Thoughts at 4 A.M., on a night when I can’t sleep.
It’s autumn, the nights are turning cool, and the leaves are turning red. I’m seeing Halloween stuff in stores, and like every year, I vow to commandeer the televisions at work and load them up with classic Universal monster movies. I never seem to work the day though, and it’s wasted on me because I don’t celebrate it where I live. It’s one thing when you give candy to kids you know, quite another when cars of kids come on over to your development to hit you up for it. A lot of others seem to feel the same way, and Halloween nights tend to have streets full of dark houses, either bringing their kids out, or running away to the safety of movie theaters or the one bookstore we have within thirty miles of us.
Like every year, I love to walk during this season. My town isn’t the same, though. I feel older than I am, although I’m plenty old. A lot of the places where I had memories no longer exist. Even the buildings don’t remain. The arcade where I lived during my preteen years was closed decades ago, and the mall razed to make room for a Big Lots. My old high school was torn down and replaced by a community college. The magazine store that also was a cyber cafe and introduced me to the internet went out of business ten years ago or more. The two places where I worked at that I remember fondly are also dead. Both chains went out of business. Ames, a small retailling chain in the Northeast, died maybe fifteen years ago. The building where it was is now an outpatient care center. Borders went out of business five years ago, and while it was repurposed into a books-a-million, not much is really left either.
The F.Y.E. in my town where I bought all the anime I could from? Gone. The comic book store where I loved to buy back issues and bought my first anime VHS from? Now a store that just sells Magic cards, and far away from its old location. Video rental stores, where I would trawl the “for sale” bins looking for odd movies? Dead. Hope you like Redbox.
So much is just dead.
I live in a town where the only place to buy new books is a Wal-Mart. Where the only place to buy used books is a Goodwill. You buy things, read things, or watch things on the net because there is little otherwise to find them in here. Even the Gamestops seem curiously ennervated. The things that open up here are functional if dull; an all night CVS, junk stores like Big Lots or Ocean State Job Lot, a store like Pet Smart because all you have left are pets. It feels like something has died here, that the spirit of my town was killed one night and we are becoming her tombstone.
In my darker nights, I worry the same about Christianity.
My old church is dying, too. The pastors tried to groom a replacement, but a nasty split happened, and their membership plummeted. The church will not survive them, and they are in their eighties. So many memories. I helped them build the new church as a teen, and grew up in the youth group there. Unlike many other ex-fundamentalists, I was so fond of my church. The snarkers don’t realize that for many of us, far worse than that could have happened. You never know what your life could have been like if totally alone.
I worry that the faith is, too. The Church invisible lasts forever, but who is to say the Church visible does? All many people want is just a vague sensibility. Be good, be nice, love people. It’s just a damnable bourgeoisie sentiment; the niceness of neighbors, baking apple pie and smiling with rouged cheeks. The progressive replaces Christianity with the values of his class; tolerance, mildness, niceness, and a smudging disapproval of anyone who transgresses those things. This isn’t a generation that produces a Francis to care nothing about wealth, or hermits to seek God in the desert. This is the age of the squeaky clean, earnest white couple, who smile with perfect teeth as they progressively fair trade themselves into a sustainable bungalow with a Prius, two and one-half dogs, and an Imac. Their Jesus gargles rainbows, and would wear thick horn-rimmed glasses while leafing through a copy of Zen and the art of Non-judgmental Carpentry.
Autumn makes me think of death, and defeat. There’s a perverse pleasure in it, though. The nights get colder and colder, but this is its own sort of magic. The one thing I wish I could capture in my writing is this feeling; that of a child, playing in the cool inviting dark. This is life, something that over time grows colder, and darker, until we are finally called Home. It’s not dour though, any more than the cold thrill of the autumn night on your skin is dour. You shiver, and you run faster, jump higher, keep moving for the time is short. Soon, everything leaves. Your playmates are called before you, your toys break or roll away into the shadows, and then it’s just you and the elves, playing tag until you hear your name. You rub your bare arms, because it’s oh so cold. The wind doesn’t bite you, yet, but you can’t keep moving forever, can you? One more game.
One more game.
Maybe the elf will win. Maybe in the end, all we could do is one last game. That all the fighting, and all the striving was in itself a reward. The reward being tired muscles, and a slightly woozy smile as our Father leads us back inside. The pleasure that even in losing, we did all we could. The reward of the righteous is a sound sleep and happy dreams.
Yeah, Autumn makes me think this. Now to go to bed.