“The Rose,” by Amanda McBroom (1979)
Some say love, it is a river
That drowns the tender reed.
Some say love, it is a razor
That leaves your soul to bleed.
Some say love, it is a hunger,
An endless aching need.
I say love, it is a flower,
And you it’s only seed.
It’s the heart afraid of breaking
That never learns to dance.
It’s the dream afraid of waking
That never takes the chance.
It’s the one who won’t be taken
Who cannot seem to give.
And the soul afraid of dyin’
That never learns to live.
When the night has been too lonely
And the road has been too long,
And you think that love is only
For the lucky and the strong,
Just remember in the winter,
Far beneath the bitter snows,
Lies the seed that with the sun’s love
In the spring becomes the rose.
“A perfect man, knowing that God has willed and wills him to have sinned, in loving God’s honor wills that he had sinned…. He also knows that God would not permit him to sin if it were not for his own betterment.”
This was one of the more controversial ideas presented by the medieval German theologian Eckhart von Hochheim, more widely known as Meister Eckhart, a priest and teacher who was condemned for heresy despite his many followers in the late 1320s. He died before a verdict could be reached.
It’s also a quote from the book sitting on Ray Velcoro’s coffee table that Ani Bezzerides picks up while he’s busy being shamed by his ex-wife on his front porch in True Detective‘s Episode 2.3, “Maybe Tomorrow.”
Will Ray be punished for murdering his ex-wife’s rapist (which we have to assume he actually did at this point)? Does he deserve to be?
Here’s an excerpt: “Meister Eckhart…is in line with tradition in the person of Thomas Aquinas in the explanation he gives for God’s permission of evil: ‘The existence of evil is required by the perfection of the universe, and evil itself exists in what is good and is ordered to the good of the universe, which is what creation primarily and necessarily regards.’ Nevertheless, it must be said that like most strongly Neoplatonist theologians, Eckhart had little appreciation for the demonic power of evil, and when he extended his remarks into the area of moral evil, or sin, his Neoplatonic optimism led him to paradoxical positions that his inquisitors were to condemn as heretical. If evil can exist only in and through what is good, and if God allows it to be only for the sake of the good of the universe, Eckhart reasoned, then sin too exists only in and for the good and cannot be separated from it. Hence the startling expressions that upset his judges, such as, ‘In every work, even in an evil, I repeat, in one evil both according to punishment and guilt, God’s glory is revealed and shines forth in equal fashion.'”
Eckhart believed that sin was necessary. Or that God allowed humans to sin because even sins eventually led to a greater good, could be part of a larger plan.
Nic Pizzolatto told Vanity Fair earlier this year that the second season of True Detective would be “a detective story in the manner of Oedipus Rex, in which ‘the detective is searching and searching and searching, and the culprit is him.’” Could it be that this crime committed years ago by Ray Velcoro has led him to his current investigation? He might be that detective Pizzolatto referred to, searching and searching and searching without realizing that he’s to blame for setting all of this in motion, all because of one fateful meeting with Frank Semyon. I can’t imagine why his backstory would be so crucial to this season’s main plot otherwise.
When Ray’s ex-wife calls him a bad person, he tells her that what he did was an act of natural law. If he adheres to Eckhart’s teachings, he likely believes he will be forgiven for it, that his sin was part of the order of things. Or maybe he’s reading that book because he’s trying to assuage his guilt over having taken a man’s life using vigilante justice, not to mention all the violence he’s inflicted at Semyon’s command over the years.
If Velcoro’s path reads anything like Eckhart’s, he might die before he ever hears a verdict. As the dream apparition of his father says in this episode, “Oh son, they kill you. They shoot you to pieces.” If the dream was prophetic, does Ray have the chance to prevent the shooting from happening? To stop his own condemnation?
“Maybe Tomorrow” is an episode filled with exposition like this. There was a lot of just moving the story along, minor details about various characters, showing various people on the hunt. There was mob violence, talking to hookers, explosions and action sequences. It felt a little like an episode of CSI.
But this is still a smart show, and episodes like this one are necessary sometimes. Pizzolatto did still offer up a few little character totems here and there. Each of these characters got a little more dimensional this week, if you looked closely enough.
