I live by the sea, and many times in my life I've lived below its level; but rergardless of where I find myself, even if it be for years, I am a mountain man of mountain people, a barely covered savage, a mountain ranging pagan at the core of my soul. In my heart of hearts I still live in the Rockies, the Appalachians, the Grampian mountains. The atavism of my existence is clansman Highlander, layland Riever, sea-going Berzerker, but always in my blood is the mountain air and the sight of afar. Today and for most of my life all of it is clouded by atheism. My own are wild, and the depths of theology shouldn't be any concern to us. We aren't just pagans, we are killer pagans. And in the West of our Modernity many of us have turned to commerce, leaving ourselves empty and disillusioned. When my especially distant relative said "Thank God war is so terrible for otherwise we should love it too much," he turned his face to me and I saw him snicker.
I live in a phantasy life of commerce and good behaviour. I smile and make some money, pay the rent and go to the opera, and then I flee into the wilderness to meet my own in combat of various terrible kinds. Oh ho! I got some big, deep scars! But the worst wound ever I suffered is the death of my gods. I have some reckoning of Modernity and normal living with people who think rationally and who are decent and ordinary folks. My gods embarrass me. I hate them for it, and I abandon them. For making me do that I hate them even more. So I'm an atheist.
I'm not an atheist because I'm a dedicated logician, a devoted rationalist, a man dogmatically committed to Reason; I'm an atheist because I don't have the imagination to see beyond the tableau of my indifferent gods in the endless empty skies. My god is the highest of the dead, ruler of fighting men, mount-born, flame-haired, blue-bellied smashers and rippers exultant. My god is the god of fighting men who fought their way to bloody death to exist alone in the endless empty skies forever. I live a quiet life in the suburbs, work at a slight business of buying antiques to sell at a profit. I am a boring man. My god is indifferent. I can't even believe in him and his own. I close my mind's eye and gaze into the endless empty skies, and I don't even hear mockery from the depths. There is nothing. There is only unechoed Atheism.
I run my fingers over the finest silk and make my offers, my banter, my gambits, and all the while I am attuned to the shrill pitch of the Highland pipes and the rush of the surging river through the glen as my feet fly across the heather to charge in the heights of joy, the singing claymore arcing, targe banging, the crack of bones and the shrieks of pain filling the cloudy skies like rain. "Well, sir, I could take two at the price you offer, but that would be the death of me as a trader. Let's have more tea."
I drag my sorry self from the slumbers of night to face the dreary dawn of another dull day, and I battle the forces of self-interested traders like myself. They, like me, look into the depths of the endless empty skies and long for knives and edges and man-to-man meeting of the mind in blood and abandon. We see in each other the smiles of dead dogs on the roadside. It's hard sometimes to believe I do such things for a living.
I was Cypriot, Ion Allogenes; I was Dutch, Jan Eycks; I was Manx, Yn Greeley. Wherever I am it's not where I'm from, a placeless man. My name is a joke each time. I am a foreigner, Mr. X, gee really. I scoff at the laws of Man's made motions and go where I will as I can. I stare stupidly at the laws of restriction, and I come and go. The gods are indifferent, and the joke appears to be on me. I shrug. There is no higher law than motion.
Then, in my wandering way, my atheism has encountered faith. I have traded in numerous idols of the marketplace over the long years, and I have encountered faith at a bargain many times. Believing it to be of little or no value, I passed it by. Then, in my wandering way, I stumbled, near on a year ago, into the caesura that is phaitheism. I wake up trembling in a sweat. My faith in the indifference of my gods in the endless empty skies is shaken. I waken to words in the darkness. I'm nervous. My former certainty in my own banality crumbles and leaves me stumbling unbalanced, desperate to clutch at the gods who do not notice and would not care.
I sit with men of Faith and my small heart is pounded. I do not know. In my atheism I resemble my former loving self the way ashes resemble a fire. My love is the dust of ashes. I trade this for that and that for more for something else. And I wander. I wander why I do not know. I sit with Men of Faith. I stay.
My own hewed stone and crushed men, raised up monuments and laid down the living. I dance naked in the moonlight in the Ring of Brodgar. We are fighting men, and damn the gods who do not care. We fight them too. I raise my fist to shake at the endless empty skies, and in place of my blood- crusted sword I find my hand grasps the cheap silver of shillings. I haughtily stomp on the stone a weak man would use as a pillow; and I run my fingers over fine silk and dream of the glory of a few pounds more or less. My mountain heart could break like the stones of Avebury.
I see the jackals of grief all around us; and I see Men of Faith with faith stripped bare to the bones. I sit in Faith and stare stupidly. Min' yon kin: bloody men of Faith, they set sail and left us and me alone to stare into the endless empty skies of atheism, our backs to the cold stone draining the warmth of life from us. I growl and threateningly wave my fist tightly grasping shillings. I am over-powered by quiet men. I am humiliated.
I kick at the caphrophagic dogs of grant-fueled pity; and I am driven hard to my knees by the sight of Faith. What path is clear through the blood-fed heath? I would go there if I could along that path. The pipes, they call, and I must go, my blood rushing, my eyes filled with hot tears of joy at the thought of battle. I look at my foes arrayed, and I rush up to the mountain heights of my soul. It's then my god turns and laughs, banging his hilt on the targe, the blood echoes across the endless empty skies, and the dead howl and stomp and rejoice in us who will join them, we who are fighting men. Underneath our contempt for ourselves we are fighting men, just down from the hills, awkward in our suits. I hear the pipes and feel the hair on my neck bristle. My shoulders roll and my arms rise up and I rejoice in the coming blood rush.
In my wanderings the God of Job has beheld me. I stomp my foot. I pound my sheild. I holler at the endless empty skies. Job suffers, and I can do nothing for him. My gods laugh at me. I laugh too. Job in his desert suffers, and my gods laugh because I see that my mountain manners bring me to stand by Job as he writhes. The crazed mountain war-blood brings me to stand by faith and fight for it as it is in itself. I'm not Job! My gods are laughing, they stomp their feet, they pound their hilts upon their targes, we all howl.
I live beneath contempt. Give me one stotinki, more manats. I make a few bucks here and there. My life is so unbelievably banal I can't even imagine that I was once a warrior of the mountains. It is only hidden. My own gods do not care. I see Job. If I refuse to see my gods, they do not care. Job's God beheld me, and so too will my own again.
My companions sit by the fire and whisper words of faith. The beauty of the battle is on us. In that I have faith.