Return Engagements: Book Three (Part Thirty)

The summer of ‘48 in Stuyvesant Square Park, to me, was eerily like the summer of 1969. The park was full of young people day and night, with a goodly number of working people joining them on their ways to and from work. There were even people sitting around with guitars and singing new songs. The guitar is an obvious choice for such situations, of course, being one of the few musical instruments which are both portable and effective for accompaniment (there were some accordions as well), but the entire vibe was that of the late 60s and early 70s, and without drugs, which was helpful.

Not only the quality of the music, but the quantity of it, was another pleasant surprise. A notable number of the musicians were good players, but many more became good players, and quickly. They also started writing excellent songs. One I particularly remember was called, Why Not Rise?

But what grabbed me even more than the quality of the best songs was the sheer volume of songs, and from people with little or no musical background. Among the young people in the park, I’d say that two thirds of them had written a couple of songs, and it may have been more than two thirds. Not all of these were great pieces, of course – most were written by complete neophytes – but they were real and heartfelt songs; unique and memorable. Once it got started… once writing a song entered their mental universes as possible, welcome and legitimate… nearly all of them found that they were fertile on the inside.

Another fun surprise came when I heard a familiar voice in the crowd and turned to see a very young Charlton Heston, along with his wife, Lydia. Honestly, they looked almost like children to me (he quite a tall child). Young Heston, however, clearly had the older Heston in him, and he turned out to be a sincere and thoughtful young man.

* * * * *

All of this continued, unblemished, through early September. It was then that I spotted Feds moving in and out of the crowd. Bear in mind, please, that I was not the central focus of the scene at this point: People merely wanted to be with other people who were “expanding their horizons,” daring to think of themselves as, “Universe beings rather than citizens of a squabbling little planet.”

The first of those sayings was entirely theirs; the second came from something I wrote in one of my articles. I continued writing all through this period, some of my work published in big papers and some of it handed out as pamphlets.

Still, by the middle of September, it was clear to me that officialdom was worried. In particular, they were deeply concerned that their legitimacy was breaking. I was concerned that they’d soon be doing something about it.

Just to be clear, when I mention legitimacy breaking down, I mean that those whose minds had opened to a larger existence and purpose no longer looked to the state as a great and powerful necessity. That is, they no longer idolized it as that which was, is, and ever shall be… that which must receive the benefit of every doubt. Rather, they saw it as a primitive and questionable thing. And so, those addicted to power fell into another of their elite panics; needing to rid the world of me and turn the whole spacecraft business into a boring bureaucracy… a lot like NASA became.

As that point, however, I really didn’t care. The magic situation in the park was worth whatever it cost, and as I say, going back home didn’t terrify me. I had just seven months remaining anyway.

My theory on the elites’ loss of legitimacy gained confirmation through the last half of September, as politicians started talking about “the existential necessity of the state,” making the same kinds of arguments (“Who will build the roads?”) that they made against libertarians in the 1990s. You could almost feel their repressed hysteria.

And so I wrote a letter explaining what I thought was happening, made a dozen copies, sealed them with wax, and gave them to responsible people, marking them, TO BE OPENED ONLY IN CASE OF MY DISAPPEARANCE.

The letter was a hard one to write: I needed to give people material that would help them grow, not merely to tell the truth about the situation. I started by explaining why resorting to violence wasn’t helpful: the objective being to continue growth, not to get justice. To make the point, I explained about the first Christians, who neither accepted Rome nor fought Rome, but merely left it behind… and who stood prepared to shape a much better Europe, once Rome fell of its own weight.

I went on, of course, to tell them that I loved them and was proud of them, and that they should always move forward and not build structures.

* * * * *

Week by week I could see the Feds setting up. I guessed they were waiting for the cold of autumn to thin out the crowds and make my abduction easier. That would have been the time for me to run, and I did plan it out (with Newfoundland, then in a transition of power, as my destination), but I couldn’t feel serious about it.

As September turned to October, we had a series of cold, wet days, and not many people showed up. Then, as I entered the park one morning, two FBI agents blocked my way and said, “You need to come with us.” I stopped and looked around, seeing four or five of my young friends, watching in horror.

I looked at my friends, smiled, and then turned back to the salaried thugs. “No,” I said, “I don’t think I will.” They stood in shock for a moment, then pulled out their guns.

You need to come with us” they said again.

I had just begun walking onward, but stopped again when they presented their firearms. I looked both of them as squarely in the eyes as I could and said, “Go ahead and shoot me, I don’t care.”

Then I merely walked around them, and my friends rushed to join me. The G-men left.

My young friends thought it was a glorious triumph, but I knew they’d be back. And, sure enough they were, an hour later and with half an army of policemen.

We saw them coming, of course, and so I turned to my friends: “Should I walk, or make them carry me?”

To an individual (they, and the whole crowd, were about half female) they said, “Please walk, we don’t want to watch you being carried away.”

And so I nodded and gave them a few last words, reminding them that this was a marathon rather than a sprint, that they and their friends were more than sufficient to continue it, and to remember that I had loved them. I concluded with “Please go now; it will be better if they don’t snatch you up too.”

Reluctantly they did as I requested, and I walked precisely away from them, giving them a chance to get away. (Which they did.)

The cops started yelling at me and I kept walking, though I did move from the sidewalk to the grass, so I wouldn’t be injured when they tackled me.

Once abducted and handcuffed, I walked with them to a police car. They drove me to some type of police station, asking me questions as we went. I said nothing.

Then, once at the station and in a jail cell, people in suits came to me, asking questions and offering better treatment if I would talk to them.

I think I smiled through most of this, because I could see precisely why Jesus “answered them not a word” during his questioning: There was no point. The blue-clad men were paid users of violence, pathetically trapped in their jobs. The besuited men were trying to please lords they both feared and wanted to emulate. They had become, as Napoleon once put it, “creatures of their uniforms.” What was the purpose, then, of saying anything to them? And so I didn’t.

After an hour or two they left me alone. Perhaps an hour after that some food was given to me, and as the day wore on, a clean-up crew came through. One of that crew, an older gentleman, looked at me and said, “You’re the man from the park, who knew other-worlders, aren’t you?”

Him, I answered. “Yes, I am.”

Are they going to kill you?”

Honestly, I don’t know, but I’m long past giving them the benefit of the doubt. If they think they can get away with it, they probably would.”

The man became visibly sad, and so I stood up and motioned him over to my cell. “The thing is, I’ll probably just let myself die.” That seemed to surprise him, but I wanted to continue as best I could before the guards snitched that I was talking.

I don’t want to spend my remaining time on this planet with mad dogs barking orders at me. It’s primitive and ugly… it’s monkey life, and the bad side of that.”

That was when the local guard started toward his superior, and so I told my friend to hurry off, and if interrogated, to say that I asked if he knew how to escape. He nodded and walked quickly away.

It’s enough then, I thought, and invited entropy to rise in my body.

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Paul Rosenberg