Friday, September 2, 2011

Ecce Homo

This is yet another installment in the fundie-evangelist preacher-boy series; the year, I believe, was either 1980 or 1981.  It was a sunny Sunday, and I think it was after church.  I was driving my truck around going particularly nowhere when I saw a young man walking the way I was going.  I could tell he was no ordinary young man because he was walking bare feet, and wore rather ratty clothes.  His head was shaved, and he had a beard.  He was about my age or perhaps a couple years older, thereabouts.  He was walking rather fast, with purpose.  I knew there was something going on with this guy because people just didn't walk around in the desert bare feet (lots of "stickers" everywhere that are very sharp, like little dry thorn-balls.  Not to mention that you could literally fry an egg on the pavement).

I rolled my window down and said to him, "Hey, are you a christian?"  He looked at me and smiled, and said without missing a beat: "Hey man you got the holy spirit," and was already walking toward the passenger side of my truck.  I didn't know how to respond to his statement, which he said with all the words coming out of him as if we had already been talking.  I could tell that he wasn't very bright, and that he also was quite a drug burnout.  So I said, "Yeah.  Come on in."  That's the kind of wacky drama I sought in those days, but I felt kinship with him, because that's where I was at; I too was a fired-up fundamentalist evangelical.  He opened the door and sat down.

I asked him where he was going, and he told me he was on his way to the Community Church up the street a ways.  He said the end was near, that he has to prophesy to the church and let them know, because the church was complacent.  He said that his task was to go from church to church and prophesy to them about his end-times message.  I said "Cool" or thereabouts and dropped him off at the church parking lot where churchgoers were milling about in their Sunday getup; I gave him my apartment address, and told him to drop by after prophesying.  He happily said he would, then took off to go about his apocalyptic business. 

He came to my apartment that afternoon, and we talked up a storm about the end times, prophesy, and so on.  One of us came up with the notion that perhaps we were the two prophesying prophets in Revelation.  It was Sunday and there was still an evening service at my church at 6:30 PM, so I asked him to attend.  He said he would, but said he had something to do, and that he'd be back in time for service. 

He came to my apartment a little late; it was already past 6:30.  He apologized and said something about living in the nearby hills with a bunch of people, and that he had a little wine and smoked a cigarette.  He said he was feeling guilty.  If the whole scenario about this guy wasn't enough, it was the substance-problem issue that raised the red flag for me.  I told him he shouldn't do those things, but nonetheless we took off to church. He went bare feet.  After services he prophesied to the church minister about this and that.  I was talking to other churchgoers and didn't hear his eschatological sermon.  A little while later the minister pulled me aside (the "dude" was out in the parking lot) and asked me just where it was that I found this guy.  He told me that I shouldn't be hanging with him, because (to paraphrase) "He said he talks to God, and that God talks to him."  I was somewhat befuddled by the minister's reaction, but he reinforced how I started to feel about the guy, especially after his confession about the wine and cigarette.  We drove back to my apartment, we talked for a while, and I bid him good night.  I didn't want to see this guy any more.

The whole Revelation-prophecy thing was ambiguous to me, so since I had the church key (they had entrusted me with the key to the building), I went at night to the minister's office where there was a library, and borrowed a commentary on Revelation.  I read and read.  It was a very sober commentary.  The gist was that Revelation was written at the time of Roman persecution of the early church under Nero, and that it was written in cryptic language on purpose.  The commentary said that the triple-six number was numerologically ascribed to the Greek rendering of the name 'Nero Caesar,' and so on.  I remember how relieved I felt after that voracious study-session.  

But I still had apocalypse-head out there to deal with, living in the boondocks with his 70's refugees camp; I knew that he'd come back to my apartment for more prophesy activity.  Sure enough when he came back the next evening, I told him about all my findings.  He wanted none of it.  I was hoping he'd be glad, but he wasn't; he was disappointed, and we parted ways literally and figuratively.  He was still bare footed.  I was hoping that was the last I'd see of him, but he came back the next evening.  I had all my curtains closed.  He knocked on my door, but I decided to not answer.  But he kept knocking.  I heard him go around back, and he knocked on the back window.  He tried to get the window open.  He knocked louder and louder.  He knocked and knocked, he must've been out there for ten minutes.  I could hear him grunting.  It was a studio apartment, so he must've known I was inside, and he must've sensed that I didn't want to associate with him any more.  I wasn't about to let him in for anything, so I kept quiet.  I got a little nervous, but wasn't scared.  I just wanted him to go away.  He eventually did, and never returned.

A couple years later I studied Nietzsche's works, and was reminded of that barefoot prophet when I read Thus Spoke Zarathustra and the "God is dead" pericope in The Gay Science.  It's been decades now but I wrote a short prolegomenon to something I decided to not write (but I posted it on the blog); the protagonist is a fusion of Nietzsche's Zarathustra and the barefoot prophet, way back when in those infernal, lonely days in the desert.

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