Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Night Ocean

[I wrote this last summer while on holiday at sea.]
Tonight, I took a walk. As I came to the boardwalk, leading to the ocean, I turned on my flashlight, because I was afraid. I kept walking. Upon passing over the dunes, I fanned the light around, and I saw beach chairs and umbrellas, and a tent, left there overnight. Closer to the ocean, crossing the high tide line, I glanced down, to see flash into the hole...something.

I looked around, and in the ground, I saw a dozen holes, right near me, each an inch wide. Looking down the beach, there were more, some only a few inches, one from another. Then, I nearly stepped on it, a sand crab. I took its picture, and then got down close, but it shot into its hole. I found many others, some would hold still, and I would photograph them, but often, I'd take the picture, look down, and the crab would be gone, but my camera got him. I was stepping carefully, afraid I'd step on one, they were all around.

Looking at the crabs, I imagined them running up to me, all around me, in a swarm, and cutting and poisoning me.

When I had taken about twenty pictures of them, I walked back across the high tide line, away from the ocean. I stood there, in the dry, loose sand, looking at the ocean and the dark, cloudy sky, listening to the waves crash. I had been afraid near the crabs, but when freed from that distraction, I was even more afraid, looking at the ocean and the sky and the dark. I was asphyxiated. I was small.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Gap

God put on skin and lived with us. Ordinarily, this is thought of as a bridge between the mundane and the transcendent.

What is the gap between God and people made out of? The Greeks put deities up on a mountain, or underground, beyond the river Styx. Ancient Mesopotamians built ziggurats so that the gods could come down into their cities and bring them favor; they'd even build shrines at the top of these ziggurats, with a cot and snacks, so that the gods could take a break on their way down.

In the myths, the gods had the personalities of Jerry Springer guests; man made gods in his own image. Gods would go to the bathrooms, take naps, go on holiday at the beach. Wars were caused by divine domestic disputes. In the Akkadian flood myth, Enlil started a deluge, because there were too many noisy people, so he had trouble sleeping.

The gap is simple; the gods are just big people with superpowers.

From Or else, what?

God put on skin and lived with us. God drank wine, he partied, he felt pity. God went to the bathroom, he took naps, and he went on holiday at the beach. He didn't look very big. He used his superpowers not as if they were the thing that separated him from us, but what made it so we could coexist with him. The gap was still there.

What was the gap, then?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Is God a Christian Existentialist?

The Kingdom of God is like a merchant, who went browsing at a bazaar, and found a peculiarly underpriced pearl. He eBayed his PSP and his Hummer and he got a second mortgage on his condo, so he could have the cash to quickly and discretely buy this pearl, and then resell it. I forget what he bought with the profit, but that's beside the point.

The Kingdom of God is like a utility worker, installing telephone poles in rural, undeveloped land. Once, his pole digger hit something, and made a strange noise. "Treasure!", this bloke thought, and he discretely filled the pole hole, and went on his way. When five o'clock came, he pawned his NASCAR jacket, hunting gun, and his pick-up, he even sold his dog, to buy the land with the treasure in it. Once he struck it rich...

The way these stories were always explained to me, when I was a small child, gluing down cotton-ball sheep in Sunday School, was that I was like the merchant or the utility worker, and I had to give up my stuff so that I could get the better stuff from God. But, what if God was the merchant or the utility worker? What if God was like the stronger man, who beat up the strong man, and stole souls in the middle of the night? What if it's not me, but God, who's like the shrewd servant, who, when he saw that he was about to lose his job, defrauded his boss to butter up the competition?

What did God give up, so that he could have more? What was the PSP, and what was the pearl? What was the truck, and what was the treasure?

Jesus told me I should die, and then I can live. I ought to give away all my stuff, so that I can have way more stuff. This is what Christian existentialism is made of, losing stuff to gain, sacrificing Isaac to have more children than grains of sand on the beach or stars in the sky, pouring water on my altar so that my offering can burn.

Is God a Christian existentialist?

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Dirty Jokes, my Parents

Dad came back from Utah, and was telling Mom and me about a sign that he saw in an authentic western steakhouse: "A good cowgirl keeps her calves together and her gate shut."

When I was moving onto campus for the first time, Mom was with me to help out. We had to go to University Health Services because I needed a meningitis shot. Mom saw a bowl of condoms, set out like a bowl of candy. Reaching for them, she suddenly realized her mistake, "I thought they were Jolly Ranchers!" I do suppose you could call them that.

[Note: my parents aren't skanky, nor are they repressed. I just thought these were pretty funny jokes.]

Monday, August 4, 2008

Dinosaurs and Jesus

I can not relate at all to people who see the life of a Christian as a series of steps. I've called myself a Christian for as long as I can remember, and I feel like I'm still on step one. If that. I'm agnostic about two days a week.

When I was four, I loved dinosaurs. I read lots of books about dinosaurs, I had plastic toy dinosaurs, my favorite was the triceratops. I was going to be a paleontologist when I grew up.

One of the dinosaur books I had was The Great Dinosaur Mystery and The Bible, a terrible piece of creationist propaganda. One of the things this book suggested was, maybe, dinosaurs are still around, deep in the jungles somewhere. When I read that, I thought, "When I grow up, I'll go look for dinosaurs in the jungle, and I'll prove wrong those evolutionists, and then people will know God is real."

I think I feel sort of the same way about finding Jesus now, but maybe with a little less of a sense of proving people wrong.