There are days the earth is clearly nothing but a dragon who sleeps and wakes. Which is to say sometimes we rest on the gentle lull of her back as she breathes her warm breath. We marvel at the flowers which grow in her exhale, the bounty, the green. There are days she opens her maw wide and gnashing. Teeth. Fire.
I don’t know anything about God. Last week I began to write things of how the closest thing I could follow as a religion were ancient, shamanic things with promises of direct revelation. Which is to say, I cannot find divine inspiration in rote, glib, things. I have to fight hard with myself to forgive hypocrisy. My own, and others’. I get the intention of churches, I even see some of the good of being a herd, a flock. There are tigers on the loose. The dragon, itself, if you will. What I hate, what I truly hate is certainty. The smug assumption that one knows the word of any thing but him or her self. Let’s be honest. We are barely capable of knowing the surface layers of our own selves. Our psychology thrives of being certain of things we can’t possibly know to be true or not.
When following behind an ambulance, though, even the atheist prays. If what one truly hates is certainty, it is almost impossible not to prove what one also hates is uncertainty.
When you’re living on the back of a dragon, the deepest need one could have is to know that should they get snagged in the teeth, there is divine reason. Hope. Assurance. Meaning.
When I watch or read stories of times before we were so important to ourselves, in times before modern medicine, when death hovered outside every door like a greedy wolf, I am always so captured by how dispensable everyone is. To the plagues, the wars, the western rogue, the failure to thrive. How stoic the people were portrayed. There was mourning, of course, but no time for much of it. Not in hard times which were often always. The stories of the modern word, have their pains, but we’re so much more precious now in our narrative it seems. More often the story is how we saved ourselves. Somewhere beneath the fiction, the truth is probably more consistent era to era. On both disposability and self-importance. It’s just I think about things. All the time. I can’t stop.
I think all the time, but I am not certain of anything, so I form certainties in my mind to keep the peace. Always I am reminded I barely know myself.
In bed, I begin to cry, because earlier in the week I did follow an ambulance. And I prayed, though who can say exactly to whom. Probably it was you, Universe. You are a certainty I can live with while also accepting I make shit up. You are my most comfortable hypocrisy. If behind the curtain, you are God, I’m cool with that. If you are a pacifying invention of my own longing, I can accept that too. In bed, I cry, and I tell my husband my father died young and missed my whole life and he cannot do that to us. Underneath it all, I am just a little girl among the earthquakes of abandonment. We all are, probably, in one way or another.
Recently, I read an article about how our cultural obsession with foods and nutrients is really a manifestation of our fearful relationship with mortality. Sneaking spinach into my husband’s smoothie, I consider this. I think of things in terms of being lucky for now. Of being woken up, given chances, escaping actual irreversible damage. I bargain. I will do all the perfect things to make this better.
I am no different than those who go to church each Sunday. Those who sing the hymns and read the dialogue and bow their heads with both good and bad intentions. Those who do not know themselves or the will of God, but just need to feel steady. On Easter, when I went to church because my daughter asked me to, the pastor opened to the church to share news and need for prayers. I remember being struck by how hungry everyone was to matter. To be heard, to be made safe. Even for the smallest, the most mundane of things.
Sometimes I wonder if the people in the older stories loved each other like we do now, always among that reaper. It’s an absurd thing to wonder or to see us as different, I know. It’s just it has taken me my whole life to be able to love as fully as I do now. To risk everything that it is to love something one could lose.
Some days, the dragon opens her maw and flames dart out. On the back of a dragon, we are so small and vulnerable. Young girls excited to see a concert tear apart by blast. A friend from college passes away in the night. The world divides in chaos over every ruin. My beautiful girl grows up among this. My beloved husband needs healing. His father needs healing. The shrapnel that embeds in the hearts of anyone these days, how pear shaped this is, that we all can’t just find a way to get along. I need someone to pray to over these things. I need something bigger than myself.