cents away from God
Expanded from the 4-17-2005 Daily
Sparks (Nev.) Tribune.
This column also appeared in the 4-22-2005 Comstock Chronicle.
TO: Almighty God
It's been a long time and, as you know, my last letter to you wasn't really voluntary. Sister Eutropia would have whacked me with her well-worn ruler had I dared to suggest that writing to God contradicted most everything she taught.
With yourself as all-knowing and omnipresent, why did we need the paper and the stamps?
Looking back, it was perhaps that letter-writing mandate that turned me into a lifelong questioner and critic. It taught me one of the basics of salesmanship: Make sure you're talking to the decision maker. If I can go directly to the God hisself, why do I need to genuflect to the authority of the front office?
I owe you a long overdue thanks for letting me into high school a year early and for placing therein a couple of revolutionaries. They probably belonged with the Jesuits, fomenting unrest somewhere in the third world. As it turned out, my greatest teacher, Brother Hugh Kennedy (as you know, a cousin of them flaming liberals from Taxachusetts) died young of some nefarious disease while serving in Africa. Say hello for me.
More plays on morality
Bro. Hugh and one or two of his fellow Christian Brothers had one quality which allowed them to spawn subversives among us susceptibles: they knew how to laugh at the absurdity of some of the rules they lived by.
Bro. Hugh would point out "glosses," bogus parts of the Bible added to the margin by some pious scribe and incorporated into the text by a successor a few hundred years down the road.
Brother Hugh showed us why the Good Book displayed so much suspicious symmetry passages like "Leroy had 12 children who begat 12 children each for the next 1,200 years."
Bro. Hugh would dismiss these as "more of those magical numbers which the ancient Jews just loved to use."
I think of him every time I see some pompous preacher insist that interpolating real time from the Bible gives us incontrovertible proof that the earth was created by your magic wand about 6,000 years ago. I can still hear Bro. Hugh's gap-toothed chuckle at such chuckleheaded presumption.
Did I say presumption? Yes, Your Honor. I remember some of the more obscure sins. I consider the offense of presuming to speak for God as the worst of the bunch.
Those who presume to speak for you have done so much harm. Things were going seriously wrong when Jesus came along. He redirected us toward a very simple philosophy: take care of each other.
Alas and alack, as with most other mass movements, once the philosopher is gone, the marketers and accountants take over. The raggedy ministers to the poor end up living as kings in Rome and Riyadh.
As your humble servant and interpreter George Burns said in the greatest story ever told (alright, the greatest movie ever written, Larry Gelbart's "Oh God!"): "Voltaire may have had me pegged when he said that God is a comedian playing to an audience too afraid to laugh."
Bro. Hugh wasn't afraid to laugh at the absurdity this monster mannunkind foists upon himself. Lord, we are so self-defeating that we return to sender the messages you've left.
Here, in the most advanced nation this planet has seen since the last time the dominant life-form was destroyed, otherwise intelligent people are refusing to see the world as you've made it. Evolution is as plain as the nose on everyone's face. If you go out into the sun, your skin starts to evolve into a darker pigment. A suntan is evolution, a defense mechanism at work. Your work.
The latter-day Luddites are now pushing "non-Biblical intelligent design" as a contra-science to evolution. They won't get an argument from me, but my design isn't theirs and, if I may presume to state, not yours, either.
Scientists have been doing a magnificent job of observing and recording the messages you've left, like the elegant mathematics of DNA and Superstrings. I'm perfectly willing to accept that someone or something snapped his or her figurative fingers about 15 billion years ago starting the Big Bang which eventually gave us us.
Physicists have identified unknowable, unquantifiable "dark matter," which they calculate comprises more than 90 percent of the known universe and interlards all we know and see.
I think we found you. Hiding in plain sight. You seem to have a highly developed sense of irony.
Kids who are good at math go into physics or computer games, those who aren't work for newspapers or become preachers. Newspaper guys are skeptics, we want facts. Preachers don't let the facts get in the way of a good story. So some preachers order their flocks to take tall tales too literally. They warn that those who don't believe their version of ancient and oft-edited folk stories will become lamb chops in hell. A few are more than happy to start the slaughter.
We still have so much evolving to do. Rather than taking care of each other, so much of our energy is devoted to promoting power over others. The old accountants in red beanies who meet in Rome this week perpetuate the old taboo that there's something wrong with women.
I don't presume to think that they speak for you. Maybe we'll get lucky and they'll give us another John Paul the First. If not, they'll be good for laughs.
In 1977, screenwriter Gelbart typified you much better than I can presume to: The message is that everything still works and that I care.
I'm writing this letter as a little reminder from you to me.
Thanks for staying in touch.
Be well. Raise hell.
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Copyright © 2002, 2005 Andrew Barbano
Andrew Barbano is a 36-year Nevadan who attended Catholic institutions through high school. Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Daily Sparks (Nev.)Tribune since 1988.
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