Saturday, September 16, 2006

Swing low, sweet chariot

Sometimes I'm up and sometimes I'm down
Coming for to carry me home
But still my soul feels heavenly bound
Coming for to carry me home
--Wallis Willis, Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

I find it ironic that I took this photo years ago in Las Vegas outside of Caesar's Palace. I was struck by the juxtaposition of the chariot with the giant eye staring down from the ad for Cirque De Soleil -- the Sun Circus. I think it is a pretty cool photo even if I do say so myself. Anyway it obviously reminded me of the song, Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.

Former slave Wallis Willis' inspiration for the spiritual, Swing Low, Sweet Chariot was the Red River. It reminded him of the River Jordan and the Prophet Elijah being taken to heaven via a chariot. Incidently, according to the Old Testiment, Elijah wasn't actually taken to heaven. He was just being transferred to another of god's assignment to condemn the wicked King Jehoram of Judah in another part of the country. But I'm not going to quibble here over biblical facts here. Suffice it to say, Elijah was carried off in a chariot pulled by horses of fire. That in itself is pretty impressive.

Maybe it is because I work promoting public transit, but I am struck that throughout the history of man, gods have employed high-occupancy vehicles to transport souls around. In Greek mythology Charon, the ferryman of the dead, transferred souls across the River Styx (not the rock group, but I think that is where they got their name) to the underworld or Hades via a barge. As with modern day transit operators, I believe he required exact change. Passes weren't valid since you theoretically only made the trip once.

And let's not forget Soul Train. Wait, that was that Don Cornelius R&B television show from the 70s. It was a hell of a show though.

Trains would be a pretty convenient way to transfer people into heaven or hell. I'm actually convinced that tunnel people describe in the near death experiences is a subway. And the light you are supposed to walk into has a turnstile at the end of it where you had damn well better have a token ready to get through.

I don't think the gods ever use buses to transfer souls. Nobody would ride them then either.

And what about SUVs? Well they all have four-wheel drive so the owners don't have any trouble going to hell.
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