The war at home and the Babel fish

I saw an apartment building last night with one single balcony still strung up with Christmas lights, the rest of the building black and unlit. It reminded me of Lebanon. Or so I would imagine from a distance; I haven’t visited the real Lebanon, as it strikes me as a bit like leaping energetically into a pile of scissors. Whole civilizations have come trampling down upon that little bit of coastline more than once, sweeping along vast languages and religions, but not sure what they should bring to hand to attack it, kind of like me, as an inexperienced Mortal Kombat arcade player in the mid ’90’s, flipping through a range of weapons and finally just mashing the controls all at once. I always thought of the Holy Land as the few dredged-up golden flakes from the river that glitter in your hand, after the sunshine on the surface made you think the whole thing awash in gold.

In any case, the languages won’t last. The different languages in my mind barely all hang on, and that’s a considerably less war-torn region than the Middle East. They’re like sandals tied to the protruding blades of a straw roof on a rainy day, and every tug on one when you want to use it threatens to detach some whole section. I have a feeling that the tongue is a fish trying to slither free of any attachment, any sound that ties it to a fixed identity, but its root binds it down to its place of origin, and the sounds of that place’s language are those that the captive fish makes in banging against the walls of its cage.

The religions, on the other hand, might go longer, but all the immortal gods so far have gotten outlived by their own holidays.

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