I might want to say that this image captures a truth that echoes through the corridors of history, that inflects not just the psychological plane but also the social; that reflects Rousseau, Attar and, perhaps, Lacan. Each person who looks at it finds a different but related meaning. It signifies a deep problem in human nature. Are our social formations based on a diminution of the subject, a reduction, a cut in the influx of experience?
Can you hear me? Yes? Good. Yes, I can hear you. The signal is good. Where do I start? You’ve had my previous reports, haven’t you? Good. I think it is time to leave. I don’t really like it here. How long do I have to say? Really? That long? Once I’ve written this report? How long does the report need to be? That long!
I’m not making this up. I don’t like it here for a reason.
Do I think – ? Hmm! Will it get me off this planet if I say yes? It will? Excellent. No, no, I don’t mean that. Of course not, that’s very insensitive. Bad choice of word. To answer your question – please let me – I am being honest. I think they have most definitely started to notice me. But, you ask, how do they see me? That I can’t say.
Yes. Do I have evidence? Lots. I have notes. Shall I go through them. Yes, I’ll be systematic. Yes. Systematic. Descriptive. Okay. What? No explanations? But, I’ve been here for such a long time. Really? Yes, as a matter of fact I have a lot to say. Yes, I do. Sorry? Who says that? Great! Is she with you? Can I speak to her? No? Typical. Will she hear this? I hope so. You will record? I’ll talk to her separately, then. Later.
I am going to start. Give me a moment. This place is such a mess. No, not my rooms. This place, this planet, this species.
Yes, I think so. Sorry? Recording now? So, how should I do it? You want me to describe? Shall I describe my encounters with them? Okay, I will go through my notes and describe as best as I can. So, what do I have here? Ah, yes – the Church. An encounter in a church. That’s what I will call it. An encounter with a church. Hmm! An encounter with some people in a church? Let’s stick to ‘an encounter in a church’. Well, I don’t know. Does anyone know what a church is? No, I don’t mean the natural world. But it’s similar.
I went to a church, as I had heard that this was the place of worship of God. Yes, they call it God. I know, it is strange. I could try and explain? No? Okay. I’ll continue. We can discuss it after. You know they even have people called atheists. Yes, They just want to stop others going to churches, to stop worshipping some invisible being. Yes, that’s right. This is how some of them talk. Invisible being. That’s their words. I didn’t believe it either. When I first got here I was quite overwhelmed by this thing they call belief. Then I stumbled into the atheists and became overwhelmed by them. All these convictions. Incredible.
So I decided to visit a church. These churches are only really busy on certain days – do you remember? Yes? That’s right. They split their time up into something called a week and then split that up. They use the cycles of nature to mark these things. Well, only roughly. Where was I?
They have these buildings interspersed amongst other buildings and places are places of worship. Worship? Yes, that’s difficult to explain. How strange do we want to get? No, I’m not being silly. No, I’m not making this up. There is something we have to grasp about them if we are to understand why they are killing themselves.
Okay, okay. I’ll stop going off on tangents. Did someone say they were planning some kind of intervention? No, sorry. Okay. Okay. Let’s continue.
So they have these buildings, these places of worship – churches, temples, synagogues, mosques. They go there to connect to their deities.
Deity? I’m still confused. I would say that most people think of God as some supernatural being, some Lord of an invisible realm, directing the Cosmos. But there are some here who make a little more sense.
So off I went, I was dressed appropriately and hoped to blend into the background and see what happens. It was strange. I stood some distance from the church and noticed that the people around me were rushing around, heads down. In fact, one man pushed right past me and cursed me. As I moved toward the church people seemed to change their behaviour. They stopped rushing and spoke to each other politely. I listened to their conversation. I tried to transcribe what they said: the first was a young man dressed in a formal suit – I pray God will help me, he said. The person next to him nodded – we can only pray. Last week I got that bonus at work. I put that down to God. Amen. Amen.
