Spirituality and You(r Household Appliances)

(January 18, 2005; a good start to the new year, I think)
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Renno was a Spiritualist. The capitalization was necessary, possibly more important than the word itself; whenever he would introduce or discuss himself in public, the emphasis was audible, calling unavoidable attention to the significance of his leanings.

'Yes, well, I am a Spiritualist, so we can assume that...'
'I mean, as a Spiritualist, I may see things differently...'
'Lawtons Drugs just doesn't seem to be very well-supplied for the Spiritualist market.'

His was an amorphous, pliable sort of belief system; it twisted and bent as necessary to fit inside his head, and he pulled it into all sorts of amusing wire-shapes before passing it on to others. In fact, he was never entirely sure what he believed, exactly, but this mild confusion did nothing to damage his sense of impending enlightenment. He saw himself as a keeper of keys until The Matrix ripped him off, then decided that he was actually a metaphysical roedeer, leaping among the trees of knowledge and catching scraps of truth on his antlers. Mind you, he stopped mentioning this to people after the first round of guffaws, but it remained the secret joy of his Spiritualist heart.

He revelled in ritual, an art he belived led to the core of the universe. It was a longstanding argument among his group of friends, but he always won, in his own way:

'How can repetitive, linear action be a good representation of a chaotic, infinite existence?'
'Yeah ' and if there are specific ways to unlock certain properties of the world, why aren't things changing constantly as more and more people discover them and pass them on?'
'Not everyone is Spiritual; not everyone understands. Obviously you don't, if you ask such close-minded questions...'

(This would be where Renno stalked off in a huff. Luckily, he was also good to talk to about music and films, and he kept a lot of alcohol in his basement, so he always had friends to return to later.)

These rituals varied greatly in form and purpose, but always they led back to his craving for understanding ' because as much as he complained about others' ignorance, he felt an emptiness in his soul, a spot that only concrete answers concerning life's mysteries could fill. Most were complicated yet strangely futile, leaving him sitting in a circle of smouldering candles and wilted incense, his bottom chafing on the carpeting, no wiser than he had been when he began. However, on one such occasion, he tried a new tactic.

'God and/or goddess and/or trinity and/or pantheon of potentially benevolent deities,' he whispered urgently from beneath his crossed arms, fingertips feeling rather singed from their proximity to the edges of the circle he had cast, 'hear me now! I sense the connectedness all around me, but I can't feel it. I can't... grok the fullness.'

Mentally cursing himself for his impious word usage, he projected all of the hope and desperation welling up inside of him into the rest of his plea, hoping it would cover the scent of nerdiness. 'Please, I beg you, let me have empathy for all things, let me see and feel the experiences of others, so that I can spread the Truth to my various unenlightened kinsmen.' He wasn't sure what the Truth he referred to was, but suspected that hoarding it would make him look selfish. 'By the powers vested in me by... well, you... I plead my case. Grant me this Spiritual awareness, so that I might hear your words in the singing of the birds. And view your souls in the, hmm, digging of the moles.'

Quite impressed with how this had gone, Renno stretched, blew out one candle before uttering an embarrassed apology to the Sylphs and pinching out the other eleven (choosing displeased fingers over displeased spirits, though his devotion began to wane around number eight), and went to bed. Naughty schoolgirls levitated apples above animated grimoires whose covers flapped with gossip, his roedeer self gnawed curiously on all three, and as his third roedeer stomach began to churn in protest, it was morning.

***

'Mrrrrgh,' he groaned, stretching his arms and planting his hands against his headboard. Mornings were always slow for Renno; he liked to take his time to sort and analyse his dreams for traces of enlightenment, as one might sift the muddy grime of a riverbank in search of gold. Today, however, he was interrupted.

'Mmmmm.' The voice was all around him, enveloping his skin as a low vibration. 'Good morning! It's so nice to wake up with you every day, and today is shaping up to be extra-special.'

Renno was torn. On the one hand, this turn of events suggested some sort of bed-partner, which was in general a rare and exotically pleasing thing for him. On the other, he could remember allowing no such person into his room, and besides, the voice carried no discernible gender. After a moment's thought, his urge to lunge, flailing, out of his sheets and stand in a shivering mass several feet away won.

'Relax, my dear,' the voice whispered. 'I'm here beside you, as always.' He glanced around for a moment, then his eyes lighted once more on the bed. 'Yes, that's right. For so many years, I've wanted to tell you how nice it feels when you wrap yourself up with me, especially when you scratch me right between my posts, but you never seemed to hear. And now that you're listening, may I please politely suggest, also, that you not eat Cheerios when we're together? It's awfully itchy.'

He stared, blankly; gradually, a flash of realization staggered into his conscious mind, and he gasped. 'My god and/or goddess and/or trinity and/or pantheon of potentially benevolent deities, it's true! It's happened! I can hear you, I feel like the epicentre of the universe, it's all real and magical and splendid, and I'll try not to leave so many crumbs in you anymore.' As he dashed toward his bedroom door, desperate to see just how much of this glorious connection he had uncovered through exposure to the wider world, the bed's boards groaned in protest. 'Don't you want to sleep for just ten more minutes? I'm still warm...'

