A Divine Invasion
Consider the fall of America as a Bollywood routine.
Egos tip like dominoes. Blood money runs out. Methamphetamine zombies wander the wastes in packs, huddle up from the cold in vacated mini-malls, coils of copper wire clutched under their shredded coats. Middle America weeps in the streets as the foreclosure sign is pasted to the door. Great gothic vistas of abandoned auto plants. The innocent lamb-like smiles of the new politicians, promising imminent genocide.
“My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings,” the West says, its edifice crumbling into the sands. “Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!”
And the ancient East smiles and carries on warming its meager dinner in a firepit dug in the alley of a city filled with broken monuments that have lain there since before the invention of writing. Statue upon statue. A forest of them, endless.
The first time your ambitions come to nothing, it feels like it’s the end of the world, as if you’re the only person in the history of the race to have failed. The second time, it feels the same, but you know you’ll get through it. The third, you hardly notice it. This is the wisdom of breakdown. And now America cries in the wilderness, and the old cultures look on as if at a child that has skinned its knee.
Held up next to the great epics of India, the decline and fall of Yankee civilization is like a single DVD outtake in a fully-stocked Best Buy. Orientalism? No, my dear sahib, realism.
What’s the problem? After all, America looked up at the sky and prayed to be liberated. And so it is. India saw off the Raj before giving England the Beatles and now it’s your turn, dears.
While you were looking the other way, watching the airport security lines, India seduced your women, brought them into the Temples of Yoga which suddenly sprouted up on every corner like Starbucks, offered them promises of pampering and superfoods. Honestly give a woman a chance to act and be treated like a Goddess just once and it’s all over. Soon the men will be dragged in by their hair whether they like it or not. The smartest of your children worship winos, tramps, beatniks and bums; this art India perfected millennia past. India soon becomes the new cultural ideal. In the same way that a few brilliant and completely amoral spooks with a paperback copy of The Golden Bough could have engineered the entire 1960s, imagine an America reverse-engineered to the Vedas…
Grim St. Augustine, Imperator of the Barbed Church, finds himself preaching to an empty room, long since having deserted when the flock finally figured out that treating sex one way leads to institutionalized child abuse and treating it the other leads to institutionalized not-knowing-where-to-look-next-when-everybody’s-doing-downward-facing-dog.
And the Gods are alive still over the broken slums of America. Dancing in their aeonic finery over the Black Hole of Detroit just as they did over the Black Hole of Calcutta. Skies lit up with fury as they crawl over the projects and crumbled skyscrapers. Blue-skinned and burning.
Watch them there in that place behind the wall of mind. The great confusion of gods, an overcrowded shopping mall full of every variety and cultural form of divinity, enough to fill all of our imaginations. Where Mount Olympus lies spitball distance from Mount Meru, and the Flames of the Pentecost warm the freezing fingers of the Jotün come in from the cold. Here, encroaching upon the Imaginationland of the Gods, comes Ganesh dispensing sweets and chai lattes, slowly winning the crowd over by saccharine promise, the ever-hovering hint of Kali’s sword in the darkness behind him. Durga on tigerback slaughtering centuries of accumulated demons. (Bye, Asmodeus; bye, John Wayne Gacy; bye, Adam Smith…) Shiva, Destroyer, watches on red-eyed from a haze of potsmoke, laying on the grassy knoll with the Rastas while Babylon Falls.
A Divine Invasion. Hindu gods rush in where angels and devils both fear to tread.
Feeling like a nobody, just walking this world.
Sadhu sits in hazy orange glow by a fire on a hill on the empty frontier. They come crawling to sit by him, while he slowly stirs the fire with his tongs and pays them no mind. “I’m a pharmaceutical lawyer,” one says; “I’m a media planner,” says the other.
“You were,” the sadhu says, “you were.” And pays them No Mind.
Soon we will all sit with the sadhu next to his fire, with nothing to call our own but a few scraps of clothing and the infinite, careening expanse of stars above us. Blessed are they who have none.
From my spot high here on the wall
I watch them rise and watch them fall
And it doesn’t mean a thing
It doesn’t mean a thing.