Alethophobia - Chapter 2 - Obelisk

This weekend Bobby and I are visiting the space museum in Washington, DC.  He likes rockets.  “They set you free from gravity,” he proclaims.
My secret agenda is also to get Bobby interested in art.  He has very generously agreed to go to a Vincent Van Gogh exhibition at the National Museum.  The artist’s famous sunflower paintings will be on display.
I’m enchanted by these sun-worshipping flowers.  To me the sun is a god, a good god.  It recreates life every single day and demands nothing in return.  Photosynthesis captures the energy of the sunlight and stores it in the green plants -- the basis of everything edible and digestible for beast and man.  Sunlight, I believe, energizes our walking, talking, seeing, thinking, copulating, and even our belief in God.  And the more I understand, the fewer things I have in which to believe.
Our second day in Washington turns into evening.  Even this mighty city goes along as the earth turns around the sun.  We have supper in the hotel and then go for a walk.  As ever, my mind will not stay put on the subject at hand.  The Capitol, the White House, and all the other great buildings are exploding with light, but my heart is imploding with darkness.  Saddam Hussein’s senseless war against Persia -- my homeland -- has become brutally senseless.  Chemical bombs are being dropped on innocent folks.  The Iranians retaliate by bombing the city of Basra, one of the oldest and most sacred cities in the world.  I sadly wonder about the future for the birthplace of civilization.  Is the curse of weapons of mass destruction contagious?  My mind wanders again, drifting.
Bobby and I are now on a boulevard leading to the Washington Monument.  It is late at night and through a thin fog, we detect a pandemonium not far away.  My desire to get back to the hotel is stronger than my curiosity, but Bobby pulls my hand, insisting, “Let’s get closer, maybe something important is happening, maybe someone famous is there!”
I reply, “It is almost midnight.”
“This is a once in a lifetime thing, Baba!”
I go along to please his curiosity.  We walk closer until the unbelievable becomes vivid.  Naked dancers!  A full moon!  Erotic explosion!  Savage beauty!  Reckless wonder!  Lawlessness under the thumb of the law!  The scene smacks us in the face.  Is it real?
Nature is also in heat.  The mighty stone phallus erected to honor the father of the country pierces a lascivious sky.  The moistened moonlight, feeling the pleasurable thrust, twists with sensual agony behind the fleeting clouds.  The scene is bursting with aboriginal lust.  I glance at the scene wolfishly, even though I’m embarrassed with Bobby at my side.  The moment swallows me up.
“What’s this?” Bobby says incredulously.  I have no answer for him.
A gentle breeze caresses all and sets the flags encircling the monument into a wobble.  Fingers linked, gorgeous men and women of all colors, bathed by a bluish light, circle the obelisk in a line of dance, stamping and bouncing and shaking the world, and me, with the song of Erection.  It all looks like the musical, “Hair,” which I saw six times when I was at Columbia.  Hair is all that these dancers wear.
“Not here.  It is impossible.”  I rub my eyes as I hear the song they are singing:
Erection, Erection
Overt in men, covert in women,
Is God’s Creation
For recreation and
Now and forever. 
[Men sing alone.]
Praise be to Phallus,
The man-power, power.
According to King David,
Who laid it down for us all:
‘The Lord is my shepherd . . .
‘Thy rod and thy staff
‘They comfort me.’
[Women sing alone]
Listen, pretenders, seekers of power:
Under the moonlight,
Conceived we shall become tonight, around
The memorial of a man who could not lie.
Power we are behind the man-power.
[Women raise their voices to the highest pitch as they finish.]

I melt like an ice sculpture in my own perspiration.  Bobby is glued to, and puzzled by, the unimaginable scene. 
“How can they do this here?” my son asks.  “Where’s the police?”
The sight of people dancing naked in public is unexpected, but does not shock me.  During my Columbia days, in the late Sixties, surreal things like this were happening all the time.  I especially remember when a gaggle of girls from Barnard College ran down Broadway streaking. 
“Don’t worry, Bobby, the law is probably taking a nap tonight!” I respond. 
He knots his brows and stares at me like I was a lunatic.  I don’t mind it strangely enough.  I feel liberated, too.  Agitated by the power of this rite, an urge overwhelms my inhibitions, and a voice deep within me exhorts: “Untie the knots.  Discard the shame and the fear.  Join the dancers, wriggle in the wind, sing along with their songs, make love in the streets.  Stop being a coward, professor Pirooz!”
As I unconsciously inch forward as if to join the dancers, a woman with concupiscent breasts and buttocks, wearing only the wind, raises her arm in a halting fashion, and leeringly announces, “Undress, dear, or no dancing here.  I am the seer.”
My son holds me back.  “We’ll be busted, Baba.  Let’s go back to the hotel.  Now, Baba!”
Before I can resolve the conflict between my kid and my id, sirens fill the world and my ears.  Police officers arrive on the scene.  They have shields and long batons.  Their heads are covered with white helmets.  Their faces are hidden behind black visors.  While their expressions are not visible, they move as if they are in shock, as though confronting an inferno. 
