By Mark Peters
I’ve been seeing gods everywhere lately.
Not gods like Thor, Ganesha, and God. My cinnamon rolls have been deity-free, if not gluten-free. It’s lexical gods I can’t seem to escape. Everywhere I look someone is thanking, cursing, or begging some specific group of supreme beings.
For example, I’ve recently spotted the following religious invocations:
• In her funny book, My Boyfriend Wrote a Book About Me, a nervous, sweaty, date-bound Hilary Winston wrote, “I alternated the air vents of the VW Jetta at my armpits and temples. I drove slow and prayed to the dating gods for help.”
• On ESPN.com, NBA maven Marc Stein noted that it was “interesting, after Game 4 and Game 5, to hear both (Dwayne) Wade and Mavs coach Rick Carlisle make a ‘basketball gods’ reference, proving that it’s not just us media types who spout this stuff.”
• On Twitter, my friend (and awesome author) Judy McGuire wrote, “Let us pray that the check gods will smile on me today.”
• During some awful luck at billiards, I even noticed myself falling into the trend, whining, “I wonder what I’ve done to anger the pool gods and the ball community.”
I’ve been around long enough to know when the column gods are sending me a sign, so I decided to plumb the depths of Twitter for examples of the “X gods” formula. I’ve been searching for a month, but I could’ve probably written an article based on the examples from a single day. It turns out the sky is filled with a lot more than Heaven, Asgard, Mars, and the Klingon homeworld: there are pantheons of happiness gods, hippo gods, bagel gods, dog-healing gods, moped gods, taco gods, registration gods, and even perm gods for the hair-focused. Though monotheism dominates the world, polytheism still reigns over our vocabulary.
One of the major topics for such prayers is sports. As a resident of Buffalo, NY, I am well aware of how cruel the sports gods can be, particularly the football gods who caused the Buffalo Bills to lose four straight Super Bowls in the nineties, not that I’m still bitter. Speaking of the football gods, they’ve been a highlight of Gregg Easterbrook’s columns for years, including this mention back in 2001: “Cronus tormented Uranus, Zeus tormented Cronus, Hera tormented Hercules, Paris tormented Hera, Hades tormented Persephone, Aphrodite tormented Helen, and now the football gods have chosen to torment the Tennessee Titans.” In the past month, I spotted numerous references to the baseball gods, bowling gods, hockey gods, racing gods, tennis gods, and pro wrestling gods. Given the bounced balls, pulled groins, and other unpredictable events in the world of sports, ESPN might be the network that generates the most prayer.
We all like to believe we’re the quarterback or point guard of our life, so we call on similar gods in any situation that troubles us. The employment gods are frequently beseeched and cursed, as are the lottery gods. I saw many pleas to the travel gods and the weather gods, which is fitting since those pantheons tend to team up to make our lives miserable. Since technology is up there with the weather as a powerful, mindless force shaping our world, people praise and curse the Twitter gods, Google gods, iPhone gods, DVR gods, YouTube gods, Apple gods, laptop gods, social media gods, Blackberry gods, data center gods, Internet gods, satellite radio gods, iPod album shuffle gods, email gods, autosave gods, and the ultra-vague technology gods. Here, a frighteningly stereotypical texter makes a prayer that would make St. Paul roll over in his basilica: “thank the txt gods for unlimited txtn!lol!;)”
While some people pray to “the gods of employment,” “the gods of medicine,” or “the Gods of cross-browser compatibility,” that form doesn’t seem as common, at least on Twitter, where brevity is king. Speaking of brevity, some prayers are tiny even by tweet standards: they make the Hail Mary seem like War and Peace. This shows great respect for the busy schedules of the gods, if not the gravitas of the gods, as seen in this sleepy hornball’s request: “boobies please, dream gods”. I’m copying this one into my prayerbook for the next time I make an involuntary protein spill: “Screw you barf gods”. You have to appreciate the fist-shaking anger behind “Dear Words With Friends gods, I hate you” and “I’m trapped. DAMN you tic tac toe gods!!!”
These tweets are a testimonial to how egocentric yet humorous we can be. No matter what we’re doing, we want to believe a divine force is helping and hindering us, that our Google searches and shopping binges are written in the cosmos. Fortunately, we’re too self-aware to believe that malarkey. Even more fortunately, we can’t totally fight the feeling, so we compose preposterous prayers: “Credit card gods please keep me out of TJ Maxx.”
I’m thankful to the book gods for putting this quote by David Mamet (from Writing in Restaurants) in my path while writing this column: “Our tenuous monotheism disappears in the face of our great insecurities, and we live once again overtly in an animistic universe surrounded by superbeings.”
To close, here are some of the most eloquent prayers to ad hoc deities I spotted in the last month or so. Thank you, tweet gods. Amen.