by Nic Olson
Tie a string around your finger so you don’t forget. Use different coloured string for different levels of forgetfulness. A ribbon on your pinky reminds you to make kale chips when you get home. A shoelace around your thumb reminds you to tune up your vehicle. A wayward greasy carpet string around your ring finger reminds you to keep in touch with that person you’ve had a crush on for a few years. A wire coiled around your index finger, gouging your knuckle each time you make a fist, reminds you, most important of all, to remember the other strings on your hand.
You need a string on your finger to remind you of leisure. Leisure that isn’t slovenly but leisure that is joyous, relaxing, not overthought. So you go for lunchbreak for the first time in years. You lounge next to a tree in the park with a friend, discussing light topics such as bicycles and ice cream and green grass and cats. You are succeeding at the leisure-string that you haven’t even tied on your finger. Maybe you don’t need to tie one on your finger at all.
Then a man, the same one you heard at the cenotaph gracefully preaching fire and brimstone to Friday Noon-Hour Lunchers, walks up to you and hands you a wallet-sized card, a fear-mongering reminder of your chronic problem with sin. He, a thirty-something-year-old touts ideas you thought were reserved for the fundamentalist old people, but doesn’t make you uncomfortable because your beliefs aren’t accidental but somewhat calculated and purposeful. He openly and strongly curses murderers and rapists and liars and thieves and those who use the Lord’s name in vain. He curses them to hell (the last three of which he asked if you do, to which you flatly respond, of course, daily) because he knows the grace of God better than you, and nearly, without so many words, accuses you of being a rape apologist, something like Norm on Bill Cosby fans. Because you don’t believe in the right kind of justice.
It’s difficult to have a conversation with a walking hate-filled preacher of love, a tape-recorder repeating language of heavenly bodies that is so far removed from the injustice of reality that a comprehension of human suffering is lost. His idea of justice is burning alive anyone who has ever farted and doesn’t share his belief system of how to get forgiveness for passing gas. Your idea of justice takes into account the victim, previous injustices, and human nature.
These are some big ideas, you tell him, we’ll give them some thought. He leaves to make the next group of people he talks to feel scared and angry, just like what his teacher told him to do, right?
A blue piece of floss around your outstretched middle finger. Remember that everyone has a right to a belief, but that right and wrong aren’t as clear as a heaven and hell.