A Stranger in a Strange Land

I don’t know when I made it into College Station, Texas. But I know that the drive was fourteen hours, and I walked into Whataburger at 2:27am. I texted a friend saying this is a different country because there were half a dozen rowdy not-quite-21-yearold boys and girls who all piled out of an oversized, non-utilitarian lifted truck and spoke authentic Texan accents. When their food arrived a girl in cowboy boots, jeans, and a white crop-top said, “Wait, let’s pray first. Everyone quite down. Dear Lord, thank you for getting us here without dying in a wreck and please get us home safely. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

It felt alien.
But it was not.
I was.

While I sat waiting, a middle aged man sat nearby. I jokingly asked him if it was always this rowdy. He smiled but didn’t quite chuckle. In too many words, he said he was just passing through. I gave my best friendly nod.

A few minutes later he starts up the conversation again. I didn’t catch everything he said exactly except that he invoked the current president’s name and then bitched about lamented the prices of burgers and hair cuts.

My eyes betrayed my mind. I looked at him too critically, scanning side to side as if I were reading invisible lines of text.

–Your dollar doesn’t go as far because of inflation. The rate of inflation is indirectly set by the Fed which sets the Federal Prime Rate and also prints money. Current monetary theory and policy have, according to leading economists, increased American and Global GDP… […] They say that this is a good thing. And it has made many people around the globe wealthy, some of whom are tremendously, unimaginably wealthy. And of course, there are ways to hedge your savings against inflation.

Rather, I mumbled something like, “We could talk about economics or…” And then I clearly said, “I’m sorry. I’ve had a long day,” gave a sympathetic look and I went back to my #2 with cheese.

Current fiscal theory and policy left this man behind wondering where the better days went.

This morning I’m at a cafe not far from home that sells specialty coffee. There’s a bag of whole beans by the register that says Something-Something Ethiopia, roasted 6.28.2022. Mac Demarco is playing over the speakers; (indie singer/songwriter that Spotify insists I ought to like but I can’t stand). And suddenly, the world is small again and I have found familiar territory.

Worlds beside worlds.
Worlds within worlds.

Driving, listening too intensely to the third book in the Dune series, Children of Dune made for interesting reflection, thinking about god from a socio-political perspective. Dune isn’t the most entertaining series. It’s dry. But if you approach it as novelized political theory/commentary, it’s fantastic.

A quote:

In all major socializing forces you will find an underlying movement to gain and maintain power through the use of words. From witch doctor to priest to bureaucrat it is all the same. A governed populace must be conditioned to accept power-words as actual things to confuse the symbolized system with the tangible universe. In the maintenance of such a power structure, certain symbols are kept out of the reach of common understanding—symbols such as those dealing with economic manipulation or those which define the local interpretation of sanity. Symbol-secrecy of this form leads to the development of fragmented sub-languages, each being a signal that its users are accumulating some form of power. With this insight into a power process, our Imperial Security Force must be ever alert to the formation of sub-languages.

Children of Dune, Frank Hebert

I was standing in a gas station McDonald’s in Junction, Texas. A middle aged man, a head shorter than me, wearing cargo shorts, Sketchers, and a shirt with an American flag looked at me like I didn’t belong. Was I threatening? Queer? Not quite. I don’t think he had me figured out yet. There was still an opportunity to make a useful first impression.

My intuition says, loudly, do not let them label you an atheist.

Atheists are immoral. Cowardly. Foolish and in denial of self-evident truths.

Better to take on the character of a hardened stoic whose silence leaves room for the impression that he has knowledge of God’s mysterious ways. And it is known that certain knowledge of the godhead transcends words.

Most Christian Americans imagine Clint Eastwood playing a cowboy to be a man of [their] god, as if he had a deeper understanding of god’s nature that the priesthood can’t stomach. If that can pass for godliness, then there is much room to operate.

Respect local customs. Refer to their map, not yours, or they’ll think you’re planning an invasion.

Use their language, despite its awkward incongruence. But never lose sight of the truth as best as you know it.

I have a god. Reality is my god. Reality is the one true god. Nothing is greater than reality.

Capital-R, Reality. Real Reality. The Really-Real. The true logical fallacy. The acceptable tautology:

reality is reality
it is what it is
everything else is
just approximation
and speculation

someone dumped a dead horse less than two miles from my high school