“Hi Jesus!” He yelled.
“You startled me,” he stammered, “I thought at first you were Pan.”
Tarzan chuckled. “I can understand why that put you uptight. When you were born the cry went through the world, ‘Great Pan is dead!’ But as you can see, I’m hairy all over, like an ape. Pan was a shaggy beast from the waist down, above his bellybutton, he was a lot like you.”
A shudder vibrated Jesus’ emaciated frame.
“Like me?” he asked, “no you must be mistaken…say, what’s that you’re eating?”
“Nutmeg seeds,” said Tarzan grinning, “here, I’ll lay some in you.”
“Oh, no thanks, I’m fasting.” Saliva swelled up in his mouth. He pressed his lips together forcefully but one solitary trickle broke over the flaky pink dam and dropped in an artless pattern into his beard. “Besides, Nutmeg seeds…aren’t they narcotic?”
“Well, they make you high if that’s what you mean, Why else do you think I’m gumming them when I’ve got dates, doves and a crock of lamb stew in my saddlebag? If you ask me, you could use a little something to get you off.”
At the mention of lamb stew, Jesus lost control of his lake of spittle. Now he wiped his chin with a dusty sleeve, embarrassment coloring his dark cheeks as the rosy-fingered dawn colors so many passages of Homer.
“No, no” he said, emphatically “John the Baptist turned me on with Mandrake root once. It was a rewarding experience, but, never again.” He shielded his eyes from the radiant memories of his visions, “Now I’m what you might call naturally stoned.”
Tarzan, who had climbed off his goat, smiled, and said, “Good for you!” He sat down beside Jesus and mouthed his harmonica, a jungle blues.
“You gotta blow a C-vamp to get a G sound on one of these.” He said. He did it.
Obviously distracted, Jesus interrupted, “What did you mean when you said that Pan was a lot like me?”
“Only from the waist up,” corrected Tarzan. “Above the waist, Pan was a highly spiritual dude. He sang and played sweeter than the larks. And his face was full of joy as a sunny meadow in spring. There was a lot of love in that crazy rascal, just as there’s a lot in you. Of course, he had horns, you know, and cloven hooves, good golly miss Molly, how those wooly legs of his could dance! But he stunk, Pan did. In rutting season you could smell him a mile away, and he’d take on anything, he’d have screwed this nanny goat if he couldn’t find a nymph.” Tarzan laughed and ran the scale on his harmonica.
Jesus did not appreciate the references to carnal knowledge. He made an attempt to get his mind on the law, but wherever his formidable intellect voyaged on the rolling sea of Hebrew instruction, it drew the image of Pan like a dory behind it. Finally, he shoved Moses aside and asked, “But…you say he was a lot like me?”
“I said that, didn’t I man…I said he was like you but different too. Pan was the God of the woodlands and pastures, the deity of flocks and shepherds, he was into a wilderness thing, but he was also into a music thing. He was half man and half animal, always laughing at his own shaggy tail. Pan represented the union between nature and culture, between flesh and spirit. Union man, that’s why we old timers hated to see him go.”
The newsboys of paranoia hawked their guilty papers in Jesus’ eyes. They were the same shrill urchins who would be hawking when Jesus would predict his disciples’ betrayal and denial; when in his next to last words, he would accuse God of forsaking him.
“ Are you blaming me?” he asked. His stare was as cold and nervous as a mousetrap.
By this time Tarzan was pretty loaded. He didn’t want any unpleasantness. “All I know is what I read in the papers.” He said. He waved his harmonica to and fro in the sunlight. “Do you have a favorite tune?”
I like anything with SOUL in it.” Jesus replied. “But not now. Tell me Tarzan, what did my birth have to do with Pans demise?”
“Jesus, old buddy, I’m not any Jewish intellectual and I can’t engage you in no fancy theological arguments as you’re used to in the temples. But if you promise, scouts honor, not to come on to me with a thick discussion, I’ll tell you what I know.”