Ray’s dream starts with a Conway Twitty impersonator standing in Elvis-like garb in an Elvis-like prayer pose, so right away you know there’s something spiritual going on here. Either that, or Conway/Elvis has had one too many Fool’s Gold sandwiches (that’s grilled peanut butter, blueberry jelly and bacon in a full sourdough loaf, for the laymen), and can’t stand up. A position Ray’s doctor likely imagines he gets stuck in every day, since he has “every bad habit.”
The impersonator starts singing “The Rose,” a song performed by Bette Midler in the eponymous film in the 1970s. It’s a very simple song…it repeats over and over again, with no real chorus. But it was a chart-topper at the time, and again when Twitty recorded it.
The rose, the flower itself, is a highly religious symbol. Though Christians viewed the practice as paganism, Greeks used to adorn their heads with roses. In Greco-Roman culture, “The rose represented beauty, the season of spring (for example, as the flower of Aphrodite/Venus), and love. It also spoke of the fleetness of life and therefore death. Thus the flower referred to the next world: In Rome the feast called ‘Rosalia’ was a feast of the dead,” writes Rev. Theodore A. Koehler, S.M., in an article for the Marian Library at the University of Dayton, Ohio.
According to Koehler, “The first Christian use of the rose appears in scenes representing the next world, that is, paradise.” So right off the bat, we know that Velcoro’s booth is not situated in the Black Rose bar (aptly named) in Vinci, where he often meets Frank Semyon, but rather some otherworldly realm. Heaven? Maybe. Hell? We can’t be sure. All we know is that when he asks, “Where is this?” his father’s response is “I don’t know. You were here first.”
So is Ray asking about where the chase in the woods (I assume his father is talking about redwoods, since they are so close to Big Sur, and he describes trees that look like giants) takes place? Or is he inquiring about his current whereabouts? And if his father says, “You were here first,” does he mean that this is the afterlife and Ray died before he did—i.e., Ray was there already to greet him when he arrived?
Or perhaps he’s referring to an otherworldly place in the Carolyn Myss sense, one where you plan what your life will be before you live it. Myss teaches that each person lives by a sacred contract their soul makes before they’re born, a philosophy she partly came up with after reading the work of the Greek writer Plato: “In the tenth and final book of his great work The Republic, Plato relates the ‘Myth of Er.’ In brief, the story concerns a Greek soldier named Er who is left for dead on the battlefield. Twelve days later he awakens on his own funeral pyre, and later tells a remarkable tale of what he observed while he was suspended between life and death. Er found himself in a kind of way station between Heaven and Earth where souls were passing from one plane to the other. Dead souls were waiting to be judged and assigned to their reward or punishment, while other souls prepared for their journey to Earth. Some were old souls returning for another go-round; others were freshly minted and awaiting their first life on Earth. At one point the waiting souls are presented with many possible life scenarios, and are advised to choose from these ‘samples of lives.’ Plato informs us that ‘there were many more lives than the souls present, and they were of all sorts. There were lives of every animal and of man in every condition,’ including tyrants.
“Before entering life on the Earth plane, however, the souls were led to the plain of Forgetfulness, a barren waste with no vegetation, where they were required to drink from the river of Unmindfulness. They then promptly forgot everything that had just happened to them. The reason should be obvious: If you know in advance exactly what’s going to happen in your life, you would have great difficulty making decisions or taking actions that are intended to teach you something, often through painful experiences. You might naturally be reluctant to begin a relationship with someone who you knew would hurt you, even though you needed to learn a valuable lesson from that person.
“Whether we take this myth literally or simply as a teaching device of Plato’s, we can use it to gain a higher perspective on our life. If you think of your life’s direction as something to which you have agreed, then what formerly seemed like arbitrary or even absurd conditions can be seen in another light. They are part of the roadmap that you’ve agreed to follow. Each event, each person of any significance whom you encounter, has an agreed-on role in your learning experience. Sometimes the learning is difficult because you don’t always surrender to the situation. It may take time for you to see the reasons for it. But the sooner you do, the less painful it becomes.”
I wouldn’t put it past Pizzolatto to have studied Plato or even Myss. Considering his characters’ monologues about life’s seeming meaninglessness (both Eliot Bezzerides and Rust Cohle pontificate on this), as a writer he seems quite obsessed with God’s existence or lack of one.
