Fish of Girlfriend of Son #1 is still with us, despite apparent depression, fin-rot and neglect. I felt sorry for him this weekend and (once again) changed his water. He sits in my living room, after all – bad Feng Shui to have the slow-motion death of an ailing fish on display.
I just turned 55, and am feeling a bit of depression, fin rot and neglect myself. Is my bowl half full or half empty? How shall I part the waters of my attitude? To my right, “All right! I probably have 20 more good swimming years!” To my left, “All that’s left is probably 20 more good swimming years.”
You’ll notice that I’m ever leaning to the left, although Husband would say (if I were out of earshot) that I always have to be Right. But here’s the thing: I usually am. I don’t crow aloud about this, mind you – I crave outside approval far too much for that. I just wait, biting my tongue until it bleeds, until the time comes when I might say, “See? I told you so!” Then I bite my tongue even harder and leave that unsaid, too, so that I can roll my eyes in secret smug superior self-satisfaction.
I am at least not blind to my faults.
I fear that Fish of Girlfriend of Son #1 is blind now, though. He guesses and gulps at where his food might be – even when the water in his bowl is clean and clear. He has become my metaphor for life. I, too, guess and gulp. I, too, will one day be at the tender mercies of Girlfriend of Son #1, who in all likelihood will be choosing my nursing home.
Then again, my fledglings might never leave home. In my declining years, Son #1, Son #2 and Girlfriend of Son #1 might just deposit me down in the basement, where they’ll forget to feed me or change my water. The pale finless ghost of Fish of Girlfriend of Son #1 will then haunt me, saying, as my father is wont to do, “And how much don’t you like it?”
I tend to think we get our heaven and hell right here and now, you see.
I must, however, disagree with Supreme Court Justice Scalia, who said in a formal interview last week that he believes in the devil – and not as an allegory or a symbol or even an immortal being. “Yeah, he’s a real person,” said Tony.
This is a man who holds a lifetime position on the highest court in the land. This is a man who deliberates over the details of words and the nuances of words and the intricate involved meanings of words, a man who knows that words stand for far more than themselves.
And this man says that the devil is, yeah, a real person.
I am right about this: Justice Scalia is bat-shit crazy. I cannot bite my tongue and wait for this truth to be universally acknowledged. Is it any wonder that sociopathic outrage is the order of the day in the United States?
When the nuns taught me that Jesus became a real person, I became very troubled. If Jesus was really a person, that meant that He pooped and peed and farted just like the other people I knew. How was I to reconcile this dismaying thought with that of a perfect gleaming God? And what became of His divine poop? Did Jesus think His shit didn’t stink? (another fine phrase of my father’s, without the Jesus. My father has discretion, which I’ve been told I lack).
Remember that I was also taught not to chew the host after receiving it in Holy Communion, since that amounted to masticating God. The sacred cardboard wafer would adhere like cement to the roof of my mouth, where I was supposed to let it dissolve. But what then? The body of Christ goes through my body and winds up in the toilet? What becomes of the divinity in that humble poop of mine?
I wanted very much to believe, and was too afraid to ask such questions. In my younger years, I lacked conviction in the fact that I was Right. And one never wishes to seem unduly preoccupied with bodily functions – I’ve already mentioned my horror at learning that a guardian angel watched me even in the purported privacy of the privy. But that’s the crux of the whole thing: we’re a cross between the sacred and the profane. We somehow have to come to terms with the fact that while divinity lies within us, coarse hair grows out of our noses and ears.
Or at least starts to when we turn 55 and develop fin rot.
My doctor tells me I am not old – and I’d love to believe her, but she’s bat-shit crazy, too. I have to find a new doctor. A letter arrived from her office yesterday, announcing an “exciting change” in the way she chooses to practice medicine. She’s a general practitioner, “helping people through life from birth to death.” She has decided to help women by offering instruction in the rhythm method of contraception. That is all very well and good, since the rhythm method as I understood it meant crossing your fingers and saying, “Oh, what the hell.” Reliable medical advice should certainly be readily available.
Her words then get judgmental, handed down from a higher court. She goes on to say that she will no longer discuss, endorse, or prescribe any other form of contraception. Period.
I will bite my tongue. I will wait until her young Catholic-school daughters come of age, and see what happens. Perhaps one of them will get pregnant at 17 and have to give up college plans. Perhaps one of them will have 5 kids and find herself carrying a sixth, when she hasn’t the resources to raise even one. Perhaps they will grow up believing that sex is dirty and sinful, and spend their lives fighting the devil of their humanity.
New York Magazine: Have you seen evidence of the Devil lately?
Scalia: You know, it is curious. In the Gospels, the Devil is doing all sorts of things. He’s making pigs run off cliffs, he’s possessing people and whatnot. And that doesn’t happen very much anymore.
New York Magazine: No.
Scalia: It’s because he’s smart.
New York Magazine: So what’s he doing now?
Scalia: What he’s doing now is getting people not to believe in him or in God. He’s much more successful that way . . . I mean, c’mon, that’s the explanation for why there’s not demonic possession all over the place. That always puzzled me. What happened to the Devil, you know? He used to be all over the place. He used to be all over the New Testament.
Oh, sweet buttermilk Jesus! MIRTH at its most outrageous could not invent something like this.
No doubt the devil grew bored with making pigs run off cliffs. He’s smart — he realized it’d be a lot more fun to make the people who run the world do so.
Credit for the wonderful turn of phrase “sociopathic outrage” must go to Husband, outraged himself at being furloughed as a non-essential federal employee. I tell him that he is essential to me. He snorts.