Monday, June 27, 2005

My brother's voice is the voice of god

I was raised a catholic. That is to say, every sunday morning, my father would wake me from a sound and restful sleep and drag me to church. I even, along with my older brother, served as an altar boy for a few years.

(The story of my renouncing of christianity is the subject of a different blog entry. For now, it only needs be said that I suppose I was a catholic until about the age of 14.)

One afternoon - I was about 8 years old - my older brother and I watched a movie entitled Oh God! You Devil! The synopsis of this movie, found here, is as follows:

In the third and final film in the Oh, God! franchise, Bobby Shelton (Ted Wass) is a struggling musician who can't get a break, which bothers him all the more now that his wife, Wendy (Roxanne Hart), is about to have a baby. Desperate and depressed, Bobby announces that he'd sell his soul to get ahead. Suddenly, Harry O. Tophat (George Burns), Satan's earthly representative, appears and offers Bobby a deal -- seven years of unprecentented fame and fortune in exchange for his soul. Bobby cynically accepts and discovers that the devil is true to his word, but he finds that the trappings of fame and wealth are empty pleasures, and he loses Wendy along the way. When Bobby declares that he's made a horrible mistake, God (Burns), who has been watching over Bobby, offers to help get his soul back as the devil offers Bobby's place in eternity as the prize in a poker game.

Looking back, it likely wasn't a great movie. But we were young and bored, and so we watched it.

In the early stages of the movie, the god character whispers his dialogue, and the movie presents his lines as subtitles at the bottom of the screen.

I don't know what compelled me to tell my brother that I couldn't read the subtitles (for I could certainly read at that age), but I asked him to read them aloud for me. Perhaps it was just that idolatry that little brothers have for their big brothers: he could do anything - and anything for me. It was perhaps natural that I gave this little power over me to my brother, so I could relax in his comforting aura and be wowed by his nimble reading and recitation. Regardless, my brother read to me god's lines.

And the strangest thing happened: the next time I went to church and listen to a gospel reading, I heard my brother's voice. When I read lines from a bible (which was seldom, to be sure), I heard god's voice in my head as my brother's.

To this day, when I think of the words that some god, some god who may or may not exist, speaks to me, I hear the voice of my older brother.

It is strange. And yet, it makes my happy to think back on my young and innocent days.


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