Our World Is Straight-Up Surreal: The Millions Interviews Carmen Maria Machado

The literary world has been waiting for a Carmen Maria Machado collection for several years, and in October, Graywolf Press will oblige with the release of Her Body and Other Parties, a collection of Machado’s haunting, graceful speculative stories that has been longlisted for a National Book Award. The Internet became aware of Machado in 2014 when her story “The Husband Stitch” was published by Granta. “The Husband Stitch” was something new altogether, and went on to be nominated for a Shirley Jackson Aware and a Nebula Award, among other honors. Every new story by the Iowa Writers’ Workshop grad has further stoked anticipation. Machado’s stories take place in a version of our real world that has been subtly distorted. Identities blur, women become invisible (literally), and lonely individuals seek intimacy at the end of the world. But these events don’t occur in some alternate science fiction reality; Machado’s spaces are recognizably our own, forcing us into the emotional upheavals of their protagonists. Machado’s writing is both vulnerable and fearless, in complete control even as her characters lose control entirely, and she wields her unique voice to explore identity, marginalization, mental health, and what intimacy looks like in the light and shadow of all three. We recently had the chance to talk over email about benevolent sexism, urban legends, and her writing process. The Millions: “The Husband Stitch,” first published in 2014, seemed to be the story that made the Internet perk up and really pay attention to the name Carmen Maria Machado. It’s the story that opens Her Body and Other Parties. What has been the significance of that story and the response to it on your career as a writer and the formation of this collection? Carmen Maria Machado: I always tell people that they should write the stories they want to see in the world, and that’s advice I try to take as well. I was nursing “The Husband Stitch” in my heart for a very long time—not that structure or narrative specifically, but the emotional arc. I thought a lot about benevolent sexism as a powerful and damaging force, and realized it was a critical note I needed to strike in Her Body and Other Parties. And then, one day, I had the story structure to tell it in a way that felt faithful to my own musings. Of course, the explosion of interest around that story, and the persistent love of it, is really encouraging to me. I never imagined when I was writing it that it would have that kind of power and longevity. I’m not sure there’s anything more exciting or rewarding as a writer. But I don’t think it has much to do with me as an artist, particularly—rather, I think it was a note that needed to be struck. I think people were hungry for it. TM: Your comment about benevolent sexism brings up a powerful piece of writing that was one of the first things I ever read by you: your essay "A Girl's Guide to Sexual Purity" for L.A. Review of Books. My wife and I both grew up in the Evangelical purity culture (and have since left the faith), and the essay spoke to a lot in our own pasts. While Christian purity culture is never mentioned in "The Husband Stitch" (the story takes place well before the emergence of that late-20th-century movement), it grows from the same soil from which that movement would later mushroom. Was that connection on your mind during the writing of this story? How does your background in the Christian purity culture impact your writing? CMM: I think it serves as a constant reminder to me of what happens when people are not vigilant about the narratives young women absorb about themselves and their bodies and sex and sexuality—how catastrophically damaging they can be. I don't think I can solve that problem single-handedly or anything, but I can provide an alternate narrative for those who need it. TM: There’s this fascinating way you intertwine innocence and betrayal in that story without obscuring either. They are separate threads, braided together here—desire that is beautiful and desire that is toxic—and the reader can trace both throughout. Your use of so many old folk tales and urban legends—stories we all passed around among our friends as spooked kids and teenagers—takes the reader back to a more open, unprotected age, and then they’re confronted with the ugliness of patriarchal entitlement. Can you tell me a little about how that story came about? What ties those old legends together, and what made you flip them on their heads here? CMM: I was a Girl Scout for almost my entire childhood, and when we went camping I really loved the part where we told scary, theatrical stories around the campfire. I enjoyed hearing them, and I was really good at telling them. The version of “The Green Ribbon” I heard at that age—which is the one famously retold by Alvin Schwartz—has stuck with me ever since; I don’t know why. (I’ve been trying to explore this very question in an essay.) It’s possible that I was fascinated by the question of the ribbon itself—how did it get there? How did she go her entire life without disturbing it?