All Along the Watchtower
ONE of the Sundays the Watchtower crowd broke into my life my then girlfriend and I were kinda busy in bed in a tiny shack by the Venice canals and the bed was smack next to this big curtained, glass door somebody was thumping on, it was vibrating, reverberating, thundering, for all we knew it was LAPD it was so loud, we half expected the glass to shatter it was shaking so, so we stopped what we were doing and I threw on a robe or sumpin' and opened the door a tad and damned if it wasn't two church ladies, neat as pins, straight outta 1958, or maybe '54. And one of 'em launched straight into her spiel, waving her little magazine at me, never even noticing she mighta interrupted sumpin' sumpin', and it was some time before I could slow her down a bit, because she was altogether in JESUS's WORLD and wasn't stoppin' for NObody, but finally I got her to realize I wasn't buying any, that I was full up on religion, my larders already bulging with Presbyterianism, Episcopalianism, Methodism, Congregationalism, Unitarianism, Roman Catholicism, Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism, Est-ism, Materialismo,Capitalismo, Communismo, Leninismo, Lennonismo, Rock'nrollismo, R&Bismo, Da Delta Bluesismo..... You name it, I had it and had had it and didn't need any home deliveries, thankyouverymuch. I knew there was a living person in there, I could see it in her eyes somewhere, but she might as well have been an audioanimatron, an Android for Jesus, the way she finally clanged to a stop, handed me the little Watchtower anyway, for free!, for free!, and pivoted around and set out on her sad, joyous, way, with her sister-congregant along the duckpath, the ducks quacking and indifferent, she heading towards the next potential convert, ever-eager to share the Good News of Jesus's Coming, or of The Day of Judgment when all the bodies rise screeching out of their dusty graves, and God separates the quick from the dead and the heavenward from the hellward and she and her sister finally get their reward for all those hundreds of Sunday mornings spent proselytizing when they coulda been sleeping or screwing or reading the funny papers or bicycling or eating bacon'n eggs or just lying back and contemplating how glorious it is to be alive. Alive!!!!!! Right here an' now on Earth, godless or godful, don' make no never mind. It's here, she's here, and it's glorious. And she don' have to share the news with anyone, she's free at last, thank god almighty she's free at last, if only she can MAKE THE LEAP, to enjoy herself, and her world, and her god--- if it pleases her to think there's one---without one damn thought about heaven, or hell, or sin, or redemption, or the Reckoning Day when all our sins will be remembered and most of us will be sent down below to be poked by demons with with pitchforks and herded into fiery furnaces, one each for sex fiends, dope fiends, money fiends, pride fiends, food fiends, mean fiends, and on and on, as many furnaces as there are kinds of sins. And lots of the sinners will have so many sins on their heads they will have to be rotated across burning coals (always herded by those pitchfork-wielding debbils!) from one furnace to another, because they have to punished properly for each kind of sin, and every furnace has its special especially painful punishing properties. And there's even a furnace for Sunday Sisters who don't push their Watchtowers hard enough onto the unfaithful and unenlightened on Sunday mornings. But our sister ain't a'scared of that furnace no more because she's making THE LEAP, taking that BABY STEP into permanent wonder. The thought that has been hiding and going unspoken in the back of her mind is quietly coming out of the closet and spilling its guts and seeping into her neurons and loosening the ties that bind. Whatz happening here?! Isn't she simply sitting in her kitchen? Not only, not any more. She's coming undone, unglued, unraveled, she letting go of all manner of baggage, it's just evaporating, she can't even remember what it was anymore, she's lightening the load, she's getting stuff off her chest BIGTIME, she's growing so light she can hardly keep her feet on the linoleum floor and her butt on her chair. She's free to let the love of the world pour in and out the way the air rushes in and out of her lungs! Turns out, she realizes at long last, that inspiration from the Holy Spirit is THAT simple! And she stops fantasizing about heaven as well, stops wondering exactly what her reward will consist of, whether that might be eternal spiritual and carnal union with gorgeous Jesus himself, or an unlimited 0% APR Visa Card, or maybe just something as simple as a new Camry that never breaks down and freeways empty of traffic at rushhour, kinda the way she remembers 'em back in '84, when the Olympics came to town and everybody cleared out, fearing mobs of tourists... Lord but that was as a glorious time to cruise the Ten and the One Ten and the Four o' Five! And her heart opens a bit wider, wider than she could have ever imagined, and she grows calmer than she had ever dreamed calm could be, and Jesus, the real Jesus, not the Watchtower Jesus, comes into her lungs, her heart, into every one of her red corpuscles, and she realizes that she herself, if she catches herself just right of a Sunday morning, IS Jesus, that the bacon 'n eggs are Jesus, the little squirrel chattering outside her window is Jesus, her crabby old mother and jealous sister are Jesus, that so and so that dumped her for the go-go girl is Jesus, and that Jesus is mercy, and love, and doesn't necessarily go about in lady-suits from 1955, banging on people's doors of a 7 AM on Sundays to wake them up to The Good