Tower of Babel | God Divided

The Tower of Babel: God Dividedtowerbabel

A nice Jehovah’s Witness came to my door wanting to tell me his religion’s “truth” about God. He came armed with a Bible, publications from his church, and arguments to every objection. No doubt he’d been through hours of preparation to cover every contingency. He had an answer for everything.

Well, not really everything, but everything that falls within his narrow scope of interest. Everything outside of those borders is “not God’s word” and “not truth.”

I respect people who back their beliefs with action. It’s why I humor the Jehovah’s Witness, Mormans and others who show up at my door. But there comes a point in our conversations when I tell them that I cannot live within their box. That their “truth” is only part of the story. That long ago the truth about God was divided into pieces and scattered to the four corners of the globe, same as in the story of the Tower of Babel when one language was divided into many and people stopped understanding anything but their own language.

In that story, a united people build a tower which they believe will extend to heaven and bring them close to God. A tower is a symbol of knowledge. A person’s knowledge is built piece by piece, brick by brick, stacking one on top of another. Those pieces are like bits of truth about God pieced together.

In the story of the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve’s big error is they eat of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. They too wanted to know the truth, and like the Tower of Babel they were struck down.

Apparently, knowing the truth is dangerous. If you know the truth, what good is organized religion? You don’t need it anymore.

“I walked away questioning their dogmas and beliefs, and wondered what else they could be wrong about.”

I have found my truth by piecing together what resonates with me from the world’s religions, philosophies, spiritual practices, and belief systems, including science. My main religion is Christianity, and within Christianity I have been exposed to nearly every denomination, having attended services in Baptist, Methodist, Catholic, Lutheran, Episcopal, Assemblies of God, Seventh Day Adventist, Unitarian, and Christian Science churches. I found something good in all of them, as well as in many other nondenominational churches I’ve had the pleasure of attending.

But in none of them did I find the complete truth. They all have a piece of the puzzle, a brick in the Tower. Some of them recognize that their picture is incomplete. To others that idea is heresy. Stack the wood, start the fire, and burn the witch!

The churches that insist only they have the truth remind me of salespeople who insist that only the product or service they sell will meet every need. Why buy a Ford when you can buy a Chevy, or a Samsung when you can go with Apple? A salesperson’s job is to convince you that what they’re selling is the best. When it comes to religion, that means they have to claim they have exclusive rights to the truth. The Jehovah’s Witness who came to my door truly believed his religion taught the truth, and that is what he had to sell. What the good man is really trying to sell is a brick.

My break with Christianity began when I went to representatives of three different Christian denominations and asked them the proper way to be baptized. This is a really important question because if you believe what the New Testament says, you have to be baptized to go the Heaven. You know what happens to everyone else, and I’m deathly allergic to fire and brimstone. So I asked my question and was given three different answers.

One group said I have to be baptized in the name of Jesus.

One group said I have to be baptized in the name of God.

One group said I have to be baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

Each group pointed to scriptures to back their assertions. Each claimed to know the truth. Each dangled the keys to Heaven and said I can only buy them in one place—their place.

I walked away questioning their dogmas and beliefs, and wondered what else they could be wrong about.

God dividedSince that time I have been on a journey of discovery. If I stayed in the box of one belief system or another I would still be struggling at the base of the tower of knowledge of God. I would have a foundation in my faith, and might have a few bricks stacked up based on what I could learn from one particular system, but wouldn’t be any closer to heaven. My tower would have stopped rising soon after it started being built.

Instead I sought out the Buddhists and learned about the truth of reincarnation and compassion for all. I sought out the Hindus and learned about the many faces of God. I sought out the Wiccans and learned that God can be found in nature. I sought out the physicists and learned that they have found God in the structures and natural laws of the universe. I sought out the philosophers and learned to think critically for myself. I learned something from all of them and the many, many others to which I have been exposed.

I am very happy to be able to speak the languages of multiple belief systems. It creates a common ground that is broad and deep. However, I still long for the day when we will all speak the same language again. Then we can build that tower.

Stinkfist | A Firsthand Account | Power of Synchronicity

stinkfist

Stinkfist | A Firsthand Account | Power of Synchronicity

Synchronicity. Not the mega-selling album by The Police. It’s the theory that some coincidences are not purely coincidental, some events are not random. The wizard behind the curtain pulls some strings and voila! You get the outcome you need.

It’s happened to me. Or maybe “for me” is a better way of phrasing it. When synchronicity happens you get the feeling that something is conspiring for you, what Rob Brezsny calls “pronoia.” The world isn’t out to get you. It’s out to help you.

