Monday, November 24, 2008

Satan or the lack thereof

This post is based on a conversation I had once with Ruthanne during the period when I was sleeping on her floor like a bum. I had just returned from Ghana and, having nowhere to lay my little head, showed up with wide, moist eyes at Ruthanne's lovely new Burstein dorm. Freshly misted by the early summertime Boston air, hands red from carting luggage over continents and oceans, and clothes suspiciously pungent from a month in the third world, I was impossible to turn away. Like a puppy, or someone else's toddler, or that second (and sometimes third!) serving of double chocolate mousse, she looked me in the eye and attempted to do the prudent thing (slam the door in my face), but ultimately - conquered by purity of heart - forced a smile and stepped aside.

I settled in for a delightful week of leeching, enjoying the feeling of getting up late, going out to eat with Mal and Rue, and prancing around campus during the days without any particular need to be anywhere. Also fascinating was the possibility of viewing Rueallery in their natural habitat - something I've always found delightfully fascinating. I love seeing if a person I thought I knew so well leaves a pile of dirty clothes perpetually humped in a corner, or goes through the trouble and money to actually purchaes a toothbrush holder. Do they rely on the great brown-box-scrounge each semester when it's time to clean out their dorm room, or is everything always neatly packed away in plastic Bed, Bath, and Beyond crates that have been with them since freshman year? What do they do right before they go to bed? Are there jokes made during dinner? Is life more like How I Met Your Mother or Flight of the Conchords? There are always delightful things to learn.

One night I was, inexplicably, drifting off to sleep before Ruthanne. I say inexplicably, because there was really no reason for me to be feeling sleepy at all, considering my idle life. She, on the other had, had work full-time that she went to, hours before I even managed to drag myself up from her comfy air bed, and rustle around her kitchen, making myself elaborate, hour-long breakfasts. Groggily awakening, seeing only the timid little light coming from her computer, I determined that she was a watching a movie too riveting to abandon for slumber. Being to obsessive, borderline mentally-unhealthy movie-watcher that I am, I shoved the quilts over my ears, refusing to see even of a glimpse of a movie that I was tuning in to half-way through. I hummed maniacally in my head like a child with a history of abuse, or a dolphin trying to communicate underwater.

The next morning, again awakening to dreamy crisp New England-aired solitude, I was alarmed to see that the video case atop Rue's computer was Rosemary's Baby. Ruthanne, I was pretty sure, had at one point told me to turn down the commercials for the lates Saw installment, because scary movie previews frighten her. I started to panic for her own fragile mental well-being. I myself had never seen Rosemary's Baby but I remember traumatic accounts of my mother explaining the entire plot to preteen-me. It sounded much worse than the Excorcist, and there were scenes in the Excorcist (namely, bloody crucifix-masturbation scene) that I felt fairly certain would traumatize Ruthanne into a lifelong muteness.

Ruthanne finally returned home to find me in a writhing wreck, half out of concern for her, and half with my own wild, torturous imaginings of what it must have been like to watch Rosemary's Baby at midnight in a completely dark room when everyone else is asleep. She seemed very confused with my concern and I began to think that there were TWO Rosemary's Baby's - one about devil-rape, and another about, like, a happy little baby elf or something. No, she said. There was devil rape. I demanded she tell me the plot, and the reiteration of a story that frightened me so much just by hearing it, said in such a matter-of-fact tone confused me. Was she already traumatized? Repressed? Am I just going insane?

We eventually discovered that Rue - being Jewish - doesn't really accept the concept of the devil. So stories about the devil coming and wreaking his anti-christ havoc don't ring close to home with her at all! It was fascinating. I mean, I never considered myself very religious, and certainly wouldn't have thought that how I react to scary movies was shaped by my spiritual upbringing. I would have considered that any role catholocism played in that perception came from the culture i was brought up in as a whole, a culture that had, as a whole, indirectly absorbed aspects of Catholocism.

The devil to me is the quintessential evil, evil concentrated, evil incarnate. The greatest scourge on all existence and goodness. To Rue, it's just another made-up boogeyman story. See what you learn about people when you sleep on their floor?

1 comment:

Ruthanne said...

"Ruthanne, I was pretty sure, had at one point told me to turn down the commercials for the lates Saw installment, because scary movie previews frighten her."

Haha, ^ that is very true.

I'm definitely not the go-to person for all answers about Judaism, so I'm not sure if all branches of Judaism preach about the devil or not.
All I can tell you is that in 13 years of attending religious school, and sporadically going to Friday and Saturday services throughout that time, the devil was not mentioned once. So you are very correct in the conclusion that the devil is as real to me as the boogeyman. (Unfortunately I am at the point in my life where God is as real to me as Santa Claus).

HOWEVER, I think you are giving me too much credit for watching Rosemary's Baby by myself in the dark. It definitely freaked me out! In hindsight I think it scared even more because I was watching it by myself and in the dark, but I think that situation made it scarier and therefore more awesome. Rosemary's Baby is the perfect scary movie - all about suspicion and suspense, and not filled with blood and gore. I suggest you watch it!