by Eleanor Goldfield
The maintenance man in my building is awesome. Picture someone who is not only great at his job but places the above and beyond into his routine. The first time I put in a maintenance request for a clogged drain, he cleaned up my sink area, apologizing for his OCD as I looked in awe at a perfectly spotless and organized counter top. He laughed when I stuttered out a thankful sentence – saying his wife gets annoyed that she can never find her moisturizer. His feeling is that it should be with other lotions, shampoos and conditioners. She likes it by the toothbrushes.
His voice is low and thick – the kind you immediately think of when you hear the words “story time.” His laugh seems to emanate from the center of the earth, stirring at the very least a smile from anything and everything it ricochets off of – I think I even saw Nietzsche betray a smirk from my dusty bookcase.
If I’m home when he stops by, I typically offer him some tea – he always declines at least once, saying he doesn’t want to get in my way, but eventually agrees as long as I “throw him out” when I get tired of him. Thing is – I have yet to get tired of him. He talks about everything from AC filters to God and I enjoy it. He’s so damn uplifting, it’s a nice break for me from the drudgery of current events, death, famine and the Republican debate.
He talks about being blessed and how he loves God and how he’s thankful to God for his work and apartments like mine that are so welcoming. He compliments me on my artwork – even the vehemently atheist piece, and tells me he’s really proud of the work that I do.
I don’t plan on ever bringing up my atheism, and here’s why. There’s no battle to be won here. Christopher Hitchens once said something to the effect that if you’re religious and you keep to yourself, I find you very boring but I have no quarrel with you. Now, I find Pierre the opposite of boring but I maintain that I have absolutely no quarrel with him. He is, as I originally stated, awesome. He takes pride in his work, in his life, in his mere existence. His joy is contagious and it’s the only thing he tries to convert people to. He enjoys human interaction and brings a light into the world that can not be overestimated even by someone like me who likes to deal with huge, sweeping, dark and deep issues. These short interactions are a ray of sunshine and cliche tho that may sound – there’s a part of my brain that’s solar powered – and he hits the epicenter of that fucking panel and provides hours of stored energy with which to tackle beasts and bigots.
There are many battles to be waged and won. But this is not one of them.
The longer I stand on the front lines or the trenches or whatever you wanna call what I do, the more I appreciate people like Pierre – and I couldn’t give a rats ass what he prays to because it seems to be working out just fine for him – and me.
I maintain that religion is evil – I maintain that there is no God. I maintain that humanity would be SO much better off if we were to strip ourselves of these doctrines of bigotry, lies, manipulation and hate. But I can and will maintain this while also always being happy to hear Pierre talk about how blessed he feels, how he thanks the God that I don’t think exists and how he loves him, or it, or whatever.
I guess the rather cliche and non-climactic end to this stream of consciousness is – pick your battles not based on whether or not you think you’ll win. Pick your battles based on whether or not they’ll do you, them, your street, community, city, state, nation, world, or the universe any good. Be pragmatic. Indeed, be a humanist and consider the humanity of the situation as I feel any atheist should. If there is light in laying down your logical lance and opting for a cup of tea, do so. If there is pause and some laughter to be gained from shutting up and not allowing the warrior hiding in your cynical intellect to ruin the moment, get out your mental ball gag. Light is light, laughter is laughter and I think we could all use some – even a cold blooded atheist like me ;)