“You have my word.” Said Jesus. He squinted in the agreed direction of paradise whereupon, he noted for the first time that an angel was hovering over them, executing lazy white loop the loops against the desert sky. “That angel will report everything it hears,” he thought, “I better mind my P’s and Q’s.”
Tarzan spotted the angel too, but paid it little attention. The last time he had eaten nutmeg seeds he had seen a whole dovecote of them. One had landed on his head and pissed down his back.
“In the old days,” Tarzan began, “Folks were more concrete. I mean they didn’t have much truck with abstractions and spiritualism. They knew that when a body decomposed, it made crops grow. They could see with their own eyes that manure helped the plants along too. And, they didn’t need Adele Davis to figure out that eating plants helped them grow and sustain their own lives. So they picked up that there were connective links between blood and shit and vegetation. Between animal and vegetable and man. When they sacrificed an animal to the corn crop, it was a concession to the obvious relation between death and fertility, what could be less mystical? Sure it was hoked up with ceremony, but a little show biz is good for anyones moral. We were linked to vegetation, nothing in the vegetable world succumbs, it simply drops away and then returns. Energy is never destroyed. We planted our dead the way we planted our seeds. After a period of rest, the energy of corpse or seed returned in one form or another. From death, came life. We loved the Earth because of the joy and good times and peace of mind to be had in loving it. We didn’t have to be ‘saved’ from it; we never plotted escapes to heaven. We weren’t afraid of death because we adhered to nature and its cycles. In nature we observed that death is an inseparable part of life. It was only when some men- the original tribes of Judah- quit tilling the soil and became alienated from vegetation cycles that they lost faith in the material resurrection of the body. They planted their dead bull or their dead ewe and they didn’t notice anything sprout from the grave: no new bull, no new sheep. So they became alarmed, forgot the lesson of vegetation and in desperation developed the concept of spiritual rebirth. The idea of a spiritual, invisible being was the result of the new and unnatural fear of death. And the idea of a supreme spiritual being is the result of becoming alienated from the workings of nature. When man could no longer observe the solid, material processes of life, and identify with them, he invented God in order to explain how life happened and why death happened.”
“Now, just a minute!” snapped Jesus.
“Maybe I should run along.” Said Tarzan, sticking his harmonica into a myrrh stained Arab silk that girded his loins.
“No,” said Jesus, “If you have more to say then out with it. Where does Pan fit into this blasphemy? And I?”
“If you’re sure you want to hear it. Confidentially, you look a bit under the weather to me pal. You could use a pound of steak and some fries.”
“Do continue.” Sputtered Jesus through his drool.
“The point is, J.C., we had a unified outlook on life. We even figured out in our own funky way, how the Sun and Moon and stars fit into the process. We didn’t draw distinctions between the generative activity of seeds and the pro-creating cycles of animals. We observed that growth and change were essential to everything in life, and since we dug life, when it came time to satisfy our inner needs, we naturally enough, based our religion on the transformations of nature. We were direct about it, went right to the source, the power to grow and transform was not attributed to abstract spirits- to a magnified ego extension in the sky- but was present in the fecundity of nature. We worshipped the reproductive organs of plants and animals ‘cause that’s where the life force lies.”
Jesus kicked a pebble with the worn toe of his sandal. “I’ve heard of the phallic and vegetation cults,” he said, “not very sophisticated. My father expects more of man than a primitive adoration of his carnal nature, he must rise above…”
“Rise to what Jesus? To abstractions? And alienation? Your scroll there, your book of Genesis, says that in the beginning was the word; the simplest savage can see that in the beginning was the orgasm. Life is reproduced from life while resurrection- the regeneration of seeds, the return in spring of the leaves that fell in autumn- is of matter, not of spirit. Unsophisticated? Maybe it’s unsophisticated to venerate mountains and regard rivers as sacred, but as long as man thinks of his natural environment as Holy, he’s gonna respect it and not sell it out or foul it up. Unsophisticated? Hell, it’s gonna take science a couple thousand more years to determine that life originated when a cupful of seawater containing molecules of ammonia was trapped in a pocket in a shore rock where it was abnormally heated by ultra-violet light from the sun. But we Pagans have always sensed that mans roots were organic, that’s why we had respect, even for stones.”
