At the end of days, there will be reports of things seen in the sky!!
A major earthquake in China. An ash-spewing volcano in Iceland interdicting European air travel…!
It just so happens that I was having breakfast with a born again Christian this morning, too. I was at a conference for water supply engineers in Atlantic City, in the Trump Taj Mahal. I was reading Zola’s La Terre the night before. Could you ask for more of a contrast?
The fellow at my breakfast table spoke with a decidedly un-urban NJ accent as he was from Vineland, an agricultural region in the southern part of the state. He pushed his sliced sausage away and remarked, “I try to stay away from pork now. I’m born again, and they didn’t eat pork and that stuff in the Old Testament.” No, they did not. And this good Christian is keeping kosher. I wasn’t eating sausage or bacon either, but only out of concern about my waistline.
He referred to the incident in Exodus, ch. 15 I think, in which Moses makes some filthy water fit to drink for the Israelites by breaking off a tree limb and casting it into the water. “That’s the first recorded instance of water purification technology, I like to think,” he said. I mentioned that I too had been reading The Book, and asked if this was not the incident that led to Moses being excluded from the Promised Land. He was more informed than I, and corrected me with the citation of another passage in which Moses strikes a rock in anger to bring water to the tribes. His anger did not please God, and he was denied passage. “But he’s in heaven, he just didn’t make it to the Promised Land,” my companion said. Dante felt differently, and in The Inferno, Moses is one of the righteous unbaptized consigned to Hell’s first circle.
Business travel always disconcerts me. I stood on the sand of Atlantic City’s fabled beach, with huge, garish gambling casinos behind me. What in the hell was I doing there? A mind, confronted with a world, the world, not of my own making. No sense to be made of it. In Atlantic City, I feel like John Lennon met Zola’s La Terre in my mind: as I walk around, I can hear him singing,
And you think you’re so clever and classless and free,
But you’re still fucking peasants as far as I can see,
Just so it’s clear, I include myself in that latter group…