I ask too many questions.
I’ve heard this all my life. So many questions, such peculiar ones, and where on earth do you get them from? Too many questions and too often. So often, in fact, that eventually they no longer heard them. In the end, they grew so tired of them, so deaf to them that I no longer bothered to ask them aloud. But I still ask them. Silently. Can’t help but. They still bubble up from I don’t know where, thirsty for answers, yanking my skirts and looking up at me with saucer-sized eyes, wondering why? why? why?
Yes, still as many as ever. But I keep them to myself these days.
If only the world made sense, then, I’m sure, I would not be so short of answers.
Here’s one that I got answered the other day: Was I an accident? (Mom is only seventeen years older than I, which made me wonder).
Dad said (surprised I’d have to ask), “What do you think? Of course you were.”
Well, thanks a lot Dad.
The world makes sense to them. Or so they say. It especially makes sense to Grandma who prays every night in her little cupboard of a room so loudly that she keeps them up, tossing and turning and swearing, Mom and Dad, two doors away. I sleep through it, though, because for a year or so when I was little and Grandma had her own place I lived with her and got acclimated to her screaming in the same room while I was sleeping on her Victorian chaise longue—just a few feet away from her, on her knees, eyes on that Jesus portrait above her bed with the straw-filled mattress—the little chaise longue which was just the right size for me: I could stretch and still not stick my feet out over the edge, and I slept quite well, thank you, while my mom and my dad were away in the big city (where the Devil made his headquarters according to Grandma) taking care of a little mishap mom had had with some man other than Dad, a little mishap that I didn’t find out about until much, much later in the form of a suddenly surfacing half-brother.
Full-brother, as it turned out once some blood tests came back.
Although Grandma always seemed to listen to my questions—she’d always look at me as I asked and even though her ears were stuffed with garlic, she could still hear just fine—she never heard them. They were just empty words to her, asking for her one answer, which she always gave once I was done asking.
Her answer to all my questions: God.
Yes, God was the answer to everything and the only reason we poor souls here on planet Earth had questions (like I always seem to have) in the first place, she told me, was that God was being mysterious on purpose. We were not supposed to understand Him or His Creation, that’s the way He made us.
We were made unable to grasp the full God-ness of Him, unable to read His intentions and purposes. For us, according to that strange (though truly kind) woman, for us there was only the bowing down to Him in abject acceptance and asking Him to forgive us for our sins.
Our sins? I asked myself. He created us. Wouldn’t, then, ultimately, the sins belong to Him?
I asked Grandma this question and for once she must have been listening for I could tell that she was very close to slapping my face for saying, for even thinking such a thing. Her arm twitched and her eyes took on a wicked glimmer. Her right hand began a movement, but it stilled and it never did set out for my face. The wicked glimmer turned despairing: what to do with a child like me?
She never slapped my anything. She was good that way. Still, this never made sense to me. If we are made in his image, then that image obviously must have contained sin, since we (His image) contain it—i.e., are sinners as Grandma keeps saying. And since we are sinners, God must be a sinner, too, or we would not be. Makes perfect sense to me.
I never tried that logic out on Grandma. I preferred to stay unslapped.
What is sin anyway?
Sin is what God says is sin, says Grandma.
How convenient, I thought.
I’ve had lots of other questions. Still have. One that recurs is, and that still is answer-less: Why must something die in order for something else (and as a rule larger) to live? Talk about a zero-sum game. Now, if God, who according to Grandma and about a billion or so other people, designed and set this whole thing up (rules and all), well then, in my view, he’s pretty sick and could do with some serious counseling.
And that leads to this question: why is the lower end of the food chain scrambling so incredibly hard to survive just to be eaten? I mean, what is the point? Is that the point? Does the baby algae spring alive with the one purpose to someday, if he works really hard at it and doesn’t screw up too badly, to someday become fish- or frog-food? Is that his reason to go on living? To strive and fight for survival so that you can die as food.
Die as food.
I mean, how seriously would you want to exist if that was your true aspiration? I mean, what’s in it for you? Die as food. My Lord.
We rented a cottage not far from the beach this last summer. I had to come along. It’s vacation time, said Dad. Everyone’s coming. Mom chimed in: Not optional, Suse. Pack your things. Well, I didn’t really have anything better to do to be honest, so pack my things I did, and along I came.