That’s what happened the night I met Stinkfist.

First we must set the scene.

I worked at a cybercafe immediately after college. Couldn’t find a regular job in the profession I trained for (journalism), so I worked at a cybercafe babysitting 20 game-ready computers hooked up to a high-speed data line and serving snacks to the losers who whittled away their lives playing online games and sneaking peeks at smut. This was back in the days when most people still connected to the Internet via AOL dial-up and used an Internet browser called Netscape. A hot new game, Half-Life, was the most popular around.

Yup, dinosaur era. Like, turn of the century.

So I joke that the patrons were a bunch of losers because I fit right in. Hell, I was King Loser because I had a college degree and could only get a minimum wage job within walking distance of my little apartment near the university.

Patrick was another employee of the Loser’s Club. You’d never guess by looking at him that he used to be a Marine. Crazy curly dark brown hair nearly covered his ears like a school kid’s art project. He stood a foot short of NBA guard height, which is to say he was maybe 5’6”. Wire-thin and sinewy. Dressed in a style all his own, what I call Thrift Store Chic: a mishmash of patterns and colors that somehow worked together and definitely made him stand out in a crowd. Almost Hipster style but with more thought put into it, more panache. He was the lead singer in a local band called Kit Kat Klub, making music crossed between The B-52s and Talking Heads. A wonderful, eccentric, fast-talking man and trained killer. His job in the Marines was to hunt down and eliminate snipers. Serious shit. But that was like a previous life for Patrick. The killer had hung up his six guns.

After closing the cybercafe one weekday night we decided to go out for a drink at a neighborhood bar called The Library. Basically a tight square room with pool tables, old wood floors, and an L-shaped bar against the back wall. The smell of sweat and draft beer permeated the joint. And cigarette smoke, lots of smoke. Overhead fans stirred the brew. Not the sort of place to have air conditioning running on a hot summer night in Cincinnati, the city aglow in the light of a full moon.

So we hit the bar and have a few beers, play some pool, talk shit. Just a couple of guys sucking some enjoyment out of life. Patrick and I had good camaraderie. We were complete opposites in many ways, but found common ground by easily engaging with people we didn’t know.

The night was a slow one at The Library, two dozen-or-so people casually drinking, about a third of them playing pool. Jukebox playing. The clanking of pool balls knocking around. We played doubles against anyone willing to give us a try. That’s how we met Stinkfist.

“I remember coming back toward the table and thinking to myself, “This ain’t good.” Stinkfist is really starting to run his mouth, and Patrick isn’t taking shit from anyone. He didn’t start it, but he isn’t backing down.”

Young white guy. Didn’t look quite old enough to legally drink, but that’s probably why he was there. About Patrick’s height, which is to say a few inches short of par. Two features of the guy stood out.

One, his dirty blond hair was burred short, almost a skin job.stinkfist

Two, he had British teeth. Looked like a miniature Stone Henge inside his mouth. Wore faded Levis and a charcoal gray T-shirt with the word “Stinkfist” emblazoned across the front. For those of you who don’t know, “Stinkfist” is the first song on one of the best heavy metal albums of its era, “Aenima” by Tool. Back then Tool was not that widely known outside the metal world.

To complete the picture, imagine the guy whose wallet is connected by a chain to his belt loop, but he doesn’t have enough money to really worry about it getting stolen. Yeah, that guy.

Stinkfist was a real piece of work. Loud. Crude. And getting louder and cruder the drunker he got. He wasn’t shit-faced, but sobriety was a shore growing distant. He was there with two young females most dudes wouldn’t look at twice. They had all crawled out of the city to join the college kids for a night of fun and cheap beer.

Whatever. All good.

The night goes on and Stinkfist is proving that he’s not as good at pool as he thinks he is. He and Patrick have a testy back-and-forth going over the table. Patrick and I aren’t the best pool players, but we aren’t chumps. Which means in that small pond we dominate the table. Lose a game and you are waiting in line a while to go another round.

Stinkfist raises a stink about everything. “Hey, you didn’t call that shot.” “You bumped the table.” “Why you talkin’ to me while I’m trying to shoot?” Fucking endless. I forget what set him off when he decided to attack Patrick. I want to say closing time was a few ticks of the clock away and we were looking forward to sampling the weed waiting for us across the street at my apartment. We’d had our fun. I have a picture in my head of Patrick and I winning one last time and giving up the table to the losers, Stinkfist and his hoes. I might have walked away to pay my tab or something.

