I am a caterpillar in a cocoon (sure), living on a volcanically active zone (simmering), train off its tracks, sitting at a poker game with one guy who has a gun that might be loaded, and he might be in a bad mood. I think all things are bearable with metaphor.
When I visited the sisters at the monastery, several of them insisted to me that God wants me to have a great life, and love it, and be happy. I sometimes remembered to ask the sisters at my table if they needed anything when I got up to get more water or a miniature bucket of jelly. Maybe they have enough faith for me, and the whole point of the monastery is that nobody has to have all the hope or all the faith all the time.
I’m happy they think God wants me happy, but I have my doubts. Both about God having an opinion, and about God not being secretly, deeply angry with me. I have the deep, deep down ambiguous guilt of someone who says they never feel guilty, and says the confession every week but is never sure what I am sorry for, apart from lacking humility. Humility feels good, and I am sure when I go without it, I am worse off.
Last week I happened to go to the noon mass when we read about Joseph of Arimathea. He is one of my favorite characters. I wrote poetry when I first started writing, and I loved writing about him. He offers a tomb for Jesus’ body, which is such a useless, honorable gesture. The fact is, Jesus’ body doubtless rotted out or was eaten by dogs or something else awful.
The later story is this man who is scared to make a move while Jesus is alive, knows this teacher he thinks is amazing and is never ballsy enough to do anything about it, so he throws this last action at the situation: take my tomb, please. And the story about how they perfume Jesus’ body with great respect and bury him with great respect. It’s a story about the essence of goodness and love, which is to love and be respectful when it doesn’t even matter, to respect even the dead. And a rescue of Christian thought from potential prudishness, from a potential dismissal of the physical body and the tenderness it deserves. I think it’s even sweeter for being, historically speaking, completely absurd.
Nothing in my life seems real, or has seemed real, since I moved, but that begs the question: what made things seem real? I can’t answer that.
I was sure that I loved my life before, apart from the old-maid business which has its up side, anyway, and suddenly lacking a life, it does throw that into relief. A lot of people, I guess, don’t like their lives at all. A lot of people don’t like their jobs, and live mostly out of fear rather than hope, and through luck and choices in some proportion, I loved my job, and I lived mostly in hope.
I know, I know, I’ll have a job eventually, and then I will begin to dread going back to work, even work that I love. I know, I know, all this anxiety is a great teacher, and I am living more of the truth, without possessions or a regular home, than I was before. There will be yet other things that will make me anxious.
When I went to Yellowstone, I couldn’t believe that underneath us was all that live wire earth, a place where geology diagrams come to life. Under us were all those forces it’s hard to believe in when you’ve never seen magma or felt an earthquake. The earth is moving! Seriously! We pulled into the Old Faithful parking lot and I opened the car door just as Old Faithful went from mumbling to yelling. I scrambled out. I had heard about this thing forever, of course, but I had no idea how often it did its thing, or how long the thing would go on.
It was like the Fourth of July, a lot of people lined up looking out for something that no one was quite sure when it would start, although we were lined up on a boardwalk that is built to keep people the proper distance away, and we were all watching this thing spray. It looked like a water pipe had had a problem, but we had been told, no, this is actually a natural phenomena, and very rare.
People have been standing out there watching this thing do its thing for at least 143 years. I heard many different languages that day: German, Chinese, French. I can’t imagine what the first people to find it must have thought. No one else can, either. These things, of which Old Faithful is only the largest and most, uh, faithful, squirt boiling water. Their relatives nearby make horrible smells and crazy colors.
We watched the thing go, and go, and then it calmed down, got shorter, and took its break. This was proof that under the earth there is power, and that people find things that are inexplicable, and that humans, who allegedly now have no attention span and are only interested in things on screens, will gather repeatedly in huge numbers to watch water spray up in the sky. It was amazing.