by Bob Schneider
The Pharaoh, warned by his astrologers that the liberator of the Jews had been born, ordered all newborn, penis-bearing Hebrews to be thrown into the Nile and drowned. To save him, Mo’s mom Jochebed placed him in an ark of reeds and sent him floating down the river. His wails caught the attention of Bithiah, the royal daughter, who was baby-crazy but lacked the means of production—she was either a leper or barren; it’s not clear which. Either way, she looked on the baby in the bulrushes as a gift from the gods, took him home, raised him as her own.
In the Midrash, it is told that when Moses was three and sitting on (grandpa)
Pharaoh’s lap, he grabbed the crown from off the king’s head; the potentate of the pyramids ignored the calls of his sycophants and soothsayers to off Kid Yid and instead ordered a trial by fire. A diamond and a hot coal were placed before the child. If he picked the diamond, he was toast; if he picked the coal, all would be forgiven. Just as Moish was about to pick up the shiny bauble, the angel Gabriel intervened. He guided the hand to the hot coal, and in so doing, saved Moses’ bacon.
Like Moses, we start making our choices young and we never stop making them. It is this ability to make critical decisions that positions opposable-thumbers at the top of the hominid heap. Whether they are rational, instinctual or providential, the choices we make are determinative; they define us and in turn define the world. Soren Kierkegaard, who had broadened the discourse of despair for young, alienated nihilists back in the mondo-mad day with titles like Fear and Trembling and The Sickness Unto Death (both had been available in a single paperback—part of the Metaphysical Mischugass series of Ace Doubles), laid it down this way: Subjectivity is Truth.
Truth is idiosyncratic and is sometimes projected at twenty-four frames per second. It is up to us as critical thinking homo saps to determine which ones offer the satisfying emotional truths that derive from the Fuller-Godard film formulary.
It was my experience living on Mongo that shaped my choices.
When we are little tykes and tykettes we take our choices for granted, or, perhaps more accurately, we are unconscious of the act of choosing and simply see the world as a series of discrete a priori truths: It was, for example, intuitively obvious to this cub reporter that there was no comparison between a glorious Knickerbocker Milky Bite—raspberry gel enrobed in luscious milk chocolate—and a joyless Joyva Jell Ring; it was equally obvious that an otherworldly full-sour from Hollander’s had way more umami than its more pedestrian counterpart from Guss’. I held these truths to be self-evident, and if you didn’t agree with me you were a retard.
There comes a time when you become aware that within any manifest string of things—baseball players, peers, war movies—you are making judgments, creating hierarchies, deeming some within any given group really good and others really shit: The french fries from this place are crisper and creamier than the ones from the place over there; the lemon ices from the basement bakery have a lemony-er flavor than the ices from the Italian bakery next door. It is as natural and involuntary as breathing.
Even though you might be lacking the sophisticated critical vocabulary to defend your choices with anything more than because I said so, once you become conscious of this critical knack you never go back—from that moment you’re hooked. My addiction to judgmental aesthetics began the day I contemplated To Hell and Back for the first time.
© 2013 Bob Schneider