For some reason that has never been persuasively explained to me, when company’s coming, we are required to make our house look as if nobody lives in it, a once charmingly cluttered domicile radically transformed into a magazine layout in Architectural Digest.
Magazines, even neatly stacked ones, get piled up in closets. Cell phones sit out of sight, recharging in the dark. A glass penny bank with a boot painted on it – exiled. My piano music – banished. Medicines and supplements, all hidden away leaving guests scratching their heads wondering how we can look this great naturally.
Important papers are summarily stuffed into drawers. A vertical wicker basket housing our few bottles of hard liquor has been relocated out of harm’s way, lest visiting children suddenly decide to eschew chocolate milk and try Scotch.
Our house looks pristine, in the most unnatural sense of the word, all things unnecessary, embarrassing or unworthy of display no longer in view.
The problem is, when the guests go home, and our regular life is returned to us, we have no idea where anything is.
If only medicine could speak.
“We’re in the linen closet.”
But it can’t.
I am thinking of this line from Seinfeld, where George is revealing to his therapist his certainty that he will be punished by God the moment something good happens to him. His therapist, recalling an earlier session, says, “George, I thought you didn’t believe it God.” To which George replies,
“I do for the bad stuff.”
To me, this is a resonating line. I know I do this. Maybe you do too. Something wonderful is happening, like, say, your daughter’s wedding, but you immediately adopt the pretense of being miserable, because if you didn’t and acknowledged instead your immeasurable happiness, you fear bringing into play God’s balancing swift sword.
This “avoidance behavior” implies, of course, that God is up there somewhere (we’ll go with the conventional on the “up there”), keeping score, and He doesn’t like things (we’ll go with the traditional pronoun “He”) to get too far out of whack. So he sees a man celebrating a joyful occasion, and He says,
“That guy’s having a lot of fun. I’m giving him polyps.”
“It doesn’t matter. There are no good polyps.”
The problem with this equalizing, “good stuff – bad stuff” perspective is that it presupposes a number of hypotheticals (not just the “bookkeeping” components, like that God is “up there”, and that God is a “He”), which may not be correct.
The major hypothetical, of course, is that there is a God. Without God, there can still be “good stuff” and “bad stuff.” There’s just Nobody “up there” doling it out.
In that case – the “God does not exist” situation – the “stuff” that happens to people is then totally random. Theoretically, you could get nailed a hundred times in a row. Heart disease. A malfunctioning pancreas. Chronic dandruff. One person could get all of those things, while, for another, it is trouble-free, clear sailing.
There is no logic to it. No explanation. No fair play. No justice. Just – for the person’s who’s repeatedly blighted – bam, bam, bam – “Not again!” – bam!
There is no causal connection. There is no changing your ways and you’re spared. There is no “controlling mechanism.”
“If I sacrifice a ram…”
Who are you sacrificing to?
Your fate is your fate, and there is nothing you can do about it. No way to avert or evade what’s coming your way. Whatever that is – good stuff or bad – is entirely a matter of chance.
Are you getting an inkling of why a lot of people prefer to believe in God?
This is not the time to write about it, but at some point, I’ll go into this more deeply, suggesting that, for non-believers, the replacement comforting device, a paralleling security blanket to religion – and one of an equally questionable nature – is reason.
But that’s for another day. At the moment, I am way too excited.
And I’m willing to accept the consequences.
Just…not too bad, okay?