Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Gestapo God

Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them. And the LORD said unto Satan, Whence comest thou? Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it. -- Job 1:6-7

How dost thou know that some entire, living, thinking thing may not be invisibly and uninterpenetratingly standing precisely where thou now standest; aye, and standing there in thy spite? In thy most solitary hours, then, dost thou not fear eavesdroppers? -- Moby Dick, Chapter 108

...behold, ye have sinned against the LORD: and be sure your sin will find you out. -- Numbers 32:23

I am sorry for the brevity and disjointedness of this post, but I have such a hard time bringing anything to completion that if I don't move hurriedly I will never write down the random thoughts that strike me as meaningful when they clang against the inside of my skull, and in the corrosive waters of my mind random thoughts do not survive very long no matter how loud they clang.

I read or heard somewhere, once, that the frightful omniscience of the Gestapo -- its uncanny swiftness in detecting (so-called) malcontents, deviants, and enemies of the Nazi state -- was due not, as one might assume, to being so large and pervasive as to become an omnipresent entity in German society, for in reality it was almost hopelessly small for its tasks and its operatives spent most of their time at their desks. Rather it was the willingness of the average citizen to tattle on everybody else that lit up so many homes, schools, businesses, and public places with a sleepless eye and a stopless ear.

The thought comes to me (not that I give it much weight, it is just one of those ephemeral what-ifs that sometimes flash, like a poisoned fish in its death twist, through the surface scum of the swamp of my brain) whether the oft-advertised omniscience of so many deities is due not to any inherent power in the gods themselves, monitoring whatever metaphysical phone-taps and surveillance cameras are available to them in their inaccessible bureaucracies in the sky, but to a legion of spies and informers who, unbeknownst to us, travel among us and observe our behavior so they can pour their intelligences into the greedy ears of an isolated god?

Not that this is an original thought, of course -- the idea of gods, even jealous monotheistic ones, making use of numinous messengers and servants is an ancient one, at least in Europe and the Mediterranean. The only reason I have for bringing it up is that, as someone who believes (some of the time) that the numinous does exist, and that there is some kernel of truth in ancient folklore (even if it does come with the coloring of religion, which, in the minds of people smarter than me, automatically establishes anything to be 100% nonsense): if these things were true then, they must also be true now, unless we are to assume that the gods die, or that whatever presences were here to sow those seeds of folklore have long since departed for other worlds or planes.

Somehow that is the most poignant and unsettling of the possibilities to me: not that these entities are, or never were, but that they were once and are gone. Perhaps I have a fear of abandonment, or perhaps it's something else, but there must be something in my psychology that causes certain images to resonate with me when others do not. But I am not going to dive into that bottomless mucky pit today.

Why do I keep returning to all these swamp and bog metaphors?

But enough, um, caressing of the orchid, if you take my meaning. But then again, what do I write here that is not that?

Blah blah blah. It is all well and good for me to speculate facilely on folklore and the paranormal and such, but what I never seem to be able to get through my head is that if I really do believe in, or am willing to grant the plausibility of, these possibilities as I claim I do, then I should not treat them so casually as mere intellectual curiosities and matters of entertainment. If there really are entities going to and fro in the earth and monkeying around in it, that is some extremely serious business. If there is any truth to any of this, it would be wise for me to start cleansing and restoring this sadly deteriorating temple lest all brightness depart from it forever and dark things come to shriek in the rafters. It would be wise for me to do that anyway; clean living is simply a positive good, even if I am nothing more than a bag of animated meat with a bit too much marbling and some rudimentary self-awareness. But it is hard, ye gods, it is hard!

That which is crooked cannot be made straight: and that which is wanting cannot be numbered. -- Ecclesiastes 1:15