Tuesday, April 04, 2006

No Heaven and No Hell

No Heaven and No Hell

Before we get into serious theology, we need to talk about bugs. The two best bug poets in America are Jim Bertolino and Charles Goodrich. I know Bertolino quite well. In fact, he reads this newsletter, and it is Bertolino who told me about Charles Goodrich. These guys both know their insects.

I have a jar of dead beetles on my desk now at work. They were alive on Friday, when Ben brought them in because a woman he knew said these beetles were killing her trees. Ben asked me, “What kind of bugs are these?” I was quite flattered that he thought I would have the answer. I said, pointing to the beetles in the jar, “Well, at least these bugs aren’t going to give you any more trouble.”

By Monday it was tit’s up for the bugs. I tried clattering the jar so they would lie right side up, but if I got one up, then the other two went down. Nevertheless, their bug spirit, which surrendered to the universe over the weekend, filled my office chamber with a kind of holiness.

The Bug Muse guides my theology. I was watching the refugees die in Darfur on television, when I realized that God is an asshole. How could He do that? It is one thing for Him to cause me trouble in the way of angst – really it’s not much at all. But suffering, any kind of pain worse than a mild toothache, serves no educational purpose, and if it so happens that God is all-powerful, then it is all His fault. They say we are the children of God. Then God is a child abuser of the first rank. Terrible things happen all the time, and Who is supposed to be in charge? We are supposed to beg for mercy from a God who lets things like this go on. No fucking way.

Gentle guidance, a firm hand now and then – that I could understand. If, as so many scientists are convinced, the earth is warming because of our industrial madness, and the ice caps are melting, and terrible plagues are about to be unleashed, if God was any kind of friend at all, He would simply not let this happen – may be a couple of really nasty floods and hurricanes to get our attention, but no more than that.

And if, in addition to that, He sends his good people to Heaven, then I am going to go to Hell, because that’s where a lot of my friends will be.
I take this all personally. It is all about me. Some people read last week’s Frog Hospital, which was all about the shabby treatment I have undergone for years back in the Skagit Valley and why I am so mad at them – they said I was immature, childish, that it wasn’t all about me.

Oh yeah, it IS all about me. Global warming is about me. Whenever it rains or doesn’t rain, it’s all about me. And if God let’s all this crap happen that seems about to happen – then it’s over -- and He’s listening right now – that’s it – me and God are parting company. I don’t take that kind of shit.

What about AIDS?

Whose idea was that? God’s little scheme to teach us not to be screwing people outside of holy matrimony, making it literally true, that “the wages of sin are death.” Sleep with somebody you’re not supposed to and God will kill you – slowly. Isn’t that nice?

I lived with the specter of AIDS for many years. Precious, my African wife, was HIV positive. We met in Zimbabwe, we fell in love, we began to live together – me, her, and no more than 50 0f her closest relatives, all at my expense, of course. Then we got married and every thing was fine. We had a big wedding. I paid for it – this is what African husbands do.

After a while I got homesick for America, and I missed my children, and I realized that if I kept feeding her enormous family, sooner or later the well would run dry. So we decided to move to the U.S. She needed a visa, a slam dunk being married to an American citizen, except an HIV test was required. And it came up positive. I suppose, given the high rate of infection in Zimbabwe, I could have expected the result. Still I was shocked and numbed – God was fucking with my life again, why couldn’t He just let me be happy?

For a few days, I thought I could just quietly slip away to the airport, and fly back to America without her – just go. But I didn’t. I said okay, I’m going to live with an HIV woman, and I did for the next seven years. It wasn’t really that bad. We had to pay a lawyer and jump through extra hoops to get her visa, but we got to America.

We came to Washington state and that was lucky. Washington provides 100 percent first rate treatment for HIV positive people, and it did not cost one dollar. Precious got the best medical attention in the world. It got to be that I hardly thought about it at all – she took one or two pills a day, and had her blood tested every three months. Some months her blood scores were so good that she would go off the medication for a while. She was, and is, in perfect health.

But more than a dozen, more than 20, of her relatives back in Zimbabwe – and it was always the ones in their 20s and 30s and 40s – they all died. Nobody would ever talk about it. Nobody would ever say it. I would never say it. I agreed completely. Precious and I never once talked about it. Why talk about it? Talking is some creepy, American, therapeutic, Oprah-voodoo thing that is supposed to make things better.

African don’t talk about AIDS because they do not fear death. We are afraid to die. They are not afraid to die. So there is no reason to talk about it. Even now, I would go back to Africa in a minute, if I could get over my fear of death. African people are with God, they are not angry at God like me, but they are with God, and their beautiful African bodies, which are the most beautiful of all human bodies – they lay them aside like water and become the spirit.

I was able to be there and see it, and a be part of it for a little bit, and it was wonderful, most wonderful, just the glimpse that I saw of people who lived so close to heaven, but I’m still afraid to die and I still have to stay on the shore here.

All for you, my beautiful Africana,


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