The Cosmic Cadence

The day after Jack's 70th birthday a suspicious looking package arrived at the condo.  After taking a deep breath he opened it and found an amulet and a note.

                                                                                        September 15, 2010

Dear Jack,

Included you will find a new amulet and airline tickets from Pensacola to St Louis and return. Upon your arrival you will be met and escorted to the meeting place.

Best regards,



The new amulet with golden horns..

Jack placed the old amulet in the medicine cabinet and hung the new one around his neck. He was a bit perplexed, but did as he was told.

Four days later Jack followed the other passengers off the plane at Lambert Field and spotted a man wearing a chauffeur's hat and holding a sign with his name on it. When Jack approached the man said, "Any luggage, sir?"  A few minutes later the limo was on the freeway headed to downtown St. Louis and a reunion with a mythological being which Jack hoped would assume a more normal form. Eventually the car slowed and turned into a private street marked with a metal sign, "Hortense Place, Private Street, Not Thru" and stopped in front of a 19th century white stone three story home.

Jack was met at the elaborate carved oak front door by a white haired stooped servant wearing a tux with tails. Jack said to himself, 'If he says 'walk this way' I'm leaving.' But there was no charade, he was quietly ushered into an oak paneled library lined with leather covered books and guided to a chair facing a heavy ornately carved oak desk. On the desk was an ink blotter, a lamp with a green shade, an open bottle of mineral water, and two glasses. Light poured into the room through stained glass windows painted in German Romantic style with figures from mythology; nymphs chased by fauns, fauns playing pipes, lots of twisting ivy and bunches of purple grapes.

Jack was just beginning to become bored with the bucolic images when the door opened and a small  blond man entered and moved quietly towards the desk. He wore a dark bespoke suit, with the shirt cuffs showing the prescribed 2/3 inches, a pearl grey necktie, and black leather slippers. His demeanor and ruddy cheeks gave him the appearance of a middle aged English aristocrat from a 1930's movie. Without a word he sat down behind the desk and carefully poured each glass half full of sparkling water. He then leaned back in the leather chair, place both hands palm down on the desk, focused his eyes on the guest and said, "You have questions."

"Assuming you are the same Ganymede that visited me when I was a boy, yes. Why have you changed your appearance?"

As Jack expected, the man spoke with a Public School English accent, "We often appear to humans within their particular cultural context. As a child your spatio-temporal inexperienced mind was rife with comic book images and movie scenes. Had I appeared to a Burmese women living in the 7th century of the Kingdom of Sri Ksetra it would have likely been in the form of a talking cobra, to a monk in 12th century Languedoc a winged angel, and so on. As a child you needed to be impressed, as a septuagenarian you require reassurance. Next question, please."

"Why have I been singled out?"

"Because of your mediocrity. You are our representative sample drawn from a population of north American somewhat educated and untalented men born near the middle of the 20th century, a sort of cognitive elite 'everyman'. Let me explain. A favorite freshman philosophy dormitory discussion of your time likely involved the question: 'If a tree falls in the forest and there is no one to hear it, does it make a sound?' That question rephrased might posit, 'If Beethoven composed a sonata and no one listened to it, would there be music?"  

"There are artistic geniuses in every field, in every generation, and in every culture. Of course, most art produced and appreciated is for popular commercial consumption. We want to know what is making a cultural and spiritual impression on your class; that is the target demographic. We are unsure if the western democratic model is conducive for the  transmission of the fine arts and fine ideas. Many of the high culture venues are struggling or closing both in America and in Europe. We want to gage the cultural temperature, so to speak, and you are our representative sample of one. As noted, you are not Jack the giant killer, but rather Jack the stick in the mud."

"Do you want to learn if Western Civilization is progressing?"

"As you well know, Progressivism came out of the Enlightenment and held that Europe was demonstrating that societies could progress in civility from barbarism to civilization if society was guided via empirical knowledge. That movement spread to America and morphed into the Modernity movement on both continents. Surely after the atrocities of the 20th and early 21st centuries not even the most Pollyanna of liberals can honestly give credence to such a discredited concept.

Western universities still send out researchers to study and explain religious movements. While the phenomenon that needs explaining is the closed mind set of the academic secularist: conservative and non-partisan institutes should be sending out researchers to Harvard and Berkley to learn why there are schools of academics who have rejected the pursuit of truth and beauty, instead bray bogus slogans that are felt to be politically correct. "

- The messenger paused, looked out through the stained glass, then continued.

"Perhaps we want to know if the West has lost the cosmic cadence."

" So I am to be the cultural Job, you draw blood and if my aesthetic lipids are too low the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse will be unleashed on the Western World?"

"If you follow history you may have noticed red, black, green, and white horses have been moving for quite a while. The U.S. is unable to stay out of war, the next pandemic may be devastating, Islam rampages, and pollution poisons your water. Your hope should rest on the possibility the West does not suffer from the fifth horseman: the ethereal stupor."

 Jack noticed the water had lost all its bubbles, but his throat was dry and he drank the glass empty, then looked towards the stained glass as he gathered his thought. After a few moments he said, "So my actions may or may not save Western Civilization, which may or may not already be ending.... or even worse becoming stupefied."

The messenger with a slight shrug replied, "You see clearly your fragment of the situation."

 "Given a Hobson's choice, describe the horse I must ride."

"After you pay the taxes on the stocks you purchased half a century ago, you will have a bit over three million dollars and that will be adequate for your assignment. You will purchase a tract of land anywhere inside the continental United States. Then you will engage an architect who works in the area. You will design an aesthetically pleasing building and the architect will refine the design and select a builder. You need not make the structure of marble or such, wood will do as the concept and appearance of the building is of importance not its durability. You will select cultural artifacts from each of the fine art fields, such as painting. sculpture, literature, music, and anything else to demonstrate your selections from the achievements of western man since the 5th century BC. There should be no more than three selections for each category. For the music CDs will do, for the literature paperbacks will suffice, and for  sculpture and painting color copies from your home computer will be adequate."

"How much time do I have?"

"The new amulet protects you from accidents and illness, but only Atropos knows when to cut the thread of life. At age 70 you should waste little time. The year is less important to us than the month. Everything should be ready by the end of July either next year or the following."

The messenger reached across the desk and placed a card in front of Jack. "When you have completed the building and have gathered all of the objects, call this number for instructions.  Unless you have another question, the limo is waiting."

As Jack rose from the chair and moved towards the door, the messenger said to his back, "One piece of advice, seek help from the feminine side of your culture." When Jack stepped through the doorway he saw the limo waiting at the curb. Jack did not look back for fear the house had disappeared.

Jack 4