Job


I had an electric guitar come to my house yesterday and beat me up because I skipped to another track before it was through playing. “I’m doing this for your own good,” it said. “What do you mean?” I pleaded as blood filled the spaces between my teeth. “I am the Transcendent; I am the All in All; and you, you, are but a worm made of mud, and you need me.” When it finally turned to go, I begged it to stay. “I love you,” I said; “I’ll write bad checks for you,” I said; “I’ll rob banks for you; I’ll sauté my eyeballs in vomit and feed them to cockroaches for you. Just please, please don’t go; I’m begging you.” I can still hear its laughter as it walked away, the door left open so bottle-flies could eat my blood. 

Nothing fills me like an electric guitar, but sometimes I listen to Ebb Tide (an easy listening piece from 1953). I have nine versions of Ebb Tide, and not one contains an electric guitar, but I think they’re all about a man’s love for the electric guitar, although Peggy looks sad and shakes her head when I say this. 

I’m told that people who are dying sometimes develop a fondness for harp music and Gregorian Chants. I hope I never come to that. I hope I go out listening to an electric guitar—either that or Ebb Tide.

I emailed the draft of what you just read to one of my loyal and loving readers for his/her (how can one ever really know another person’s gender?) opinion. He/she responded: “I knew you were one fucked excuse for a boil on the righteous Job’s hairy asshole, but you have truly exceeded yourself with this crap.”

I wrote back: “If that’s your attitude, I’m glad I didn’t send you the part where it gets worse. As for the above, it’s metaphor, dude—or dudette. This is what those old-timey Middle Eastern guys would have written had they listened to Led Zeppelin while doing drugs instead of sitting in a sweltering tent in the desert listening to donkey farts and smelling sheep shit while green flies buzzed around their heads.

XXX

The words of Job sound as ancient as they are, even by Biblical standards. They are also highly visual and constitute one of my earliest memories. Indeed, Job haunted me for years because nowhere in the Bible is the lack of a moral distinction between God and Satan more evident. Yet, I also love the book because of how hard its ancient author worked to make sense out of injustice. The fact that he failed hardly matters against the fact that he did his pathetically bad best.

The book opens (I write from memory, so a few insignificant details might be wrong) with God and Satan hanging out, and God trying to lord it over Satan by saying, “Have you considered my servant, Job, how good he is, how there are none like him in the whole earth?” God smirks as he says this because he knows very well that the existence of a man who does no evil would keep Satan up at night. As God knew would happen (he knows everything, after all), Satan tries to appear nonchalant by only vaguely acknowledging that he has even heard of Job. The two fall into a silent reverie as they sit sipping their beers, and then Satan says, “Say, Jehovah, how about you letting me have a little fun with your friend…Job, was it? I’ll bet you a fish dinner that he’ll curse you to your face when I’m done with him.” Satan isn’t so confident as he appears, but he hates God’s guts, so he’s not about to show insecurity.

“You’re on,” God says. “Do anything else you please, but don’t kill him.” About then the bartender announces that it’s closing time, so God and Satan go their separate ways; God to heaven for a good night’s sleep, and Satan to hell to convene a night-long council of demons to come up with a plan for making Job so outrageously and unjustly miserable that he will curse god.

A day or two later, Job can be found covered head to toe with boils and sitting naked in a large pile of sheep shit. His wealth is gone, his servants massacred, and his family killed by high winds, except for his wife whom Satan thoughtfully spared. Three friends drop by. They spend days sitting in shocked silence before first the one and then the others launch into torturously long and tedious speeches that set Job’s teeth on edge because his “friends” (who stupidly assume that God is just and loving) are intent on blaming his problems on him, and he knows he’s innocent. Then, his wife shows up and glares at his friends (who she never liked anyway but especially not now that she can’t afford shampoo to wash the Middle Eastern stink from her hair). She too knows that Job is innocent, but she’s so thoroughly disenchanted with the way the patriarchy has screwed-up her life ever since she was a child, that she hates anything with balls, so she says to Job, “That’s some god you’ve got there, hubby-dearest. If he had done to me what he’s done to you, I would curse him and die, and I think that’s what you should do. Please allow me to demonstrate,” and so she does, at least the cursing part. She then leaves, God knows to where since she’s up in years, has no family or Obama-care, and is completely destitute. 

Job and his friends are stunned by what she said, so while Job sits lancing boils with shit-encrusted fingernails, his friends wonder if they’ve been there long enough that it wouldn’t be a fox paw (French hadn’t been invented yet) if they left. Right about then, Job launches into his own little speech that concludes with him saying that he’s going to love and serve God no matter what, because if God treats him this bad when God likes him, he sure doesn’t want to piss God off.

Just as he says this, the tent flap opens and, lo and behold, the Almighty is standing there silhouetted by the blinding light of the noonday sun. He isn’t a happy camper, so he goes on a tirade about how ancient, and smart, and powerful he is; how no one can hold a candle to him in any way whatsoever; and how no one should ever question anything he does. After he rants on for awhile like a love-gone-bad, he rewards Job for his unreciprocated love by giving him perfect health, a bigger and more desirable family, and bigger and more desirable herds. As for Job’s first wife, she eventually dies of dehydration in the desert and is condemned to hell for doubting Gods goodness.

I will now return to Led Zeppelin, whose song at the top of the page (along with marijuana) inspired this post.

19 comments:

PhilipH said...

Excellent interpretation.
Gospel according to Snowbrush.



Lee Johnson said...