So if Ray is revisiting a kind of limbo realm, where you decide how your life is going to unfold, it makes sense for his father to say, “You were here first.” But if he is dreaming, then this bar exists in his subconscious mind. Some believe dying and leaving your body is similar to entering a dream world. Semyon says later in the episode when Lucia the waitress asks what happened to Ray, “He was murdered.” Maybe Ray did die for a moment, and the force of the rubber buckshot made his soul astrally project—note how he breathes deeply when he comes to, as though his spirit has reentered his body.
Here’s how Wikipedia explains this: “Astral projection or travel denotes the astral body leaving the physical body to travel in an astral plane. The idea of astral travel is rooted in common worldwide religious accounts of the afterlife in which the consciousness’s or soul’s journey or ‘ascent’ is described in such terms as ‘an… out-of body experience, wherein the spiritual traveler leaves the physical body and travels in his/her subtle body (or dreambody or astral body) into “higher” realms.’ It is frequently reported in association with dreams, and forms of meditation. Patients have reported feelings similar to the descriptions of astral projection induced through various hallucinogenic and hypnotic (including self-hypnotic) means…. According to classical, medieval and renaissance Hermeticism, Neoplatonism, and later Theosophist and Rosicrucian thought, the astral body is an intermediate body of light linking the rational soul to the physical body, while the astral plane is an intermediate world of light between Heaven and Earth, composed of the spheres of the planets and stars. These astral spheres were held to be populated by angels, demons and spirits. The subtle bodies, and their associated planes of existence, form an essential part of the esoteric systems that deal with astral phenomena.”
Psychics like Echo Bodine teach that the astral body leaves your actual body every night when you sleep. The astral body is connected to your physical body via a silver cord (this idea was also explored a bit in the film Insidious). Bodine says that when you die, that silver cord is simply severed, and your astral body is free of a hefty weight, much like removing a heavy Halloween costume.
“It’s the soul afraid of dyin’ that never learns to live…”
When Ray “wakes up,” he’s more aware of the preciousness of his life. His doctor asks him if he wants to live, because it doesn’t seem so, based on how he’s been treating his body. He stares at him blankly, seriously considering the question.
It’s why he thinks to jump out and save Ani later in the episode, when she runs in front of a moving truck. He has a newfound respect for life, something Ani seems oblivious to. But that might be because she lives as though she’s already dead.
Though it didn’t appear in this episode, Antigone’s talisman book showed up in Episode 2.1, “The Western Book of the Dead.” She keeps a copy of Hagakure: The Code of the Samurai right next to her books on knife throwing.
An excerpt: “If a warrior is not unattached to life and death, he will be of no use whatsoever. The saying that ‘All abilities come from one mind’ sounds as though it has to do with sentient matters, but it is in fact a matter of being unattached to life and death. With such non-attachment, one can accomplish any feat. Every day without fail one should consider himself as dead.
“Meditation on inevitable death should be performed daily. Every day when one’s body and mind are at peace, one should meditate upon being ripped apart by arrows, rifles, spears and swords; being carried away by surging wave; being thrown into the midst of a great fire; being struck by lightning; being shaken to death by a great earthquake; falling from thousand-foot cliffs; dying of disease or committing seppuku at the death of one’s master. And every day without fail one should consider himself as dead. There is a saying of the elders’ that goes, ‘Step from under the eaves and you’re a dead man. Leave the gate and the enemy is waiting.’ This is not a matter of being careful. It is to consider oneself as dead beforehand.”
If one lives as though she is already dead, detached from worrying about life or death, it’s easier to stay focused on being a warrior…it’s also easier to end relationships and avoid romantic entanglements, which Ani does rather coldly this episode.
She tells her colleague that if he talks to her so crassly again, he’ll go home with his teeth in a baggie. Strangely, Frank Semyon goes farther than threatening that this episode, when he removes Danny Santos’s grill. This is also the second time a man is called “small” in the episode—Ray’s dream dad says he’s small, and not very fast; Santos tells Frank he might be tall, but he’s really “little.” Another repeating theme is oral sex—at least three instances or mentions of it this time. And a second instance of a man who’s incapable of being aroused by it (though this wasn’t due to a repressed sexual preference—it’s difficult for Frank Semyon to focus on making babies when his financial empire is crashing down around him).
