Yesterday and today, Ronnie went in early because her work offered overtime, and I drove her because she would have to leave at six in the morning. She can barely function getting out of bed at six to leave at seven let alone do that an hour earlier. I am not a morning person, but once I wake up, I hit the floor running because there are things I need to do to start my day’s work. My morning routine includes preparing breakfast, lunch, and tea for Ronnie, and after I pack up everything, I make my food. During the time of waiting for the microwave and electric kettle, I will do six sets of planks—three sets of forty seconds a piece, followed by three sets of twenty second planks. After she leaves, I immediately go to the fitness center to spend forty-five minutes on the bike, come home, shower, and sit down to write for three to four hours. Because Ronnie had to wake up at 5:30, I offered to take her to work so she would have some time to collect herself during the commute. The way to work, I drive I-465 West on the south end of the intrastate, and the return home, I take I-70 East to I-65 South. Going home I pass through downtown, and decided to take the opportunity to park at MoJoe’s at Michigan & Senate, get a tea, and walk along the canal. I enjoy walking the canal whenever I get the chance, but I enjoy the walk more so in the mornings before Indy is clogged with rush hour traffic.
The air is quiet and cool with the buildings softly sleeping until the sun and students from IUPUI stir them to a blissful action. There are many entrances to the canal along Senate and the intersecting streets south of Michigan, but I walk one block south where Indiana and Vermont cross at a forty-five degree angle. There are little condos along the path to the canal resembling monastic cells waiting in the calm of their morning red brick prayers. When I go down the stairs I make a left to go south on the canal passing the entrances of The Indiana State Museum and the Eiteljorg Museum, and finally the NCAA building where there are stairs to the White River State Park. The path of The White River State Park goes over The White River to other paths and an entrance to The Indianapolis Zoo. Depending on the weather, The White River is a surge of wild energy or serene on the verge of enlightenment. This morning the river was the latter, and I took pictures while drinking tea, and centering myself. Rivers and Oceans calm me, though, and there is a physiological answer to such an effect I do not know, but I know my bouncing thoughts can find rest when listen to The White River, or dip my feet in the gray Pacific on Cannon Beach in Northwestern Oregon.
This last week, I have needed the calming effect from The White River’s song and art murals along the canal. Trump has ordered what he calls an armada to North Korea who is threatening to strike the United States with its nuclear weapons. I, along with many people in this country, am under tremendous pressure at the threat of a nuclear war. Speaking for myself, the reality of my own annihilation has twisted my stomach causing all the energy to build up in my head crushing like a vice with its overwhelming pressure pushing against my temples. On top of that, I am still getting over a cold with sinus, throat, and chest issues, but that came at a good time because I imbibe whiskey mixed with hot tea, lemon juice, and honey—something my family has done for generations going back to the highlands of Scotland. I only do two shots of whiskey. Exceeding two shots only exacerbates the illness, and increases my misery. While drinking last night, I decided to read “Waiting for Godot” and the Old Testament book, Ecclesiastes and message one friend who is a pastor at the church I go to, and another friend who is a Buddhist monk. I vomited all my terror and anxiety on them, and they responded in real language without any religious pandering. My friend, the monk, pointed out that our imminent destruction was the punchline of the human joke, and asked me what it is I truly feared. I told him that I recently began my spiritual practice, and made real changes in my life. I still had so much more work to accomplish, and was afraid that I started late in the game only to leave this life is such a mess—I felt like I wasted my life. “Shit, man, not even Bodhisattvas finish all their work.” He and the pastor friend reminded there is nothing to be changed with the worrying, and, regardless of what happens, kindness and growth still matter—even in the face of Armageddon.
