Liquids are the enemy. Don’t let the cuteness of this little guy fool you—there’s collusion here. For as well as creating life, and being necessary to sustain it, water destroys. Creator, annihilator. We moved during a time when neither of us had vacation and we told the over-tired movers that it was okay to put our boxes in the garage. We planned to move them soon, but, you know, work. Then the rains came. Not just sprinkles, but downpours. The garage isn’t water-tight. Boxes were soaked. Many books were damaged. This wasn’t a flood that can be claimed on insurance, it was simply rain pooling where people usually park their (normally waterproof) cars. In their place sat our books.
We both worked the day after the rains. When we discovered the damage the next evening, it looked manageable. I had to work the next day, of course, and a few breaks sufficed to get the many, many boxes of damaged books out into the sun. It was carnage. We don’t have much in the way of material goods; we spend a bit of money on books, however. Now they’ve become the victims laid out on this altar of home ownership which, at the time, seemed like a good idea. We needed a house for our books. We needed time to move them from the garage to the house. Yes, old friend Morpheus, “Time is always against us.”
Job sat upon his ash-heap and pondered why he’d paid the movers so much only to have his moved goods destroyed. And in a manner in which insurance assessors are trained to point to the fine print. Those who store their goods in the garage reap the wrath of liquid. You see, when water reaches cardboard, or paper, the wood pulp sucks it up. Carefully dried, the paper remembers the compelling nature of water. Too little, and you die. Too much, and you die. No wonder the ancients thought that water was a deity. It claims all—tries to get in through your roof. Lays insouciantly on your basement floor. And the garage—yes, who thought of the garage when the immediate concern was to shut the windows to keep Leviathan out of the house? I spent weeks carefully packing those books against shipping damage. Used up my vacation days doing so. Chaos has claimed them. I would weep, but that would be collusion with the enemy, even if nobody sees.
Posted in Posts, Books, Weather, Current Events, Memoirs, Natural Disasters
Tagged water, Weather, Books, Chaos, Book of Job, moving
Starting your own religion, I’m told, just takes patience. You may have to die before it gets off the ground, but if it’s a religion you’re starting you get to make the rules. Well, until somebody else starts interpreting what you wrote. I grew up thinking a religion had to be ancient to be real. There’s a certain comfort in untestablity—you can’t verify the facts, so you accept them. It took many years before it dawned on me that new religions rely on the same premises as old: someone has received the truth (at last!) and is willing to share it with the world. Followers emerge—true believers. And then they begin to change things. “The founder meant this,” they argue, and really they’re starting their own sub-branch of the religion.
Not everyone is convinced by this ancient religion paradigm. Zarathustra, for example, set out to create his own religion, according to tradition. Jesus, it seems, was trying to reform Judaism. The process never stops. A couple of weeks ago in New York City I saw an adherent of a New Religious Movement. This one had started in the 1930s. The man appeared a little older than me, so his life may well have overlapped with that of the founder, or they might’ve missed each other by a decade or two. Already, however, the religion had grown into its own entity, and it doesn’t seem to worry adherents that the truth was being revealed, for the first time, maybe in their lifetime. You have to start somewhere.
So, if I were to start a new religion, what would it be? For a variety of reasons I think I’d call it Moby. The connection with Melville is palpable, but that wouldn’t be the reason for the name. (Religions must have a sense of mystery, otherwise they can be analyzed until they look illogical.) Like Unitarian Universalists, I think the religion would be more about what you value than what you believe. Belief can be shifting sands. New information can lead to new results—this is one of the weaknesses of religions developed when the earth was still the center of the universe. Heaven is now outer space and Hell is earth’s iron core. Moby would avoid such a doctrinal morass by not having doctrine. It would need rituals and ceremonies, of course—no matter what Mr. Spock wannabes say, we need emotional engagement and ritual has the goods. All of this requires patience, because who has the time to develop a new religion when there are only two days in a weekend?
Realized eschatology, if you’ll pardon my French, is a term that describes the “already/not yet” aspect of the “end of the world.” In other words, some theologians suggest that the eschaton—the end—has elements of both the present and the future in it. The term came back to me yesterday as we returned to our old apartment to take care of things the movers left behind. (And “left behind,” I realize, isn’t really a biblical eschatological concept at all.) Joined by our daughter, I felt a bit resentful of her time being taken from our new home to spend in the old. I felt an almost adulterous desire to leave the old and cleave to the new—hadn’t we already paid, and overpaid, for that apartment many times over? The house, on the other hand, is new (to us) and still requires much attention.
As we organized the remaining items, broke down boxes we didn’t use this time around, and waited for the Got Junk guys to arrive and haul it away, I noticed our daughter gazing wistfully at the empty space that had once had our imprint all over it. It dawned on me that she’d spent her teenage years here—after the Nashotah House debacle, this was the place she’d lived the longest. This empty apartment was, for her, home. I began to feel insensitive about my earlier anxiety to leave. We all live between at least two worlds—our pasts make us who we are in the present. The world of our teenage years is fraught with emotion and memory. The world looked so different at that time, as I sometimes forget.
Moving is one of the most stressful situations human beings encounter. We have a love/hate relationship with our past. To me the apartment represented a place we occupied out of a kind of desperation. Five states to the west, we had to move to New Jersey with little money and tons of boxes—one of them Pandora’s, with hope nestled inside. We told ourselves the apartment was temporary—maybe a year—only until we could buy a house. Twelve months turned into a decade, then more, with each year accreting memories in every crack and corner. Part of us will always be in that apartment, for every place people have lived before is haunted. On our way back to our new home at the end of the day, we were each lost in our thoughts. Perhaps not so much realized eschatology as experienced reality, we’d spent a day in a present that will never fully arrive.