God in the machine

I went south, to work with some people I know down there. Their background radio noise blew in through my open office window. It was that right-wing personality guy, enthusiastically fulminating as he has for decades now. I leaned back and closed my eyes. It struck me I was hearing something like a musical genre. There is tone and meter to exhortative talk radio. It’s like rap, that way. It speaks to a frightened urgency common to frustrated lives. It tries to pick you up and make you blame someone.

This is a very exciting political time, and this is a blog about current events. I’ve been watching my son grow up, angry and animated by music that magically starts pounding from speakers wherever he goes. It’s sometimes hard to separate him from the environment he keeps switching on around himself. I make the mistake of treating him like he’s one of the voices I associate with the music he plays.  So, too, with my friends down south. I wonder, ‘what kind of a life is that – every day, eagerly slamming themselves against the same immovable walls?’

The decades go by. We think, ‘goodness, a new health insurance program,’ or ‘wow, government is arguing over its accounts.’ Some of us, I’m pretty sure, are genuinely worked up about it right this minute. I might be, myself – if only I were listening to the music.

I’m doing something else. I’m trying to figure out what is right for me. It isn’t easy. There’s no popular genre for it. No-one’s dancing to my particular beat. Nobody’s eager to go along. Understand: this is good. The sound I’m straining for is a still, small melody.

My mother sits on her couch watching television and sees plots and conspiracies. The right-wing guy works up his rhythm and yells about plots and conspiracies. The NSA gathers, in its frightened urgency, to plan plots and conspiracies. Our billions of convictions and intentions swirl around the planet and – come to naught.  All accounts are routinely closed. There is a new heart for every moment.

I have exhausted my repertoire. I have threatened and begged. I have prostrated myself and I have swaggered away. Still, God does as he chooses. I know all human philosophies converge on this point: the world’s whole purpose arrives simply at what I choose to do now. If it doesn’t make sense to me, I’m not having fun.

No one can know what our government will spend tomorrow; what enemy will attack in the morning; what fresh teenager will next go naked on stage. God knows. I am standing in a silence where sorrow and joy are the same thing; where the resounding, simple feeling of being fills my body like a billion tingling bubbles of warmth floating toward the sky. I am completely nuts.

I think the ‘burning questions’ are generally approached part-time. People willfully preoccupy themselves with activity because – thankfully – that’s what life is. In their own moments, they bring out their questions and work on them, a little at a time. I’ve been doing the other thing: I’m standing in the open doorway (where perhaps I should not be). I attend to my preoccupations only as they suit my meditations. This will end. I will be caught up again. I will, indeed, decide something interesting is going on. Maybe I’ll get eager, and act as if my opinion matters. It’s what I was made to do.

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