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The Bokononist Method for Handling Caesar 46


I talked to the Mintons about the legal status of Franklin Hoenikker, who was, after all, not only a big shot in “Papa” Monzano’s government, but a fugitive from United States justice.

“That’s all been written off,” said Minton. “He isn’t a United States citizen any more, and he seems to be doing good things where he is, so that’s that.”

“He gave up his citizenship?”

“Anybody who declares allegiance to a foreign state or serves in its armed forces or accepts employment in its government loses his citizenship. Read your passport. You can’t lead the sort of funny-paper international romance that Frank has led and still have Uncle Sam for a mother chicken.”

“Is he well liked in San Lorenzo?”

Minton weighed in his hands the manuscript he and his wife had been reading. “I don’t know yet. This book says not.”

“What book is that?”

“It’s the only scholarly book ever written about San Lorenzo.”

Sort of scholarly,” said Claire.

“Sort of scholarly,” echoed Minton. “It hasn’t been published yet. This is one of five copies.” He handed it to me, inviting me to read as much as I liked.

I opened the book to its title page and found that the name of the book was San Lorenzo: The Land, the History, the People . The author was Philip Castle, the son of Julian Castle, the hotel-keeping son of the great altruist I was on my way to see.

I let the book fall open where it would. As it happened, it fell open to the chapter about the island’s outlawed holy man, Bokonon.

There was a quotation from The Books of Bokonon on the page before me. Those words leapt from the page and into my mind, and they were welcomed there.

The words were a paraphrase of the suggestion by Jesus: “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s.”

Bokonon’s paraphrase was this:

“Pay no attention to Caesar. Caesar doesn’t have the slightest idea what’s really going on.”


Dynamic Tension 47


I became so absorbed in Philip Castle’s book that I didn’t even look up from it when we put down for ten minutes in San Juan, Puerto Rico. I didn’t even look up when somebody behind me whispered, thrilled, that a midget had come aboard.

A little while later I looked around for the midget, but could not see him. I did see, right in front of Hazel and H. Lowe Crosby, a horse-faced woman with platinum blonde hair, a woman new to the passenger list. Next to hers was a seat that appeared to be empty, a seat that might well have sheltered a midget without my seeing even the top of his head.

But it was San Lorenzo — the land, the history, the people — that intrigued me then, so I looked no harder for the midget. Midgets are, after all, diversions for silly or quiet times, and I was serious and excited about Bokonon’s theory of what he called “Dynamic Tension,” his sense of a priceless equilibrium between good and evil.

When I first saw the term “Dynamic Tension” in Philip Castle’s book, I laughed what I imagined to be a superior laugh. The term was a favorite of Bokonon’s, according to young Castle’s book, and I supposed that I knew something that Bokonon didn’t know: that the term was one vulgarized by Charles Atlas, a mail-order muscle-builder.

As I learned when I read on, briefly, Bokonon knew exactly who Charles Atlas was. Bokonon was, in fact, an alumnus of his muscle-building school.

It was the belief of Charles Atlas that muscles could be built without bar bells or spring exercisers, could be built by simply pitting one set of muscles against another.

It was the belief of Bokonon that good societies could be built only by pitting good against evil, and by keeping the tension between the two high at all times.

And, in Castle’s book, I read my first Bokononist poem, or “Calypso.” It went like this:


“Papa” Monzano, he’s so very bad,

But without bad “Papa” I would be so sad;

Because without “Papa’s” badness,

Tell me, if you would,

How could wicked old Bokonon

Ever, ever look good?



Date: 2015-12-17; view: 328

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