If Asheville goes to war, the world will be gasping for and wheezing with the last good breath God deposits into the collective nostrils of Adam. Our souls will be cleaved from our bodies – where both will shrivel into darkness. And then, there will be a resounding silence escaping the furthest reaches of the universe.
If Asheville goes to war, humanity will face a giant mirror and be so dazed that we will turn around to look for ourselves. And when we see nothing, we will believe that we are not. We will call our world and neighbors and our ourselves illusory, figments, scraps of hallucinations projected by an extinct demiurge.
If Asheville goes to war, shared harmony and compassion will whittle down the branches of the tree planted by streams of water. The last sinewy thread will fold into the water and be carried away with the current to the chaotic floods where leviathans feast. And no one will be robed in white or wave palm branches or sing or dance or give alms.
The streets busies with excitement. A banjo player named Billy Scribbles, a self-proclaimed exorcist, stands before a shop and bleeds mountain lore into the car-lined streets with his banjo. The mannequin in the window makes me think of our souls. Where is our soul? Its physical location? And maybe the answer is in the window, hovering with or just behind our two bodies giving us life – sandwiched between our mortal bodies now and our resurrected bodies to come. If Asheville goes to war, our ability to hear music will die and our soul will depart. “This violent sundering of the two elements, which are conjoined and interwoven in a living being, is bound to be harsh and unnatural experience as long as it lasts, until the departure of all feeling, which depends on the interconnection of the soul and body,” Saint Augustine writes of a slow death. I don’t know what Billy Scribbles means by exorcisms. But I hope he would agree that walking the streets of Asheville is something of an exorcism, pulling the darkness out, convalesces for the marrow of life, rehabilitation for our immortality. If Asheville goes to war, all this will be lost.
I leave Billy Scribbles behind and walk to the crosswalk. The rowed faces stare lifelessly out the window at the street corner. Fashion models. Is this foreshadowing? Is this what will come of Asheville once it goes to war? The superficially beautiful, frozen immutably, each with a hint of disdain on their faces. There they sit on a shelf; all made up with tainted-face colors and fake hair, trapped in silent madness. The inertia they’ve created for themselves. A place of judgment and loneliness. They’re next to each other but cannot say hello. They are the causalities of Eden; the easily deceived and artificially satisfied. And like the bandits nailed to the cross next to the Christ, they are on public display as a warning: This is what we will become when we stop listening to the music of Ashville, when we stop listening to each other.
Up the hill a bit further, more music pours down the sidewalk. I’ve never heard music like this before. A horde of adorers has gathered around. I get in the rear of the crowd and feel like Zacchaeus. There is no sycamore tree for me to climb, so I ebb with the crowd until I come to the inner ring. The Fly By Night Rounders sing twangy, honkey-tonk styled songs that enraptures the crowds. Old Corn Liquor, Hobo Blues, and Jelly Roll are just a few of their songs. Their music is heavily rhythmed; the foot of the lead singer is fixed with an old license plate with tiny bells and cymbals. Their voices are pure and sincere. And the lady playing spoons – spoons – sways and bops and conks her spoons together like shagging dance partners. The band ministers to the crowd, ameliorating our sin-sick souls. The crowd claps and offers gifts. A young girl dances. An old lady hollers, “hee-haw” and “woo-wee.” The messianic secret will not be contained, and all those who are healed on the street corner will go away and share what they have seen and heard.
After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the thrones and before the lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands….And all the angels stood around the throne and surrounded the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, singing, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor…
If Asheville goes to war, heaven will be lost. If Asheville goes to war, music will die. If Asheville goes to war, people will stop dancing in the streets, children will hide behind their parents, and old women will no longer speak. Asheville is not just a city in a mountain; Asheville is the goodness God created the Earth to be.