—but there was something about the ending that really distressed me. Alfred asking and asking and asking, and Jenny relenting on her deathbed. Was she trying to fuck Alfred up as her final act on this earth? Was she just tired of saying “no?” Why did she give him what he wanted? Like the best folktales, the story was spare enough that a reader could project all sorts of things into it; the flatness serves as a kind of scrying pool for whoever is looking inside. And, so years later, when I was at a residency in New Hampshire, I sat down and found myself combining several ideas: a sex-loving, midcentury housewife, the story’s title—which I’d learned about from my OB-GYN nurse aunt—and the woman with the green ribbon. I revisited all of those questions, to try and find my own answers. The secondary urban legends and stage directions didn’t come until later drafts. When I went to go add those secondary stories, I consulted Alvin Schwartz’s Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark trilogy. I flipped through the pages until certain stories spoke to me as ones that could stand one of her retellings. I think urban legends (and folktales, and fairy tales) have this way of showing us what we already know to be true, and I wanted these narratives to reflect that fact. TM: For you, the speculative elements in your fiction seem to be a way to subtly tug and pluck at the strings of reality on a very personal level. How did you get started writing speculative stories, and how do these elements play in your imagination as a writer? CMM: I get “into” stories in a number of ways, but a lot of my ideas come from observing what’s around me and pushing into it a little. My wife and I play this game where we’ll see something and I’ll lean over and suggest a fantastic alteration to it. For example, we’ll see a little kid playing with her reflection in a large window, and I’ll say to my wife, “What would happen if the reflection stopped following her?” I do this in my own head, too, and sometimes I’ll stop talking mid-sentence and my wife will say to me, “Are you getting an idea right now?” as I run for paper and pen. (Or, if I’m driving, I’ll say, “I’m about to say some weird sentences to you, please text them to me.”) When I teach, I talk to students a lot about “play,” and how that critical part of your young imagination can be snuffed out if you don’t feed it and take care of it. There’s been a lot of good and interesting writing about this idea of nursing one’s creative subconscious—I’m particularly fond of this essay by Kelly Link—and I think it’s an element of craft that doesn’t get touched on enough. Before plot or dialogue or even character, the mind needs to be observant, nimble, playful, and curious around the world around it. Without that, fiction is DOA. TM: I've found Kelly Link's thoughts (the essay you linked to) about writing from our obsessions, no matter how trivial they seem, to be tremendously helpful. Do you similarly maintain a list of these obsessions for yourself, as Link does? CMM: I do! I make lists of obsessions, of fears, of images that strike me, of phrases that might make good titles, of potential formal constraints, of stories only I think I can tell, of memories, of sentences that come to me, of settings that give me a thrill...list-making is so satisfying, and such a useful way of cataloguing what's going on inside my head. TM: A number of your stories are only one degree separated from our present reality. A plague is wiping out humanity, or women are becoming incorporeal for no discernible reason, but otherwise the characters and settings are, for lack of a better word, normal. They’re what we’re all living every day, and then this awful warping occurs. What does that method open for you when you’re writing a story? CMM: As a young woman, I did read some secondary world and/or portal fantasy (Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings, the Narnia books), but my absolute favorite work presented a familiar world with tweaked fantasy, science fiction, and/or horror elements: A Wrinkle in Time, the work of Lois Duncan, Behind the Attic Wall, all of Louis Sachar’s books, John Bellairs. I was not leaving for another world; instead, I was being shown potential avenues of perception in my own world. I don’t think this is, like, aesthetically superior or anything, it’s just what tickled my own imagination. I think it created in me an acute sense that magic could be just around the corner. And quite frankly, so much of our world is just straight-up surreal—look at the current political climate, for example—that this kind of worldbuilding often feels very natural to me. TM: Who are some writers, past or present, who inspire you creatively? CMM: I’m particularly indebted to a certain generation of 20th-century writers: Shirley Jackson, Angela Carter, Jane Bowles, Lucia Berlin, Patricia Highsmith, Lois Duncan, Ray Bradbury, Gabriel García Márquez. But there is also an incredible line-up of contemporary folks who have shaped me into the writer I am: Kelly Link, Karen Russell, Helen Oyeyemi, Alice Sola Kim, Kevin Brockmeier, Nicholson Baker, Bennett Sims, Sofia Samatar, Alissa Nutting. And I’m discovering more every day: I recently finished Anne Rivers Siddons’s The House Next Door and Kathryn Davis’s Duplex—the first novels of those writers I’ve ever read—and I feel like my imagination is firing on every cylinder. TM: Your book’s title directly reveals a theme that weaves through every story in the collection: women’s bodies, the ways they both serve and betray these women (or are used by others to do the same), the ways they are both pleasured and violated. Can you tell me a bit about that theme and how is defines so much of this collection? CMM: I am singularly obsessed with the body; even