“Waiting for Godot” is an absurdist play first produced in 1952 and written by Samuel Beckett. The name Godot is a French nickname for God like Billy is to William—Goddy, if you will. Estragon and Vladimir are waiting for the God who twice promises he will meet them, but never comes. While they wait they get into discussion over activity to pass a brief moment with Pozzo who whips his servant Lucky to spout theological gibberish. Seven years after Nagasaki and Hiroshima were obliterated by atomic bombs, the world changed, and writers like Beckett saw the illusions of culture, religion, and politics. Take away the veil and there is nothing but an empty void we cover with philosophy and ideas of God so we don’t have to face the pointlessness of living. The play is worth reading and watching, and is relevant now sixty-five years after its debut; and the play can be viewed on YouTube. The play brings comfort to me because of the familiar language and sentiments I also hold—especially with religion. 82% of Evangelical Christians and 52% of Catholics in America put Trump and his administration in power. Trump professes Christianity, and his puppeteer, Steve Bannon is an alt-right Catholic who wants Pope Francis out of the way because the inclusive language of the pope exposes Bannon’s and Ryan’s ideology as a dangerous heresy. Yes, these men and their supporters have mutilated the message of Jesus, but this is the Christian religion evolved from the faith the Puritans brought to the North American coast in the early seventeenth century. Religion distorted Islam and brought down the Twin Towers, and religion has distorted Christianity that will choke out our cries under a mushroom cloud. Christianity in America, generally speaking, has proved itself useless, whatever the outcome this religion has lost all credibility. It’s enough to make the city of Rome quake from all the Church Fathers and martyrs rolling in their graves over the bad joke their successors have created.
After finishing “Waiting for Godot”, I read the book of Ecclesiastes which, I think, is the original absurdist piece. Scholarship has proven this Old Testament book was written in the sixth century B.C.E in ancient Syria, and the original book ended at 12:8, “’Vanity of vanites!’ Says The Teacher, ‘all is vanity!’” The additional verses came later because the rabbis thought the ending too bleak to include in their religious canon. While these factoids tickle me and touch upon the modern conflict and devastation in Syria, the original narrative remains intact. The ancient Hebrews did not believe in an afterlife, and once you’re dead, you’re dead. The concept of an afterlife did not come about until the time of the Maccabees in the second century B.C.E. when people who died with idolatrous medallions around their neck were prayed over to spare their souls. Even with an afterlife, life is absurd. We enter this world with a loud smack on our ass as we deflate our little lungs with trumpeting wails announcing our arrival to this world, and quietly struggle against slipping into an unknown realm or nothingness—everything in between is a boisterous denial of death. Ecclesiastes isn’t doom and gloom, but takes a realistic approach to our existence and nonexistence, and concludes that while we are here we should enjoy our families and the fruits of our labors; and life with all its loud, inane activity is still good—“a live dog is better than a dead lion.” Ecclesiastes remains my favorite biblical book, and The Teacher encouraged me with his lessons to take life as it is, and enjoy it while I still breathe.
I woke up this morning at peace, and posted on social media my acceptance of the absurdity. I worked out, made food for Ronnie and myself, dropped her off at work, and went to the canal. I looked upon the murals on both sides of the overpasses from a different point of view, and I saw this paper floating in the water.
I know this artist because we had mutual friends, and I went to the church where he was an elder. I saw this paper as the whole of truth. Long after Kyle and I are ashes blowing in the wind across oceans our words and portraits will be a cacophony of litter inspected and dismissed by future generations with a condescending wave of an anachronistic hand. What is the point of me sitting here writing these words as I eat bagels and sip coffee from Chicago at the Thirsty Scholar in downtown Indianapolis? What is the point of Kyle spending hours decorating the city with portraits or teaching art to kids? Rationally speaking, there is no point to our respective creations and serves no purpose in human evolution—they are voices that will soon go silent, replaced by new voices, and forgotten. There is a deeper meaning though, and what we, and other creative people, do matters. Essays, books, poetry, paintings, sculptures, music, etc. remind us that people are more than mobile sacks of chemicals motivated by sex and food. What that “more” is, I do not know, and the threat of nuclear war by Donald Trump has left me speechless, and without any knowledge. I’m with Vladimir and Estragon waiting on Ol’ Goddy to show his face to give our activities and hopes some meaning, but what if Goddy doesn’t exist, or worse yet, he dangles his presence in front of us like a carrot by sending his boys to reschedule? The energy we use in sitting, kneeling, and chanting could be better spent improving this world around us instead of waiting for a parent figure to solve our problems. Whether or not God exists, the weight of our responsibility cracks our legs as it rests in our lap, and we created this world in our image. We could improve our situation, and we could transform this world into a paradise for succeeding generations, but our current choices say we desire hell. We’re still alive. We’re still breathing. I do not think we are too late in turning away from burning down our home.