AND THERE WILL COME HARD RAINS
by Andrew Williams
"And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children
of men builded.
And the LORD said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one
language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained
from them, which they have imagined to do.
Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may
not understand one another's speech.
So the LORD scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the
earth: and they left off to build the city.
Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the LORD did there
confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the LORD
scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth."--Genesis 11: 5-9
"Towers open fire..."--William S. Burroughs
Burroughs, who wrote about the Tower of Babel from a semantic/psychosocial
point of view, foresaw, in his way, the destruction of the Twin Towers. He
was a student of the word--not the word of God, but of man--its origins,
meanings and causes. And in the collapse of the Towers he would have seen
the Biblical scene recapitulated: peoples of many races gathered and
united in two great towers, which are collapsed and thus once again
fragment the peoples who once gathered in amity. One language returns to
many, heralding the return of the stranger, the "Other."
The attack on the Towers was a convenient vehicle for powermongers to
remind us of old divisions, to exacerbate old conflicts, to pour salt on
old wounds that had been reopened. "All this our world stinks peace!" they
declared (paraphrasing Pound) and set about blowing on brush fires,
heating them to the point of conflagrations. Our "leaders" have
promulgated a War on Terror, a golem compiled of myriad parts: a War on
Islam, a War on Arab-Americans, a War on Christianity, a War on Some
People with Some Drugs Who Aren't Afghani Opium Growers, and so on. And
here I am, stuck in the middle with you.
Is it any wonder this anniversary filled us with terror? "Beauty is the
beginning of terror," Rainer Marie Rilke wrote. "Every angel is terrible."
It appears, we see all our sins remembered, we shudder in awe. And
fear-filled people are the easiest to control. But what if we see the
angel as our angel? What if it holds, not a sword, but a dove? What if,
instead of moral condemnation, it gives us what Carl Rogers called
"unconditional positive regard"--unconditional love? Does not God love his
children? Is it not so written?
Personally, I no longer believe in the Old Testament deity. It's too
easy--a jealous god who condemns all who betray or reject him to eternal
flaming horror. A "god with the manners of a spoiled child," according to
Robert A. Heinlein. An all too human god.
It is interesting how God, in the Bible, is seen from two perspectives.
The Old Testament shows him to be an easily angered, highly judgmental
being--a cross between Dr. Laura and Judge Judy. The New Testament speaks
in quiet tones of love, grace and forgiveness. It is as if, between the
books, God--or his hagiographers--plotted his actions on a curve and
realized that implied force and threats of terror don't work very well.
That is in alignment with Eastern religious teachngs, which hold that
force or threats of force rarely work, and not for long.
So if God--and/or his scriveners--can learn this lesson, why can't we? Why
do we, as a race, still tend to resort to violence as a means? Why do we
still believe, as R. A. Wilson observed, that 1 + 1 = 0, that an eye for
an eye and a tooth for a tooth is fair exchange? There's a fascinating
book that addresses this subject titled *War Is A Force That Gives Us
Meaning* by New York Times war correspondent Chris Hedges. This quote sums
his case nicely and personally: "War is a drug, one I ingested for many
years. It is peddled by mythmakers...all of whom endow it with qualities
it often does possess: excitement, exoticism, power, chances to rise above
our small stations in life, and a bizarre and fantastic universe that has
a grotesque and dark beauty."
As Bill Hicks observed, we always have to have an enemy because most of us
lead "lives of quiet desperation" filled with short walks down long
hallways filled with endless reams of paper. War fires up the blood, gives
us an outlet for our hatred and fear--"it's them, not us!" we cry, beating
our breasts and waving our flags. It is more than a shifting of
burdens--it is intoxication, a welcome respite from the civilized burdens
And it is a respite from thought we desperately need--but not in action.
What we truly need is to find the stillness within ourselves, the point of
which we revolve around our inner beings--observing without acting, noting
without judging. As long as you hate yourself, you can be led to
slaughter. If you learn to love yourself--not narcissistically, but with
self-knowledge and forgiveness--you learn to laugh and sing in times of
trouble, to see joy in all creation, to rise beyond fear and hate. You
become love--the personification of the divine that is in all life. The
thoughts of hatred and fear are neither attractive nor repugnant, but
simply variables in the cosmic equation. And love is the power that
transforms and transcends lives and life itself.
It's a scary time. Rights are being taken from us right and left and
almost nobody stands up and asks, "Why?" People are so occupied with
working 1, 2 or 3 jobs they've no time or energy left to think about how
to live. Life becomes convenience--McDonald's, Prozac, Ritalin, cell
phones, malls, dollar stores, SUV's, DVD's, microwave food, music and
lifestyles. And this is the time when those who fight this Kulturkampf
either increase our vigilance or step back and view with detached
amusement the machinations of our so-called leaders.
I will recommend neither view. All I will do is repeat the one message of
all great sages and philosophers from all time: Think for yourselves.
Further, deponent sayeth not.