The people were all required to turn towards something. They didn’t know that this requirement was made of them, it was second nature to them. It was, you might say, a need. In turning towards something, they became drawn to it, subject to it, both emboldened and constrained by it. The turning was a kind of interior turning, like that of an internal compass towards a magnet, for even when they were facing other things physically near them, their husbands and wives or their children for example, part of them was still turned to face towards the thing that drew them. People who could not turn towards something were made ill. The things people turned towards were gods.
In the city, the people turned towards the city god; in the country to the nature god. They forgot about the nature god when in the city, because the city god so enthralled them that they couldn’t imagine the gifts of the nature god having much interest or value, and felt almost as though he didn’t and couldn’t exist, and that instead the countryside was simply land, inert and uncompelling. In the countryside, they forgot about the city god, locating the city only as a place of intrigues and turmoil some way off, and holding little interest, for the god of nature provided them with a generous world which was sufficient. Whichever magnet happened to capture their compass was mistaken for the only and true North. In purest form, there was no nature in the city and no city in nature. What nature there was in the city was not in fact nature at all, but simply ameliorations of the city god, nothing but sickly facsimiles of the true nature that they could not know. In nature, the people could not imagine what it was they got so excited about in the city. But at the same time, there were many places where nature was becoming lessened, was becoming an adjunct to the city, which in some places suffused the land in disguised and sickly form, in the forms of towns and motorways, all of which were ill. True nature even in the countryside was becoming more difficult to find. The nature god could not be seen, but his presence could be felt throughout the countryside, imprinted on one’s senses.
The nature god had a relationship with the sun god. Indeed, they were in alliance with each other. In summer, the sun god asserted her dominance in the partnership, and the nature god received the gift of the sun just as the people did. In the summer, the sun god organised the world, and became the stern and benign interlocutor for the nature god, the people and the world. In winter, during the sun god’s retreat, the nature god was all there was, but in a state that was often parlous to say the least. The nature god required duties of the people. He needed them to work within him, look after him, learn him. He called the people into him, and when they went, revealed secrets to them, both vast and tiny and pleasantly in between. He asked the people to come to him, and they found that in coming, they were able to be, to truly be in a manner that they could not imagine when not there, but if they failed to come then a kind of illness lived within them.
The city god also had requirements, but hers were very different to those of the nature god. She did not open up to them, she tempted and demanded from them, called to them, reached out to their quick vigour, and when she showed them the vast, it was a vastness made from a million tiny details. The city god did not allow the people to be, she infused them with the glory of the act. While their actions were different, and some were subtle and others fast, it was this that defined them. At the most intense points of the city, they lost all being and became an ecstasy of pure dynamism. The price for this was both wonderful and cruel, for the people were in fact originally of nature, and they needed to be, but their being was simply a drag on their vigour. The city god had no relationship with the sun, and indeed when it was summer, the people found their loyalties split, and this momentarily freed them, until the city god wrought her dark revenge from below.
The city god was rarely seen, but people experienced her at the edges of their imagination where she exerted a terrible pulling power. Without ever thinking about it, they knew she existed as a dark vortex or perhaps a complex sphere in the middle of the city. Ever changing in a both spinning and slowly evolving mass of glinting energies, both cyclical and startlingly novel, her promise was warm and yet terrifying. In the suburbs of the city, all the suburbanites knew she was in the city centre, and they felt pulled eternally in towards her, and in the morning it was with gratitude that they were able to act on that turning and head in to her aura on their way to work; they served her and knew she was happy. When in the centre, people knew they were near her and their joy increased, and although the city god was evasive they might even catch a rare glimpse of her, at threshold moments when she registered in their peripheral vision, or in moments of bawdy joy, when they could smell her on the bodies of those that packed around them, or most commonly in moments of pure terror, when she flashed in the gleam of a knife or structured the interior of a sudden trajectory of destruction whose enflowerings of experience they could hardly believe how readily they were able to live within. However, at some distance from the centre, there came a point at which the city god did not exert her lure over the people any more. Here, it was almost as though people had been freed, or felt the power of both gods equally and thereby ambivalently, or even chosen to turn away from the city god, and yet had not quite turned towards the nature god. Such was the state of the land that the majority of the people lived in this in between state. The very question of what one should turn towards became important. Some people had found other, intermediate points to which they turned. More often than not, it was difficult to discern what these points were – they were not perhaps gods as such. In some they were little points of community, in others hobbies. It had commonly been the case in the past that people’s families were the things to which they turned, looking for succour within the circle of mutual comfort that their bodies defined. But this had become less and less the case, and more often than not, it was the television to which they turned. Some did not even turn towards the television, they simply faced it by virtue of the fact that they had to face something, and they were lost and empty and waiting to die. The television was, of course, a god, but a new one, one that did not require of you in the manner of the city god or the nature god, but one which simply gave and gave, and though it emanated from a centre and was vigorous – like the city god – it was also capacious and vague – like the nature god – and was simultaneously both, and neither. Because it required nothing of them, what it gave the people was both easier and less satisfying and thereby generated its own craving.
Nature, sun, city, television. The devotees of these gods squabbled with each other or fell into alliance, cyclically and in crisis, and in those relations of antagonism and mutuality, they defined the majority of the people’s lives. There were of course those who moved to the country but still stayed facing the city. Unable to tear themselves away from the city, they still saw the countryside as inert substance instead of the domain of the nature god, and their superior or melancholic airs jarred with the people of the countryside. But like addicts cut off from their supply, these city dwellers in exile became ill. There were, too, those who moved to the city but stayed facing the nature god. They drew on the permanent repose of nature, and while they enjoyed the pleasures of the city god, they never fully let go of the country, and their enjoyment had the appearance of an act. This caused the people of the city anguish because they sensed the newcomers had an escape route, were not true worshippers, and were perhaps in some manner mocking them. But they, the newcomers, themselves knew their city pleasures to be a charade, which they enjoyed as such, until as they exhausted the permutations of the city’s novelty, they felt within themselves a hankering for the calm forgiveness of nature.
But amongst the city people there were also rebels, who knew how to be within the action of the city, indeed they drew from the dynamism of the city, in its constancy, a ground on which to stand, a caul in which to unfurl themselves, a repose almost akin to that of nature, though subject to weather systems not of the natural world, but of the spirit. Irritation, lethargy and inspiration were the atmospheric pressures and fronts that swept across them. These city dwellers had their own interpretation of the character of the city god, and believed her not to be a god of the act, but a god of being – almost akin to the nature god, though profoundly different in manifestation. The city had been made by people, they argued, people were themselves originally of nature, and the city god herself was in some sense thereby of nature too. More commonly found living in the city centre, they were steeped in the permanence of the city god’s dynamism, her orchestration of the flux, and they sought to teach the other worshippers of the city god to see her in this manner. It was a doctrinal row that rumbled on between the factions eternally. Occasionally the debate was joined by a faction of the countryside who saw the city god as an outgrowth of the nature god, but fallen, a demonic perversion, at best a necessary evil for the support of the life of the country. In doing so, while damning the city god, they inadvertently gave partial credence to the rebel view, that the city god was herself natural, a god of being. On occasion these factions could be found in uneasy alliance against the celebrants of the pure dynamism of the city. Different periods seemed to favour the interpretation of one group over the other, even different areas of the city seemed to show different aspects of the city god’s many moods. But of late, the dwellers were increasingly on the back foot.