It wasn’t much of a cottage, but at least I had my own room with my own door to the outside so I could come and go as I pleased, and it pleased me to rise really early—while Mom and Dad were still sleeping off their hangovers—and go down to the long, wide beach. And this is what I saw: seagulls, sandpipers, and pelicans feasting on whatever smaller-than-they creatures they could get their beaks around. No letting up on that. And no wonder when you consider that a gull needs to eat about one fifth of its body weight each day, that’s a lot of little critters reaching their career goals as food every day.
And there are a lot of seagulls, a lot. So, the beach, with its tranquil and soothing lapping in and out of wavelets these mornings was, in truth, nothing but a scene of ongoing and perpetual slaughter. And quite noisy, to boot. Arguing a lot, these gulls. Over food, I gather.
So, what else do they do, these gulls? Not much, it seems. They eat, constantly. Have to. Then, out of sight somewhere, they procreate: making new eating machines who will then go on to slaughter constantly. Their purpose in life.
And the little ones, the gull-food, what is their purpose in life? Same as the algae? Another great day to be someone’s food? As I said, whoever set this zero-sum game up really had/has some issues.
I also saw, and stepped around, remnants of crabs that the gulls had dropped from some (especially from a crab’s view) vast height to crack them open to hungry gull beaks. I tried to calculate how high, say, fifty feet would be to one of these little crabs who surely can stand no taller than one fiftieth of my height, meaning: what’s fifty feet to me is fifty times that to the crab, meaning: the gull is dropping the crab from a height of 2,500 crab feet.
That’s quite a drop. Luckily for the crab, gravity doesn’t adjust for crab feet, but brings it down to its sandy death before it has had much of a chance to reflect on its fate.
What joy could there possibly be in a crab’s life? Do they feel any emotions? Other than fear, for surely they must feel that. Some sort of. Some sort of crab fear however that would feel to a crab. But what kind of existence is that? Waking up to a new crab day looking forward to what? Eat or be eaten? Is there indeed even a modicum of happiness in a crab’s life? Anything to look forward to? Other than eat or be food?
Eat food or be food. Eat or be.
All the way up the food chain, the same eat or be eaten, all the way up to us humans, here at the top, rifle and telescope sight in hand, which is where this particular buck stops rolling. For we don’t be eaten. Not so much. We just eat. No give and take here, just take.
We kill, we eat.
But then, when we’re not hungry anymore, when we’d had our fill of food kill, we don’t stop killing, we just go on killing.
Why? I’ve asked myself many times. Why?
Because we’re good at it, is what I usually answer myself. Killing is something we know how to do really well. Stomp on spiders and ants. Not to eat them, just to kill them.
Trap flies. Grandma (that kindly old woman) was brilliant at this, she could catch them in her hand by grabbing at the air, really quickly, four or five inches above where the fly was sitting, for that is where the fly would be once the hand got there—flies being quick little critters and not so fond of dying (unless as bird food, of course)—and she’d grab and smother it mid-air and then toss is, half of its legs broken and wings crushed but still alive in a little glass jar of kerosene where the fly would then continue to sputter and make a fly-fuss until it died in a what could not have been a very pleasant kerosene-drowning.
We are so good at killing. Anything that moves. Historically (and still ongoing) a lot of human ingenuity has been lavished on devising tools to do just that. And we’ve come up with some beauties.
Anything that moves. And that includes humans, for they move, too. So we kill them as well, not for moving, perhaps, but for many other reasons—none of them food, however (not anymore).
We kill them for not bowing down to God Almighty, who created this savage circus. The Incas come to mind, why we slaughtered them, that is.
Other reasons we kill humans include:
· Worshipping a God besides God, as in being Jewish (Hitler)
· Worshipping a God at all (Stalin)
· Not worshipping God hard enough (the Inquisition)
· Not worshipping Chairman Mao (Mao Ze-dong)
· Being “them” (Us)
Strange thing this, seems like the real outstanding human slaughters in history were, on the whole, done for Him or in His name—well, except for Mao, who thought he was Him.
Which brings me back to what a sick joke this is: all the way up to us humans, the top of the food chain, it’s either kill for food or be killed for food, it’s eat or be eaten. But once you reach the top, where we—as rulers of the Earth—have plenty to eat and don’t have to kill to eat (we have centralized killing factories that do that for us), the killing still continues, for the sheer delight of it.
Why? Why on Earth? Why?
And the questions just keep bubbling up, tugging at my skirts and looking up at me with those saucer-sized eyes pleading for answers.