On the Proper Placement of the Gideon Bible in the Home
The Bible guys were all over the neighborhood the other day, practically on every corner. “Would you like a Bible? Would you like a free Bible?”
Unlike many yoga practitioners, I do not believe that your average street-corner proselytizer “might be the next Messiah.” Though proselytizers appear to be trying to convince the public of their beliefs, I believe that it is really themselves they are trying to convince, and often unconvincingly at that. If you have in fact found the One True Way, isn’t the explosive glowing light of your One True Way evident to others without your street-corner shouting or door-to-door salesmanship?
After all the wars and priestly buggery of children I’m deeply wary of anyone who claims to act in the name of God. God seems to tell a lot of people to do a lot of things, not all of them advisable. Claiming that “God told me to” is just as sure a sign of psychosis and terrorism as it is holiness. Maybe God told you to hand out Bibles or menorahs on the street, but He also apparently had different instructions for George W. Bush, Osama bin Laden, Charles Manson and a host of other self-absolving murderous zealots. God is a shady character and He’s got His hand in everything, the bad and the ugly as well as the good. Goddamn easily manipulated imaginary omnipresent being. Goddamn God.
Not that I don’t understand what it’s like to think God is talking to you. I will confess that God has spoken to me on a number of occasions. Mostly S/He was nice, except that time S/He told me the that light fixture was evil and I was afraid of it for hours. That was a rough few hours, and though I asked the Lord to help me, or help me help myself, the Lord did not come to my aid. My staunch atheist friend Joni did, and for those few hours she was God to me. (Or did God come to my aid in the form of Joni? Does Joni think there is no God because she IS God? Should I stand on the corner and tell everyone about Joni?)
Overall, God has indeed told me some very good news. God told me that the universe is All One, that all beings are One Consciousness and One Love, that the divine spark of all that has ever been and all that will ever be lives in me, and that I need not fear death nor anything else because whatever happens is part of everything, and everything is everything. Then God often tells me to take off all my clothes and go swimming immediately! Then God often rewards my righteousness by allowing me to drink tremendous amounts of whiskey and sleep very little and wake up feeling fantastic. But this might be because when I talk to God I am using the AT & T One-Rate Psilocybin Plan.
Just because God told me all this stuff does not mean I have to tell everyone else all about it. If God wants to talk to everyone else I trust God will contact them directly. Though I have come to something resembling a fleeting flyby of Total Consciousness on a variety of hallucinogenic drugs, I am not going to stand on a street corner and give out pamphlets about my experiences on hallucinogenic drugs. Yoga class has also been quite enlightening, but I am not going to drag strangers to Summer’s 12:30 Intermediate Vinyasa, no matter how much it has done for me personally.
Yoga has done so much for me personally that I believe yoga is going to ultimately lead me to a positive way of dealing with proselytizers. When I’ve done enough yoga I’ll either be sanguine enough to ignore them or strong enough to lift them off the ground by the lapels and promise them a conversion they’ll never forget.
A good friend of mine told me she was sent to Bible camp one summer and every day she was asked if she’d been saved yet. She was getting bored so one day she said, yeah, she was saved. They immediately switched her into the Saved Kids group, which had totally different and better activities than the pre-Saved (Eternally Damned?) kids group. If you weren’t saved yet you spent all day being terrorized about hell in hopes that this would get you to embrace Jesus and be saved, but if you were saved you could just play sports and go swimming. Of course, the entity doing the saving was not Jesus but you yourself, and what you were getting saved from was not the burning fires of hell but being told all day about the burning fires of hell.
I’ve often wondered what the bunks were called at this camp. Instead of problematically naming them after rapidly disappearing woodland animals or already-disappeared Native American tribes, was there a bunk called “Girls Purgatory?”
I, too, count myself among the saved. I’ve been saved dozens of times. I’ve been saved from some of the illusions of establishment capitalism and the frustrations banging my head against the sham of American democracy by my massive authority problem and cynical skepticism. I’ve been saved from boredom by my inability to make eye contact with people who bore me. I’ve been saved from loneliness by my inability to resist contact with those who intrigue me. Art has saved me and nature has saved me, and helmets, life vests and airbags have all saved me. The dumb luck that has allowed some of the quite stupidly dangerous things I’ve done to turn out all right in the end has saved me many times over. I’m pretty sure I’m saved already, but I maintain no illusions that I can save anyone else.