I remember coming back toward the table and thinking to myself, “This ain’t good.” Stinkfist is really starting to run his mouth, and Patrick isn’t taking shit from anyone. He didn’t start it, but he isn’t backing down. I think Stinkfist was used to people backing down. Could see it in his eyes. Stupidity. Like, almost short-bus stupid, mixed with volatility and anger. The kind of guy who would sucker punch a grandma.

Patrick decides to wait for me outside. Stinkfist is getting under his skin and he doesn’t want to fight the kid. I tell him I’ll be right out.

Patrick walks out and I am twenty seconds behind him. I think I was saying goodbye to someone I knew. Stinkfist is pacing near a pool table, cursing to himself, working himself up like a pot about to boil. Suddenly he tears his shirt off and dashes for the door. It was one of those doors like an emergency exit that opens by pushing on a big metal bar. It made a loud clack whenever pushed hard. Stinkfist slammed it on the way out.

I run around the pool tables and get to the door about five seconds after Stinkfist’s dramatic exit. I hear a loud crash of glass bottles on asphalt. I’m expecting the worst.

Outside, Stinkfist is on his back struggling atop broken glass. Patrick is on top of him in a position known as side control. Other than a full mount, it’s the most dominating position to be in when a fight hits the ground. At that point Patrick could do anything he wanted. Stinkfist is just trying to cover himself. Patrick hasn’t thrown a punch, but he can start whenever he wants to and Stinkfist can’t do a damn thing about it.

stinkfist_anal“Patrick!” I holler. “Let’s get out of here.”

“I’ll teach this fucking punk,” Patrick yells. Everyone from the bar has poured out to see the show, forming a half-ring around the action. Patrick’s killer instincts have kicked in. He told me later that as he stood outside waiting he knew Stinkfist was coming, and as soon as the little putz flew out the door in a rage, Patrick Judo flipped him into a pile of trash cans at the edge of the sidewalk and pounced.

Kid was at his mercy.

Stinkfist’s girls are yelling. The streets are empty for the most part except for the spectators. Patrick is one second away from making a terrible decision. He really wants to destroy the punk. But sanity kicks in and he gets up. I steer him away. Stinkfist is slow to rise. He still has a lot of fight in him, but he is laying shirtless in a pile of broken glass. I have about twenty seconds tops to get Patrick away from the scene. My gut tells me Stinkfist is only warming up. He just needs time to collect his bearings before Round Two begins.

That’s when I see the semi.

It’s rolling slowly down the street—2:00 in the fucking morning on a city street and there is a semi. I’d lived in that neighborhood for years and had seen local fast food joints get deliveries from semis late at night, but those trucks had logos on them. This rig was plain white and towing a full-size trailer, riding like it’s fully loaded. Perfect opportunity. I have to get Patrick away and know just how to do it.

“Come on man, the weed is waiting. It’ll mellow you out. This fucker ain’t worth it.”

“That semi passed by at precisely the right moment, creating a barrier between Patrick and Stink Boy. Where it came from and where it was going is a mystery. It didn’t belong at that place and time, a complete anomaly. Sent from Heaven.”

Patrick is in the gray zone between fight or walk away. His jets have cooled a little but can flare hot again in a heartbeat. Finally he relents and I lead him across the street just ahead of the semi. Now the semi is passing between us and the scene on the other side of the street. Stinkfist is off the ground and his females are being drama mammas. He has been humiliated but is too stupid to realize he should take his losses and walk away.

The entrance to my building is a nondescript glass door set between a row of storefronts. I unlock it, get Patrick inside and up a few stairs. My apartment is on the second floor. Turn around, flip the bolt, and the semi has just passed. Stinkfist is across the street, about sixty feet away, looking around for Patrick. Hands clenched in fists. Breathing heavy. Scraped up. Sweating. Ready for a fight. If Patrick and I had entered my building two seconds later, he would have seen us and come running. It would have been bad. But I felt something serendipitous at work. I felt the universe helping me defuse the situation.

I felt synchronicity.

That semi passed by at precisely the right moment, creating a barrier between Patrick and Stink Boy. Where it came from and where it was going is a mystery. It didn’t belong at that place and time, a complete anomaly. Sent from Heaven.

It would be easy to call the passing of that semi coincidence, but sometimes coincidence is meaningful. You can feel when it happens. It’s like standing close to high voltage. You don’t see the powerful current of electricity passing through the wire, but it’s there. Go ahead, touch it and know for yourself. To see synchronicity at work in your life, do the right thing and watch how events unfold in a way that helps you achieve a desired outcome.

It will be all the convincing you need.