ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

 Published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998


"7th Proof ", a poem by R L Swihart


On the morning of April 28, 2022, I am reminded by Bulgakov (with a little shove)
of Philo of Alexandria (c. 20 BCE - c. 50 CE), a Jewish philosopher who
studied Moses and Plato “to the point of synthesis”

Bulgakov writes:

It must be added that the editor was a well-read man; he skillfully interlarded his speech
with references to ancient historians, such as the famed Philo of Alexandria and
the brilliantly learned Flavius Josephus, none of whom had ever mentioned
the existence of Jesus


In between morning coffee and trying to navigate the labyrinth of the 21st Century
American Medical Complex (Borges and Kafka would be proud and, yes,
I have an HMO) I get sidetracked (delightfully) with the Therapeutae
and De vita contemplativa (henceforth: DVC)


Back to Philo: DVC is traditionally ascribed to Philo but, as is the case with many
antique writings, there are doubts re Philo’s authorship (here the naysayers
are largely skeptical on text-critical grounds — i.e., too many unlike
Philo bits)


Let’s talk Therapeutae (Latin plural from Greek plural: Therapeutai): Assuming Philo’s
authorship, Philo says this mysterious sect (living near Lake Mareotis outside
Alexandria) was “given” this appellation because their life and thought
are embedded in the etymology of their name (θεραπευω:
to serve or heal)


Philo writes:

They are called Therapeutae and Therapeutrides, either because they profess an art
of medicine more excellent than that in general use in cities ... or else because
they have been instructed by nature and the sacred laws to serve the living
God, who is superior to the good, and more simple than the one,
and more ancient than the monad


We could also wish that Philo, apparently having intersected in time and place with
the Therapeutae, had given us more details re their origin and influences. Based
on the breadcrumbs Philo left (and we would have no crumbs contemporary
with the group without him) it would seem they are:

Most likely: a Jewish sect (though Philo does not specifically say that), perhaps
akin to the Essenes (which Philo compares them to in his introduction),
clearly heterodox, possibly even influenced by Buddhism
(see Kleinhempel et al)

Unlikely: a Christian sect. Eusebius (c. 260 CE - c. 340 CE), often called the Father
of Church History, is probably mistaken (he infers from Philo's DVC that
the Therapeutae are early Christians). Eusebius, sympathetic toward
monasticism and an admirer of Philo, perhaps saw what he wanted
to see, even though the vision was anachronistic


Walpurgis had nothing to do with fate bringing Adam and Ewa together. It was early
December (1992) and a bishop and devil danced a crooked line on the Charles
Bridge. And Adam never saw the angel


Layers of rock, dust, paint, time -- they work on you. Their meeting: apocryphal: corrupted:
lost in some family vault. The real truth (I can attest, I was there) is: Adam had already
been to Germany, Italy and Austria. He took the train from Vienna to Prague, arriving
early in the morning. Except for the another-era inspiration of the Fantova Kavarna
(he had a so-called Turkish coffee and a poppy seed pastry, kept doing 360s
as he stood at the bar) the Wilsonova was filthy and claustrophobic: dirty
marble slabs were closing in. Responding to the large cardboard sign
with a potbellied man behind it, he was led to a small room
with shared bath five minutes from the Old Town
and bridge

They met below the bridge at the Lennon Wall on the night in question. She was kneeling
to light a candle, he was trying to take a photograph before the sun went down. (Jesus
Lennon was still on the Lennon Wall back then. I have a pic to prove it.) I was
never told who started the conversation (my money's on her), but they agreed
to meet the next day at the astronomical clock and spend the day together.
When they parted he said with a smirk: “When Death does its thing”

Before they left Prague (on the morning of December 10th) -- she would go home to Krakow,
he would continue on to Poprad -- they went back to the Wall (at nightfall) and scrawled
their initials to the right of the famous head (floating above an amorphous cloud
of graffiti) and just below the Y of the as-yet-unviolated SAYING. She had
a way of putting a tail on the foot of her Z. He had a way of putting a head
on his snake. Now, surely, that primitive contract is buried beneath layers
of paint or totally annihilated. And nothing on that magic wall or mirror,
or in that contract, could reveal their future: see the oak pedestal
with a swanlike blue vase beside the door, imagine the chaotic
parking lot of shoes beneath, run because Uber Eats
is at the gate


On the morning of April 28, 2022, after my Philonic distraction, and after two hours of running
the gauntlet of personal data, phone and referral numbers, menus, machines and the Man
in the Moon, Blanca (a real person, I believe) manages to cut the Gordian Knot: my
CT scan has been authorized by the insurance and will be performed on May 13,
2022 @ 7:45 AM (and the "minor surgery" has already been scheduled
for June)


R L Swihart was born in Michigan but now resides in Long Beach, CA. His work has sparsely dotted both the Net and hardcopy literary journals (Cordite, Pif Magazine, The Literary Bohemian, Offcourse, Otoliths, Denver Quarterly, Quadrant Magazine, Poetry South). His third book of poetry was released July 2020: Woodhenge.

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