Jun 26, 2009

He could not tell it in any other way 1

It was so biblical: the burning heap in the plain. The car skeleton burned black, but was not consumed. It burned, smoking greasy, billowing like a bridge into the sky. The smoke stretched all the way along the highway where we drove, and we drove and watched it. The sky was blue and blank. The road shimmered straight, boiling with mirages. The ground, as we came down the last line of New Mexico mountains and drove into the desert plain, seemed to be a vacant endlessness, seemed like this indelible emptiness, like it would always look like an eye without a pupil.

We saw the smoke and saw the backed-up line of cars. We stopped, idling in the line, in the exhaust and sun. We watched the sky and it was so biblical, and it was without meaning. Once, everyone we had known knew they had heard the words of God. God had spoken to all the men and women of the fellowship, all the men in shirt-sleeves and plaid and the women in denim and dresses. He had spoken to them and moved them, taught them to talk in tongues and prophecies, condemnations and ordered instructions. But now we didn't believe that. And we were leaving there. And even if they had all heard the voice they thought they'd heard, how would they know or could they know how to tell it from lust and desire, anxiety, self-preservation and selfishness, guilt, dread and all the confused and crowded impulses that don't even have names? How would anyone know the difference between God talking and random things, meaningless and horrible things happening? Even if God wanted to talk to us, who are we to think we'd understand? Even if He said our names, said them slowly and softly, how could we hear that?

So we were leaving. We drove through weedy Texas flatland and we saw the Grand Canyon again. We went into New Mexico and saw the road side stands advertising turquoise and teepees. We saw the brick pyramids in the park, imitations of older ones which were once understood as saying something. We drove that road West and we came down into the desert and saw the burning car. All the paint was peeled from the car, the tires gone and upholstery gone and the gray shell burned and burned. We watched it, watching without interpretation. It was a freak accident. It was randomness and nature and natural violence, and if God could speak, wouldn't it sound like this? It meant nothing, but it looked like the message of a speechless, frustrated God, frustrated and angry at being unable to express Himself. It was like what an all-powerful something would say if He wanted to say something and didn't know how and so now there was fire and smoke, an image with force but not meaning, violence but no signification.

We watched it, driving slow by the biblical burning wreck in the desert, and then as we watched it started to hail.