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The Village Idiot

I've been wrong before

Jack Deatherage, Jr.

I don't believe a God above invented all that's good
I don't believe that there's a need to rush from childhood
I don't believe the world began with a lion's roar
I don't believe a lot of things
But I've been wrong before
(Abney Park: I've Been Wrong Before)

(10/2017) I'm taking MomD to the local supermarket when she up and tells me she wants someone who believes what she believes to take her to a weekly prayer group meeting. I glance over at her and smile. I'd volunteered to do the taking.

"So it's okay for a pagan to take you to market, but not the prayer?"

She doesn't miss a beat. "When did you start calling yourself a pagan?"

"When I stopped believing in the godlet of the Jews, Xians and Mohammedans."

"So, what pagan gods do you believe in?"


"Do you believe in anything?"

I knew this wasn't the time to remark, "I believe I'll have another beer." Though I've waited decades to toss that one into a conversation- I seldom drink beer now. Instead, I allow I believe in two gods I can prove to myself. Before an argument begins I also allow that her godlet may well exist- I simply do not believe it does. And belief is not a thing that can be forced on someone- in spite of religious "believers" attempting to do just that over the last several thousand years.

I've come to understand that philosophers and other learned ramblers tend to define everything so they can understand each other's arguments. Mom and I have never bothered to do that. We just argued- each assuming the other understood the meanings of the words we used, each of us entrenched in the belief that we were correct in our thinking and the other too dense, or willful, to understand the other's positions.

My need for more evidence than she can provide in order to inspire belief has ended decades long arguments and we now have actual conversations about religion. While Mom may yet hope I'll "see the light" I no longer need to show her she's been blinded from childhood by her religion if not her godlet. (If she gets any comfort from her belief in either religion or godlet, who am I to take that away from her? My gods don't demand she bow in submission before them. And if they did? I'd realize they weren't the gods I need.)

Having reached a small plateau on the uphill road I stumble along, I figure I'll take a break. A nice long mental nap of say- ten or twenty years seems in order. However, I find that having attained some tiny enlightenment the gods have placed two new mentors for me to argue with just where I'd planned to doze off.

Perhaps I should change my criteria for recognizing gods and add "being urged to evolve" to "being told to bow in submission" as reason enough to dump them and seek more lackadaisical ones? Then again, the struggle to convince myself of gods I can believe in seems more of an effort than simply getting on with my education. I glance back along the road.

Ten years a drunk, twenty years cursing the RC church and it's godlet, ten years numb and uncaring, fifteen years sitting among pagan homesteaders, thirty years learning to build bread. (Thankfully, much of the learning ran congruently rather than consecutively or I'd be 95 years old rather than merely 63.) Dozens of mentors- willing and otherwise - brilliant, mad, angry, constructive and not have brought me to here.

With a tired sigh I turn and contemplate the carefully constructed wall I've built about this place to protect myself from it, and to absolve myself from having any responsibility toward it. Behold! my smug little wall. And it's breached by a frigging' tattooer and an illusionist! Outsiders, invaders coming to this place with different world views and life experiences. And ideas! (Oh cruel gods! Is each chink in my wall going to let in an ever brighter light?)

"Jack. We're holding another kids coloring night. You can come if you want. We'll even give you a box of crayons and a picture to color." Tattoo Don, Pillar of the Community smiles at me. (I wonder again if I like him or no.)

"This year we're working with Michael (Cantori's Theater of Magic- used books and illusion shows). The kids come to our shop for snacks, sippy drinks and a sheet of tattoo flash to color, then they take their pictures to Michael's shop and he preforms some magic tricks for them."

Oh? I like Cantori's shop. He's got lots of books I haven't read.

Hell, I just finished "The Nazis Seance" and am reading "The Rabbi and the Hitman", both signed by Arthur Magida while I was chatting with him at the magic shop. (I also met a sword swallower and a woman who lies on a bed of nails. One never knows who might visit Cantori's.) I'm also working on "The Theban Plays" by Sopholces. The rest of the small stack of books I recently acquired from the magic shop contains Orwell's "1984" and "Animal Farm", as well as Euripides' "Four Tragedies", Pearl Buck's "The Good Earth", "The Short Novels of Dostoevsky", "Everyday French Cooking" and "Hemingway on Fishing" -should Don ever talk me into getting on a saltwater fishing boat with him.

I wander between the tatt and magic shops trying to grasp what is going on. Yeah, I get that cross promotion of businesses is a big deal. I sort of get the concept of "giving back to the community". Something else is going on though. The kids are being exposed to "art" from a tattooer's and illusionist's perspectives. While the kids are being entertained they are also seeing a different snapshot of this place than I grew up with. My memory is one of a town in decline, theirs will be one of people reaching upward.

Having built my wall with stones gathered at government meetings where scheming to change this place always involves someone else's money, I'm not too surprised that my wall is breached by private citizens using their own resources to make this burg a better place. That I can get on board with.

I don't believe a (government) above invented all that's good

I don't believe that there's a need to rush from childhood

-with apologies to Abney Park

Read other articles by Jack Deatherage, Jr.