I do, however, take great pleasure in profaning. I tremendously enjoy doing whatever it is anyone thinks is most unholy at the sites and times of their supposed greatest holiness. I do so love to “accidentally” brush up against Hasidic men who are afraid of touching unclean women, imagining that I have just sent them into paroxysms of cleansing davening. I do so love to eat hallucinogenic drugs in state parks on Yom Kippur, the holiday of Jewish atonement. (Or, if I have work that day or the next, just pork products, which commit a 2-for-1 profanity of kosher laws and the day of fasting.) I do so love to drink beer on the grounds of the Mormon Temple. I like to just pour that beer on the imaginary hellfire in my belly and watch it flame up like the high-proof damnation fuel it is.
Street-corner prosyletizers, however, are harder to profane, and worse, they caught me right after yoga. For about fifteen minutes after yoga you are, temporarily, Saved. You are saved from the worst afflictions of all humankind, namely the chattering prison of the mind and the illusion that we are separate consciousnesses. They always tell you in yoga that you have to make those fifteen minutes last longer, that if you would just unblock or unlock all your chakras you could be that nice to everyone all day and also bring about world peace with your mind. Then they tell you that your chakras are only totally open at the moment of orgasm. Then they tell you to come to downward dog.
I experience a lot of emotions during yoga, including anxiety, rage, vanity, transcendence, bliss, confusion, horniness, the distinct and remarkable absence of horniness, and something that hints at enlightenment, if enlightenment were a far-off and cruelly elusive orgasm. These emotions are not that different from the ones I experience the rest of the time, but after yoga, I am inevitably calmer than I was before, if nothing else because of the stretching. You can’t stretch that much and not get at least a little calmer.
And so when the fourth and final Bible guy proffered the leatherette volume, I took it, already congratulating myself on being so open to everything, already chipping away at any real openness to everything with my awareness of my supposed openness to everything. I took the Bible because I finally took a good look at the Bibles and noticed that they were little mini-Bibles and were covered in orange leatherette, and I found them quite cute and attractive.
I also took the Bible because it had the words “Psalms and Proverbs” on the cover, and I remembered that I greatly enjoy reading Psalms, in particular Psalm 23, which is like the “Stairway to Heaven” of Psalms. I always find my tastes to be disappointingly un-obscure when it comes to Great Works and yet I rarely find these Great Works overrated. While I do not trust that great art will be appreciated in its own time, I do find the things that have endured to be pretty reliably awesome. Psalm 23 gives me the chills, even when read nasally at funerals by the moronic rent-a-rabbis necessitated by my family of atheists.
“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.”
Despite all my grumbling and ranting, I will sometimes go around reciting this psalm to myself, alternating it with my continuing attempts to memorize “Subterranean Homesick Blues.” It spooks me out and then it comforts me and then it downright inspires me. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death. Fuck yeah! (Or rather, Fuck yea!) And thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me is so fantastically kinky. I have none of the academic inclination to prove this in some dusty dissertation, but I am certain that that line and possibly the whole psalm was written by a gay guy as a secret eternal love poem to his lover. Hot! Were I the proprietor of my own gay bar I’d call it Thy Rod and Thy Staff. Or maybe that would be the microbrew I would serve at the gay bar, where your cup runneth over.
The Bible came with a little table of contents where you could look up psalms appropriate to your particular problems. The entries included: “Afraid,” “Anxious,” “Defeated,” “Depressed,” “Failed by Friends,” “Trouble, In,” “Depravity,” “Drunkeness,” “Enemies,” “Excuses,” and “Worldliness.” While I did not find the psalms to which I was directed particularly relevant to my current personal issues in these areas, I admired the indexing.
Once I brought the Bible home, I was confused about what to do with the damn thing. I was tempted to put it on the shelf next to my equally miniature book of Yoga Sutras. (I seem to be able to procure spiritual texts only in teeny-tiny sizes, for reasons that seem fairly obvious.) But that didn’t make total sense. One of the afflictions of being a Virgo (astrology being another mode of thought I often dismiss as hooey and then find redeeming truth in) is the unshakable feeling that there is a place for everything and everything should be in its place. I felt that there was a right place for the Gideon Bible I had willingly taken from the man in the cheap suit with the creepy smile, and I was determined to find it.
When I purchased my three-drawered mirrored nightstand two things did not occur to me. One, that glass attracts and shows a lot of dust, and my nightstand would always be dirty and two, that the presence of a large, horizontal mirrored surface in my bedroom would never cease to connote powdered stimulant drugs. It did occur to me that a logical organizing principle for the three drawers would be sex, drugs and rock & roll. But it’s hard to fit rock & roll in a drawer, so the organization of the nightstand is more like sex, drugs and extra notebooks.
The traditional resting place of the Gideon Bible is the top drawer of the nightstand. I invite you to meditate on what is in the top drawer of your nightstand, and what might be reasonably expected to be in the top drawer of any adult’s nightstand. And now my miniature orange leatherette Gideon Bible dwells among these objects, and that drawer brings me pleasure on yet another level.