News for Modern Man or to warn 'em of the sinners' retributions to come. She feels, savoring every part of herself and her world, that Jesus is deliverance, delivering her from the prison of her former self, that Jesus stands at the door of life, welcoming saints and sinners alike OUT of the penitentiaries of their narra' hearts and into the wide wide wide wide world and into their ever renewed selves and evergreen souls. And she draws a deep breath and the oxygen is sweet and clean and caressing as a four year old's tiny hand when she reaches it out to stroke her momma's cheek. INspiration. IN goes the holy spirit. And all good things must come to an end and so EXpiration. A little death. OUT goes the Holy Spirit. In and out and in and out and in and out. Life and death and life and breath and inhale and exhale and a neverending cycle of expiration and resurrection. This is what she shares with every living thing, including that nasty ol' momma of hers, and her backbiting sister, and the squirrel outside, and the cat wrapping itself around her leg, and even with all the men who used her and abused her and broke her spiritually and financially and physically and left her to die. She forgives them, she forgives herself for having been duped by them and for loving them, and she learns anew how to love alike those who betrayed her and those who nourished her. There's no need, she understands, to instruct the unenlightened. We all go in and out of the light and the darkness a thousand times a day. A thousand times a day we do good and evil. The infinite possibilities and roles and choices of life blow through us like the ever-changing & uncertain glory of an April day....and night. A thousand times a day we are preachers and congregants, faithful and faithless, saints and sinners. The feelings of joy and wonder blow through her mind and heart like sunshine and storms and zephyrs and gentle, cleansing rains----just the ever-changing weather of the soul, which she welcomes in like the glad hostess she is and to which she bids farewell with an equal fervor and gusto and calm. Open and close. Hello and goodbye. Entertainment and boredom and passion and apathy and love and hate and forgiveness and resentment and satisfaction and hunger. She hardly knows who or what she is anymore because she feels such a kinship with all things, living and dead, that she's no longer concerned where she stops and the rest of the blooming cosmos starts. She feels, on that glorious Sunday morning, as if she has taken flight from herself, and is hovering overhead, so that she can see herself sitting in her kitchen, eating her bacon 'n eggs while her grumbling mother washes dishes in the sink and her angry sister broods in her bedroom and the squirrel chatters on the branch outside and the cat posts herself at the window pane and chatters her teeth at the taunting squirrel and desperately dreams of the day she'll catch and eat the little bastard and now she, not the cat, is flying high over her little house in Leimert Park, she's flying over the hills of Baldwin, she's flying over Ballona Creek and the Marina and LAX and the freeways and Manhattan Beach and Hawthorne and the mansions of Palos Verdes and pretty soon the whole of Southern California is spread out beneath her in all its glory and the Pacific curves away to her left all the way to Hawaii and Tahiti... and San Francisco and Seattle and even Anchorage are visible to the north and she can see Bogota and Quito and Santiago to the South and Omaha and Chicago and Atlanta and Cleveland and Pittsburgh and Newark and New York City and even Rekyavik and London and Paris to the east and she's a kind of human satellite, sailing overhead, taking in the Earth and all its wonders, nor does she stop there. She just keeps rising, rising above the great blue whales geysering in the Antarctic Sea, rising above the elephants trumpeting on the Sereghetti, rising above the ceaseless flocks of migratory birds crisscrossing the earth in their billions, rising above towering, billowing, cumulous clouds, the fleecy strato-cirrus, rising above the glimmering glittering Aurora Borealis and Aurora Australis, rising above the stratosphere, the ionosphere, rising above the moon, rising above the planets---Mercury, Venus, Mars--- nearest the sun, rising above the sun itself and the entire solar system, above frozen Jupiter and Neptune and Saturn and all their moons and rings, rising, rising, until her perspective takes in the tiniest, most distant, most orphanned little ice cube of a planet---Pluto or whatever the astronomers have spotted beyond Pluto---she's beyond distant asteroids now, she's beyond the outer reaches of the Milky Way itself, she takes in whole galaxies with her giant, light, open, heart, she soars high above the known and unknown universe until the whole immense, infinite, creation appears infinitely tiny, until she finds herself embraced by and merged with The Other, The Maker, Her Creator, until she finds that in her and without her lies ALL CREATION. And now the The Other is She, and is there IS no Other. "I am the alpha and the omega," she intones, and then giggles, and, understanding the plenitude & the emptiness, the fullness and the abyss and all that lies between 'em, at last zooms and sinks, suddenly then gently and slowly and lightly, back down to her kitchen, with her mother still rattling around and growling at the sink, her sister still nursing grudges in her tiny dark bedroom, and the cat still plotting murder at the window, and the chattering squirrel still taunting the cat, and her open heart still open and light and fully illuminated. It happens to be in her chest, but it could be anywhere. Anywhere at all.