The Mark of Cain

Yesterday I made an unscheduled trip to the Laundromat. Our clothes washing machine was acting wacky (it turned out to be the timer), so while we were waiting for our excellent repair man to come, I decided to kill off a few loads to get our looming pile of dirty clothes back to manageable levels.

While I was waiting for the machines to wash, I ran across a guy who was homeless. His name is Michael, and he lives under a nearby bridge, or so he told me. Mike is not a small man (6’3″ and every bit of 200 lbs.), and is somewhat handsome in a rugged sort of way. He didn’t smell, but could use a shave. He also needed to eat as he had spent his last few bucks getting high. He looked to be in his mid-early thirties, but exposure had weathered his face to make it appear somewhat older.

I met him when he started talking to me about God. He must have included the words God or Jesus as least a dozen times in his first couple of sentences. Subtle as a brick, this one. Since I was a God-bot in the past (or as I like to say, a bored-again), I find mysef immune to this type of language/reasoning, and I’ve spent enough time around the mentally ill to not be afraid of the harmless ones, so I figured I could, at the very least, keep him from pestering others while I waited for the the machines to finish.

Mike saw God in everything. He heard God in every car horn (which he happily pointed out every time someone set the alarm on their car), saw God’s hand in the finding of an ink pen, and had wonderful ways of looking at numbers and telling you how God was related. Nothing was in the least bit happenstance to Mike; everything showed the hand of God.

Those of you who know me, know I spent a fair bit of time studying God, and trying to be good at it. That I have so demonstratively failed at the attempt, does not reflect the earnestness of which I attempted it; which is to say I used to be a real asshole for God. However, this experience has given me some insight into the “logic” of Christianity, and more importantly, the “logic” of extreme poverty, having at one time in my life been both homeless, and a Christian. So I have some real empathy for Mike, or any man who slowly takes the road from family man with a good job to penniless and living under a bridge. At one point Mike had a business, a wife, ran an AA half-way house, and was a tax paying citizen anyone would be happy to have as a neighbor. Now he is the kind of guy one instinctively shuns while passing on the street. The twin daemons of mental illness and addiction (or maybe mental illness brought on by addiction) have ripped this poor man apart to the point where he has to see God in everything; any other explanation for his life would simply be too cruel to contemplate.

The sad part is that for all his talk, Mike does a much better job showing the absence of God, than the proof thereof. That any creator would bestow upon one of his creatures a sickness so profoundly disturbing that only ruinous self-medication, and delusional ramblings, could alleviate the pain, is cruelty beyond all scope or belief. That he would then demand that this creature proclaim undying love for him, is vile and grotesque.

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