Tuesday, December 26, 2006

I've always loved that Kate Bush song. Even after her voice began to grate upon me...as it unfortunately did after a while...that song about the dream of letting another feel the empathy that the narrator so keenly feels still plays in my head. I thought, for a long time, that everyone felt empathy. By that, I mean the ability to actually imagine others suffering, pain and hope. Empathy is no good unless you can feel the positives as well. But I was wrong about that. Not everyone feels that.

And if you do feel it, it is kinder and more polite not to let on that you do sometimes. It can be intrusive and that whole "I feel your pain" thing just trivializes it.

I look back and laugh at how much I was so amazingly wrong about in the past. I like the feeling of being wrong. It's funny and it makes me feel giddy and light.

Deals with God are a recurrent theme in the oral traditions here. In the outside world, those who believe in a god or gods make deals all the time. Many times, those with no strong belief make deals with God. It's sort of become a figure of speech. I'm sure I've done it before.

Here it is different. It's deadly serious. You don't make a deal with God unless you mean to keep it. The God of the mountains is the old testament God, He who canst "draw out the leviathan" and all that. He's real big on smiting and throwing His weight around.

To me, the god of the mountains is as foreign as Gilgamesh's Anu. But I can see why He's taken so very seriously. He's quite the Badass.

Scottie related a tale to me of his great-great grandfather.

As a young man, Cletis was a moonshiner of some repute. I'm not quite sure how much the sampling of his own wares had to do with this story, but that doesn't make it less life changing for Cletis.

One evening, he was making his way home from his still that was up in the woods not too far from my house. Night had begun to fall and he was feeling his way home in the darkness of the new moon. Even today, since we have no city lights to pollute the night sky, the Milky Way is clearly visible in the night sky, stretching its jeweled arms around the earth. The nights of the full moon are as bright as a lit city street. The nights of the new moon are a womb-like blackness.

While passing a hand-dug spring well, a claw reached out and grabbed Cletis by the leg, dragging him into the deep, cold, wet darkness. A violent struggle ensued, during which, Cletis came to the realization that he was grappling with the Devil.

Time and time again, Cletis was pulled under the surface of the freezing water and rose gasping for breath, only to be pulled under once more.

So, he made a deal with God. In his deal, he promised God quite a lot. And given the circumstances, I think that was understandable. Basically, he handed God a blank check in return for helping him survive this situation.

Cletis survived to beget many generations to follow him. He forswore drinking and the making of white whiskey. He brought all of his children up in obedience to what he believed God wanted. His ideals are still practiced by his ancestors today.

I'm not sure if he was right or wrong. It's not my place to judge his epiphany. I do know that his deal was made in fear, and that sits uneasily with me. The brand of Christianity he practiced feels cold and unforgiving to me.

I much prefer the deal another man made with God.

While his beloved wife lay dying in the hospital, he swore to never drink again, if only God would save his love. She survived and he hasn't touched a drop of alcohol in thirteen years. They are the happiest couple I know.

I like the idea of making a deal with God out of love rather than fear.

I don't hear much about women having epiphanies of this sort. Usually it involves men, moonshine and running around on one's wife. It's just another version of the "reformed rake".

I suppose I'm not surprised that empathy is so suppressed here. You have to be quiet and still to experience empathy. That's sort of hard to do with Cletis' brand of faith, which is loud, brassy and talkative. It's the problem I have with the whole "witnessing" thing. It doesn't let anyone get a word in edgewise and is all about "me".

They sure do sing good though.

The man is quiet about his epiphany. I only heard about it in passing, he doesn't talk much about it, he just acts. There is no need to talk about it. His love shows through with each glance at his wife. His love is his prayer.

I don't know if God cares about the motivations we have when we try to barter with Her/Him. But my God visits me in the form of tiny goat hooves, joking dogs, laughing streams and baby chicks. This requires stillness.

My hope is that if I ever need to seriously barter with God, that the preferred method of payment will be love.


Post a Comment