THE GREAT GOD PAN
Once “the great god Pan” rolled over and declared, “I’m not dead yet, folks. Not quite.” Those trumpeting reports of his demise might do well to check their own pulse and find a better reason for concern. He could assure them he wasn’t about to become the first god to give up the ghost forevermore. Though in appearance, he might look near enough to it to explain the confusion. Sprawled amongst the few followers who remained faithful to the memory of ecstatic flights, Pan had to admit he’d grown paunchy and gray of late, his hair thinning out like dry weeds, his teeth grown brittle, those he still had, and his wan face drained of the laughter that kept it ruddy with joy in the past. The old ticker just wasn’t what it once had been, and he found it hard to catch his breath now after even a short prance, let alone blow his pipes in full bacchanalian relish. Too often a wheezy tootle was the most he could manage. And when was the last time he’d succeeded in leaping high enough in the air to click chipped hooves together? And yet, and yet, those years when excess ran sure-footed through dappled groves and over brooks, when revel alone could feed both body and soul, make them pledge to each other never to sleep, that inspired abandon still sang beneath time’s creaks and groans. Age might stiffen the limbs but not the heart. Pan held to that assurance as firmly as he ever had. Places, names, faces, even memory and speech might fade, yet the call of the senses must come back. And when it did, when the winded heart swelled in answer again, these irksome pounds would dissolve, this gray vanish from the beard, imagination wake, and every sinew and joint bend once more to the moment’s fresh desire. A joyful dance would return to the world before he’d ever leave it, Pan was certain. Not the calculated pantomime that passed for a celebration of life these days, where too many seemed to stumble through the motions as if trying to match footprints painted on the floor, no, not these stale rituals that bound the spirit but a wild-eyed rite that set it free in transports of renewal. He just needed to hold on until then. Who else was left to champion getting drunk on life itself, Pan wanted to know: the passion to drink it all in, the mad with the sane, the scream and the tender silence, the orgiastic heights, the slow falling back into one’s own skin, then the rise of every urging yet again, over and over, all of it, all that simply being alive had to offer and demand? Certainly not those announcing his end with such confidence, such blind presumption they now controlled forces far beyond their powers to understand, fires within themselves that nothing could shield them from for long. To convince yourself you stood apart and above a worship of the world, like some vain godlet whose willfulness took itself for wisdom, now there was intoxication without hope. No saving promise of springs to come, with their feral rebirth into glory. Only cold wastes, barren of every sign of life save a love of yourself. Or a fear. Sooner or later, though, these poor lost lambs must find their way back to him again, the god who refused to die out in any of them. He just needed to hold on until then. Until then.
Copyright © 2009 by Geoffrey Grosshans