Brother Joe Speaks Out


My Designer God 

I sat down in the booth and unfurled my silverware. My plate was piled high. I was ready to dig in like Homer Simpson at The Frying Dutchman. Then I glanced over at the booth across the aisle and spotted a man with his head slightly lowered. He was either looking down at the buttons on his shirt or saying a prayer. When I saw his lips slightly moving, I knew it was the latter.

He was with a woman and a little boy. All three bowed their heads reverently as he said a short blessing. I couldn't quite hear exactly what he was saying among the din of people chattering and the tinkling of silverware, but I got the gist of it. The word "thankful" was in there somewhere.

Suddenly I felt like an ungrateful glutton. And, surprisingly, a little jealous. It seemed so endearing, as if it were the only polite thing to do. Just saying, "Hey, thanks, man." I, too, wanted to say hey thanks, but I didn't have a man to say thanks to.

I covet my neighbors in the booth across the aisle. Not their ass,
their unseen pal.

How nice it must be, I thought, to walk around believing you've got an invisible friend, one you can dial up any time and say, "Thanks for the chow." Or, "Listen, man, things aren't going to well, can you help me out here a sec?" Or simply drop in for no reason and say, "Hey, dude, how's it goin?"

Lucky bastards.

I want one. An an invisible friend. Someone to watch over me. But the best blessing I could offer up would be along the lines of: "Oh heavenly Father, whom you know full well I don't believe exists, thanks for the lovely meal anyway...although, I must say, with all due respect, the meatloaf is a tad on the dry side."

If I were overheard mumbling that in the old family feedbag, well, I might not burn in hell, but it sure would burn as I skidded across the parking lot when they threw my ass outa there.

I've always been a little envious of those who are able to walk around in that naive, blissful world of cherubs and angels, honestly believing that, no matter how fucked up things get down here, they'll have luxurious accommodations waiting for them in heaven, where everything will be just hunky dory.

But now that I had witnessed a possible miracle (I figure seeing three silver balls suspended in the air was a damn sight more miraculous than seeing a bush burning) (more on that later), maybe I had a shot at convincing myself there was indeed something more. Just possibly my paradigm had been shifted enough to accommodate, for the first time in my life, this line of reasoning. Or lack thereof. Maybe, just maybe, I could have an invisible friend.

But I have no interest in merely going through the motions. Especially their motions. Standing in some church on Sunday morning with your hymnal book turned to page 113, sleepily droning "Bringing in the Sheaves," not really knowing or caring what the fuck a "sheath" is (or maybe even thinking they're saying "Bringing in the Sheets," which makes about as much sense) - that's not my idea of religion.

I always said if I were going to be a Christian, I'd be a juicy Christian, I'd really believe it, I'd live and breathe it like an insane Holy Roller, or else I wouldn't bother. None of that middle class white people Christian shit. You'd find me in the black church down the road, in the choir. Oh, I'd be going through motions, all right, clapping my hands and swaying back and forth (slightly out of synch, I'm sure), lost in the rapture that I was gonna live forever, my white face shining like a lightning bug on a moonless June night.

Who's to say my invisible friend has to be an asshole?

Don't worry, though, I'm not joining any black church. (Like they'd have my pasty ass.) Or a white one, either. The only church I'd join is The Church of Me. And I'm already a member of that. (I'd also consider The Church of My Holy Nose or The Tax-Free Church of Sexual Perversity.)

Just because I'm not buying into somebody's dog-and-pony show, does that mean I can't have an invisible friend of my own? I covet that family in the booth across the aisle. Not their ass, their unseen pal. I want one of my own. One who is always there for me, looking down on me from above, night and day, scrutinizing my every move.

Hmmm. Actually, that's not sounding so appealing. Having somebody judging you 24/7, marking down your every little indiscretion in a book. When you go out whoring and skanking, there He is, logging it in His journal. Indulge in a little fantasy about a hot 15 year old you saw in the mall and it goes immediately into your dossier. That's no friend, it's a hall monitor.

But who's to say my invisible friend has to be an asshole? Look at it this way: if every religion's version of who the hell this fellow is is different, and each one is undoubtedly wrong - or at best a paltry misrepresentation of whatever "it" is - then why can't you just design a God of your own? I don't know why you couldn't. In fact, I think I will.

OK, first off, my God is going to have an on/off button. I can activate or deactivate Him at will. And He doesn't give a damn if I swing by the whorehouse every now and then, or picture that 15 year old in nothing but a pair of white knee socks while masturbating with a slab of chicken liver. (Calm down, I'm speaking metaphorically, for Christ's sake.)

Chant in the name of the Lord and you'll be free

You know, this whole concept of a man in the sky who keeps a celestial tote board of every thing you do (particularly the bad stuff), that's based on the classical western myths. But that's just the yin. The other side of the planet has a slightly different take on the global fairy tale. Maybe I could look to the yang for inspiration in designing my God.

Trouble is, my knowledge of Eastern metaphysical thought is a bit more sketchy than my familiarity with St. Peter and all that crowd (which is pretty pathetic in itself, seeing as how I never did any of the assignments our Sunday School teacher sent us home with, nor did any of my other little heathen friends that I know of, except this one kid who's serving 20 to life now. We all figured five days of homework was enough).

I do know that Lu Tsu said some pretty cool stuff. And some other Eastern thinkers. Who was the guy with the really long name? You know, the one with the beard.? Swami-something? Or Something-yogi? What was that thing he said about reality?

Oh, wait, there is one Eastern scholar I can quote. George Harrison. "Chant in the name of the Lord and you'll be free." (OK, he's not a swami, but I figure they're all saying basically the same thing. The Cliff Notes version will do just fine.)

Now that's what I'm after. An altered state of consciousness. Acid without the acid. I want a line in the air, a direct connection with the fellow. But it'll be a cold day in hell before you catch me chanting some name of some lord some guy made up.

I wonder if you can make up your own name for the Lord. Would chanting His name still work if you named Him Earl D. Porker? How about Waldorf O'Dougal? Could you ever attain nirvana chanting Myrtle?

Hmmm. I wonder just how much can you finagle with this designer God idea and still make it work. Can you order up your own features? A sense of humor? Anti-lock brakes? An optional sunroof?

It all comes down to this: Can you trick yourself into truly believing that you're in contact with something or somebody if the something or somebody you're in contact with were designed by you? Can an imaginary friend of your own invention give you that same sense of contentment and immortality enjoyed by the good folks in that booth across the aisle, who are now chowing down like Norm Peterson at the Hungry Hefer, confident that everything is gonna be just hunky dory (despite the fact that the meatloaf is a little on the dry side)?

Well, there's one way to find out.


 In the next episode:

I figure the first step in designing my designer God is to step outside my normal paradigm of consciousness. So I decided to get really stoned. I drew the blinds about half way, wound up and old clock that belonged to my ex-great-grandmother-in-law (the ticking provided a nice soundtrack for this adventure) and placed a book about the Dali Lama on the coffee table for good measure. Then I sat down by the window and carved off a healthy sliver of Iranian hash I've been keeping in the freezer since 1976. I was about to find out first hand what happens to you when you start chanting Earl D. Porker over and over after smoking hash with 30 year old freezer burn.