Over the years I have developed something of an intimate relationship with my own mortality. I joke around with death. We kid one another, tell secret in jokes, swap recipes, we are buddies.
I imagine daredevil athletes must have some kind of relationship with death. Certainly drug addicts and front line infantry must. Anyone who has had a gun stuck in their heads, or crotch, or a knife at their throat, or been stabbed by an irate girlfriend or overdosed or been through major surgery knows something of what I speak of, and I have experienced much of the above, but then I imagine anyone who has lived long enough has had some brush with death, an intimation of things to come.
I used to participate in various spiritual groups. Often they would breach the subject of death as something humans dread, something that they, as the guardians of our souls, would somehow protect us from the more fearful aspects of the oncoming freight train barreling down upon our fragile bodies trapped here on the tracks. As if some angelic intervention could stop a train, sort of Superman like, smashing it moments before we, the Lois Lane’s of this world were crushed beneath the fiery behemoth. But well, other than parents, who have pulled a drowning child out of water over their heads, or perhaps doctors who have performed life saving surgeries, or a fellow drug addict who had the good nature to keep an od’ed fellow addict breathing, well, who is to stop that train in its inevitable course? I certainly don’t think chanting a few words of some unknown but hoped for deity, ones personal Superman, will work, but then who knows, perhaps there is a deity who simply loves to rush around the aether saving one drowning soul after another, bringing them safely to some cosmic shore and delivering mouth to mouth spiritual resuscitation.
I try to envision this great Jesus, or Krishna, or Buddha figure, compassionate, armed with all sorts of spirit saving devices, picking up literally millions of souls a day. It must be exhausting work. But perhaps they have helpers, little Christ and Bodhisattva beings, Jinn, Pixies, Cherubim, Devas, and so forth who act in concert with the main guy or gal in sucking souls up into the higher realms. Shehaqim, Satya-loka, Sidrat-ul-Muntaha (the Lote Tree of the utmost boundary), and so it goes. More heavens than a barrel of monkeys.
To quote Funk:
“One monkey arouses a great deal of amusement. Two or more then double the interest and amusement. If one were to release a barrel full of monkeys, we must suppose that their antics would become hilariously comical.”
From “2107 Curious Word Origins, Sayings & Expressions from White Elephants to a Song Dance” by Charles Earle Funk (Galahad Books, New York, 1993).
I wonder if the lords of the dead souls have trouble with their helpers, monkey business, perhaps this saving of souls.
Monkey business after all can be detrimental to political life.
“Packs of monkeys had broken into the parliament, invaded the prime minister’s office and defense ministry, at times ripping up wiring and tearing through files. Those who resisted them sometimes got bitten – or worse. In 2007, one deputy mayor in Delhi died after falling from his terrace while fighting off a rhesus attack.” From Christian Science Monitor
I am now thinking of those winged monkeys in the Wizard of Oz or perhaps Hanuman finding Sita in Lanka. Oh the conceits we bring to the table. Oh how death will make of all of us a cinder, a cypher blown away with the winds. I made that up. Very medieval of me, I always liked that scene in Monty Python where they are parodying the Black Death. Bring out your dead indeed. More monkey business.
“The most authoritative source for the etymological of words and phrases in the English language is “The Oxford English Dictionary the multi-volume collection commonly called The OED. The earliest recorded WRITTEN use of the phrase was “cage of monkeys,” in 1840. Of course, the expression most likely was used in SPOKEN English, long before it was ever written in print.
Here is the entry from that source:
31. colloq. a wagonload (also barrel, etc.) of monkeys: used as the type of something extremely clever, mischievous, disorderly, jolly, fun, etc.
In barrel of monkeys, perhaps influenced by barrel of fun (laughs, etc.) s.v. BARREL n.
1840 G. DARLEY Thomas à Becket V. viii. 129 De Traci chatters More than a cage of monkeys: we must wait.
1889 Harper’s Bazar 21 Dec. 932/4 My brother..says the American girls are perfectly fascinating… He says they are more fun than a box of monkeys.
1895 W. C. GORE in Inlander Dec. 115 Barrel of monkeys, or bushel of monkeys, to have more fun than, to have an exceedingly jolly time.
1908 W. G. DAVENPORT Butte & Montana 28 This is just more fun than a bag of monkeys.
1930 G. GOODCHILD McLean Investigates xvi. 310 If once we lose touch with Feeny good-bye to the Rajah’s ruby. He is as clever as a cartload of monkeys.
1968 A. POWELL Mil. Philosophers 155 They’re as artful as a cartload of monkeys when it comes to breaking the rules.
1978 G. VIDAL Kalki ii. 24 Christianity was never exactly a barrel of monkeys when it came to the here and now.
1986 Times 28 Apr. 31/6 Plot-wise, it is as mischievous as a wagon-load of monkeys. 1996 People (Electronic ed.) 2 June, Knows loads about loads of sports. Clever as a barrowload of monkeys.”
- Quoted from the website:
I especially like the Gore Vidal quote about Christianity. I once passed by his place in Monaco, it was near the train station.
So to conclude, death, the grinning reaper, that joker of Family Guy fame is as we say always worth a good laugh at our own personal expense.
Next Taxes. Remember Jesus was buddies with the tax man and I assume he would love meter maids. He also had a soft spot for hookers. Who doesn’t?
“which of the two did the will of the father?’ They say to him, ‘The first.’ Jesus saith to them, ‘Verily I say to you, that the tax-gatherers and the harlots do go before you into the reign of God,” from Youngs Literal Translation of Matthew 21:31.