Thank You, Grandfather, for the Blindness in Which I Saw Further

Nap time after a hard day of stocking … and tired in more ways than one. But I’ll answer the bell for the next round!


School has started and I’m not there. I’m working at Walmart. My store’s doing inventory tonight. All is geared toward that end. We’re scanning bins and running merch like the Keystone Kops.

I know why I seem able to eat whatever I want and not get fat. I walk several miles a day each of the four days of the week I’m there. That’s heavy-duty aerobics. And you know any other sixty-five-year-old guys who heft fifty-pound boxes of kitty litter or bags of dog food on their job? And let’s not forget the hardiness it takes to “work the freezer” Sunday and Monday mornings, clad in sweater, knit hat, and gloves as well as the padded windbreaker the store makes available to the luckless peons who draw this duty. It’s fucking Antarctica in there. And you know what’s the worst part? I’ve … God help me … I’ve come to like it. I’m left alone. I run what little freight there is, scan the bins, stock the “picks” my scanner tells me belong on home shelves, and find satisfaction at having met the challenge! Learning how to work the scanner with my gloves on has something to do with it.

All day long I run around doing physical things. When I burst outside that fluorescent cavern at one p.m., after the protracted scurrying that is my role at this retail monolith, I am elated.

And I don’t have to deal with punks. Or the gnawing awareness of my unfitness for the kinds of teaching jobs I pulled in these parts. I’m not even sure I’d have been any good teaching prep school kids, as I liked to tell people. I’m neither as charismatic nor as compendious in my reading as I like to fancy myself.

But it wearies me to realize this, to keep drumming it into myself. Tired of kneeing myself in the nuts over my perceived shortcomings. My therapist, who never pulls her punches, nonetheless says I should be more “self-compassionate.” I live strategically, focused on activities that turn off the noise and shaming between my ears. I forget to think about my failure when I’m engaged in the successful enterprise of being a superannuated stock boy.

In the photo above you see me upon getting home last week from my job.

See Bob. See Bob snore.

And there’s Rosa, sitting for the picture, glad to see me enough to let Barb snap the shot. I can’t lie down for long, though; this dog’s exercise needs are still prodigious, though she’s aged and filled out, having recovered from the fatigue-producing illness I blogged about in spectacular three-part fashion. One reason I feel so simpatico with the meshugene hundt is that she, like me, knows fatigue.

Don Juan in the Carlos Castaneda books said a warrior grapples with four allies. He must defeat them if he is to work out his full agenda as a man. Otherwise each can be an enemy. The first is fear; the hero faces his fears or will never amount to much. The second is clarity, which can make a man narrow minded and too sure of himself or, if he is humble, farsighted and fair. The third is power, which can make one malicious, or benevolent, depending on his moral breadth and agility. The fourth and final force for the modern day Jacob to wrestle with is old age; a man must fight off tiredness, lest he stop short of fulfilling his karmic duty and finding his final wisdom.

In the movie Little Big Man, do you remember blinded, war-ravaged Chief Dan George, Old Lodge Skins, at the end, dancing what he thinks is his last dance, appealing to the great spirit, called “Grandfather”?

“Thank you for my victories and for my defeats. Thank you for my visions, and the blindness in which I saw further.”

This shining leader, as comic as he is an epic character, intuits the sublime in the whole round of his life, from the ribald to the horrific.

In a burlesque moment, rain spatters him as he lies down for what he intended to be his willing capitulation to death, his glad departure from this mortal plane.

He rises on an elbow.

“Well, sometimes the magic works; sometimes it doesn’t.”

And he walks though the downpour with Little Big Man, Dustin Hoffman, back to the teepee to eat, leaving us with a profane parting shot about a woman he has known. It’s a perfect ending to a flawed, sprawling film with a big heart.

We’re all God’s fools. This fictional Native American’s wisdom is to know this. Great leaders know it.

Sometimes I look around at this country that’s devolving into stupidity and violence and want to pack it in myself, tired of living in a place that no longer believes in the experiment America was supposed to be, a melting pot America where different kinds of Americans could find commonality. There are times that, like Old Lodge Skins, I see a future in which Human Beings follow a road that goes nowhere.

I am tired of having as President a boor, a rich boor who has drawn around himself armies of gun-loving racists to further his agenda and nurture his power trip. This presidency is an abomination. If his hateful vitriol stems more from stupidity and dark id than from any reasoned ideology, doesn’t that make it worse? It’s easier to hide. He’s got it hidden from himself. He doesn’t even know he’s a shit. The worst shit ever to assume the highest political office in the world.

Ah, but enough.

I worked hard and humbly today. I hereby lay my cosmic burdens down. For today I did good. I put my shoulder to the wheel. I did my bit.

And so, until my wife kicks me off the couch to do some household chore …

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz …

2 thoughts on “Thank You, Grandfather, for the Blindness in Which I Saw Further

  1. Chief Dan George always worked from his own prayers and history, I think that’s why he he was so effective. No need to pretend into a reality one only barely understands. No. All he had to do was be exactly who he was. By the way, he really was Chief of his tribe. Now, I suppose one of his sons inherited the burden.


  2. Thanks so much for that. I love that movie. Ebert nailed it in his review many years ago. It’s good to hear from you. Your feedback enriches my life and help me feel there’s some good in floating this stuff out there. Chief Dan George’s character is the shining soul of the film.


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