my interest in the mind is rooted in the body, since the two are inseparable from each other. I’d be lying if I said this interest didn’t stem from my relationship with my own body: with moving through the world as a fat, queer, not-quite-white woman, experiencing physical ailments and struggling with mental illness. My mind is housed in my body; my body is flawed and also falls outside of specific culturally-acceptable parameters and is also actively oppressed. It experiences pleasure and brings me joy and it suffers; I fight against it and love it and accept it and loathe it. How better to grapple with these contradictions than write a book about it? TM: Full disclosure: I have never seen a single episode of Law & Order: SVU. I wasn’t sure what to expect going into your story “Especially Heinous,” which creates a fictional episode listing for the show’s entire run. I found it absolutely fascinating. What was the inception of that novella, and why did you choose such an unusual structure? CMM: I often tell people that its root was years before, when I’d spent a severe bout of swine flu in front of a Law & Order: SVU marathon, and drifted in and out of feverish consciousness in front of my computer. Whether or not that’s the actual place where it began, during my second year at grad school, I had the idea of writing a story using a television show as its anchor. I initially toyed with idea of taking existing episode capsules from IMDB and simply altering them toward fantasy, but I realized pretty quickly that this format was far too limiting. I did, however, notice that Law & Order: SVU only had single-word titles, which seemed to be as good a jumping-off place as any. The story came together pretty quickly after that—the titles provided a kind of mental springboard, and I bounced between plotlines and pulled everything together. Up until that time it was the longest singular project I’d ever written. (I should add that I intend the story to be readable to folks who haven’t seen Law & Order: SVU; but if you have, there might be some small Easter Eggs you can enjoy.) I think the structure works for this story for a few reasons. First, we’re very accustomed to marathoning TV nowadays, what with Netflix and other online streaming services, and so in some ways this is like a Netflix marathon from hell. The format also allows the pleasure of cutting one-off “episodes” with continuing storylines, which taps into the reason people enjoy shows with formulas like Law & Order to begin with. This structure doesn’t work for everyone—I received the meanest workshop letter in my entire MFA from a student who very much disliked every element of this story, and derisively referred to it as “fanfiction”—but obviously some folks respond to it very strongly. I don’t mind writing aesthetically divisive work; on the contrary, it’s a real pleasure. TM: In “The Resident,” you toy with the trope of the misunderstood madwoman forced together with other, “saner” folks (Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House came to mind), but in this case you redeem her from that relegation to insanity. That story seemed to come from a very personal place? CMM: When I workshopped a very early version of this story, a reader said, reluctantly, “I tire of ‘madwoman in the attic’ stories.” I felt bowled over by this note, because I, too, dislike sexist tropes about mad women, particularly mad lesbians, and here I’d created a story that centered around them. So I asked her, “What happens if you want to write a first-person story about a woman with mental illness? What do you do then?” She just shrugged. So I had this massive, sprawling story that felt important to me but ran up against this trope, and I didn’t know what to do about it. As someone who has mental illness—acute, debilitating anxiety—I’ve always been very interested in trying to snatch back narratives that have seemingly been taken away from me. So I decided during my many rewrites—and there were many!—to try and address this idea more forcefully. I reasoned, as long as the story took on these tropes, and she had agency and intelligence and context, she could be as mad as she needed to be. (I should add that I don’t begrudge the note that led me down this path—it was, in fact, critical to the story’s development.) It also helped that I did a ton of editing for this story under my editor Ethan Nosowsky’s guidance. Many of the other stories in the collection were functionally finished by the time Graywolf bought the collection—they’d been published elsewhere, and had already received thorough edits—but “The Resident” had never seen anything except that very early workshop. Ethan gently told me he thought this story would need the most work out of the entire book, and he was right—we went back and forth on it for ages. There was even a period of time I didn’t think it would appear in the collection at all. Ethan is brilliant, and also not prescriptive—he simply looked at each draft and suggested to me where he thought my subconscious was leading me. And then one day, it all snapped into place. TM: What's next for you after the release of Her Body and Other Parties? CMM: I recently sold a memoir to Graywolf—House in Indiana—which will be coming out in 2019, so next year I’ll be revising that. I’m also at work at a ton of other projects—a new story collection, an essay collection, and a few different novels, though whether or not those take is yet to be determined.

