Planet Soul

Gods and Histories at War in America

The monsters are surfacing, and we wait to see who will win

Jonathan Martin
Human Parts
Published in
6 min readJun 20, 2020

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Storm clouds shroud an electrical storm of the coast of Byron Bay at night.
Photo: Enrique Díaz/7cero/Getty Images

Because the fundamental character of human existence is jagged, nonlinear, and complex rather than simple, and every person is a mystery, most especially to themselves, finding a narrative that makes sense of the world is mostly a child’s game of playing pin the tail on the donkey while blindfolded—it’s arbitrary.

Sure, there are poets, prophets, singers, writers, preachers, comedians, and revolutionaries the dots are illuminated for, those who tell us a story about the world in which we can see ourselves, a story that make sense of things. But this still mostly only works in fiction, where a handful of dissonant characters find themselves converging on some unexpected road together, brought together for some cosmic purpose. Real life is not so easily plotted. We are not characters in Stephen King’s The Stand or a TV show like Lost.

The world is unfolding in a way that feels almost too tightly plotted to be real.

This is why attempts to find an easy sense of order and coherence largely elude and frustrate us. Until they don’t. And life happens in such a way as to blur the lines between whether we are acting or being acted upon, either by some guiding hand of providence or simply being carried along by some buried, unconscious force within ourselves.

It feels like such a moment now, where the world unfolds in a way that feels almost too tightly plotted to be real. Thus all the spiritual, existential questions are in play — is God furthering the story, or is it the devil or some meddlesome billionaire or corporation trying to alter the plot—or some combination of all of the above?

The news suddenly feels like Greek mythology: U.S. statues that have long napped in city centers are in the spotlight, causing us to question the gods in our pantheon. Images used by the Trump campaign on social media have been called into question because of their similarity to Nazi symbols.

Tulsa, Oklahoma, where I lived for three years, feels as mythic as Rome. Like most anyplace where human atrocity has occurred on an unfathomable scale…

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Jonathan Martin
Human Parts

author of The Road Away from God, How to Survive a Shipwreck & Prototype. Director of Center for Spiritual Life at DePauw University. jonathanmartinwords.com