What’s Sacred?

Here just a long quote of a passage I really liked that I think bears repeating (page 315):

What’s sacred to me? thought Fate. The vague pain I feel at the passing of my mother? An understanding of what can’t be fixed? Or the kind of pang in the stomach I feel when I look at this woman? And why do I feel a pang, if that’s what it is, when she looks at me and not when her friend looks at me? Because her friend is nowhere near as beautiful, thought Fate. Which seems to suggest that what’s sacred to me is beauty, a pretty girl with perfect features. And what if all of a sudden the most beautiful actress in Hollywood appeared in the middle of this big, repulsive restaurant, would I still feel a pang each time my eyes surreptitiously met this girl’s or would the sudden appearance of a superior beauty, a beauty enhanced by recognition, relieve the pang, diminish her beauty to ordinary levels, the beauty of a slightly odd girl out to have a good time on a weekend night with three slightly peculiar men and a woman who basically seems like a hooker? And who am I to think that Rosita Méndez seems like a hooker? thought Fate. Do I really know enough about Mexican hookers to be able to recognize them at a glance? Do I know anything about innocence or pain? Do I know anything about women? I like to watch videos, thought Fate. I also like to go to the movies. I like to sleep with women. Right now I don’t have a steady girlfriend, but I know what it’s like to have one. Do I see the sacred anywhere? All I register is practical experiences, thought Fate. An emptiness to be filled, a hunger to be satisfied, people to talk to so I can finish my article and get paid. And why do I think the men Rosa Amalfitano is out with are peculiar? What’s peculiar about them? And why am I so sure that if a Hollywood actress appeared all of a sudden Rosa Amalfitano’s beauty would fade? What if it didn’t? What if it sped up? And what if everything began to accelerate from the instant a Hollywood actress crossed the threshold of El Rey del Taco?

A few pages earlier (302), we see this, which came to mind because of the reference to speed (check also page 300 for such a reference, which recalls Espinoza’s dream about the painting whose figures seem to move imperceptibly, as if time is slowed):

He thought about his mother and what she must have thought about at night in Harlem, not looking out the window to see the few stars shining in the sky, sitting in front of the TV or washing dishes in the kitchen with laughter coming from the TV, black people and white people laughing, telling jokes that she might have thought were funny, although probably she didn’t even pay much attention to what was being said, busy washing the dishes she had just used and the pot she had just used and the fork and spoon she had just used, peaceful in a way that seemed to go beyond simple peacefulness, thought Fate, or maybe not, maybe her peacefulness was just peacefulness and a hint of weariness, peacefulness and banked embers, peacefulness and tranquillity and sleepiness, which is ultimately (sleepiness, that is) the wellspring and also the last refuge of peacefulness. But then peacefulness isn’t peacefulness, thought Fate. Or what we think of as peacefulness is wrong and peacefulness or the realms of peacefulness are really no more than a gauge of movement, an accelerator or a brake, depending.

7 thoughts on “What’s Sacred?

  1. stevebrassawe March 1, 2010 / 12:24 pm

    This passage about the sacred is extremely important, Daryl. I think that you are perceptive to focus on it. I would venture to predict that we will be returning to this subject in the near future more than once.

  2. Dan Summers March 1, 2010 / 5:39 pm

    I think it is particularly ironic that Fate contemplates the sacred while sitting in that horrible, horrible restaraunt. It sounds like something out of a post-modern take on Dante.

    • Maria Bustillos March 6, 2010 / 11:04 am

      LOVE this observation.

  3. Steve March 3, 2010 / 9:11 pm

    El Rey del Taco, decorated like a McDonald’s but in an unsettling way.

    Fate himself says, “This place is like hell.”

    • Jeff Anderson March 5, 2010 / 4:18 pm

      This is funny: Is there a way for a possibly-comic-book-based taco chain to be decorated like a McDonald’s that isn’t unsettling? And not being a Catholic, and being thus unfamiliar with much of the…stuff, I wonder whether there may be a (parodic) link between the scenes from the life of the Rey del Taco and the stations of the cross. Is there anything in that?

      • stevebrassawe March 8, 2010 / 3:08 pm

        I cannot tell you how hard I have been laughing about this stations of the cross idea of yours.

        I am not saying there is nothing to it, though. No. Never. Let me consult some doctrinal experts.

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