RECENTLY I was handed a small pamphlet, folded in triplicate, with a full color front page. I was with two British expat buddies, manning a table of assorted discards from our lives as part of an annual street sale in Greenwich Village.
Our goal was to clean out our closets, make a few bucks and enjoy ourselves under the broiling June sun, if possible. Suffering (on this day, anyway) was far from our minds.
Indeed, as the designer togs (a snappy Ralph Lauren military-style jacket, size 6), little porcelain pill boxes and brass candlestick holders changed hands, we grew more and more elated. This venture might actually be working. A quilted jacket I never wore (too boxy) was going to be a present for someone in the hospital; Gay's collection of lovingly broken-in Chanel heels was just the right size for a nurse from Queens. Maggie's odds and ends were being snapped up by other expat Brits only too happy to stop and chat with a live human being.
Out, out, past life!
Good-bye, crazy ex-husband!
And then: the Pamphlet, slipped into my hands by a shy woman who quickly melted into the crowd. I accepted it politely and only really looked at when I got home that night, bearing the Victorian card table I had purchased from Gay when I saw she wasn't going to get a decent offer. (Never mind that I used up essentially all my day's proceeds on it.) Admiring my find, I brushed off the only slightly damaged green felt surface and set it up to accomodate an overflow of books and papers in my little studio sublet.
Emptying my pockets, I found .....the Pamphlet.
ALL SUFFERING SOON TO END! the cover illustration proclaims in large black typeface, over a rendering of an attractive caramel-colored couple in their early 30's, sitting in the middle of a field of yellowing grass, on which a male and female moose are grazing just a few yards away. A large log cabin in the background is partially obscured by pine trees, and snow-covered mountains march into the far distance. On close inspection, on the right-hand side of the scene, a woman with long blonde hair on a white horse is galloping towards the couple, who are calmly smiling at me, showing off their perfect teeth. (Perhaps the blonde is going to warn them they are sitting dangerously close to the huge male moose? Or, Sara-Palin-esquely tell them to get the hell off her farm? Is that a rifle strapped to her saddle?)
Maple trees framing the scene have burst into flaming scarlet, and there are baskets of pumpkins and apples in the foreground. It seems to be October in a bizarre Vermont, except that the couple are wearing light summer clothes, and look too happy for people soon to be expecting winter frosts. (Not to mention the dearth of Hale Berry and Harry Belafonte look-alikes in Vermont.) I turn the document to the back page, and yes, if I need more information I can write to the Jehovah's Witnesses at the following locations: Australia, Barbados, Britain, Canada, Ghana, Hawaii, India, Ireland, Jamaica, Kenya, Malaysia, Nigeria, Philippines, Rep of, South Africa, Trinidad AND Tobago, Rep. of, and also the USA (in Brooklyn!).
My guess is that the Jehovah's Witnesses in these locations know a smidge about suffering. (They don't seem to have an office in Paris, for example.)
And so I realize that the surrealistic Paradise depicted in such quirky detail is an all-purpose one, designed to elicit longings and emotion from denizens around the globe. A wise use of limited marketing funds.
And it's good news, for sure. I'm in. There seems to me absolutely no downside to the end of suffering. The sooner the better, I say.
Bring It On.