“Leopards break into the temple to drink to the dregs what is in the sacrificial pitchers; this is repeated over and over again; finally, it can be calculated in advance, and it becomes part of the ceremony.”—
I was already a little high on cold medicine, sitting on an aisle seat on the 22 Fillmore. She took a long time getting on, and had a lot to say to the bus driver, who didn’t seem to pay any attention to her. She took a seat near me and then she started talking to nobody in particular.
"He’s dangerous. It’s dangerous out there. They’re going to do violence to women. Call the Police!"
I started to worry a little. Then she went on.
"Is it four o’clock? Call the police! What time is it? Is it four o’clock yet? Call the police! Call the police! At four o’clock they do violence to women. They do it at the 16th and Mission BART station, and at 24th and Mission, and sometimes at Potrero Hill. They always perpetrate violence against women. It’s sponsored by Heineken and Nazi Germany. Heineken, Nazi Germany and the oil companies. BP, Exxon, Chevron, Heineken and the Nazis. They hate women, and especially black women and mexican women."
She paused for a long time.
"And sometimes it’s the homosexual sadomasochists."
Not long after that we got to my stop, and the LED sign at the front of the bus read four o’clock. The part of my brain that comes up with bad ideas suggested saying, “Auf Wiedersehen, sssweetheart” and winking as I left the bus.
I believe, like most people, not that of which logic can convince me but what my nature inclines me to believe. This is so of nearly everybody. I am unable to believe in a God susceptible to prayer as petition. It does not seem to me to be sufficiently humble to imagine that whatever force keeps the planets turning in the heavens is going to stop what it’s doing to give me a bicycle with three speeds.
But if God is the universe that encloses the universe, or if God is the cell within the cell, or if God is the cause behind the cause, then this I accept absolutely. And if prayer is a way of aligning your body with the forces that flow through the universe, then prayer I accept. But there is a worrying aspect about the idea of God. Like witchcraft or the science of the zodiac or any of these other things, the burden is placed elsewhere. This is what I don’t like. You see, to me, you are the heroes of this hour. I do not think the earth was ever meant to be your home. I do not see the sky as a canopy held over your head by cherubs, or see the earth as a carpet laid at your feet. You used to live an easy, lying-down life in the sea. But your curiosity and your courage prompted you to lift your head out of the sea and grasp this fierce element in which we live. They are sitting on Mars, with their little green arms folded, saying, “We can be reasonably certain there is no life on Earth because there the atmosphere is oxygen, which is so harsh that it corrupts metal.” But you learned to breathe it. Furthermore, you crawled out of the sea and you walked up and down the beach for centuries until your thigh bones were thick enough to walk on land. It was a mistake, but you did it.
Once you have this view of your past—not that it was handed to you but that you did it—then your view of the future will change. The terror you have of the atom bomb will pass. Something will arise which will breathe radiation if you learned to breathe oxygen.
So you don’t have to worry. Don’t keep looking into the sky to see what is happening. Embrace the future. All you have to do about the future is what you did about the past. Rely on your curiosity and your courage, and ride through the night.