Jesus looked up sheepishly from the pebbles he had been kicking. “But you hadn’t been saved.” He protested.
“Didn’t need to be,” said Tarzan, “wasn’t of any use to us. In the old days, the female archetype was the central religious figure. Man had the power of assisting in creation, but it was in women that we observed the unfolding of the life cycle: reproduction, death and rebirth. So we celebrated the sensuality of God and the Mother. Agriculture is umbilically tied to the great belly. Whereas, the domestication of animals, a later pursuit, is more of a phallic activity, it was a step away from God the Mother and a step toward God the Father. But, a harmonious balance was maintained and Pan personified that balance. He kept things unified, him, with his beautiful music and his long, red erection….but when you came along, well, the way I hear it, is your coming represented the triumph of God the father over God the Mother. The victory of the Judaic God of spirit, over the old God in flesh. Your birth cry signified the end of Paganism, and the final separation of man from nature. From now on culture will dominate Nature, the phallus will dominate the womb, permanence will dominate change and the fear of death will dominate everything. Pardon me Jesus, ‘cause I know you’re a courageous and loving soul, you mean well. But, from where I swing, it looks like 2,000 miles of bad road.”
Jesus looked to the heavens for guidance but he saw only the angel, hanging in front of their parley the way a sign hangs in front of a TV repair shop. “Then that explains why you have withdrawn into your private nirvana.” He said at last.
“You might say that,” said Tarzan, standing up to stretch. “Why beat my head against a penis abstraction? And you, what are you doing out here in this snaky wilderness frying your butt on a hot rock?”
“I’m preparing myself for my mission.”
“To change the world.”
Tarzan slapped his side so hard he bent his harmonica. “The world is perpetually changing,” he roared, “it doesn’t do much else but change. It changes from season to season, from night to day and from ice to tropics. It changed from a pocketful of cosmic dust into the complicated ball of goof and glory that it is today. It’s changing every celestial second with no help whatsoever. Why do you want to stick your nose into it?”
“The peoples of the world have become wicked and evil,” Jesus said gravely, “I believe in all modesty that I can eradicate their evil.”
“Evil is what makes good possible.” Said Tarzan, hoping he didn’t sound too trite. “Good and evil have to co-exist in order for the world to survive. The peoples of the world have not become evil, they’ve lost their balance and become confused about what they really are.” He jumped on the back of his goat and gave it a smack. “I’m afraid, Jesus baby, that you’re going to confuse them all the more.” Tarzan started to ride off but Jesus leaped up and grabbed the goat by its tail.
“Whoa now! Whoa!” he called in his rich olive green baritone. The animal stopped and Tarzan looked Jesus in the eye, but Jesus had trouble articulating the activity in his brain. “If you think carnally then you are carnal, but if you think spiritually then you are spirit.” He just blurted it out, but it didn’t sound too bad and the odor of the goat obscured any desire he might have had to develop his idea more comprehensively.
Tarzan rattled the nannys ribcage with his heels and she bolted out of the prophet’s grasp, “Any law against thinking both ways?” he asked, he began to ride toward the south.
“You’re either for me or against me!” yelled Jesus.
“Well, adios then. I’ve gotta beat it on back to the Congo, Jane promised to lay out a luau when I returned, been gone two weeks now, a-riding over the good Earth and a-playing for anybody who’d listen, bet Jane’s as horny as a box of rabbits. Git along Nanny!”
The goat galloped off in comic strip puffs of dust. Jesus returned to his rock and shoed an entangled pair of butterflies off of the law. His heart felt like a stage on which some Greeks had acted a messy tragedy. So occupied was he with swabbing the boards that several minutes had passed before he thought to look after the angel. When his eyes found it, it was flapping erratically in the high dry air, first soaring after the disappearing strains of Tarzans harmonica and then returning to hover over Jesus, back and forth, again and again, as if it did not know whom to follow.