Friday, September 25, 2009

God Knows

I’m on a flight from Nashville to Charlotte, NC. Two guys in the seats across from me are discussing matters of life and death.

“You die when Jesus say you die, man. Life ‘n death is up ta the Lord. When he calls you, you gots to answer.”

“And when is that?”

“Can’t say; don’t know; don’t care. All I do know is that it ain’t in my hands, so I don’ worry ‘bout it.”

“But you do take precautions, like wearing a seatbelt.”

“Never have, never will. The only time I click one o’them suckers is when the cops are close. Look, it don’t matter what you do—seatbelts or no seatbelts—when God wants you dead, you dead.”

Their conversation ended abruptly as the flight attendant ordered the man to buckle his seatbelt for take–off.

I love listening to talk like this. While I certainly have my own positions on matters like these, I really enjoy hearing what other people believe. Most of the time I just listen. This time I butted in.

“So you must be some risk taker, then,” I said.


“Sorry, guys, I couldn’t help but overhear what you were saying about death. If your death is determined by God’s plan rather than your actions, it just stands to reason that you could do some wild stuff and not worry about it.”

“Like what?”

“Like jumping off a cliff or out of a airplane without a parachute. Or drinking poison. Or playing Russian Roulette. You’d live through all of this unless God wanted you dead at that moment, in which case even if you were sitting at home watching TV you would suddenly drop dead of a heart attack or something.”

“That’s stupid. Drinking poison’ll kill you.”

“Not if it isn’t your time to die. That’s what you said, isn’t it? You won’t die until God wants you to die. That’s why you don’t where a seatbelt. If you get in a crash you won’t die unless it’s your time to die, and then, seatbelt or no, you would die. So you could do all kinds of reckless things knowing it doesn’t matter.”

“Listen, Bud, we weren’t talkin’ to you, an’ now you jus’ talkin’ stupid.”

I’m not quite sure that is what the man said to me because I was on a roll and wasn’t listening to him. I just took a breath and kept on talking.

“Of course not dying isn’t the worse thing that could happen to you. I mean, it might not be your time to die, but you could go through your windshield in a crash and live out the remainder of your life as a vegetable. But that’s your choice, not God’s, right? Or does God call us to be vegetables also? Maybe he does. Maybe he determines everything that happens to you, so wearing or not wearing your seatbelt isn’t your choice at all, but God’s.”

“Listin, man, God loves you, that’s all I know. An’ if God makes you a vegetable then that’s how he loves you. It ain’t for you ta tell God how to love, is it? All I’m sayin’ is that its all in God’s hands, and not for us ta worry ‘bout. So why don’ you just sit back and buckle your little safety belt an’ let God git on wit it.”

This was my cue to shut up. Too bad I didn’t catch it.

“But what if its God’s will for me to get you to change your way of thinking and start wearing your seatbelt? What if I’m like the Prophet Elijah sent by God to talk to you and here you are telling me to shut up. Would tell the Prophet Elijah to shut up?”

“Are you the Prophet Elijah?”

“No, I don’t think so,” I admitted.

“Then shut the f@ck up!”

He had a point. Next time someone asks me if I’m the Prophet Elijah I’ve got to remember to just say “yes.”


Eruesso said...

I wonder what he would have thought if you actually said you were Elijah.

"If this feller is Elijah, I might need to listen to what he's got to say. He's probably the devil in disguise trying to fool me. Well no ones gonna fool me, I'll show him. Where's that emergency door release? Or maybe that's exactly what that devil feller wants me to do, kill a bunch of innocent people. No, wait, if they were all innocent-like then they'll go to heaven anyway. I hear your call oh Lord..."

briankb said...

What is it about illogical, dare I say crazy, thinking that draws us in? I have to keep telling myself, "I don't argue with stupid people." I just wish I listened to myself more often

Rabbi Rami said...

It is true, there is something about magical thinking that just sucks me right in. I am reading Dan Brown's new book about the Masons and loving it. Sure he writes with Oxford English Dictionary of Cliches in front of him, and he has never met a cliche he doesn't like, and I have fun trying to speak the next line of dialogue before I read it, but still I love the faux mystery of it all. And, being a Mason myself, I find myself wishing it were true. (It is true, by the way, but I am not allowed to say that. Having said that, however, you will think I am kidding, which I am not, which will only convince you that I am, which is why conspiracy theories never die.)

Religion is just like a Dan Brown mystery, and rests on the same love of magical thinking. The only difference is that no one kills people over Dan Brown. At least not yet.

Mib said...

I've stupidly forgotten to subscribe to your blog since December and have certainly missed your wit and wisdom! Great story, great point! Thanks for posting! - Myrna

Jim Wells said...

I love it!
Chances are these guys were not interested in having uncovered the ways their beliefs are irrational due to their likely need to allay anxiety about the future by believing that everything is preordained. Rather than,“Then shut the f@ck up!,” they might have said, "We are not interested in logic, only a way to deal with our anxiety about whether this plane is going to land safely. Don't you know that I have a profound fear of flying and need some powerful mojo to be on this plane without screaming in panic, especially as we are about to land which is when most of the crashes occur. What's the matter with you man? Can't you see I'm petrified and have to cope the best way I know how?"

Jim Wells said...

By the way, I am also a Mason and have been for the last 40 years. It continues to be amazing to me that so many people seem to think this is a mega powerful organization bent on controlling world events; when, of course, most Masonic lodges have trouble just keeping up with when to schedule "Ladies Night." But then, you never know, maybe what I have been told so many times is right, "They don't let anybody but 33 degree Masons in on the real plans!" Being only at 32 degrees, I don't have the password to the most secret plans to dominate the world. Of course, if I did know that password, I would probably forget it like I did the password for my google account.

Rabbi Rami said...

Wait a minute! You mean we aren't a secret cabal running the world? Damn! That's why I joined. First, after reading the Protocols of the Elders of Zion I thought the Jews were that cabal, but that proved to be a lie. That's why I became a Mason. I want to rule the world! Now Jim, who has lots more experience than me regarding all things Masonic, tells me I am wrong again. OK, who is running the world, and how do I get to join?

Derek said...

If you don't think, you don't have to admit you don't know, and not knowing means that everything isn't black and white, and if it ain't all black and white then... oh let's go have a beer.