I've been trying to figure out why God has been sending all those horrible grass fires to Texas. At first I thought it was because God dislikes George W. Bush, and so is punishing Texas.
But then in fairness, I realized that God's time is different than man's time, and it may be that God is having a delayed reaction to the governorship of Ann Richards, which means the grass fires are the Democrats' fault.
Or maybe God doesn't like Molly Ivins and is punishing Texas because of her. Maybe he's having a conniption fit about Brokeback Mountain. Of course, most of the sex scenes take place in Wyoming, while it's only Jake Gyllenhaal's pretend marriage that takes place in Texas. So if God was being more exact, He should send grass fires to Wyoming, not Texas. So maybe it is Molly Ivins.
Of course, Oklahoma is getting grass fires too. I'm not sure what God is saying through that gesture. Can it possibly be he disapproved of the Hugh Jackman British version of Oklahoma, and he thinks only Americans should do Oklahoma?
And why hasn't he sent grass fires (or a plague of toads) to the people of Dover, Pennsylvania, who voted out the school board who had insisted the topic of Intelligent Design be introduced in science class before evolution could be taught. And who also advised students to go to the library and read a book called Of Pandas and People, whose title certainly fascinates me. Though not quite enough to go get a copy.
Or maybe God doesn't micromanage the world the way I'm assuming.
Maybe it's all like the character Jean says in the second-to-last scene of John Osborne's play The Entertainer: "Here we are, we're alone in the universe, there's no God, it just seems that it all began by something as simple as sunlight striking on a piece of rock. And here we are. We've only got ourselves. Somehow, we've just got to make a go of it. We've only ourselves."
I was assigned that play my Freshman year at Harvard; it was taught by a wonderful professor, William Alfred (author of the play Hogan's Goat). Mr. Alfred was famously Catholic, and went to mass every single day. He was also sweet-natured and open-minded, not to mention brilliant.
If I were a Freshman now, and in a state-funded school, does the government now require that we be told about Intelligent Design and asked to read Of Pandas and People before we can read that speech? And if it doesn't so far, when will it?
We've only got ourselves. That concept makes me feel not a little despair in terms of what's happening to our country, and what may be happening in the world. Will the planet exist in 100 years? What will it be like even in the next 20 years?
I'm not actually an atheist, by the way (in case you're holding your breath), and I've sort of returned to one of my beliefs from my Catholic upbringing, that the soul has a continuing life. As Thornton Wilder says in Our Town, "everybody knows in their bones that something is eternal." To my surprise, in my later years, that kind of feels right to me.
But my concept of a Higher Power is extremely vague; and it cannot be, in my mind, some Being fashioned after quirky human beings and their messy emotions. "Man is created in the image of God," was one of the things Catholic school children were taught in the 50s and 60s. That's a highly debatable idea; obviously it's more likely that man, thinking of what God might be like, came up with "oh he's probably like a father, I know fathers." Understandable, but leads to all that confusion about is God is causing grass fires, and is he punishing people for sex, and is he helping actors win the Tony Award.
As more than one stand-up has pointed out, the God of the Old Testament most resembles a raging, alcoholic father. And Republicans, it seems to me, are always drawn to the firm, strict, overbearing fathers, aren't they? Like they think some Robert Duvall character, inexpressive and angry but oh so moral, is somehow the ideal view of the father.
I've tried to write this for several days, but have been in a bad and depressed mood. We've only got ourselves. Makes me a bit gloomy. No wonder the Rapture people are so happy – chaos and war in the Middle East means Jesus is coming soon. To me it means maybe the end of the planet. Not to mention, will all the advertising and the dirty tricks that passes for governing in the Bush administration continue to work with masses of our fellow citizens? Sigh. Well, Happy New Year.