Wednesday, December 16, 2009

the tinsel and the shine

The first stars were simple and pure, too fey and thrifty to give much thought to mass and matter. It was of the stars that followed the death's of those earliest beacons that we are marked, the heavier elements arriving in time to craft our hearth and kin. The crawling accumulation of chance growing into fact, the fiery carnage of heavens ending birthing our quiet little corner of conceit. Our favors from the stars, our heritage chemical and contingent on the gathering of error and substance, on time so deep that there is no clock that can contain it. Time so deep it is only measured in the stretch and spin of galaxies, on the blush and burn of atomic half-lives. Against the broad swathe of improbability that seeds our past again and again, the immeasurable millennia of sacrifice it took to find us here, our seasonal myths seem silly and quaint.

The deafening silence outside is in part all of those collapsed possibilities destroyed utterly so just that you can be just there at just this moment. The lives burned, buried, devoured and negated for the sake of this absolute moment shared make the charnel house of history seem like a gracious conceit. Starlight funds this terrible profligacy, this conflagration of life consuming life, the rich fecund soil built of ash and death. This gift of purest luck is the sweetest morsel of existence, the bewildering improbability of creation's bounty. To be here, in the great bright empty, with all its teeth and steel, is a beauty unequaled in all the deistic machinations that people have ever spat and proffered. Right now, right there: each and every one of us.

I am a construct of culture as well as essential acids, a product of engagement as well as of pre-programmed call and response. The language of a contentious Germanic tribe seeded the one my writing is rooted in, a language weighed with cultures witnessed and robbed, bent with conflicting ideas. Messiah myths from the Hebrews, Greeks, and Romans, Greek thought mingling with Norse heroics, blended with the cycles of the Celts. I grew up with a ghost called God watching, and a strange sort of multiplier called Jesus that lived in my heart. The image of this loving hippy cysting like a tumor beneath the workings of my pulse was a very real childhood religious vision, my native tongue conveying the concrete much better than the abstract. Then there were the masses of ghosts and monsters, Satan and Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy and assorted spacemen and aliens. Frankenstein in the closet, a whispered voice that awoke me paralyzed in the depths of the long, terrifying nights. That the darkness was watching felt more real than all the hosts of heaven and the hordes of hell. Though most of these feelings have faded to vague transparency, these threads of myth and sensation never fully fade.

So the holiday lights go up, and I like the tinsel and the shine. I believe in none of these inherited ethereals, none of the clamber and bleating that makes up the stampede of scripture and tradition. The smell of pine trees is better than the stories of the Christ or of Mithra, better than the fly agaric mushroom colored toy-slinger or the brutal price of wisdom through sacrifice paid by Odin or Hercules or Horus. The crisp and distant constellations are better as nuclear fusion than as ornaments to human selection by the divine. The work towards meaning rather than meaning revealed is the course I favor. Still, sometimes I speak to God, and the Devil, and the dead. God supposes this argues for His existence (the inherited God I got stuck with is that buff, bearded fellow from the Sistine Chapel ceiling, thus the incongruency of gender on a self-creating cosmic judge and sustainer), but I think it is more the residue of nurture and bad chemistry in my poor brain. Whatever the mystery might be, it is something very different from all those seances and revival meetings. Watch the tree do its work in the forest before you condemn it to be Santa's tree or Jesus' cross. The decorations are bright and fine, but they are there to please rather than as proof. I say see how the house was made before you go and haunt it.

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