Today on the bus, L’Ailee’s got the window seat, as always, her big dark Stitch eyes scanning all the sights to be seen on the way from our home to our different jobs in the same general area of town. She shows me a sticker on some cretin from Pennsylvania’s car…one that I’ve always hated. I saw a lot of them in Florida. I did not miss them in the Blue Zone.
“If you’re living like there’s no God, you’d better be right.”
I told her my feelings about that, and she patted my hand. “You believe in some kind of God, though, or Gods. I can see why you would think that, because there are so many different kinds of things and people in this world. But I’m the one who should worry, because I don’t believe in anything spiritual at all.” She smiled a cute dimply smile. “Of course, because I don’t believe in anything spiritual, his charming little threat means nothing to me.”
“You know he means anyone who don’t go to his church or the two or three other churches he can sorta tolerate.” I slip into my childhood Florida Cracker accent and grammar when I’m angry or sad or tired, in case y’all can’t tell. “Anyone who doesn’t look like he thinks people ought to, vote the way he does, listens to music he doesn’t approve of, that kind of thing.”
She sighed, then spoke very slowly and deliberately. “I would tell you that you’re doing what you are accusing him of--being bigoted and seeing things in a very black-and-white manner. I would, except that I have seen it with some of your relatives. Even if you’re wrong, I can understand why you said that. But if I hadn’t ever met any fundamentalists, I would wonder why you were so angry.”
“I’m not angry.”
“Sure you aren’t. Listen, I do understand. I think it’s a bit strange, but to you it’s sad and normal.”
“It’s sad because in some places, to some people, it’s normal.”
“I’m sorry I showed you that sticker.”
“None of it’s your fault. Don’t be sorry.”
She got really close to me, as close as she could get, and leaned her head on my shoulder. Even though the stubble looked like a dusting of black pepper and felt like sandpaper, I liked her head on my shoulder, and I kissed her soft white cheek. We were quiet, and I enjoyed her scent, her softness wrapped around her gym-conditioned hardness, her closeness.
And I couldn’t help saying what I was thinking aloud, a couple stops away from hers: “You are so much better proof that there is some kind of Creator who cares than a million hellfire-and-brimstone bumper stickers,” I whispered.
She smiled fondly. “God, sometimes you are so sweet, and I don’t know where you learned it. I love you.” She insists that we say it upon parting, even if we have to add something like “Even though you’re a pain in the ass right now,” and has since 9/11.
That’s very easy for me, though. “I love you, too, sweetness,” I said.
I hate black and white theology, but I don’t hate all things black and white. For some reason, I have a fondness for creatures with black and white coloring. I find them especially beautiful and lovable. I teased L’Ailee in the gay penguin column by listing “little Russian girls with milk-white skin and super-short black hair” alongside zebras, pandas, and cats as black and white creatures that I love. Some people wondered if she was insulted. She wasn’t, because she loves animals as much as I do. But seriously, little black and white creatures…and just about all baby animals…and basically any baby or animal…offer me lots of proof that there is at least one intelligent Creator who knows what S/He’s doing and actually means well for us.
We saw March of the Penguins *again* last night, with friends who hadn’t. Once again, we ooohed and ahhed over the preciousness on parade and felt nice and cool while gazing upon the starkly beautiful Antarctic landscape. We agreed that we’d endure seventy miles of cold and arduous trekking, and all the other stuff they have to overcome, if we could get a fluffy little baby penguin out of it, too. (The webmaster of the official site knows what’s crackin’--there are tons of baby penguin download-ables on it!) But even the adults are just so amazing--cute and funny on land, graceful and beautiful in water, able to love and endure in harsh conditions. USA Today says this is going to be one penguiny summer between March and Madagascar, and why on earth not?
All our friends loved the movie. One of them said, “I know this is going to sound corny, but when I pray tonight, I’m going to thank God for making such beautiful things, and for all his animals.” We all quickly agreed that it wasn’t corny of her to think that in the slightest, even the freethinkers.
And this weekend, the brand new BAAAABY PANDA was born in the National Zoo! We’re going to have to content ourselves with baby cheetah cuteness later this month (which is also pretty good), but L’Ailee and the Dorkfishes and I have agreed that we have to come visit the baby panda when it’s on exhibit. Right now it’s a squealy little thing, about the size of a stick of butter! Can you believe they start out so little? Or so, well, kind of ugly?
Yesterday, I said, “it's stuff like this that keeps me from disbelieving in Deity, for real.” People tend to think I’m joking when I say things like that, but it’s the living truth. I can’t believe it’s just random, that babies are so cute and mothers know how to love them seconds after they’re born and animals can be so beautiful. The inventor of the Dyson vacuum cleaner worked hard to make an object that was both effective and beautiful--why not believe that a Great Someone Up There designed a really effective and beautiful means to cut down bamboo overgrowth, and maybe even thought, “The humans are just going to love this”? It’s not like I want that to be taught in science class or anything--I want those to teach kids the bare facts, and how to think independently, period. I don’t think indoctrinated minds are going to solve the questions that need solving today, or the ones that will need solving afterwards.
I have to say that I am profoundly grateful that alongside the fire-breathing sanctimony of some Evangelical Conservative Christians, the fire-*starting* sanctimony of some desperate and violent Muslim fanatics, and the other negative things in my world, I have been blessed with pandas and penguins and working vehicles and interesting places and beautiful, intelligent women, no matter Who gave them to us and why They did it.