rev reading

Readers’ Digress

How’s this week’s sermon going, Reverend?”,

a well-wisher asked today.

“Oh..Well, you know. Actually it’s on the back burner”, I responded vaguely, “but I have been making excellent progress on my project to turn the Digression in Literature into a respected Artform“.

“That I can well believe”, muttered my jaded friend,

with what I felt to be unwarranted cynicism.

“No, I’m serious“, I declared passionately”, I believe that the Digression has been seriously undervalued as a Literary Device.

I intend to re-invigorate the Form!”

“For example”, I continued, elucidating my theory further,

“Did you know, that in 1852, Hermann von Helmholtz

discovered that the speed of Electricity in frogs is 27 metres per second? A fact he discovered, naturally, by sewing a whole bunch of frogs together and running an electric current through them”.

“Good God!” exclaimed my appalled (vegan) friend, “Why on Earth did he do that?”

“I have no idea”, I replied blithely”, it’s just the sort of thing scientists get up to when they’re left unattended I suppose. .

It isn’t really relevant to what we’re talking about anyway”.

h frog scared

“Then why mention it at all”, muttered my overly sensitive friend, still clearly disturbed by the vision of old Professor von Helmholtz industriously sewing frogs together.

“I have no idea. Possibly it will have some relevance later on in the conversation. I might have reason to refer back to it later on to illustrate or augment another point I may subsequently come to make. In which case the Story I’m expounding will gain new resonances and develop subtle harmonic relationships between the various elements of the Plot, such as it is.

Yes, I’ve learned to trust my brain’s subconscious processes in the selection of material it tosses up, often seemingly at random, but ultimately a pattern usually emerges”.

And even if that little digression doesn’t prove to be relevant

in the fullness of time, nonetheless it performs

an essential function in the Art of story telling”.

“Oh yes,” sneered my disbelieving associate,

“what as? Filler?”

“More than mere ‘filler’ my friend.

The Digression plays an active part in defining

the parameters of relevance. Further, the Aesthetic Effect is not to be disregarded either, a well placed Digression

can add considerably to a story’s charm and Individuality.

H frog angry

Take for example, ‘the Shaggy Dog Story’,

arguably the Digression’s most developed literary form.

Here the key to a successful Digression is to maintain

the tenuous thread of relevance almost to breaking point.

This creates a kind of pleasurable tension between

the Digression, and the Story’s natural tendency to Progression.

The Principle is similar to that which Music operates by,

which depends on patterns of alternating Tension and Release.

This Tension and Release is created through

of using Dissonance and Resolution to create a sense

of Momentum overcoming Inertia. The interest for our ears is in the Struggle.

Now, whereas Music is based on Dissonance and Resolution,

Literature is based on the dynamic interplay of Digress and Progress to achieve similar aesthetic effects.

Indeed Progress and Digress are the Yin and Yang,

or if you prefer, the Woof and Weave

upon which the whole Tapestry of Literature

is woven, from Tristan Shandy

to Game of Thrones.

Or perhaps Digress and Progress are more like

Conjoined Twins,

always fighting to tear themselves apart

but forever inexorably shackled by the same flesh.”

“Can you please think of another Metaphor”, asked my friend,

who was admittedly looking a little nauseous.


“Ok how about this then; they’re like Boxing Kangaroos?

Of course Kangaroos don’t really box,

they just kick with their back legs.

Well I suppose it could be Kickboxing,

or maybe Thai-Boxing..I think they use their feet

in that too. Not that kangaroos actually have feet either,

they’re more like elongated paws.

In fact, now I think of it, Kangaroos doing Thai-boxing

just doesn’t seem right somehow. Not very Team Australia,

if you know what I mean. So lets forget the whole analogy

and stick to the tension/release thing.

boxing kjangaroo hates cameras boxing knagaroo goes for family jewels boxing kangaroos

But of course, here as elsewhere, Art/Literature does no more than Imitate Life Itself! Think about it!

Our whole Life is nothing but a series of Digressions!

I mean take Television for example. One minute you’re

watching a documentary on the Pyramids

or Agatha Christie is about to denoue somebody in the parlour,

then, whap! Your suddenly whacked sideways by

a Commercial for Tampons! What is that

but a complete bloody Digression!”

“I’m not sure Television Commercials count

as either Life or Art,” demurred my fragile friend,

but I was up on my High Horse by now,

and had already ridden off a considerable distance

beyond hearing range..(possibly the same Range

those Cowboys are always singing about)

wild west poster

“Boomers and Boosters are always going on about Progress”,

I continued, my eyes alight and fixed on the far horizon,but if you ask me I think this is an Illusion. Or possibly a Delusion.

Yes I believe, the Human Race is actually Digressing,

not Progressing, and we’re actually getting further and further away from the point of Whatever it is Life‘s supposed to be All About.

I can just picture baby Jebus sitting round up there in Heaven,

waiting for the Apocalypse to roll around so he can get on

with judging the Quick and the Dead,

but Humanity just keeps on procrastinating

and getting Distracted, you know,

asking irrelevant questions like,

“Well but what about Buddhism then?

Lets give that a go for a few centuries”,


“How about we investigate the speed of Electricity in Frogs?

That’ll help kill the time till the Industrial Revolution?” the point where the whole Rapture is well overdue,

and Jebus is all like,

“Time Gentlemen, please. Finish your drinks!”

and did you notice how good old Professor Helmholtz’s

frogs have worked their way back into the conversation?

Ha! And I’ll bet you though they were irrelevant!,” I exclaimed triumphantly, ” in fact the case of Professor von Hemholtz

and the electric frogs illustrates my point perfectly.”

“Consider! Heres old  Prof HVH, a respected Scientist

famous for his many (other) contributions to our

understanding of the Forces of Electricity.

So Famous he even appears on stamps (and Lord knows how we’re going to be able to celebrate the Lives of our Famous Scientists/Sporting Heroes when the

facile email of tomorrow totally replaces

the lovingly hand-written missives of yesteryear

and there are no more stamps.

Its the stamp collectors I feel sorry for, though I imagine

their stamp collection’s Value will rise astronomical)y);

hernman stamp W frogred

of an Oscar lurking in the wings.”

And yet this “Great Man of Science” nontheless

was  human enough to totally digress from

his epoch creating work, and make the time

to see how fast he could run an electric current

through frogs. What the practical applications could be

            from this line of research I shudder to consider. Today’s  Scientists don’t even like to talk about the science a bad name doncha know, it’s hard enough with all that hoo-haa over spraying perfume into rabbits eyes the Animal Rights mob are always going on about. Anyway where was I? Oh Yes..

h frogdancing

                Lets just say that it’s not the sort of thing they give    Nobel Prizes for,

although I can see the possibility

“I’m not sure I understand what you’re saying,”

my weary friend moaned.

“Oh it probably doesn’t mean anything at all,”

I reassured him,” By this stage I don’t even know

what I’m saying anymore,

I just like the sound of the Words.”

“Don’t you have a Sermon to write?” he snapped at last.

“Not anymore,” I assured him,”not anymore.”

reverend profile red


loose Jaypig



The Reverend Hellfire is a practising Performance Poet, President of the Kurilpa Institute of Creativity and an ordained Minister for the Church of Spiritual Humanism AND the Church of the Universe.

Pretends to be worse than he is so

it’ll be a surprise when you discover the Truth!




~ by reverendhellfire on October 12, 2014.

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