Introduction: Of Golems and Gollums
This story began as a blog post that I wrote last night but saved for later editing. As the night went on and the new day came and went, my thoughts changed, such that I felt the need to write a sequel – or rather, addendum – to the previous post.
Part 1 – Murmers in the Dark
(OR: How our desire for heaven and our ability to bullshit are connected)
When I returned from dinner today, the man in the hostel bed below me emerged from the darkness for the first time. He was about my height, but hunched over, pale, with red eyes and stringy grey hair. He rubbed his hands together and gave me a creepy smile – it could have been nothing but creepy given he was in a youth hostel and looked to be about 40.
What’s it got in it’s pocketsesss? A metro ticket? Yesss, maybe that is it.
Sniffling almost as much as I was, but without the excuse of having a cold, my ancient underworld denizen of a roommate came face to face with me.
‘Do you know that you talk in your ssssleep?’ He smiled almost wickedly.
‘No, I did not know that.’
‘It was funny,’ he said in a tone remeniscent of Ugarte from Casablanca. ‘You spoke in French.’
‘French?!’ I do not speak more than five words in French.
‘Mmmhmmmm…. gollum! gollummmm…. hmmmm…. you said pardon and ci vouz plez very clearly in a perfect accent.’ His hands writhed and clenched with the vigour of one who holds an arcane secret. He held this gnostic mystery – my nocturnal glossalia in French – over my head like a carrot in front of a beast of burden.
‘Strange.’ The dream was coming back to me. I could almost remember the context. It was strange, but I was reluctant to engage my bedmate in this gloom, for he clearly had the advantage in the dark. All I could see were flickers of mischevious light behind his droopy eyelids.
‘Mmmmhmmmmm. Yessssss. It is very sstrange.’
Then he left. I was left alone, with only the gloom of the
cave hostel to keep me company.
I was left pondering the probable context of the dream. In all likelihood I was making a bedtime revisit to Paris, which is undoubtedly one of my favorite cities. I remember that when I was in Paris, I did everything in my power to not be American. I was terrified of the Parisian reuptation. Despite only knowing a handful of French words, I employed them as creatively as I could with as best pronunciation I could muster. Apparently it worked, because I left Paris thinking the Parisians were very agreeable people.
I pat myself on the back for my incredible ability to bullshit.
Pondering this caused me to reflect on my behavior in Paris and other large European cities. Obviously I wanted to blend in because I didn’t want to be cow-apulted by an angry frenchman.
The more profound reason behind my conformity, however, is the same reason anyone conforms to anyone else: a desire for comraderie. So, I found myself upon a startling conclusion: my ability to bullshit is founded entirely on a desire for heaven!
I see that you haven’t made the connection yet. Allow me to explain. Another word for heaven is the communion of saints, i.e. a gathering of all the coolest dudes in history. Other ways of refering to heaven are mystical union and heavenly banquet. For the uninformed, ‘banquet’ is an old-school word for ‘huge raging party.’
You don’t know the meaning of RAGE ALL NIGHT until you’ve partied with seraphim.
All I’m trying to say is that as humans we have an intense need for companionship. This need is probably one of the most intensely human desires. Animals have herd instinct and pack mentality. Humans have something on an entirely different level: fellowship.
And what struck me after thinking about my dream was how many bizzare shapes this desire takes in our everyday life. For me, it was bullshitting French to make a favorable impression on the Parisians. To others it is pretending they have good grades to fit into the smart crowd – or, at Notre Dame, pretending to have bad grades to fit into the slacker crowd. To someone else this heavenly desire drives them to be afraid of talking about their faith.
I think it is useful to reflect on the riddiculousness of this paradox. If we recognize that the desire to fit in comes from our desire for heavenly communion, then anything we do to ‘fit in’ that doesn’t correspond with God’s plan becomes riddiculous.
continue to Part 2