Proverbs of Post-Truth Heaven & Hell

+PLUS+ Angelic Visions

A large engraving of William Blake looking out of the frame at something he can see.  The black and white image is shot through with color, as though he is having an hallucinatory vision.

When William Blake was a young lad, he saw trees filled with angels radiating light. I mean to say, more than once. Regularly. When he was a bit older, his brother, Robert, often dropped in to give him useful advice about his magnificent celestial art and his mysterious visionary poetry, which was a nifty trick because Robert was dead at the time.

When I was a young lad, the only object I saw radiating light was our clapped-out black and white TV with the twisty rabbit ears. Every so often it would go on the fritz, chirping and buzzing with static, or get stuck with the picture distorted and partly off the screen like a crumpled, discarded photograph rescued from a wastebasket.

And instead of angels in trees I saw Lucille Ball getting pies in the face, or submerged in vats of green dye, or smothered with honey during some sadistic game show because she’d thought she knew the answers in advance, she’d beat the system.

We all knew that was cheating. Why was Lucy Ricardo cheating—? That was setting a terrible example, which is probably why she had to get stuck behind the new wallpaper or set fire to her nose or wrestle in a vat of wine grapes. She had to be punished for cheating, for trying to be famous. Why couldn’t she just be satisfied with being a housewife? Silly woman.

You take yer angels as you find them. I used to cry when Lucy was the hapless victim of yet another crude piece of slapstick, because I had too much empathy for a little boy, the result of bringing up my mom. I spent my childhood tuning into the signals that preceded her mood swings; I had learned to ignore the fundamental note and focus on the overtones: the portents of nervous collapse or imminent rage. I was like an adept who had trained himself to hear the grass grow.

And I cried for Lucy as though she were a dear friend. I cried with outrage that she should suffer this way, week after week. I thought it was cruel to subject Lucy to these indignities, not funny at all, and the proof that she felt the same way was that she always wailed in this theatrical, not very convincing way. WAAAAAAAAHHHHHH!

Vivian Vance would go through the motions of comforting her, which was no comfort, simply the job description for “sidekick.” There was no one to comfort me, because my mother, the only person left once my sisters had slipped the surly bonds of home, and with my father traveling during the week, was lying in bed, indulging in her own private version of WAAAAAAAAHHHHH.

I feel like a douchebag complaining that there was no one to comfort me. I sound so needy, and honestly, I didn’t think twice about it at the time, because I didn’t know there was anything else. I figured, I guess, that raising your mom was just what happened.

I brought up my mom well. She turned out to be a really polite, well-behaved mom, a real credit to me. It was hard work, though, requiring mastery of so many routines: comforting her when she didn’t get the right presents at Christmas, calming her down when she screamed “hide the knives!” when my father was due home from his weekly trips—though the only time I’d seen him with a knife was carving the Thanksgiving turkey—and scolding her, my face burning scarlet with confusion and shame, when she entertained the boys wearing her baby doll pyjamas.

She’d have a drink in one hand, and her bare feet would be tucked up underneath her in the armchair. Sometimes I would notice that she’d painted her toenails. Coral was the color. She was a little bird sitting on its nest, hatching things.

The boys! The boys! First comes the blood, then the boys!

Carrie’s mom. Right? She was even scarier than my mom; one good thwack in the face with the Basic English Bible, Eve was weak, say it, woman! and you knew who was boss. You could blissfully fall to pieces and let someone else be the grown-up for a couple of hours.

And is that movie quotable or what? They’re not called dirtypillows Mama. They’re called breasts, and every woman has them. Right? That’s magic.

If it’s two AM and you don’t feel quite up to lip-synching Judy at Carnegie Hall, just dirtypillow twice around the chaise longue and you’re good to go. Pull your own hair really hard if you think you’ve got off too easily.

You can then drift away to fag dreamland knowing you’ve kept up your end of the bargain for one more day. Kept the faith. Laughter and beauty and sex! A brisk dirtypillow, flailing your arms vigorously—in case there’s any aerobic benefits— in between emptying the ashtrays and sipping the dregs of all the unfinished cocktails. Surprisingly satisfying, even economical, and you don’t have to take all that speed.

It’s war time, for Pete’s sake. We have to pull together.

I thought, what with the world coming to an end, and democracy folding up like a card table after an altogether too brief poker evening, I needed to revisit and revise Blake’s Proverbs of Hell, hear them crackle with sardonic wisdom.

Though inspired by Blake’s, my proverbs, as you’ll see, are less nourishing, less for-the-ages. They are, how can I put this, jokey. Flippant.

If you gave them to Moses on stone tablets, I’m not one hundred percent sure he wouldn’t crack them over your head.

Blake was the prophet of Albion, avatar of Romanticism, mourning for humanity’s lost innocence. He danced ecstatically in the last pure rays of sunshine humankind would ever know, while London slowly suffocated under its new mantle of industrial smog.

All so I could sit here in 2022 eating ramen noodles with oyster sauce, drinking low-cal soda, waiting for The Great Reset.

To display the image
for reading:

Click on the image to go to its page.
Under the image, you’ll see
the information icon:

Select the icon and then “View Full Size”. Now zoom in or out to a comfortable reading size. You may be able to use your mouse scroll wheel plus CTRL to do this.

With thanks to William Blake (1757 – 1827), seer, artist, and poet, for giving me the idea.


Tell us what you think. Keep it civil, yet interesting.