The Atmosphere of Words
ca·bal, noun: the artifices and intrigues of a group of persons secretly united to bring about an overturn or usurpation especially in public affairs; also : a group engaged in such artifices and intrigues
The word, cabal, is like a very dark scrying stone. It conjures up medieval ruins and phantoms in black cloaks dabbling in forbidden languages. Old men scribble with quills in the flickering light of a fireplace. Women hold bowls of oily libations and fashionable men wink, slightly sinister. There are libraries containing molding tomes and parchment etched with strange symbols and diagrams.
It is that shiver, just as a passage of a puzzle-mystery is read, when it passes from pretentious to predatory. And it doesn’t matter where it is read–whether it is during a storm (shadows in the corners), in an empty room (unexpected noises), or in a crowded bus terminal (a pair of eyes, watching)–that feeling that everything seen is only a veneer to something entirely unknown.
The roll of the syllables is the sound of an old bell, the creak of doors, the tap of a heel against a cold stone floor. The flat of a blade hits a corner. It is the hiss of fabric rubbing together. Or perhaps fingernails tapping against a surface. It is all seriousness and provocative stares.
But this word has been dragged out from the realm of otherness by newspapers that need something new even if it’s old, by newscasters who say every word as if they are commenting on a football game. It’s used like an ugly lampshade when it would have been better off as the polish on a very expensive shoe.
Atmosphere has been skewed, and now instead of those delightfully horrible nights populated with monsters and whispered Latin, the world is inundated with visions of dirty fingernails and garish boots. Uncouth laughter and smoke (guns, cigars) fill the air. Surgically altered women in scanty clothing, wide swimming pools, and grinning plastic skulls just for kicks. There are glimpses of green in suitcases and red buttons that say, do not touch–except the greasy fingerprints are everywhere.
There is no longer the logical, intellectual cabal. No, it has turned into a posse for dummies with wide-open spaces and flashy jewelry. There is no longer anything to understand. Nothing at all.