Did anyone else get the impression that Frank and Paul actually know each other this episode? When they bump into each other at Lux Infinitum (luxury forever—that seems like the perfect hangout for the higher-ups of Vinci), Frank looks furious and Paul has a moment of recognition—it’s as though Paul goofed, being in the same place as Frank at the same time.
The only totem that might be connected to Paul so far is the gay man dressed like an angel—he spots him a second time this episode, like he’s part of an Ironic Process Theory experiment (e.g., when you’re told not to picture a polar bear, all you can do is picture a polar bear—what you resist persists).
As for animal symbolism, there wasn’t much in this third installment. In one scene, though, the camera rested for an awfully long time on the painting in Frank Semyon’s office. We’ve seen it in every episode so far—it’s a rendering of a caiman fighting a South American coral snake called Alligator and Snake 1730, by 18th-century botanical artist Maria Sibylla Merian. In this particular battle, neither animal is truly the stronger predator. My brother pointed out to me that even if one animal wins, he still loses: The snake who swallows the alligator might explode—a very real problem in the Everglades as of late—and if the alligator kills the snake, he might be stung by his venom in the process. One interesting thing about coral snakes, though—some are venomous, and some aren’t. The rhyme to remember is “Red to yellow, kill a fellow; red to black, venom lack.” A pretty good analogy for Frank Semyon—he really plays up his victimhood this episode (“Who, huh! Who the fuck’s coming after me?”).
It’s difficult to tell at this point how much of a victim, how good of a man, Frank truly is. He’s a former crime boss, and therefore a master manipulator. He doesn’t seem all that out of sorts when Ray tells him he got shot. “What are you going on about now?” he says, like it’s a minor infraction. But he freaks out when Stan (a character we’ve barely been introduced to) shows up dead. It all seems like a big show.
The coral snake in Merian’s painting doesn’t have red and yellow alternating stripes—it’s red on top, yellow on the bottom. Who’s to say which end is up here? Whether or not it’s venomous is an enigma, just like Frank’s decency. And Paul’s motivations in this investigation (remember, he tells his friend/former war buddy/ex-lover that he’s “half working for state” on solving the case—who else is he working for?).
Some unanswered questions in “Maybe Tomorrow”: Ray says the rubber buckshot was the kind cops use. It’s only legal for civilians to carry weapons that contain rubber buckshot in three countries, and they’re all in the Eastern Bloc. Russia is one of them. Also, the coroner last episode said the way Caspere was killed was very specific and neat, almost surgical—and the Russian mafia is known for their precision in such things. Stan showed up with his eyes missing, just like Caspere. Seems there’s a good chance that Tony is involved in organizing these orgies/parties and hiring these Easter European prostitutes (and there’s a good chance his step-mother was one before she married his father). Tony’s also a gifted impressionist; he’s a man of many voices, like the serial murderer in the first season of True Detective. Another important clue.
And as if we hadn’t heard enough about eye symbolism, Pizzolatto has Veronica (anyone else find it weird that the Chessani household is basically an Archie comic? His daughter is named Betty) tell the cops that her marijuana is “medicine for her eyes.”
Meister Eckhart had a few thoughts on eyes, in connection to man’s relationship to God. The most important one was “The eye through which I see God is also the eye through which God sees me.” What happens if you die and your soul no longer has eyes, then?
This was a tricky episode. “Maybe tomorrow” is what you say the day before you end a bad habit. But “maybe tomorrow” is also what you say before you go to sleep and dream.
Until next time, “I’m positively apoplectic.”
“Maybe This Time,” by Fred Ebb (1972)
Maybe this time, I’ll be lucky,
Maybe this time he’ll stay.
Maybe this time, for the first time,
Love won’t hurry away.
He will hold me fast,
I’ll be home at last,
Not a loser anymore,
Like the last time, and the time before.
Everybody loves a winner,
So nobody loved me.
Lady peaceful, Lady happy,
That’s what I long to be.
All the odds are, they’re in my favor,
Something’s bound to begin.
It’s gotta happen, ha ha, happen sometime.
Maybe this time I’ll win.
‘Cause everybody, they love a winner,
So nobody loves me.
Lady peaceful, Lady happy,
That’s what I long to be.
All the odds are, they’re in my favor,
Something’s bound to begin.
It’s gonna happen, happen sometime,
Maybe this time, maybe this time I’ll win.