God and Horses at the Pre-Apocalypse
Perhaps the thing that has changed for me is a renewed and intense interest in the Local. I don’t know anything about Ice Age withdrawal, but I do know about armed Fulani herders breaking into my uncle’s house in Jos, Nigeria. I know nothing about marine isotope stages, but I know what my firefighter cousin tells me about the multifaceted mandate of his work. I don’t know about the world, but I know about downtown New Haven.
People have already asked me—me, who a few years ago messed with his TV channels for so long that he missed the opening minutes of a Super Bowl—for solutions to our climate situation. I have no policies and even less confidence in their implementation, but I do have confidence in horses. Or rather something that horses can sometimes do to us. For us. I have faith in books, stories, that alchemical way of communicating with someone that they are not alone.
A decade and a half ago, I was working on a Barnes & Noble campus, and one of my colleagues had just read Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road.” As a disclaimer, he said he was not a big reader. But he’d just had a son, and reading the book, he claimed, changed how he looked at the world around him, how he looked at his newborn son, how he looked at his family’s place in it all. I like to think it was because he saw something of himself in the characters. A possible future that metaphorically represents the difficulty of caring for its offspring? A mimesis of his relationship with his own father? Something very different? I don’t know, but whatever was being communicated, the fact of the communication meant that for the duration of that lecture he was not alone.
I promised myself that in answer to the question “What is reality?” write nothing indiscriminately about representation. so I’ll say that I think whatever our future, suffering is inevitable. The future of climate dystopia has already arrived in the Pacific, in the Sahel, in Central Europe, on the east and west coasts of North America, everywhere, and it’s felt most by the least of us, the ever-deserted. If that were the whole of my reality, hopelessness would be the order of the day. But I return to God, not as patina but as substrate. I return to the idea that there is an order, an author, and horses. They appear in the post-apocalypse of “Goliath”, among the least among us, the always desolate, for a reason. To say, “You may have lost everything, but you have not lost me, whoever or whatever I am. There is also magic here, at the end of the world.”
I don’t have God to give you, and I have no horses, but I have my books, my stories, the promise that today for the duration of your betrothal, and the foolish hope that tomorrow, the same will be .
Tochi Onyebuchi is the author of ‘Riot Baby’ and, most recently, ‘Goliath’.