Qui frequentant les cieulx, ton origine,
As delaissé ton hoste et domestic,
Ton corps concords, qui tant se morigine
A tes edictz, en vie peregrine
Sans sentement, et comme en Apathie:
Vouldrois tu poinct faire quelque sortie
De ton manoir divin, perpetuel
Et ça bas veoir une tierce partie
Des faictz joyeux du bon Pantagruel?
François Rabelais à l’esprit de la
royne de Navarre, Tiers Livre. 1545
Abstract, enraptured and ecstatic spirit,
Which frequents the heavens, thy birthplace,
Thou hast left thy host and home,
Thy body concurs, which so easily is swayed
By your edicts, in life wanders
Without feeling, and as if in Apathy:
Wouldst thou not venture forth
From your divine and perpetual manor
And see down here a third part
Of the joyous acts of good Pantagruel?
Mark and I are sleeping in cots in a big room filled with other cots, and people we don’t know are sleeping in them. The cots are placed in tight, organized rows barely two feet apart, side-to-side and head-to-toe, filling up the room.
The blinds are closed at the several windows, but the outline of dawn is visible at their edges. I’m awake, and several others are waking up, and a few are sitting on the edges of their cots or have gotten up. I get up myself, and walk to a door on the side of the room that is opposite the windows. The door is open, revealing a staircase. I know that at least one person has already walked up the staircase, possibly more. I arrive at the doorway but stay inside the room.
I look up and see that the stairs go up for quite a ways, and all the way at the top there is a diffuse light. I can’t see people at the top of the staircase, but their voices are easily audible, and it is easy to identify a plangent, pleading quality in the voice of a man I don’t know. The man is speaking to someone whom I soon recognize as being Jesus Christ. The man is saying, “But I lost my body!” It’s not the first time he’s repeated this statement, for he is trying to convince Jesus that it is not okay that he’s lost his body, that he misses his body, and perhaps he might want to go back downstairs in order to regain his body. He regrets having gone up the staircase. Jesus seems to be trying to get this man to understand that things will be better without his body, for when he’s in the presence of God, the feeling will be much better than any of the feelings the man felt while he had his body. I understand the man’s fear, and the man’s regret, at not having his body anymore. How can pleasure, especially sexual pleasure, ever be approximated, or equaled, by the supposed ecstasy of being in the presence of God?
I lurk in the shadows next to the base of the staircase. I’m afraid to go up. I for one certainly don’t want to lose my body. Besides, I would never leave Mark. I turn to look at him and see that he is still asleep in his cot. The love I have for and from him is so strong and powerful, so consoling and reassuring, that there is no way I would ever exchange that for a promised eternity of bliss next to God. In the first place, Jesus has numerous times turned out to be a liar, a charlatan as slippery and elusive as a snake oil salesman. He promises numerous times, but he doesn’t deliver. In the second place, why would God have given us the gift of human love, with its profusion of feelings and emotions, with its concomitant thrill and balm, only to see it wrenched away and substituted by a neoplatonic, abstract and spiritual rapture, which, for all its ethereal qualities, for all its promises of being able to linger in perpetual and divine joy, in comparison seems like a forced peregrination for all eternity in an unfeeling, celestial apathy?
I turn away from the open door by the base of the staircase and return to my cot next to my beloved. I shall wait until he wakes up, and together we shall seek solace inside the dark room. Somebody should open up the blinds to let in the growing light of day. If no one else will, I’ll be the one to open them, as soon as my true love wakes up. He prefers to sleep in total darkness. But as soon as he’s up, I’ll open up the blinds.