Streamside Exchange: The Dancing God

The stream side is a lonely place where the croaks of invisible frogs and the chirping of anguished birds are all the company one can almost always hope for. But I never let the solitude get to me. I simply come with my neighbor, the town crier, who thinks he wins our little debates because he always gets the last word. I am a literature teacher in the village school. A respectable establishment with fine brick buildings, a small parish, and a stalwart headmaster. My names are Brun Marrabuss. This is a transcript of the most recent chat we had on the banks of the Three Nut Stream.

Brun Marrabuss: The image of God, standing on the bridge on which Hell and Heaven become indistinguishable, holding a gilded roster, running his bejeweled index finger through a list of entries, and stopping at a name, my name, or your name, calling it out and pronouncing judgment. That image is rather solemn and romantic. Don’t you think?

Town Crier: The image would be way more vivid if you did not try to squeeze me into it.

MB: No seriously. Imagine for a moment the thrill of being at the center of god’s universe.

TC: Not after he’s sent you tumbling down to the bottom of the bridge where its toasty and smells of ash and cinder.

MB: Still, I doubt if anything can match up to the fiery joy of standing, if only for a moment, under the very eyes of God.

TC: Didn’t you tell me the other day that you flutter like a darling creature under God’s gaze?

MB: You mean his omnipresence? Omniscience?

TC: Precisely. So what’s special about the Book of Life on the Day of Judgment?

MB: The Book of Life is also a Book of Remembrance. That day, God will not only see me but he will have first to look for my name, find it, and then fix his gaze on me, and recall all my deeds. Not all recognitions are the same. The ones preceded by recollection are always the most sublime.

TC: That is indeed the supreme illusion of your life, it would seem. But tell me, why does God have to review your past if he has been watching all along? I thought memory was a human thing. That’s why Post-it is entirely a human invention.

MB: I think I’ll have to stop you there…

TC: Why!

MB: To prevent you from crashing down the precipice of blasphemy.

TC: Thanks. But my question.

MB: Which I’ll answer with another question. What is the alternative to a post-it God?… I knew you wouldn’t know.

TC: A god that dances.

MB: Ha! How grotesque!

TC: There is nothing grotesque about a dancing god. A schizophrenic god that forgets our crimes even before it is committed. And answers the cry of the world with laughter. Divinity without memory. A god, living always in the present that, in encountering us, cannot look at us with recognition?

MB: Remember the daughter of Dionysus, how she tore her son, Pentheus, limb from limb, to bloodied shreds because she did not recognize him as her son? Or imagine a  man who has to be reminded every evening he gets back from work that the boy saying hi to him is not a burglar but his son and that the woman frowning her face in the kitchen is his wife and not a prostitute stalking him. Is that the kind of God you want?

TC: I would rather that than your God who is a being of the past. It should be comforting to you to know that he  loves to sleep too. He rested on the seventh day and has continued resting, scheduled to wake up from his slumber on the judgment day and do nothing but remember. I mean, who rests on the seventh day? Is that not the day when the cycle of creativity renews itself? How can you sustain the turbulent and errant abundance of creative force if not by more creative force? How can you maintain force with rest? But God rested. And when he wakes up from the primeval slime that has long settled on his eyes and fingers because of his abandonment of the world, instead of catching up on stuff, you would be the first thing he sees because your name would the first sign he touches on his moldy and brittle papers. But you would also be the first thought he tries hard to but cannot remember.

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I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

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