Spirit in the Sky - Earthquakes, God & the One Who Got Away
14 Feb 2011 · by Brennan Storr · Be the first to comment!
I miss God. Not in that aching, “We used to ride bikes every day until her parents moved back to Waukegan and the next time I saw her she was grinding onstage at a bar in The Dalles with singles tucked into her underpants” kind of way, no. I miss the sense of scale that the idea of God brought to the world, and the Old Testament sabre-rattling that used to keep in line a people which comedian Lewis Black once described as “ten hairs away from being baboons.”
When I was younger and rounder my very Catholic grandmother decided that I needed to be placed in Catechism so as to begin honing my sense of guilt. For the uninitiated, Catechism is Catholic religious school, usually held on sunny weekends so as to prepare you for a lifetime of the church ruining things you enjoy.
There, Sister Cecelia would instruct us on prayers, scripture and how to wield a disapproving frown like a loaded gun. The boredom was almost painful – kids, imagine having to ride the bus without your iPod – and the only saving grace, at least for me, was the Old Testament.
I am not now, nor have I ever been, a particularly religious person, but I appreciate a good story as much as anyone and there was something to be said for an antihero running around the desert kicking ass and burning down bushes. I didn’t particularly believe in God but I liked the sense of balance He lent to the world: Pharaoh wanted to be a hard-on? He got ten plagues and busloads of fat American tourists tramping all over his grave for eternity. God may have gone off the rails a few times, in my opinion the people of Sodom & Gomorrah just liked to rock n’ roll, but I felt that He and the people had an understanding: piss me off and you’ll know it.
Then, of course, science came along and we figured out that thunderstorm, or a disaster like an earthquake was just the planetary equivalent of Parkinson’s. Once, disasters made us problem solvers – the ground moved, so the old bearded man in the clouds must be unhappy about something and we should probably work up a flow-chart and figure out what we’ve done wrong.
The brilliant part about this idea was that, being human, everyone was up to something underhanded and this kind of thing provided a swift, corrective, kick in the ethics. Most folks quietly removed their hands from their pants and/or their neighbour’s pocket and got on with their lives in a slightly more righteous fashion all the while casting nervous glances upward. Sure, they relapsed again from time to time but there was always another famine or drought for them to interpret as a rap on the nose with a newspaper.
Now that we know all about weather patterns, fault lines and tectonic plates, so long as the shaking doesn’t rattle our soda can off the coffee table we change channels and get on with it. Just last week in the Victoria area we registered a morning temblor at 2.9 on the Richter Scale and you know what? I slept through the damn thing.
The earth shifted beneath our feet and I continued snoring for another hour. Many people in the city didn’t even notice and the few who did couldn’t wangle a day off work out of the whole thing and so it was, at most, water cooler conversation. Imagine, for a second, that God is real –how pissed must He be:
“Tectonic nothing – it was Me, you assholes! I’m angry! Pay attention to me! Look at me when I’m talking to you!”
To be clear, I’m not talking about the God that half of America was convinced wanted them to elect an illiterate warmonger as their president 8 years running. Nor am I thinking of the neurotic micromanager who cares whether or not you find your keys or who wins the Superbowl. I’m thinking more of that angry, defiant God who issues cosmic bitch slaps when we get too big for our britches - that grand authoritarian who is gruff but loving in his way and ever so slightly clueless. The God who one day stepped away from his desk to make a sandwich and discovered upon his return that we had figured out oral sex: “What are they doing now? I leave for five minutes...that’s the wrong end, stupid!”
He may or may not be there but I can pretend all the same - it amounts to the same thing. And besides, there’s something appealing about the idea of disaster making us better people.