Terror the Human Form Divine

April 3, 2009 § 1 Comment


Rape of The Sabine Women, Jacques-Louis David, 1799

Rape of The Sabine Women, Jacques-Louis David, 1799

Writing yesterday’s post, in which I strayed onto the subject of the tortures women were subjected to for religious beliefs—and for practicing adultery, witchcraft and other female perversions—left me a little shaken. Looking at pictures of medieval torture devices, so varied and ingenious, not to mention fiendish, made me grateful we had model airplanes, Lego and build-your-own-fallout-shelters when I was a kid; that now we have Apple Store Genius Bars.

People are nasty. This is not news. But the extent and pervasiveness of human depravity is either something you keep being surprised by or can’t for a moment forget. I know that under the right circumstances I could kill and be proud of it. I’m not sure what it would take to provoke me to torture. After reading one of my recent entries, Philip has taken to calling me Demon, a name we can both joke about since neither of us has ever had dealings with real wickedness.

Although he’s had more contact than I have. Besides working for a Republican city councilman, he used to chat with mafia killers during breaks in trials when he was a reporter. One of the Gambino underbosses, Tommy Biloti, approached him once with a vague threat—which I imagine delivered in that indirect sinister style they all learned from the movies—and Philip deflected it with a joke about the guy’s hairpiece. Somehow that sort of thing works with men, don’t ask me why.

He was threatened another time in a Staten Island restaurant by a wannabe Mafioso. The poor sap had to call to apologize, implying that one of the ‘made’ guys ordered him to because wasn’t cool to mess with a reporter. Remember that the next time you realize that in our lifetime, reporters may go extinct.

Journalism will be like fiction again, like memoir, epic poetry.The monsters and craziness won’t go away, only their painstaking documentation. The irrational is our default mode, where we go when we’re let off the leash. But there will always be the device-makers and the warriors, who won’t forget the important relation between cause and effect, or the necessity of measure, right materials, and accurate record keeping.

A certain Swedish chimp gathers rocks to get ready for opening time at the zoo.* Scientists make a big deal of this: an animal planning ahead.

How else can you hurt people properly?




Any mental activity is easy if it need not take reality into account.



It always strikes me, and it is very peculiar, that, whenever we see the image of indescribable and unutterable desolation—of loneliness, poverty, and misery, the end and extreme of things—the thought of God comes into one’s mind.

~Van Gogh


Cruelty has a Human Heart,
And jealousy a Human Face;
Terror the Human Form Divine,
And secrecy the Human Dress.

~William Blake




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