So, I followed them. I was greeted politely and found a place to sit near the back. Two fairly overflowing people came and sat either side, squashing me a little with their sentimental enthusiasm.
They are a strange species.
As people gathered there was a huge sense of anticipation inside the church. The focus of the gathered people – they call it a congregation I believe – began to move forward to a solitary figure standing in a long gown at the front. From where I sat I could sense this solitary figure tuning into the attention and sense of anticipation being projected toward him.
Yes, I found myself asking the same question. In this fascinating event where was this transcendent, heavenly being they all worshipped?
Sorry? You didn’t think that. I was. I was thinking that. I was in a church. But there was no sign of God. But then how could there be?
Get on with what? Oh, yes. Sorry, I am easily distracted. So I watched the way this group of worshippers behaved. The couple either side of me began talking. Did you hear about Bob? No, what about him? He divorced and lost his job. No, that’s terrible. Oh, come on, you don’t think that. You know what he was like. Flirting with all the young women during Sunday service. He deserved it. Yes, I suppose he did.
What was the point of this gathering? I wanted to ask these overflowing people either side of me, but instinct told me not to ask. They would think it strange that someone amongst them would ask such fundamental questions. But there was another way.
I turned to the one on my left. I heard that Bob, I began, pausing to study the response at the mention of the name. I heard that Bob actually became more religious, that it began to take over his life, that he didn’t chase after the women here but talked to them about his deepening faith. That’s ridiculous, came the response. If he was more religious then why would his life fall apart? That makes no sense. God brings gifts and rewards to those who worship him.
Him? I really wanted to say something. Who is this ‘Him’ you talk about? Just really, what on Earth are you talking about, you stupid human. The God you claim to know so much about, the God you claim is so caught up in your petty desires is a fantasy. I wanted to say this and say more. I wanted to rush to the front, grab the microphone from the solemn man in the long robe and shout. Stupid people. God is everywhere. God does not desire things from you, does not send you morals or ethics. God is the mystery at the base of nature. God is like the sun which warms the face of the stupid and cruel person as much as the wise and kind. You stupid creatures. Are you deaf to that voice within? That deeper part within?
Of course, I didn’t say that. No, trust me. They would have physically attacked me if I had said such a thing.
I just watched and observed some convoluted ritual, some words from a book which seemed deeper and more profound than the audience could hear. When it was all over I left quietly and made my way home.
I was sitting alone, as usual, trying to find the space to clear my head when I noticed two figures approaching with drinks in their hands. Kurt César, the huge bear like Argentine, and the pale vampire-like German Freddy Faust, thinning hair over an angular face, both lost in an argument. I turned away, hoping to avoid being seen.
Kurt waved at me, and the pair came over,
“Ah, N,” said Kurt, smiling,” trying to avoid company I see.”
“Yes, that’s me,” I mumbled,” trying to work. You’re not – “
Before I could finish my words Kurt sat and beckoned to Freddy,
“Come, let’s join N. You can tell him what you were saying.”
Freddy shook his head,
“I wasn’t trying to say anything Kurt. You know it. So, stop saying it.”
Kurt leant over to me,
“He thinks, ” he began, glancing at Freddy’s expression,” Ultraconceptualism is a waste of time.”
Freddy shook his head,
“Er, no I don’t.”
“Yes, you do. Freddy, why deny it? You’ve been arguing with me for the past half hour. Ultraconceptualism is neither art nor philosophy. It’s a mess.”
“I didn’t say that. I didn’t say it was a mess.”
“Yes, you did Freddy. You said – “
Freddy raised a hand and looked at me while he spoke,
“Kurt, you’ve become so defensive. Every time me – or anyone for that matter – talks to you about this art movement you go into this defensive and aggressive retaliation. Haven’t you noticed?”
I stared back at Freddy,
“And, let me guess. You’re innocent in all of this?”
Freddy laughed and sat back
“Of course. I would never wind up Kurt.”