“You are all under arrest,” their captain commands through his bullhorn.  His voice and feet wobble as if he’s drunk.
One of the officers pulls off her helmet.  I see luminous turquoise eyes and a waterfall of gold hair.  Jesus!  It is the same policewoman who rescued me from the pileup, set me on fire with her smile in court, and has been wiggling in my head ever since!  What is she doing in Washington D.C?  “Let them sing and dance!” she addresses the captain.  “No one is being harmed here.  They will go away soon enough.”
The captain throws up his black visor, exposing a pair of watery red eyes.  He makes four sentences out of one: “Public.  Nudity.  Is.  Illegal!” 
I begin to shout.  “No!  No!  Sex is God’s will and nudity is His design!  Don’t you know this, Captain?  See the breasts and the testicles full of life, have you not seen them all before?”
I hear a chorus behind me.  It sings:
“Truth will set you free,
Power will make you rich, but
Love will do you both.” 
“Dress and disperse!” the captain bullhorns.  “Dress and disperse!”
A homeless man appears and screams, “Bullshit!”
“Even the naked have rights, captain,” I protest like a lawyer.  Noticing that the captain is fidgeting with his revolver, I become alarmed and hear a pounding in my heart.  Bobby is pulling on my rubbery arm.  “Baba!  Baba!”  My instinct to run away with my son are frozen.
Suddenly, the policewoman steps forward and stands defiantly in front of the captain. “Your orders and this uniform are suffocating me,” she growls.  She rips away her blue coat and shirt as if they are Christmas wrapping paper and all motion comes to a sudden halt.  Moonlight caresses her bare breasts.  She rips away her blue pants and hops out of her red panties.  She hurls them toward the monument and from my vantage point the panties appear to fly like a giant butterfly toward the tip of the obelisk.  I look back at her.  Her face is sculpted with utmost delicacy, her breasts are conic and vibrating, with skin like silk, her mound covered with golden shreds; she is the one God must have created at His most inspired moment.  She smiles with a dreamlike charm so radiant it could melt Antarctica.  Her black boots are alive, it seems, as they rise toward her thighs with lust!
The captain shamefully turns his eyes away from her navel as though it were the forbidden apple.
“Look at me,” she begs.
The captain draws his gun and holds it in front of his crotch, the barrel pointed at her.  I am dumbfounded by his behavior, and afraid he is going to shoot her.  Those scary eyes!  I panic and yell for the other officers to save her.  The policewoman, however, does not panic.  She makes a calculated reach and takes the gun from his hand, and then ever so gently slides it slowly into his holster.  “We should all dance in the nude,” she says.  “Shed your uniform, and your rules.  They hide your heart and expose the worst in you.”
The captain’s red eyes reject her as he strikes a dramatic pose.  “It’s my duty to uphold the law.”
She is insistent.  “Drop your pants down in the moonlight, pull them up in the sunlight, Captain.  No one will get hurt.”
The captain blinks twice and takes on the bizarre voice of a Freudian psychiatrist.  “You expect me to shed my ego, and my superego.  You know I can’t do that.”
“Yes, you can,” she replies.  “I dare you -- strip!  I command you!  Let your skin, the uniform God issued to you, be your uniform tonight.  You’ll be my hero if you become your own man -- free from the law and free from shame.”
The women in the crowd begin to chant: “Be our hero -- become your own man.”
“Pants and civilization,” the men all chant.  “Pants and civilization.”
The captain is tempted, tormented, and even wavering.  Sweat covers his upper lip.  He raises his bullhorn again: “No one disgraces our national monuments under my watch!”
Suddenly he throws the bullhorn away, pulls out his revolver, and points it at the naked dancers.  Songs freeze on tongues as the scene changes.  The gentle breeze hides in the body cracks of the naked.  I quiver like his unsteady grip on the weapon.  Fire screams out of his red eyes. 
Bobby raises his voice and pulls me away.  “He’ll shoot.  Let’s beat it, Baba!”  Instinctively, I wrap Bobby with my body to protect him, though I still cannot run.
“The captain doesn’t have the balls to shoot!”  The policewoman yells as she smashes the silence into pieces like a stone hitting a crystal pane.
“Whore!  Whore!  Whore!” the captain shouts.  Fire and thunder explode from his gun.  Blood springs from the policewoman’s breasts and as I pull Bobby to the ground, she falls beside me, her hand touching mine.
I hear screams and moans, and feel a flame slashing through my own chest.  I do not know what is happening to me, a pool of blood runs around me as I cling to my son’s hand.  So strange.  I feel no pain, no pain at all!  Maybe I’m dead.
“Baba!  Baba!”  My son’s words rush out, “Are you okay?”
I open my eyes.  I squint at Bobby, then notice the television screwed into the dresser so no one steals it in addition to the towels.  John Wayne is joyfully shooting Vietnamese, as if they were American Indians, or as it turns out, naked dancers around the Washington monument.
“You were sleeping, Baba, and shaking and shouting ‘whore’!”
