Since Childhood

Vivid thoughts of disaster and apocalyptic dreams have haunted him since childhood. It began at the level of the personal. A mother and child in a car. The framing of the dream shot reminiscent of the telling falseness of driving scenes in movies from the 50s and 60s. A cityscape receding into the background on a green screen, while the redheaded mother turns to the little boy and gives a little wave before opening the door and tumbling from the vehicle. The boy cries, not only from the abandonment, but from the fear of not being ready. The wheel, the pedals, the stick. All of these mechanical secrets remained unknown and yet, in the midst of loss, it was time to uncover them.

Traumas build upon traumas. The boy isn’t even necessarily subject to them all, though, like any child thrown into the world he bears his fair share. Rather, the still angelic little boy resembles another angel and merely bears witness to trauma after trauma. Mouth painfully agape, sobs and uncontrolled screams. There are four policemen wrestling his father onto the ground. Nightsticks out and erect as they beat the flesh of the father. The brother crippled by childhood polio is anachronistic, even if the sexual abuse is never out of time. Victim and abuser both in pain, without distance between them, as all that remains of the violence of the police are a disheveled living room. Disturbed couch cushions, a coffee table set asymmetrically, and chairs facing in irrational directions. What really sears into the memory, what remains and haunts waking life, are the black rubber scuffs on the wood floor. A silent witness to struggle, to the positions of bodies struggling against one another, of pain and bruised flesh, but also drifting into abstract patterns that are not lacking in beauty.

Lived moments of personal apocalypse came first and then evangelical Christianity came to provide historical sense. These struggles were not simply the senseless pain caused by the choices of parents too young and too fucked up not to be idiots or the helplessness of being subject to the pervasive chaos of existence. No, “our struggle is not against flesh and blood,” and all of his struggles had been with flesh and had seen blood, “but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” The imagination now allowed for heroics, for there to be some reason for the pain. There are two witnesses in the Book of Revelation, perhaps this broken body is one. There are men of God who give their life for what is right, those who do not fear the return but welcome it, and there are songs sung about those who are willing to martyr themselves in the attempt to shut down the assassins’ school.

The visions and dreams were no longer merely personal. Now they were illuminated with nuclear flashes, images borrowed from movies with mothers screaming in horror at nuclear war as their fingers interlaced with chain link fences fuse together and turn to dust. No longer are struggles personal, they are epic in scope. It doesn’t seem possible that one could ever truly escape Christianity if they believe in revolution, if they fervently believe they are part of the world-historical struggle. And so it was, since childhood. The apocalypse yet remains on the horizon, like storm clouds gathering and, even today just as then, the anxiety builds in the pit of his stomach. Only now there is no comfort in being a part of history; there is only being apart.

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