Crossing the Line
By R. D. Flavin


     Beantown celebrated the running of the Boston Athletic Association's 119th Boston Marathon recently, joyously and without significant or negatively remarkable incident. Starting from Hopkington, Massachusetts, some 30,000 participants succeeded in crossing the line outside of the Central Branch of the Boston Public Library on Boylston Street. Sure, security was heightened, not only because of the 2013 pressure-cooker explosions which killed three innocent bystanders and injured an estimated two hundred and sixty-four others, but also because of the recent guilty verdict handed down upon the surviving brother, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (his brother had been shot by police several times and Dzhokhar added to his death by running him over in a stolen SUV in his escape). The sentencing, either life in prison or the death penalty is still being debated by the jury. The runners, walkers, and wheelchair participants traversed the 26 miles and 385 yards course for individual reasons, but mainly for the sporting challenge and not for any political, religious, or moral statements. It was all about crossing the line and most succeeded. [Note: Winners for the men's wheelchair was Switzerland's Marcel Hug, women's wheelchair was the United States' Tatyana Mcfadden, men's division was Ethiopia's Lesisa Desira, and the winner of the women's division was Kenya's Caroline Rotich.]

     Most of us Homo sapiens sapiens hold to a moral ethic there are some 'lines' we do not cross. Yes, I'm reminded of Robert Graves' offhand comment in his The White Goddess: A Poetical Grammar of Historic Myth (1948, 1952, 1961; New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux) that an “anthropological rule” exists which states “[were/are] no taboo without its relaxation.” Ouch! Incest, cannibalism, voting Republican, and many other practices once regarded as customary, but now perceived as barbaric and evil by many. Indeed, some psychotic perverts have devoted their lives to crossing every line imaginable. And, no, I won't list the most disgusting ones here... Graves was a most well-read bibliophile (he sent Wasson a paper on hallucinogenic mushrooms by Schultes) and I was once offered the task of doing an annotated version (as one who adores and demands footnotes and references), but I couldn't rise to the challenge, as it would take years to complete such a task correctly. However, even without reference, many examples exist which support the general hypothesis that our ancestors, at one time or another, did some bad things and crossed many a line we wouldn't dare today. Of course, today, we have 'old' lines, and even scarier 'new' lines we shouldn't cross (custom-designed genetic modifications and sentient artificial intelligence comes to mind).

     English, that wonderful and ever-adaptive Anglo-Norman (Germanic) merchant pigeon, has a plethora of homonyms, many of which are confused and misused by the 'average' speaker of 'American' English. To “toe the line” is one of such. I've known and know many who use the expression in conversation as, “tow the line,” meaning drag proper conduct into place. I understand the confusion and usually, for politeness, let grammar fly free. However, as some or most know, it's an expression about running a race... and placing one's toe ever-so-slightly on the starting line in preparation for the signal for the contest to begin. American football, or all sports for that matter, have their own lines which are 'not' to be crossed or there's a penalty. As I've written and said before, the ONLY crime (or 'crossing' a final line) is that which threatens the human species. Other than that, change the channel if you will...

     War v. Sports is a topic I'd normally welcome to take up space without drawing any meaningful conclusions. Though, here, I'm going to let the witty sarcasms alone, and try not to acknowledge them. There are many lines we sometimes cross, both good and bad. This column's motivation is the 2015 Boston Marathon and while I might and may have some asides, I will not forget the unnecessary hurt nor the pride of a community arisen like a Phoenix and running once more.. United and strong... So, two Alcoholic Anonymous members and a drunk walk into a bar, and the bartender asks... We set and draw our own lines which we forswear no one may or should cross, yet some do. I'd like to believe the slogan “Boston Strong” reflects such unity directly in the face of obscene and murderous dissidents. Well, that's my temp-take on the matter...

     I could mention Putin's threat, North Korea's annoyance, the idiots in Greece refusing a monetary bailout, the massive protests across the country regarding excessive police police, that ALL politicians and lawyers are liars, that we're an over-medicated nation, or the decisions facing our Supreme Court which will surely upset a significant amount of our population, but ...I won't. Oops, I guess I sort of just did.

     This column is dedicated to those we've lost, those we will lose, and the Humanist Jungian Collective Subconscious (or, depending upon belief, G*d) which allows us to make a choice. As an admitted condiment abuser, I'll pick ketchup over mustard every time. But, that's just me and I won't impose MY tastes on others.

     There are some lines we are proud to cross, while there are others which we should never cross, yet some do. Alexander Pope's often quoted, “To err is human; to forgive, divine,” is a proverb some follow and others ignore. I hope and pray everyone makes their own choice and it's the right one.

Taking off my sneakers,

Return to