Back when I was a Christian, I thought the book of Job was one of the hardest to accept. Nowhere else in the bible does God show so little concern for human life. The Old Testament genocides may have killed tens of thousands, but Christians are taught to rationalize that by believing those people were all evil (or would grow up to be evil). In Job's case, it seems like his children and servants were decent people. God truly doesn't care and allows Satan to kill them all. Christians might argue it's not God's fault, since Satan caused the deaths, but this is no excuse. If you have the power to save someone's life and refuse, you may as well have killed them. Or, Prov 3:27, "Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it."

Then, at the end of the book we are supposed to feel happy for Job because he has replacement children and herds and servants. Yay! Humans are replaceable. What a great moral.

That aside, the book of Job portrays God as a capricious teenager with self esteem problems and thin skin. (Come to think of it, this is kind of the theme of the whole bible.)

And then there's the absurd idea that a bunch of people sat around and had this huge discussion and then years later somebody wrote it all down word-for-word. Yeah ...

Snowbrush said...

I was editing this piece furiously even as you were writing, Lee. Thanks for reminding me of the servants. My first thought when I was out back painting and pondering this post was that I should go back and read the book before I wrote the post, so I could get all the details right. Then, I thought that, no, I'm going to knowingly fictionalize so much of what the book purports to be true, that it doesn't matter if I get a few things wrong. For me, it's not about whether Job's friends spoke first or his wife spoke first, it's about what the book teaches us regarding the Biblical deity.

CreekHiker / HollysFolly said...

Always fascinating Snowy!

Stephen Hayes said...

Like you, I have no intention of going out to the tune of harp music. I do like the banjo, though.

rhymeswithplague said...

I'm not sure, but this whole post may have been a fox-paw.

The Tusk said...

Sounds in many ways like Genesis, Adam spent time chatting it up with a friend from the night before, not minding to the missus come morn. Eve took some bad advice from a new acquaintance, nor heeding or seeking Adam's guidance as he was not around. Thinking for herself showing free will causing disgrace for the two of them they are shunned from what they had in the garden and now offered a better life from the tree of knowledge. More children more knowledge and old age.

Charles Gramlich said...

I'm with you on the electric guitar. Nothing better musical wise.

Snowbrush said...

"I'm with you on the electric guitar. Nothing better musical wise."

Give me some recommendations. I was just listening to Paul Butterfield's "East West": http://youtu.be/eFJuWzrF85k

All Consuming said...

'Whole Lotta Love' - excellent taste, I love that, and am now about to headband around to room ot it. Thanks for the reminder.

klahanie said...

Okay, after perusing the god stuff, no capital for god in my case and noting what a good Job you made of this posting, all I can think of is Led Zeppelin and "Houses of the Holy".

Be well and *cough!* *cough!*, I'm outta' here....

Gary

Strayer said...

So I used to ask our pastor way back when, when I was a kid, if Adam and Eve had two sons, how come they could go off and marry. Who did they marry and where did those people come from, if it started with just Adam and Eve? Did Adam and Even have daughters who then had sex with their brothers to produce offspring and breed on, I asked. The pastor would excuse himself for reasons I can't recall or say that there were probably many Adams and Eves created at the same time, or other such babbling.

I like the Bible's talking animals, particularly the donkey. The whole Job story I never liked. God was always killing women, for fun it seemed. I'm just glad I was born in this day and age, being a woman. And not "over there" (middle east area in general)

angela said...

So many of the bible just pissed me off no end. I love the way you told this story as in a lot of ways it's how I heard it in my head. God so lives us that he lets us be the play things of the one who is our greatest enemy. Yeah well Ill find another god, or goddess thanks. So now you know why I'm the terrible evil one in the family hahahah

Myrna R. said...

Ha. I haven't read the bible in a long time, but I'm certain I like your post modern version best. Keep doing what you're doing, 'cause it sure makes you write with imagination, imagery, humor and so much skill. Really enjoyed reading this.

Robin said...

Catholic Girls (like me) LOVE Led Zeppelin AND Ebb Tide! Job always was a bit boring.. So there!
A-ha-ha! Miss you...a lot.

Love,

♥ Robin ♥

lotta joy said...

I'm still wobbly and weak, but here I am none-the-less.

I got so tired of that damn Job story when I was a youth and in excruciating pain.

Happily some of the pain left when I grew some balls, got my head out of my ass, and got rid of my "friends" from church.

Heidrun Khokhar, KleinsteMotte said...

I could use a bit of the stuff you take but I just lost 20 lbs in 6 weeks and feel like a teenager. Hate to alter my new body image! Sadly I have far to much resonibity right now to play but I can enjoy what you say. Thanks for visitng my spot too:)

The Blog Fodder said...

The 28th Chapter of Job (KJV) is my favourite in all the bible, even more than the 23rd Psalm. The poetry is so lovely. The rest of Job is pretty much how you described it. Too contradictory.

Snowbrush said...

"I just lost 20 lbs in 6 weeks and feel like a teenager."

Boy am I impressed!

"if Adam and Eve had two sons, how come they could go off and marry."

Of course, you grew up in a literalistic tradition--as I did. To many people, the Bible contains mostly myth that is said to point toward truth without being literally true. I just never could figure out how they separate it all out, or what truth most of it could possibly point to.

"The 28th Chapter of Job (KJV) is my favourite in all the bible, even more than the 23rd Psalm."

I mostly appreciate the parts that aren't God-oriented, parts like some of Ecclesiastes and a dozen or so verses from I Corinthians 13. I also enjoy some of the stories, for instance the story of Ruth and that of Jonah. I also like the following from I Kings 19:

"The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by. Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper."

How different is this deity from the pompous, boasting deity that appeared to Job.