I’m standing in line at the Jefferson County Courthouse to register my new car–sitting in line, actually, because the wait is too long for standing–and thinking depressing thoughts. Being in a long line inspires morbid thoughts, especially at the Jefferson County Courthouse, which is significantly underfunded and understafffed due to an occupational tax that was ruled to be illegal and a state legislature that doesn’t give a damn enough to make the tax legal again.
Here’s what I’m thinking about. Years ago I went on a long hike in the woods near my home. I was looking for a family of graves out in the woods that my mother told me about, four graves from the late 19th century or therabouts on top of a little hill, surrounded by pines and outlined in sandstone. It was a good place to lay your others into the ground.
After getting lost, I finally found what I was looking for; all the graves were there, intact and laid out just as I imagined them.
But the surrounding area was not at all as I imagined. The trees had been torn down, and the undergrowth butchered by the tracks of the bulldozer still parked nearby.
It had been raining heavily when I found the graves, and because there were no trees and the undergrowth and grass had been torn apart, there was nothing to keep the red Alabama earth from washing down the hill in small rivers of blood.
Everything changed for me then, for good or for ill is still being decided, when I realized that nothing is promised to us on earth. No God or guru is going to help us in this life. It is all up to us. Our successes and our failures are ours alone. Not even in death are we looked out for.
You may think this depressed me, but it felt like a great burden had been lifted off my shoulders. Before then, I believed that God had it in for me, that he was determined to fill my life with suffering and mental anguish. I learned Instead that he just looks on indifferently or, at the least, without interference.
Whether I believe in this anymore, I can’t say for sure, I don’t even know that I still believe God exists; either way, I know my life is my own, and I’m grateful for the knowledge.
Which means I have to register my own damn automobile.