Thursday, February 17, 2011
The Furnace and the Candle, Pt. 3
The majority of my perception was locked in to the event. All of my sense organs had opened up and were drinking in not only the material, but the psychic stuff of the display. As I basked in the ethereal effluence, my mind told me that something was out of place. There was some object within view that my mind immediately recognized as fundamentally foreign. There was a flavor that, while subtle, contrasted so strongly with the smoldering intensity of the stylish preacher, the vitriolic disdain of his aggressors, and the empty amusement of the remaining crowd that I did not realize that this alien object had stepped up and started talking to me until halfway through his introduction.
My brain shunted all of its faculties to this man who had stepped over to my side, opposite the acid gallery. The only thing I remember him saying was a calm stream of half mumbled words that were so quiet that I could barely hear them. I did hear him though. His being, in its entirety. His very soul.
I knew immediately that he did not belong here. He possessed neither the righteous fury welling and roiling within the pontificator, nor the dripping corrosive ego of his auto-nominated adversaries.
What he had, what he was, was a gentleness and peace of spirit that I had never witnessed before. My mind continues to refuse to remember his words but recalls in total everything else. This man carried himself as if he were a weightless thing, formed of mass but not bound by the shackles of gravity. Every step he took was a return to the world, not for the benefit of any but merely to visit. To exist there.
Which was exactly what he did. After an exchange of names and before I fully realized what had occurred there, he departed. The only physical evidence I have of his existence at all is an illegibly scribbled name in my notepad and a book he gave to me with a phone number printed on the first page. I hesitate to call the number, for I fear that in doing so I will place the phone next to my ear and hear only the ignition of all the unrefined mind-fuel stored within me, resulting in a spiritual immolation that will burn away my identity and leave me changed in ways that I will not dare fathom.
I returned to reality with the book in my hands, hearing the preacher bellow, “When I was in college I was a drunken whore mongering frat boy! Then I was born again!” The caustic circle around him bubbled and hissed in response, prompting me to once again pay attention to the debate parody.
Of the mooks orbiting him, three stepped into the verbal coliseum to fight for they rationalized as truth and righteousness. In all likelihood though, they were more likely offended by his audacity more than his actual beliefs. How dare anyone adopt a worldview beyond apathy.
These 'champions of reason' stepped up to defend the honor of science and, uh, stuff. Wielded with deftest skill, each brandished their scathing wit and lit cigarettes. Each drag was quick and heavy, and they all made sure that the billowing fumes washed over the firebrand. It was almost as if they relied more on the smoke to dissuade him than their arguments. Of course it would be preposterous to even think that such confident, brilliant, and seasoned debaters would rely on anything but their rhetoric to vanquish him and drive the preacher away.
The loudest, and clearly most erudite of the three asked him, “do you believe in evolution?”
To which the main attraction replied, “no, I do not. I believe that man was created by god, and the world was made in six days.”
At that, he retorted with such grace and gravitas, “then you don't believe in science! You don't believe in gravity!”
To demonstrate his complete and uncontested mastery of the argument, he dropped his still-lit cigarette to the ground.
'There! You see? Gravity exists. Science is right! You are wrong!”
I am still left utterly dumbstruck by such an exercise in logos.
This paragon of reason, garbed in lard wrapped in a worn blue sweater, knelt down to reacquire his still-burning instrument. While he withdrew to imbibe his immolated confection, two more continued to fight the good fight against this most sinister and subversive foe. He had backed down, wounded as it were by the razor-edged recitation. Blood was in the water and two sharks, one a pudgy brunette with a black sweater and white short shorts, the other a scraggly hoody-adorned lad, were closing in for the kill.
Stirring wordplay of unparalleled tact ebbed and flowed as my attention started to drift to some of the new arrivals. A gang of bikers, atop their bicycles, had rode near to observe. They parked radially around the crowd and simply listened, but it was obvious that the amount of amusement they would derive from this would be small indeed.
Or at least, it would have been had not a lass playing a ukulele walked up and into the fringes of the crowd as well. While her tune was not the most moving of orchestral accompaniments imaginable, it nonetheless emphasized one of the many themes present in the performance.
That of quaint captivation, but ultimate irrelevance.
Jed was withdrawing in the face of the relentless and expertly-orchestrated barrage of straw-man comparisons and ad hominem queries. Despite his intermittent flares of enthusiasm and spiritual resurgence, his countenance had still worn away to a subdued meekness.
There was nothing more to see here this day. He had sworn to return the next day, with renewed vigor and a grander repertoire of scriptural axioms to convey to his ad-hoc flock.