Priestdaddies

An evangelical Christian childhood is one long, unbroken game of The Floor Is Lava, but one in which the adults are playing too. You fall from the womb and the doctor sets you on a piece of outdated living room furniture and tells you not to touch the floor. You are told your every urge will be to touch the floor, that you were born wanting to jump headfirst into that floor, and that left to your own devices that’s exactly what you would do. Luckily, the very God who created that lava floor made a way for you to avoid this: walk all over his kid, instead. Talking about childhood with people who didn’t grow up this way can be a bit surreal, and finding a voice who did can make those memories feel more real than they have in years. Patricia Lockwood, acclaimed author of Motherland Fatherland Homelandsexuals, and perverted patron saint of poetic weirdos on Twitter, relates her own strange and wondrous religious childhood in her new memoir Priestdaddy, and her story will resonate for anyone who grew up with a dad who found a friend in Jesus but counted few other peers. Lockwood’s father is a Catholic priest, and her childhood was spent in one church rectory or another in “all the worst cities of the Midwest,” as she is fond of saying in her author bios. Father Lockwood found Jesus at the bottom of the ocean while stationed on a nuclear submarine, after several dozen viewings of The Exorcist. When your salvation occurs on a warship at the hands of the director of The French Connection, you inherit a brash faith that is as likely to carry a gun as a Bible. Her father, who first spent time as a Lutheran priest before converting to Catholicism, has an affinity for both accessories, and Lockwood patiently and often hilariously sketches this singular patriarch in Priestdaddy. My own father was a minister as well -- one cut from the same colorful cloth at Lockwood’s -- and the echoes of my upbringing I found in her story brought back all the old comforts and confusions of my childhood. I grew up the son of a traveling preacher. He didn’t want to be the traveling kind. He dreamed of nothing more than having a small, country church to shepherd week after unchanging week, shaking the same wrinkled hands at the back of the sanctuary every Sunday as men gave him approving nods and widows placed both palms around his, looked up at him with damp eyes, and told him they could see glory the way he described it, and Jesus in the midst of it. It never worked out. A few churches took him on, but each engagement ended in unmitigated disaster after a few months. The search never really ended, it only wayfared longer in some forgotten corn and coal towns than others. We loaded into a puke-yellow camper van that was always spitting up some small but critical part -- a fuel pump, a fan belt -- and crisscrossed the eastern half of the country. Corning, N.Y. Mt. Morris, Mich. Port St. Lucie, Fla. None of these engagements paid much, if at all, so he worked full time through the week, and we would set out on the weekends in search of the promised land. We would generally find upon arrival that the promised land had lost half its businesses when the interstate had come in and bypassed it 10 miles away. These towns felt dusty in even the heaviest rain. My father would pull out a feisty sermon from his arsenal, deliver it to the echoing, half-empty pews, and then we would sample six variations on green bean casserole in the fellowship hall during the potluck dinner in his honor, which was often as not the only payment. He was the non-denominational preacher equivalent of a college band, spending a weekend on the road for just a few minutes on a stage, hoping to be discovered. He wasn’t part of a world-wide, millennia-spanning denomination like Lockwood’s father was; he wouldn’t have fit well within one. If there was a reward waiting from him, he would have to hack down his own trail to get to it. He saw himself as a voice crying in the wilderness, and it’s no coincidence the actual, geographical wilderness is where he most often found himself. The churches blur in my mind. The first to actually hire him was in southern Florida, and we left our life in northern Indiana behind only to discover it had been a fool’s errand. The church met in the living room of a house, and it didn’t take long for problems to emerge. They found out I was taking communion without being baptized, so a few days later my family and I entered the warm waters of Bathtub Beach and I received the spirit, spluttering in the salty wash, while my mom jumped above the waves to take pictures. After a few more weeks, my dad, never able to pick his theological battles, split from the elders over some hermeneutic minutiae and there we were on the Atlantic coast of Florida, an hour north of the Keys, with no more church than we’d had when we’d left the Midwest. We joined and parted with two more churches in the year we were in the Sunshine State before moving back to the flat table of Ohio farm country, where my dad pastored a dying, white clapboard church for less than a year before some conflict ruined the union. The situation got so bad we feared physical violence. I remember sitting in a booth at McDonalds while my parents and a pastor from a neighboring church drafted an escape plan to get the family out of the