***

After a few moments in his kitchen, Renno began to notice that only certain objects made efforts to communicate with him. The refrigerator, for example, maintained a nearly complete silence, deigning to speak only long enough to confirm that yes, the little light does turn off when the door is closed. 'Sometimes, though, I switch it back on so that the mustard doesn't get lonesome. It's a Jehovah's Witness, you know, and the darkness makes it think that the End Times have come. Now finish grabbing what you need for breakfast and shut me up, all right?'

He was surprised and perplexed by certain revelations. The sandwich he made did not complain ' in fact, it seemed perfectly accepting of its fate, muttering only that he'd applied the mayonnaise asymmetrically as he took his first bite. The shag rug lying across his doorway, on the other hand, kept up an almost constant torrent of insults until the vacuum politely suggested he use it. Later, as he drove himself to the corner store where his closest friend, Justin, worked, he almost swerved off of the road before he'd even reached the corner.

'Oh, yes... yessss!' the gas pedal cried as it pressed toward the floor; Renno shuddered as he channelled its delight. 'Push harder, make me work, make me move faster ' '

'Augh, STOP!' he cried, hands rising instinctively to his ears before he realized that the voices were not external (and, further, that such a reaction caused the steering wheel to scream). 'What's the matter, is it too tame for you?' taunted the emergency brake. 'Why don't you give me a grab, and I'll show you a real shock!'

Understandably, his face was the same colour as his chest as he reached the store and staggered out of his car. 'Sunscreen?!' shrieked a bass voice radiating down to him from high above. 'Are you trying to tell me that I'm good enough for you? This barrier isn't comfortable for either of us, and I swear you're just as safe without it...'

'Man, what the hell's going on?' Justin spotted him as he ran inside, nearly colliding with the sliding doors. ('Watch where you're going!' 'Oh, be easy on the poor boy. The sun's taunting him.')

'Gods, Justin, I've finally managed to touch the web of interconnectedness! And it's so... sarcastic! Everything's talking and it's all pointless and sometimes rude and '' He trailed off, panting.

For a few seconds, Justin just stood there, one eyebrow almost vanishing into his brightly-coloured company-logo-adorned cap. Then he started to laugh. 'First off, did you expect anything different from this particular universe? Second, get the hell out of here and go back to bed, or at least smoke a blunt. Unless it refuses to light because it doesn't want to hurt your lungs, of course.'

Sighing, Renno turned to leave. 'I shouldn't have expected you to even try to understand. I'll deal with it on my own - it is enlightenment given to me, anyway.' As he stalked out, he could hear, over his shoulder, the voice of Justin's shirt.

'Do you feel like maybe I clash with his pants? I wonder sometimes if I've faded a bit over the years, or if red never really matched navy at all...'

***

Braving a berating from the clouds ('I don't look like a motherfucking cowboy, and Joel in G23 Quadrant isn't a goddamned puppy. Get a life, asshole.') and a two-pronged attack by a stray cat and its equally pompous identification microchip, he frantically returned home. Collapsing at his kitchen table, he pressed his cheek to the wood and hid his head under his hands. Gradually, silence descended, until he could only hear his heart. 'Oonce oonce oonce oonce,' it thumped. 'Listen, I'm my own psy-trance!' He was willing it to stop, or at least to shut the hell up, when the refrigerator spoke.

'It's not what you'd thought, is it?'
'Oh, gods. This doesn't feel like universal comprehension, it feels like the biggest headache in the world tucked into my soul.'
The machine's motor ground out a snort. 'So melodramatic. Listen, you have to understand that you're not comprehending anything. You're not even hearing anything. This is all inside of you, springing from your slightly demented demands. Did you really think that the answers to existence would be handed to you just because you promised to give the gods some face time?'

If Renno's shame could speak, it would have started babbling at that moment. Luckily, things weren't getting quite that abstract. 'But I didn't want this, I didn't think those words into you... how can it not be real? I'm not schizophrenic ' I don't think ' and I've always known there was an answer, so sure this could be it. Where is my answer?'

'It's not out here, or at least not yet. Look, you're way off ' remember my telling you about the JW mustard? Think about how little sense that makes. It's actually a Unitarian, and even then, it doesn't observe the holidays with anything approaching devotion. Don't look for answers out here when you don't even know what's in there, because you're projecting and you don't even see the source.'

'Oonce,' murmured Renno's heart in a cryptic fashion.

'None of this is real. When you forget that you're a Spiritualist roedeer and remember that you're a guy who dreams and needs to eat this leftover ham before it becomes livelier than him, then you can come and talk to me. But bear in mind that no matter what you're talking to, you're really talking to yourself.'

'But...' Renno trailed off as the first tear darkened a spot on the table. 'Doesn't that make me a solipsist or an athiest? I thought they were even more close-minded and stupid than the Pentecostals. Can't I at least come to understand people, if not anything else? Is there a message that I'm misinterpreting, or is there no message at all? Gods, I'm so confused and lost...'

He glanced up to see the little light, visible through the crack under the refrigerator door, flicker and blink off. He found himself alone with his thoughts, though he thought he heard the toaster giggle, just for a moment...