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A personal confession

By Paul Greenberg, Tribune Content Agency on

Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned. To such an extent I can't even remember when, where or if I last made confession. The truth is, Father, I don't want to be human any more. The only feeling I have left is pain. Of course you understand, for that's your profession, your calling, your obsession in and out of the confession box. You make it a point to be judgmental, especially when calling on others not to judge lest they be judged by the same measure they use to judge others. Am I mistaken? If so, I'm sure you'll tell me so from your place on high.

You'll have to correct my biblical citations, for I've even forgotten the catechism -- if I ever bothered to study it in the first place. The trouble with me and my kind has been our very reliance on chapter and verse. For in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. So the Word supplants Him, until we no longer discern any difference between Him and it. I-Thou has given way to I-It and with the vengeance that belongs only to Him. That's our primordial sin, and from it flows all our other flaws, misconceptions and general inadequacies. What we call faith is really blasphemy, for it pretends to a knowledge of Him no mere mortal has or ever will have.

I know, there is supposed to be a grand order to the universe and our conception thereof, but just between us, Father, doubter to believer, there isn't really any grand design, is there? Just a haphazard arrangement of random atoms, but we are so obsessed with finding a reason for it all that we come up with formulas to define even randomness, which some assert isn't random at all by any layman's definition of the term.

Just look about you, Father, or pick up the daily paper, or turn on any newscast, and it all becomes clear: There is only a grand disorder. Even the metamorphosis that is supposed to turn a slimy larva into a beautiful butterfly has no meaning. They're just doing what comes naturally without posing great questions or citing the Great Books.

One is supposed to lead to another, larva to butterfly and back again, just as one thought is supposed to connect with another, as in a well-crafted novel or even a mere newspaper column by some inky wretch with pretensions to consecutive thought. But none of it makes sense when looked at from my confession box. It all lies scattered like rubble at our feet, and we stumble through the stones and candy wrappers and cola cans without any clear destination.

I'm not sure why I trouble to tell you this, for you long ago substituted gnosticism for real learning and saintliness for any tangible connection to the good. Not that I've come here to insult you, Father, certainly not intentionally. I don't care enough about you to do any such thing. Besides, what harm have you or your ilk ever done me or my species? Except shudder at the very sight of us, smash us under your indiscriminate heel, or spray us with insecticides as we scurry for cover.

You don't understand what it is to be one of us, Father, but only pretend to study and catalog our customs and habits with sympathy -- or what you would call our culture if you were really open to thought instead of just being in league with all the professional exterminators of our race out there in the pitiless world.

 

It's no fun at all being a pest by the nature God gave us. I feel like just a piece on the giant chessboard you play on, a subject of your sophisticated articles in scholarly journals, a lesser creature for you literally to look down on. Your head is in the clouds while mine is in busy contact with the earth you've despoiled with wars, poverty, radioactive waste and all the other atrocities our meager flesh is heir to. Yet it's you who disdain us as bugs.

But look to the ant. That species' energy, intelligence, social cohesion and other virtues make your so-called civilization just another passing phase of evolution, or maybe devolution depending on which phase you've caught it in. In the end, there's no doubting your inferiority to the ants you despise and hunt so relentlessly.

Before we part company, Father, would you do me the great kindness of turning me over? I feel rather strange, as if I'm no longer myself. And I fear that if I stay in this position much longer as this Indian summer merges into autumn, I'll roast -- as in hell.

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(Paul Greenberg is the Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial writer and columnist for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. His e-mail address is pgreenberg@arkansasonline.com.)

 

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