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