What is the value of “nice”? It means you are prey. It means you can be managed. That’s why “nice guys” finish last. People tell me I’m a “nice lady” -- in Valier they say “nice LITTLE lady” even though I weigh two hundred pounds. Stupid girls who think they are dangerous feel free to call me up and are shocked, SHOCKED when I rebuke them. When people say “nice,” they mean powerless: no money, no connections, no F350 pickup. They kick you to the curb. Old nice ladies aren’t even good for sex.
Hey, don’t tell them any different. It’s good camouflage. They even think GOD is nice. They think saints are nice. They don’t think about the people who kill the saints, often officials of the church. They killed their saints in torturing ways, observing carefully, commemorating the agony with huge sumptuous paintings. Well, when you start with crucifying someone . . .
What is the value of evil? It means you are a predator. It means you can be managed. Like those brothers in Cut Bank who liked to beat up helpless drunks, the kind of person who likes to kill street people or drive-by-shoot domestic animals in fields near roads. It means institutions will have permission to catch you, cage you, and keep you alive forever so they can give you bad food, poor medical care, and never let you sleep. You will forever after be vulnerable to prison administrators, other prisoners, and guards.
Nice and evil are banal ideas. Banality goes deeper than either good or evil. It is a product of a numbly narcissistic society and an anthropocentric understanding of the planet. Good or evil shift all the time, according to taste and fashion. So does the planet shift, but by its own rules which are neither good nor evil. We are specks on the surface, constantly afflicting each other and pretending God did it. Well, maybe the Devil if we don’t like it.
One of the big values to which I commit is one that they say everyone approves of. They write books about it, sing songs about it, try to follow the example. It is faithfulness, true love. I am still in love with Bob Scriver. Still now I am only besotted with the memory of his physical self, but make no mistake -- it remains a relationship with his body though he’s been dead for a decade. Power was not the attraction -- but power, or imagined power, still makes him a target for the powerless who trade in secrets, the supernatural, sensationalism, and what they think is evil.
Therefore, they are telling a story about him. They say that in his lifetime he raped so many Indian women that now his ghost wanders the alleys of Browning where the street people and dogs drift, looking without hope for some way to reclaim his soul, some atonement.
You believe that? Well, if you do, I have this GPS device here and I want it attached to Bob Scriver’s ghost because I have a few things to discuss with him, and it will save time when I go looking for him. I do have to say that the alleys of Browning are getting a little crowded.
It’s not as though Bob Scriver doesn’t have enemies who aren’t drifting drunks. There are art dealers and lawyers who glance over their shoulders. Don’t forget that Bob was a justice of the peace and the city magistrate in Browning for a long time and some pretty vicious people came in front of him, both Indian and white, both rapists and victims. It’s not as though he was a “nice” man, all meek and mild. The Masonic Lodge asked him to leave after he was divorced the second time.
A gold mine of sympathy comes with claiming to be a victim, even the victim of a ghost. It’s a great excuse to go on the attack, which makes a person feel powerful or at least virtuous. It attracts “nice” little college girls drifting through the corridors of academia, looking for some kind of empowering cause. It might be a mistake to even repeat this accusation because it contributes to spreading the rumor and marks me for attack.
I don’t care about “nice” or “evil”. What I care about is consciousness. I want to perceive and understand as much as I can, even about people who play with what they think is the dark side. The real dark is unconsciousness -- not knowing, not feeling, just blank nonbeing. Consciousness is the defining gift of human beings. An ancient religious rule says persons ought to do what their unique nature allows them to do. Humans are the creatures who can rejoice in creation. (Forget the Creator -- too much like a human.)
People have wanted me to give up my ties to Bob Scriver, because they think it interferes with the possibility of me becoming attached to THEM. They have wanted me to move away from Valier and come live by them. Even some people in Valier would like me to move away so I WON’T live by them. People actively drove me away from Heart Butte. “You don’t belong here,” said the vengeful woman, and then she moved to Valier!
My guiding religious compass is the circle with a dot in the middle. Bob Scriver and the high east slope prairie are the dot, the center place, my axis mundi. The Internet, writing, and Cinematheque are my farthest reach of the circle so far, but now that I know these trails to the edge of the precipice, I can see beyond and go even farther.
The few people I’ve told this story about Bob have had two questions. One is why would anyone make up such a story? The other is why would anyone tell me it existed, knowing that it would hurt me? The answer is that these are just the flip side of the people who tell me what a great man Bob Scriver was, how close to him they were, how he loved them best. Both are looking for power, connection. It was right to tell me. I want to hear everything. It is all part of experience, evidence about the world. Pain is merely the price for feeling at all. My task is to grasp it all and figure it out, cruel and terrifying as it might be. Bob Scriver’s ghost is neither to me: I welcome it.