sanctuary in case we were attacked on the Sunday my dad was to make the announcement we were leaving. No violence occurred, but we drove into the woods in our camper van the next day to hide out for a week anyway. Like military brats, a preacher’s kids learn to make friends quickly and to lose them again without a thought. The wind stirs the branches in the grown-up world and suddenly the kids are packing up their rooms again, looking up a new town name in a Rand McNally road atlas, wondering if it’ll have a Dairy Queen. We carried “home” with us wherever we went -- spongy pink hermit crabs who could recite scripture. We knew words in Greek and Hebrew but didn’t always have time to learn our neighbors’ names. To cope with this permanent sense of displacement, my sister, seven years my senior, invented wild origin stories to explain why we had no roots. She surmised she’d been rescued by our parents from bad people in Detroit and ferried away to northern Indiana. She thought my grandfather might have been a spy, or maybe a Nazi (the truth: a telephone repairman). She spent hours digging through the drawers of an old wooden desk in a storage room in our trailer -- the desk I’m sitting at now -- to find secret documents to corroborate these theories. There had to be something to explain why we knew fewer than a dozen living relatives, why we rarely saw any of them, why my parents never bought a house, why we spent more time on the road in a camper than we did in our neighbors' homes, why we were homeschooled, why we never had time to make permanent friends. I’ve never been to the gravesite of anyone I share blood with; I don’t even know where those graves are. Lockwood’s dad moved her family from place to place as well, filling new openings in parishes in Cincinnati, St. Louis, Kansas City, and elsewhere. When you grow up this way, your family is your village, and Lockwood’s father was her family’s self-appointed Chief.  He is nothing you expect when you hear the words “Catholic priest.” He is married with children, for one thing, taking advantage of a Vatican loophole that allows men who are already married when they join the priesthood to maintain families. He lets off steam by playing shrieking, wall-melting electric guitar solos in his office, walks around in front of family and strangers in his briefs, and loves nothing more than a good testosterone-drenched action film. He is stubborn, at times brutish, and arrogant, but he loves fiercely. My father, like Lockwood’s, converted himself to Christianity as a young man, not long after meeting my mother. He grew up on the streets of Detroit, fatherless and socially awkward, and as a young adult decided (for a reason now lost to me, though at one time essential to family mythology) to read the Bible cover to cover. Somewhere around Isaiah he realized he believed in God. When your conversion comes at the pen of an Old Testament prophet, you inherit a faith that spits fire from a whirlwind, and you get a sense for where your life is headed right away. He married my mom, conceived my sister, moved the family to Indiana, and had me, all the while dreaming floating visions of a wooden lectern and a humble congregation. Like C.S. Lewis (sort of the Malcolm Gladwell of Christian theologians), my dad had a knack for breaking complex theological arguments down into simple logical puzzles in which only one answer could be right and one could be wrong. This had the effect of making these complicated ideas much easier for a layman -- or a six-year-old -- to understand, but it also stripped away the essential nuances of these concepts and presented them as false binaries. When we were children, we thought my dad a paragon of wisdom and higher thinking. His logic and discernment were unassailable. Like Lockwood’s guitar-wielding, brief-wearing priest of a father, my dad could be both magnetically charismatic and an unknowable enigma, impossible to explain to the uninitiated. He was an uncommonly gentle man whose calm composure could be as frightening as an alcoholic’s rage. He was an affectionate playmate whose spankings bruised our souls more than our asses. He was a man of wild imagination, crafting fantastical stories of outer space and prehistoric adventures, all the while instilling in us a conviction that all the fantasies of scripture were incontrovertibly true. And convicted we were, all through our childhoods and teen years. My sister dreamed of a martyr’s death, surrendering her life for the sake of the gospel like Nate Saint or Jim Elliot. I fell asleep at night to the horror stories of Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. As teens, we shimmered with holy fervor, beautiful and bleak. Late in Priestdaddy, Lockwood perfectly encapsulates what it felt like in those days to live every moment vibrating along the taut strings of eternity: Everything signified. Everything I looked at was designed for my eyes. The fabric of existence was cut to fit me; all ceilings were as tall as I was high; each book in the library fell open and let the word ‘rapture’ leap toward me. The greatest gift of rapture was that it existed independent of the intellect; I needed no education to feel it. It was a capability, and born in the body when I was born -- a reflex that sprang back gold against the hammer. We held hands and closed