Monthly Archives: November 2014

The Theory Of One Thing (Or How God Died In The Big Bang)


The brutal irony of science is that, in discovering how to measure matter, it discovered that nothing does.

Where once science argued the Big Bang theory, now we have the Multiple Universe debate, which posits that we are more granular than we ever thought. That our macrocosm, the cosmos we once saw as infinite, is actually just a contact lens in a sea of multiple infinities. It’s enough to leave you scrambling for a blankie, pacifier and bottle of Jack to forget our insignificance.

But we can’t help but add humanity to our search for worlds without it. For what is atheism, if not faith? We side with science because it has a better track record; you know what? Turns out the world isn’t flat. The sun doesn’t revolve around our planet. Human sacrifice won’t bring rain. Our bad.

Religion, on the other hand, prefers to retrofit theories to explain an ever-emperical world. Hell yes dinosaurs roamed our neighborhood only a few millennia ago; God just has his own daylight savings plan and time zone; He’ll explain when you get there.

But when we hear Stephen Hawking explain so convincingly  the workings of the cosmos — that time had an official beginning like an Olympic starter pistol, that everything sprang from nothing, that there really are bottomless pits (we just call them black holes)  — we must take it with the faith of a Pentecostal. How is the Big Bang on a scale any less miraculous than the loaves and fishes? Science is great at explaining the laws of nature. But whence the lawmaker? Give this to faith: It can be a lot less depressing  than quantum physics.

Perhaps the answer lies not in Hawking’s mind, but his body, which continues to fade like a collapsing star. The macro from the micro, as when a split atom alters so many molecules. Hawking embodies our own conflict with existence. He should have been dead 50 years ago, but still fights the darkness that consumes his life.  He has elevated us without movement, illuminated galaxies from a wheelchair and serenaded our choir with a gospel chanted through a Speak n’ Spell.

Maybe he has inadvertently stumbled on the singularity that unites both sides of the pew.

That life, no matter how you define it, finds a way.

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The Yes Board

I woke up today thinking of 6-year-old Precious Wellington Flood III. I swear that was his name; his sister’s name was Pumpkin, though I don’t know her middle name. Hopefully not Carving.
Precious went to Detroit public schools, where mom taught for 20 years as a first grade teacher. They say you always remember your first grade teacher. Mine was Miss Parker. Who was yours? Were you a smart pain in the ass then, too?
Mom has all kinds of stories of nascent brilliance. During a book reading about mammals, mom asked the class how a dolphin breathes underwater.
“Through he nostrils!” a confident kid shouted.
Precious wasn’t a shouter, but a handful. Precocious, smart, defiant, arrogant. My kinda kid.
He’d challenge mom. Her primary psychological weapon was the Yes Board and the No Board. If kids were good, they got to go to the front of the board and print their name under a big smiley face and one word: YES. Fuck, you should have have seen those kids beam to make it on the Yes Board.
Conversely, bad kids had to autograph the frowny-faced No Board. Kids bawled to scrub their names off. Genius.
Unless you got a kid like Precious, who must be an FBI profiler now, cuz kid was as sharp as a scalpel.
One day, he woke in a mood and came after mom. During a reading exercise, he stood up and headed to the door.
Mom: “Precious, what do you think you’re doing?”
Precious: “I’m going home.”
“Sit down.”
“I’m going home.”
“I said sit down.”
Precious strolls out the door.
Mom, slack-jawed, gets up, leaves the circle of kids, walks out to the hall to confirm this is actually happening.
It is. Precious is just grabbing his backpack on the way out.
Still not sure this is real, mom grabs Precious by the collar, marches him back into class, tells him to go in front of students and put his name atop the No Board, the most scurrilous of all the day’s offenders.
Precious does it. Slowly. Proudly. On the way back, he informs mom:
“I want to be on the No Board.”
Mom never told him, but admitted to us that night: “He called my bluff. He figured out the system.”
Still, there was a grudging respect between 6- and 60-year-old.Mom knew Precious was just that, if a touch(ton) difficult.

