Monday, November 23, 2009


I'm wholly prepared to admit I'm a kook.  Maybe I'm a kook because I am (or was) an only child of loving but negligent (or clueless) parents, and thus I lacked the periodic reality checks that come with having brothers and sisters.  Maybe I'm a kook because I was raised to believe in the literal truth of the bible and Jesus and the devil and did so ardently for years upon years before deciding what's the point? ... assuming "what's the point?" can be construed as a decision and more particularly a decision to choose Penguin Classics and Hollywood over an eternity with Jesus.  Maybe kookiness is due to a chemical imbalance of some sort, like so many other things.  Or maybe I'm a kook because I calculatingly chose to be a kook, choosing the perverse road every single fucking time "two roads diverged in a yellow wood."

Today I listened for two hours as students discussed their life philosophies and religious beliefs in English 111.  I continue to be amazed (pleased but still amazed) that so many of my students freely profess to be agnostics and atheists.  Roughly one out of every seven do so, approximately ten times the number in my classes twenty years ago.  This amazes me all the more because I live in what technically is still the Bible Belt.  But even more amazing to me are the number of students who identify themselves as Southern Baptists (the denomination in which I was mostly brought up) and yet claim to believe that hell does not exist, or that earthly life is the only hell there is, or that some form of reincarnation is a strong possibility after death.  W.A. Criswell must be rolling in his grave!

So the kids of today's America (to borrow one of their wordy locutions) don't know much about church doctrine ... or church history, since three of them in three separate classes did not know that Catholics were Christians.  I've long known that they didn't know much about the bible, because when forced to offer chapter-and-verse to support their contention that the bible condemns abortion, almost all of them have been left speechless (especially when Exodus 21:22-25 gets thrown into the mix).  What they do know, however, is (and not much has changed here) that God condemns homosexuality, that He supports monogamy (contra the Old Testament) and a free-market system (contra the Sermon on the Mount), and, in some circles, that going to Hollywood movies is worldly and immoral.  All in all, this suggests to me that Baptist preachers (of today's America) are preaching conservative social and political values, and almost no doctrine.

I say I'm a kook because last week, apropos our present reading unit on religion and philosophy, I mentioned, offhandedly and to nobody's surprise, that I'm an atheist, that I lack any faith at all to speak of, and that I don't believe in life after death.  My point at the time was that I still have values, top of the list being that I value life itself.  Even further, I sometimes have the kooky idea of pitying myself for all the good books and good movies I will miss when I am no longer alive to enjoy them, books and movies being two of the material benefits of life on earth, i.e. on today's earth, which I treasure, among others I would not delve into with eighteen year olds.

Even more, I will see a movie, a movie I love, and feel more than just a tinge of sadness that friends who are no longer among the living are not around to see it with me, certain that they would have really gotten a kick out of it.  I will even mourn the fact that Proust never lived long enough to see Vertigo, or that Hitchcock never lived to watch The Sopranos on HBO.  These ideas raised eyebrows in the class, and I was certain that I had just come out of the closet as a fully certified kook.

So be it, then.  Of the many, many things I will have to be thankful for this Thanksgiving Day is that I lived long enough to see and own DVDs.  You have to remember that I grew up a movie-loving gay kid (it was my only respite from a strict religious upbringing) in an era when movies could be seen at the theaters for a limited release time or, years and years later, on one of three television networks on Saturday night.  Getting to see a movie, almost any movie ever made, whenever I wanted to was unheard of, and in my youth this was a large part of my idea of Heaven.  So what I feel kookily thankful for is the fact that I have lived long enough to have my childish concept of Heaven mostly realized.

Now, God willing (the God of today's heaven and today's earth), I will live long enough to see NinePrince of Persia: The Sands of Time, A Single Man, and the remake of Clash of the Titans ... and read the novel The Original of Laura, whose author, Vladimir Nabokov, sadly did not live long enough to see it in print, and the first-ever complete and scholarly researched English translation of The Thousand and One Nights.

No comments:

Post a Comment


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...