(Originally published August 1, 2005)
You see it all hanging out on a street corner. There’s this guy who’s been setting up his vending table across from ours. He’s a big, dark-skinned Pakistani guy. He’s a pretty nice guy, soft-spoken, congenial and friendly. But at his vending table he’s selling a beautifully-printed, self-published book entitled “JESUS IS SATAN.” The full-color cover illustration shows Jesus on the cross with Satanic horns coming out of his head.
To advertise his book, he has a big sign at his vending table that says: “JESUS’ MOTHER WAS A WHORE!” Well, that gets their attention. The vendor hadn’t been around for a few months, but he showed up again yesterday with his stand. I noticed that his front teeth were missing. I’m sure there’s a story behind that, but I didn’t bother to ask him. Instead I asked him: “What do you get out of doing this?”
“I want to make people think,” he explained. That can be a dangerous thing, considering the process that passes for “thinking” in most people’s brains. In truth, most people (including me) don’t “think.” We “regurgitate.” Often someone will come up to me and breathlessly explain to me — in some detail — their latest theories regarding politics, world affairs, or religion. Usually “their” thoughts are just a regurgitation of something they heard on a very exciting television show. Usually, ten seconds into their spiel, I already can predict exactly where their steamed-up little minds are going. It’s like listening to someone tell a 20-minute joke when you’ve guessed the punchline within the first 10 seconds. Fortunately, all they demand of you, the listener, is the response: “Yes, that certainly is a brilliant and original observation on politics, world affairs, and/or religion, and you are surely a bright and astute fellow.” That invariably satisfies them.
Anyway, yesterday, these three teenage black chicks (and very cute I might add) took umbrage with the vendor and his “JESUS IS SATAN” book.
“You’re goin’ to hell, you motherfuckin’ punk-ass bitch!” exclaimed one.
“I should kick your motherfuckin’ ass right now!” exclaimed another.
“You shouldn’t be talking no motherfuckin’ shit about Jesus Christ!” exclaimed the other.
The three black chicks stood there, screaming and threatening and having this motherfuckin’ theological discussion for about 20 minutes, until they finally stormed off in a huff.
But I still couldn’t help wondering about the vendor’s motives. Was it that he didn’t get enough attention as a child, and now he was making up for lost time? And of course, I wondered about my own motives, having spent 30 years pushing my own alleged “thinking” — much of which flies in the face of the commonly-accepted wisdom — out at the world at large. It is a strange thing: this relationship that all of us lonely, individual souls have with the World Out There.