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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

The Lunacy Of Barky Lodge - How Worries About Climate Armageddon Addled His Brain

Barkhamsted (Barky)  Lodge had always been serious and concerned person, and had so since his days at Yale when he and the Reverend Hart Clarkson  went down to Selma, marched with MLK across the Pettis Bridge, sat in at lunch counters, and demonstrated against the war in Vietnam.  His fight for social justice, equality, and world harmony was indefatigable, persistent, and heartfelt. 

He had the terrible sense of goodness coming to an end.  He saw the awful things that were happening in the world and felt an impending doom.  Armageddon now made sense - the end of times was on its way.  War, inequality, racism, and climate change were clear signs of the end of days.  So much to do, so little time. 


Where he got such sentiments was a mystery to all who knew him as a child in Cos Cob.  His family was one of inherited wealth, status, and privilege.  His family tree included the principals of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, a lieutenant of John Davenport, founder of the revisionist Puritan sect of the New Haven Plantations, a direct descendant of Roger Sherman, signer of the Declaration of Independence, and a cousin of John Adams, second President of the United States.  His great great uncles had become wealthy Newport shipbuilders and investors in the Three Corner Trade, and their offspring Wall Street financiers and builders of the great American financial empire.

Barky was well on his way to taking over the family fortune and managing its vast holdings until he got to Yale and 'fell under the spell' of Hart Clarkson, a rather pedestrian man of limited vision but whose message of deliverance somehow resonated with the young Lodge boy.  His parents were appalled at his deviance and were all the more perplexed because nothing in his background or upbringing could possibly account for such a reversal of intent. 

'Because it is the right thing to do', he said to his father over dinner at Mory's and told the old patrician that his days of privilege and influence were numbered. 'The future is here'. 

Stanford Lodge reported back to the family that something had to be done about the boy, so far off the rails had he fallen and so deep in the weeds had he gotten tangled.  Yet the young Lodge, always a stubborn boy, could not be budged. 

Not only was Barky Lodge committed to the cause of social justice, he was exhilarated by it.  The Freedom Rides, demonstrations for peace and the protests against racial equality were more than actions against political misjudgment and moral error. He and his colleagues were apostles, as passionate about their calling as Jesus' disciples.  Not only were they a latter day force for good, they were an army against evil.  They were a delighted, happy bunch on their way to be with their Negro brothers and sisters. 


'Perhaps it was David', suggested Barky's father, the renegade brother who had visions and spent years in St. Elizbeth's until he was released, cured of his delusions and obscure phobias, but who in the meantime had learned a thing or two about charisma and 'self-awareness'.  He came out of the funny farm convinced of the power of prophecy and his duty to spread the word. 

What 'the word' was was unclear, for Uncle David had not been cured at all but released because of new state regulations that recharacterized the demented as victims; and so his rantings and ravings if anything increased in fiery pursuit.  'The world is a shithole', he yelled from the French windows of the family's Long Island estate. 'It has become a swamp of idolatry'.

God only knows how DNA strands get twisted and tangled, and whatever drove Uncle David around the bend might have been passed on to Barky; but that was no solace whatsoever as old Mr. Lodge watched his son bang on like a black preacher, as wild and crazy as a Biblical prophet. 

It was true.  Barky's racial exhilaration became the first sign of a disordered sense of priorities, followed by a feeling of righteous anointment, concluded by lunacy.  He remained at Yale only because of the Yale chaplain, but his interest in his studies was desultory at best.  The University had just opened its doors to all comers, retreating from a centuries-old principle of the best and the brightest and so had attracted social marginalia who, far from the probity and good manners of the well-to-do stood out but had to be tolerated. 

Although Yale was well aware of Barky's legacy and the generous alumni contributions of his family and therefore surprised at his wild transformation, let him stay on.  He was still one of theirs, not to be dismissed lightly or out of hand. 

After Yale, Barky became a man for whom no cause of social injustice could be ignored.  He became a champion of the black man, women, and gay men; and an outspoken anti-capitalist.  It was capitalism, he said, that was the root cause of inequality, oppression, discrimination, and social abuse.  Unless the system was changed such depravity would continue.


When climate change became the big issue of the day, Barky knew he had finally found his calling.  Everything - all social evils and moral ineptitude - fell under the dark cloud of an incinerating environment.  All the had to hear were the words, 'Global Warming Is Real' and he was a true believer; and here the twisted genes of Uncle David did in fact kick in.  He knew - he felt in his bones - that the predictions of a climate Armageddon were undeniably, absolutely true.  One did not have any further than the violent storms, droughts, heat waves, tornadoes, and hurricanes which were increasing in frequency and intensity every year.  


The old feeling of apostlehood germinated in the freedom busses to Selma now flowered.  Climate change was his Calvary, his resurrection, his transubstantiation, and his second coming. He came as close to prayer as he ever had - not in any traditional sense but in the immanent power of nature.  The Egyptian gods were angry. 

The prophecy of a climate Armageddon touched many people, and Barky who once thought he was alone in his particular vision of the future, found himself surrounded by like-minded, impassioned apostles of truth.  They had no need for parsing the rate of Arctic melting, changes in the Gulf and Humboldt currents, or geological records.  Some things are just received wisdom, infallible truths with no need of proof, ironically no different from Christians' abject belief in miracles or the presence of Satan.  One simply knew the truth. 

And so it was that Barkhamsted Lodge went on a St. Vitus' dance of prophecy.  He went from auditorium to pulpit to whistle stop with increasing passion, The Demon Of Fleet Street reincarnated said the New York Times 'a man of savage conviction, and razor-sharp bloodlust'. It wasn't long, however, before this passion turned hysterical.  He began howling and moaning at the very mention of climate change, but the religious-minded could see the agony and ecstasy of St. Theresa, St. Timothy, and the other tortured, tormented saints of Christianity.  His speeches ended in what had to be called a spiritual orgasm. 


Within a year he was interned at St. Elizbeth's where he joined his Uncle David, two peas in a pod, on the same ward, talking the same nonsense but each believing in their prophecy. 

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