our eyes and felt our bones glow, and when there was pain, we offered it up. We spoke back then of being on fire for god, of burning with sacred passion and fealty. It would be another decade before I realized it was the unsaved sinners in hell who really fit that description best, who blazed involuntarily for the glory of a fickle deity. My faith crumbled under the weight of the very logical arguments that had built it. My sister, too, quit those walls. But while we believed, oh, how we shined. For reasons best saved for another time, I decided to leave college after only one year and get married at 19. Neither part of that decision worked out in the long run. For very different reasons, Lockwood too missed out on higher education and got married while still a teenager. While the circumstances were profoundly different, it’s hard to shake the feeling there’s something unique about growing up in a weird religious home in middle America that predisposes one to both choices. Why get an education when revelation is free? Why delay marriage when you’ve already given your whole self away once to God? There was no guidance against these choices. Recklessness was baptized as maturity. I miss belief, as often as not. I miss when “everything signified,” when I was part of a heavenly army, when my soul was written in a golden book outside time and I knew my faith would echo through eternity. I miss answers. Sometimes, I miss the hope that any of this means anything. In Priestdaddy, Lockwood writes about how easy it would be to fall back into belief as an adult, how “just a gentle push and I would fall back into the old faith; I would believe it all again, everything.” I feel that propensity less than I do the ongoing saturation of my imagination and vocabulary with the glossary of belief. The floor was lava for the first two and a half decades of my life, and I jumped from Christological sofa to soteriological foot stool to eschatological easy chair so many times my language and thought structure warped permanently around that lexicon, heated from below. Lockwood, a poet many know for her irreverent blend of religious and sexual imagery, explains it thus: People do sometimes accuse me of blasphemy, which is understandable and which is their right. But to me, it is not blasphemy, it is my idiom. It’s my way of still participating in the language I was raised inside, which despite all renunciation will always be mine. The word ‘God’ does not fall out of the vocabulary, as the sun does not fall out of the sky; the shapes of the stories remain, as do their revelations. I was never fluent in tongues back when it mattered, but when I am left to myself, out come all the old worshipped words, those fondled verses tumbling on verses, onto the page which can hold and forgive them. I trembled at those same words for so many years. I’m not sure I’ve learned to forgive those verses that shaped and blistered so much of my childhood, that do still in reverberations so many years later. Twisting them, as Lockwood describes, is not only a way of “still participating in the language,” but also of exorcising the hurts that language inflicted. When my wife and I joke about “Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ beneath me, Christ bent over the back of my couch,” it isn’t blasphemy for blasphemy’s sake. It’s a child wearing a mask at Halloween of the very monster that’s kept it up at night in terror. And, of course, it is, as Lockwood indicates, a way to peek back in the windows, a way to assure yourself your home is still there, even if you’ve run away from it, even if you don’t want to go back. My parents never really did find home. They never found the church my dad had dreamed up. He rested from his search after the fiasco with the escape plan, and we stayed in one place for the next decade. He was always restless, and jumped at sounds in the night more than once, hoping his patience had paid off. Instead, after my sister and I were both married off (and before we both divorced), they became foreign missionaries. That fit. The missionaries who would visit our churches growing up were always a bit odd. They wore clothes that didn’t really fit, long flowered dresses and shirts tucked into pleated dress pants, and they never seemed to get our jokes. We looked at their kids a little warily and their kids looked at us a little warily till we inevitably discovered Freeze Tag is a language that transcends cultures. For the first two decades of my life we were that weird missionary family anywhere we went, even if we didn’t know it at the time. We just thought we were marked by God in some way. Everything signified, even rejection, even suspicion. And so, with the kids gone and no family graves to tend, my parents took a few months of Spanish and boarded a plane and went somewhere they’d have been outsiders anyway. My sister and I stayed here, wondering what it had all meant, what our origin story said about us, what fearfully and wonderfully encompassed in the context of our childhoods. I have washed the feet of businessmen in a church basement and I have carried a casket through city streets in a pro-life rally and I have wept through the night, imploring the Almighty on behalf of a lost soul, and now I don’t believe a word of it. Oh the depths of the riches. Everything signifies.