Hedged Bets

“I had to invent death because none of you hold still long enough to sort out what matters,” God told me this morning as I rushed around, distracted, getting ready for a demanding day.

“Well, that sounds vindictive,” I said. The toast was burned, and I’d just poured sour cream in my coffee.  “Inventing death might be creative, but I assume you’re aware that the living prefer to stay alive.”

“I know,” God admitted. “I haven’t worked out all the kinks yet, but I have good intentions.”

The Subdivisions of God began their own conversation. The Source of Transformation looked down at her hands. “I’m not proud of causing so much fear,” she admitted to the others. “And such grief.”

Liquid God spoke from the banks of the drought-reduced river. “It is in sorrow and weakness they find their way,” he said. “But it’s hard to accept drying  up, having less to offer.”

God the Rodeo tried to sell everyone tickets, promising rides on the bucking broncs, but the Rest of God refused. “I’m sick and tired of the cacophony,” she said, her voice deep and mountainous, her presence profoundly still.

I wanted the others to go away. I wanted only her.

“See?” God said, merging back into Oneness.

“No, I don’t see,” I protested. “Being surrounded by peace is different than being dead.”

“Is it?” God asked. “How would you know?”

“Just a hunch.” I shrugged. Then I reached into my pocket and pulled out a fat roll of rodeo tickets. “Hedging my bets,” I admitted with a sheepish grin.

The corral gate swung open, and God the Rodeo raced toward me on a shiny black stallion. “Let’s go, pardner!” he hollered.

I ran toward him, and just like in the movies, God reached down and swung me up on the back of the sweaty horse. I wrapped my arms tight around his lean waist, and together, we galloped madly toward what we knew was the setting sun.

To my astonishment, I saw the Rest of God ahead, clearing away debris from the flood. And Liquid God had pooled up so we could quench our thirst. The surface of the water was so smooth there was no difference between my reflection and my face.

With reverence, we dismounted and kneeled to drink.

Inertia

Bodies at rest tend to stay at rest. Bodies in motion tend to stay in motion. This morning, both God and I are disinclined to change momentum. My feet are warm, my coffee hot, the view familiar. God is hurtling comfortably through space in his version of a Lazy Boy recliner, planets and stars aligned just so. I have no need to bother him. He sighs and settles deeper, ready for a nap. We are both at a loss to explain this uneasy contentedness. It’s not like we’ve achieved perfection. In fact, most efforts toward perfection backfire; thus, by being at rest, maybe we are making progress. And besides, stillness is a mirage. Even if God nods off, digestion continues. Neurons fire. The heart beats. The cosmic clock ticks, and the train leaves the station for parts unknown.

Two years ago, we bought 16 fluffy chicks. There are nine hens left. We gave away the five whites. A racoon got one of the reds, and I killed the rooster. It was self-defense. I was scattering food, unarmed and inattentive. I turned, and there he was, talons bared, eyes sparking with deadly malice. He flew at me. I beat him back and yelled, thinking that would take care of it. He regrouped and attacked with even greater resolve. My benign superiority was replaced with rage. How dare he come after me again? I put my hood up to protect my head, grabbed both of his stringy legs, and whirled his body in the air, using his weight as momentum to smash his head into a nearby cement block. It took three full circles to finish the job. I have few regrets.

My plans for the future include working hard to leave behind sustainable shelter and healthy garden soil. I’ve taken to writing notes to the children of the future, hiding these missives in places they might be found a hundred years from now. A hundred years. A very long time from the perspective of my fingers on the keyboard. Barely a passing twinkle in the eye of God. Barely a twinkle. But for now, God dozes open-mouthed and innocent, and I hold myself faithfully quiet. God needs the rest, and I need the façade of stillness to welcome the coming day and accept the overwhelming complexities of being momentarily assembled in the form I know of as myself.

Jerusalem

There is joy in an empty morning, especially if it is tinted slightly turquoise or gentile orange. Wait. I meant genteel. Not gentile. Where did that come from? Oh well. Too late. My mind has gone down the rabbit hole of the middle east and the histories of whole cultures and artificial delineations that have led to pathetic claims of superiority and audacious acts of murder or full-on genocide. Out of suffering has come suffering.

Oh, Jerusalem. You were meant to point us to wholeness but instead, you are irreparably cracked. You have a planet-full of earthborn children pretending to cry out for peace, but peace is boring. What we want is unfettered growth, unmitigated accumulation, endless storage space, and the assurance of a self-styled salvation. Gentile, Jew, Palestinian, Greek, African, White, Latino, Asian, Native, Alien, Influxers, Outgoers, Believers, and those bloated with greed. We’re all a blur in the eye of the passing God who named us Jerusalem and flew away. Named us Eve, Fig Leaf, and Pig’s Eye.

“Are there clues in our DNA?” I ask God as he makes another pass, and I continue to free associate, stimulated by the random events of typos and auto-correct.

“For what?” God says, slowing to a flickering presence, picking at a hangnail, disdainful and uninterested in being embodied.

“For how we’ve gone so wrong,” I say.

“Who’s to say you’ve gone wrong?” God says. “Maybe I planned it this way. And what do you mean by ‘wrong’ and am I included in your sweeping judgements?”

I lean in close to this flippant caricature with onion breath, ragged nails, and bruised feet. God leans away. I lean closer. God gets up and puts himself in the corner, a place of shameful contemplation. I wiggle past the hulking body and become as angular as any corner has ever been.

“Face me,” I demand. Then add in a pleading voice, “I have something you might like.”

God’s hair is greasy. His teeth are mostly gone. His longings are choking the life out of him. He can’t have what he most wants. He’s so lonely he’s willing to settle for fleeting liaisons, lies, and invitations to banquets where only poison is served. Why would anyone host a banquet and then serve poison?

In my angularity, I’ve chosen to serve ramen. It takes the shape of its container, but the long strands remain true to themselves unless they’re cooked too long, and that’s what matters. I try to make sure nothing tastes like soap, whitewash, or condemnation, but there’s a slight aftertaste anyway. I don’t blame myself. If I’ve learned anything from God, it is this: nothing in life will be completely free of aftertaste.