And Precious dug mom. I think all kids did. Here’s
Mom taught at tough-ass schools. Homes with two parents were as rare as parents with money. But there was devotion aplenty. At the end of one school year, the parents got together to make mom a patchwork quilt as a thank you. Each kid wrote a sentiment, drew a picture, which was sewn into the blanket.
“We love you Mrs. Bowles!” one read. “Thank you for teeching me how to read!” another  said, hopefully as a joke. From another boy, the precocious Noah, unabashed adoration:

“When I think,” it said beneath two rows of hearts, “I think of you.”

My god! to be that eloquent, so young. I cannot think of him without a catch in this tired throat.

To Precious, Noah, the Yes Board and love despite itself.

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Circle K and the Primal Scream, Gulped Big

ever screamed a primal scream in a car, sis? given that you cracked a guy’s head with a beer bottle for trying to take your boyfriend’s bar stool to hit on you, i’m guessing so. i never asked; did the bottle break?
the key, i find, is to give it your all. you gotta really scream it. preferably to rage against the machine, jane’s addiction, any group that hates the world as you. but you really gotta let it go. i try to make my throat sore and my ears bleed. pain is what does it. you startle yourself, get a breath, rasp from the vent. it usually does the trick.
not today. i was wrapped in my world. maybe my stomach hurt. maybe i wasn’t given the freedom to bray about my every pondering in my feeble brain. who the fuck knows.
but i was down, angry, hurt. and the screams weren’t doing anything except a piss-poor job as backing vocal to alice in chains.
so i decided to treat my pity with the best concoction known to the human palate: diet coke and hostess donettes. you know, the little white powdered ones. not the chocolate ones. teddy says those taste like dookie, without the delicious after taste.
i get em at the circle k. one of my many temples to human decay. at jack n the box, they ask about my dogs. at mcdonald’s, they know to put extra ice in the diet coke.
and at the circle k, i’ve gotten to know the faces, not the names, of the cashiers there.
there’s one i find fascinating. she’s tiny, must be about 30, but looks twice that age. i hate to say it, sis, but her demeanor makes me think she has tough mental issues. coke bottle-thick glasses that she looks through askew. walks slightly askew. will engage in conversation waaaay too lengthy for a 24/7 convenience store.
and it’s a tough area. i wonder if it’s frightening to leave work.
but she’s so oddly committed to the job, it seems. once, i was waiting to pay for my donettes, and she politely asked if she could wait on the teenager standing behind me by the cheetos. i hadn’t even seen him. she said he’d been too shy to step up.
i apologized profusely to him. and when he left, told her that was an admirable thing. i can’t think of any of those 7/11 fuckbags giving a black kid a break.
anyway, i was there, filling up my diet coke. and she’s at the register, getting ripped by her boss for cash register receipts that were $1.20 over the printed total. ‘you have to call me when this happens,’ he says. ‘you know better.’
‘sorry,’ she say. ‘it was so busy i must have gotten confused.’
‘then call me.’
‘sorry. it’s 9:45. is it okay to take my break now?’
‘i’ll be back at 9:55.’
she walks back to the fountain drinks, where i’m putting the lid on my bucket o’ soda.
‘hello,’ she says. complete smile. complete sincerity. ‘how are you doing?’ i smile, nod, say finehowareyou in rote politeness.
she pours out the remnants of her pepsi from the cup she must keep for refills (i remember from working at theaters that businesses count cups, so you can’t have a free one). she walks to the back of the circle k, where the office must be.
and i drive home, sis, absolutely disgusted with myself.
how do i lose sight so easily? why do i go deaf so quickly? must i lose touch with the world like a psychic quadriplegic, convinced the chair into which i settle is somehow real and rickety and the least bit unfair?
i come home, where teddy and esme bound on me as if i’d circumnavigated the globe and took the Snausages with me. and i let them climb on me and lick my face and fur me the fuck up and stink me out and i feel myself ease as i think about my horrible horrible horrible day. and how that girl, sitting at the office, sipping a flat pepsi and watching as 10 minutes bullet by on a manager’s punch clock that never stops metering your life in spare change, how that girl, if she had a taste of my trouble, would call her mother and wonder how she got so lucky.
i love you today, but i’ll love you more tomorrow.

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