My son presses the remote.  Instantly, the Duke and his Green Berets vanish into the oblivion of the screen.  A long moment elapses before I am fully awake and taste the pleasure of being alive again, while still feeling the dream-song on my lips, “Erection is God’s creation.”
As a single parent, I believe it is easy to become one, but difficult to be one.  Bobby pulls me around, even in my dreams.  I hope he doesn’t know, for his own good, how much I love him, or how much power he has over me.
I leave my dream behind and take a shower.  When I come out, Bobby is asleep.  I turn the television screen toward the wall and crawl naked into the other bed.  I am alone with my thoughts.  I am sure now that I actually met the policewoman sometime before the pileup.  What courage she had in my dream. 
I wrap my head with cool pillows and visualize the tantalizing dancers, the policewoman tearing away her uniform, baring her beauty and valor and humanity.  This dream means something, perhaps foreshadowing something, I keep telling myself.  Maybe it tells me I should be doing in my waking moments what she did in my dream.  Rebel!
But she tried to save lives.  What is it that I’m trying to save?  Maybe it is -- my identity -- or what is left of it, that I’m trying to save.  I can’t let my soul be buried, piece by little piece, day by day.  I can’t let my cowardice be my ultimate boss. 
My pillows have grown hot.  As I listen to my thoughts arguing, I ask myself aloud: “What am I so afraid of?  What is the worst that can happen if I teach what I think should be taught?”
For a few seconds I am reassured: I can’t be arrested, or sent to a concentration camp; no one is going to tie me to a pole and shoot me; I am a tenured professor; Dean Gifted cannot fire me unless I go absolutely wild and beat my students with their chairs, or make love to them in the cafeteria. 
Then my doubts and fears return as always: But what would I do if they find a way to fire me?  I am incompetent in everything but research and teaching.  I don’t know how to use a hammer or a plunger, and my driving is so bad even a taxi company wouldn’t hire me.  Who would pay my mortgage?  My bills?  What would happen to my Bobby!  My so-called existential choice is either security or dignity, body or soul. 
America, for all its wonders, can cleave you like an ax.
I flip my pillows to the cool side and realize that most people dread their bosses more than they fear God, or the government.  This contemporary anxiety is not due to some encoded survival instinct, or inbred fear of death.  Bosses are not murderers, usually.  I can’t help but wonder how fear is embodied in our neural system.  What situation causes fruit flies, snails, mammals, monkeys, or people to learn about fear.  I wonder how this debilitating emotion was stored in my memory and became the emperor of my mind.  Oh, how I wish I had some answers.
Let me set aside conjectures and confess.  I am infected with Alethophobia, the fear of truth.  This soul-debilitating virus is invented by mankind, but the word Alethophobia is invented by me.  The malady is fatal.  It erodes the mind and the spirit, even unto death.  Socrates had to take poison, Jesus was crucified, and Mohammed escaped Mecca, one step ahead of death.  All because they spoke what they believed to be the truth!  Indoctrination makes you believe that what you see and feel is not reliable, but what you are told to be so, is so!  No wonder individuals are convinced by opposing views, or even by contradictory facts, but are willing, nevertheless, to kill or be killed for them!
I want to be free of Alethophobia.  Yet, I waver and detest my wavering.  I am itching to live up to the true obligation of my title -- professor -- and profess the truth.  My truth, for what it’s worth.  I must become a true profess-or, and not just be.  But I am worried that what I have to say may anger some of you, and even turn you away.  So I can only hope that, just as strangers may understand each other better than friends, you will find a way to understand me. 
One part of me is buried in despair (the unforgivable sin among the seven sins), and another is planted in professionalism, and I resolve to smash my way out of both infernal machines.  Professionalism was imbued in me as I moved along the educational assembly line, until I became the semi-dead, whining soul that you meet on these pages.  I touch my face and it feels like fever.
The need for sleep is beginning to overpower me.  Quickly I pray to the God I don’t believe in: God let me exorcise the demons of falsehoods.  To hell with professors who never profess, administrators who pretend to administer, and untrustworthy trustees.  Let me frustrate them.  Let them eat the fires of the infernal machine!  Send me students who wish to know the world, as it is, and are willing to risk disappointment for enlightenment.  Help me stop the fires of corporate-minded professionalism from consuming us all -- the expertness, the aloofness, the spiritual emptiness, the back-stabbing and front-stabbing.  Give me the lungs of Gideon, dear God, so I can shatter professionalism with my trumpet of truth, even at the risk of being shattered myself.


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Novel / Novella
writing MParvin
Professor Manoucher Parvin, a polymath, has published novels, poems, short stories and numerous works in various fields of sciences.
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a•leth•o•pho•bi•a ( ă -leth- o' - fo´be- ă) n. 1. A crippling fear of truth. 2. The inability to accept unflattering facts about your nation, religion, culture, ethnic group, or yourself. [Greek aletho, truth + phobia Late Latin, from Greek, from phobos, fear.] a•leth•o•pho´bi•ac´ (-ak) n. a•leth•o´pho´bic (-fo´bik, fob´ik) adj. & n. Alethphobically