Sunday, February 20, 2011
Met the neighbors daughter yesterday. She called to ask me to help her put a small antique tractor motor into the trunk of her Cadillac. Small or not, it necessitated a tactical operation.
As I was rummaging around their property looking for planks and blocks to make a ramp for walking this beast into position, she asked me if I was planning on living here for the rest of my life. I replied that that kind of time frame was beyond my usual calendar of events. She said it wasn't going to be as long as I thought. I wondered if she was perhaps a brazen medical intuitive and had detected a brain tumor, but she clarified her statement by adding: "you know, with all that's going on."
"What is going on?"
"All the things happening in the world, the economy, the riots…"
She seemed exited about what she saw happening. She relayed all that she saw going wrong in the world with the innocent, greedy enthusiasm of a child on Christmas Eve.
She asked me if I had a garden. I told her that I had a small one last year, but was prepping for a larger one this year.
"That's important now, and guns... do you have any guns?"
"I have a slingshot."
"Well that's not going to stop an intruder from coming into your house. You should really stock up. Everyone I know is getting ready. I have a .22, which is small, but I've had to fire it in my house already when someone tried to break in. I'm getting something bigger and you should too."
I remained neutral and told her I just hadn't felt the need yet.
I continued my search for something to help move the dead weight into the trunk as she followed me around talking about more terrible things to come. As I was moving a 2x12 into position, she asked me how I liked it here in town. I told her that it was a great place for me as a writer while working on my book. She asked me what kind of book I was working on. I told her that it concerned the communication problems between the fundamentalist mindset and, well, others.
"Well, you probably hate me then" she said with a smile.
"I don't hate you, and that's really the point of my project: if we were to make a comprehensive list of all that we have in common, all of us human types, then I'm certain that we would find that we have more in common with each other, than not, only the -not- part seems to be getting all the press. So, having lived in a fundamentalist reality as well as other ones, I'm making a pitch for the possibility of diplomacy and clearer communications between us to facilitate that awareness."
Still beaming at me she replied, "But there are differences, and they are real. Do you know Him yet?"
"Who's that?" I had a pretty good idea who He was, but there are more and more He's around these days. I always try to leave a little room for the unexpected to enter, but that was challenged by the familiar zeal she was emanating. I said a quick prayer that He might be J.R. "Bob" Dobbs, or a Nibiruian ambassador. My prayers were not answered.
"The Lord God Jesus."
"Oh yes, I am familiar with the story. Um, this thing is going to leak oil in your trunk, do you have a tarp or some plastic bags to lay down first?"
"Oh, don't worry about that, this car is old anyway."
It was a nice looking Caddi, no dents, good paint.
"We can just roll it in there, I don't care if it hurts the car." I told her there was no use breaking her trunk if we could avoid it, and asked her to find some smaller blocks of wood to protect the trunk latch and rubber seal. As she poked through the piles of old lumber and dead power tools, she mentioned that she and her daughter were going to build a house behind her mothers house here, to prepare for what was ordained by God, and that lots of guns were important to protect us from "them" when they start to come over the hills to steal our food.
Awesome. The Bride of Jesus was moving in. Nothing like the sounds of construction and target practice to cajole a muse into creative action.
She held the blocks in place as I gently walked the engine in to position.
"Can't ya just push it in?"
She was taking the engine to someone who wanted to use it, and I assumed that they wanted the Model T style radiator on the front in one piece. I continued to take my time and finessed the thing into place as she told me how awesome it will be once Jesus entered my life. Then she thanked Jesus for helping us move the engine safely as I tried to avoid a hernia.
The culture of the rural demands a healthy degree of diplomacy. Status updates aren't on Facebook so much as they are on the actual faces. It's important to communicate with your neighbors, and more important: to know how to do that diplomatically. Better you talk to them than to have them talk about you.
Townsfolk talk to each other. If you don't talk to the townsfolk, then by default you will be defined by them as a disconnected city person, snob, elitist, or much much worse. The projected stereotypes, assumptions, and judgements will become palpable, fueling a sense of growing otherness. It makes a noticeable difference in one's quality of life while living rurally.
The Bride of Jesus was confronting my soul. She wanted to know if I was with her, or against her. Though I was neither, I sensed that that realty would not be translated in tact to the literal mind before me. Picture neutrality as a round ball dropped between the two vortexes of good and evil. My neutrality was going to be rolling down one of those judgements. I endeavor to effect a favorable spin before I drop the ball, especially when fear and guns are the opening topics of the dialogue.
I was squatting on the ground, wiping the old oil off my hands in the hard packed dirt, when she began to witness in earnest. She stood over me dressed in all black showing only hands, head, and cleavage. With broad gestures and wide eyes she began to speak her conversion experience. I know this moment well. The witnessing is a primal attempt at social bonding through revealing what one believes to be the most important thing in the world. It could be a love for playing guitar, or an enthusiasm for marijuana, or ones personal connection to the great mystery, the qualitative feel is similar. I sat and witnessed her witnessing.
"I used to sit and watch the girls going to church and made fun of them. They looked so boring. I wasn't into the church, or God at all. I was into men that were strong and good looking and dressed nice and had great hair and drove nice cars, two or three of my husbands were like that, but one day I was really depressed and didn't know what to do and suddenly there was a voice, not in the room, but in my head that said 'everything is ok. why are you worried? there is nothing to fear' and I felt so silly for ever doubting Him. He came through the corner of my room and he was more beautiful than those men, I mean, I couldn't see His face because He was glowing, but I could feel how beautiful He was."
I secured the chinstrap on my diplomacy helmet, stood up and centered my stance. I told the Bride of Jesus that I sensed and appreciated her motivation to tell me how I will be so much better off when I realize that I will be eternally doomed until I submit to the living-dead God Jesus (I'm sure I used more diplomatic terms). I explained that I'm no stranger to the liminal experience and quoted part of J.C.'s Sermon on the Mount concerning the lily's of the field to show that I understood the gravity of her revelation. I maintained firm eye contact with a soft expression as I told her that I was perfectly willing to dialogue about our experiences, so that we could share the joy and wonder of such, but being told that her interpretation of such a mysterious event was the only one and true way was going to make this difficult. She interrupted to qualify, but I stopped her to finish by stating that her superior manner was off putting and carried the implication that she was not interested in my point of view, which made me sad (I'm not sure if I used anything more diplomatic here). She back pedaled a bit and assured me that she was not condescending, but just wanted to share the Love of Jesus. I expressed that we were probably closer to agreement that it seemed, and that additional discussion risked jeopardizing that, and I didn't want to take that risk. She then took my hand and smiled and prayed that the Lord Jesus would come into my life and fill me with the Holy Spirit. I smiled and said, "Back at ya."
I offered my help if she needed it again, and said it would be nice to have a neighbor to share the fruits of the garden with, then begged off to feed the dog.
Something was communicated between us today. I'm sure many layers of meaning transpired beyond anything I could grasp. I understood her zeal to transmit her love of God to another person, and I didn't want that to come between us. I'll share the love of God with anyone, anytime, but I couldn't just sit there and take it.