, why speak? I must act,” he thought. with a look at his wife he indicated his son and said: “Take him away…sorry for him…sorry for you too….” He tried to add, “Forgive me,” but said “Forego” and waved his hand, knowing that He whose understanding mattered would understand.

And suddenly it grew clear to him that what had been oppressing him and would not leave him was all dropping away at once from two sides, from ten sides, and from all sides. He was sorry for them, he must act so as not to hurt them: release them and free himself from these sufferings. “How good and how simple!” he thought. “And the pain?” he asked himself. “What has become of it? Where are you, pain?”

He turned his attention to it.

“Yes, here it is. Well, what of it? Let the pain be.”

“And death…where is it?”

He sought his former accustomed fear of death and did not find it. “Where is it? What death?” There was no fear because there was no death.

In place of death there was light.

“So that’s what it is!” he suddenly exclaimed aloud. “What joy!”

To him all this happened in a single instant, and the meaning of that instant did not change. For those present his agony continued for another two hours. Something rattled in his throat, his emaciated body twitched, then the gasping and rattle became less and less frequent.

“It is finished!” said someone near him. He heard these words and repeated them in his soul.

“Death is finished,” he said to himself. “It is no more!”

He drew in a breath, stopped in the midst of a sigh, stretched out, and died.

Crime and Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Part 6, Chapter 2.

“You must fulfill the demands of justice. I know that you don’t believe it, but indeed, life will bring you through. You will live it down in time. What you need now is fresh air, fresh air, fresh air!””

I find myself looking forward to November.

Halloween is just not the same this year.

I think I just found my Halloween costume for this year.

How did I ever miss this? It debuted just last year for the 40th anniversary celebration of Frank Zappa’s legendary Halloween concert series at The Palladium in New York. Zappa did Halloween concerts throughout the entirety of his career, but the one in 1977 is generally considered to be the apogee of that grand tradition.

To commemorate that series of shows (which ran from October 28-31), the family released a massive box set that includes all six concerts on a USB stick, in 24-bit WAV audio for a flawless sound experience, PLUS a jaw-dropping adult size Frank Zappa costume in vintage 70s plastic style. Worth every penny, and still available from Walmart for around 80 bucks.

The Andy Griffith Show is one of those rare cultural phenomena

…that have spanned generations and left an indelible mark on American pop culture. Deputy Barney Fife consistently ranks among the top tier of American television characters on all polls, placing at number five in The Chicago Tribune’s list of the top 25 of all time. (I would enthusiastically dispute that either Eddie Haskell or Ed Norton belong on that list above him.) Not only are the characters still beloved and recognizable more than fifty years on from their debut on the small screen, but the whole fictional world of Mayberry has transcended that medium to become a part of the national mythology — a kind of idyllic (and idealized) portrait of the last days of small town life in post-war America.

In the history of sitcoms, there have been three great formative epochs, possibly four, defined by shows that broke new ground comedically and developed formulas that inspired and informed not only other TV shows of their time, but also the national consciousness.

Norman Lear wrote in his autobiography that the social and political consciousness of All in the Family was a direct reaction against the implied conservatism of programs like The Andy Griffith Show, a view which fans familiar with the entire run of the series could find some reason to dispute. He would succeed over the next 15 years to change the face and nature of television comedy as a result.

The influence of The Andy Griffith Show on Seinfeld is indisputable. Larry David confessed himself to be a great fan of the show, and although never acknowledged it can be seen that a large number of Seinfeld episodes drew major story and plot details from episodes of The Andy Griffith Show. A direct show by show analysis is in order. I have not been able to find such a thing on the internet. I may take the time to do that someday for this blog.

Anyway, when I ran across this bit of clickbait today, I had to read the article. And sure enough, The Andy Griffith Show has permeated the national consciousness to such a strong degree that generations later Andy, Barney, Opie, and even Otis have all found their way into the world of rap and hip-hop music, all the way through recent years. It’s a credit the to the enduring and universal appeal, and even the love that people have, of a truly exceptional program.

Today I mowed the back yard for the first time this spring. I am behind. The weather and other duties had kept me off task. The grass was high, and each square foot I tread into submission was like a territory reclaimed for civilization.

I asked myself when people started doing this whole thing. Exactly how old is the time honored American activity of mowing the lawn? And why is this mundane chore, as therapeutic and contemplative as it is, not shown more love by those in the Big Nostalgia set, so connected as it is to real childhood and adolescent memory? Where does it all come from?

And the Toby for Outstanding Building of the Year goes to… (Cut to rival building management teams dressed up in tuxedos, sitting on the edge of their seats.)

The Toby Awards?
The Toby Awards?, by Toby Marks on Flickr

Makes me wonder what a Toby looks like. Today, too sick to care.