Summer is over. It’s like a giant switch has been pulled and we are now immersed in the rainy gray season. This lasts until late next spring, with a sunny respite usually appearing for a short stretch at the beginning of the year. I used to be able to depend on a few hours of playtime for Justin in the backyard, but now I have to get creative. We’ll both go bonkers if we’re forced to stay in this house during the dark season. We’ve now all officially been afflicted with our first cold of the season. Actually, Jen and I have been hit harder by the bug than Justin has. Maybe it’s because he eats more vegetables than we do. My cold started off as a headache beginning just hours before I was to see Jethro Tull last Sunday evening. This headache was centered at the occipital area of my skull. It dissipated enough by show time, so that I was able to enjoy the concert that evening. Well, as much as you can enjoy a troupe of sixty-somethings, playing prog-rock that’s nearly forty years old. And Ian Anderson’s voice seems to have suffered over the years. He seemed to be struggling to get the notes out. Maybe they should have turned his microphone up.
I haven’t posted on this blog in a week. I think part of the reason for that is that I’m thinking instead of writing. I’m mulling things over. A week from tonight I’ll be asleep within the walls of the Concourse Hotel in Madison, Wisconsin. My reason for being there is the 30th convention of the Freedom From Religion Foundation. It’s a foundation that works to ensure the separation of church and state in this country through legal action and activism. Appearing at this upcoming event will be Julia Sweeney, Katha Pollitt and featured speaker Christopher Hitchens, who will be receiving the “Emperor Has No Clothes Award.” I’m about fifty pages from finishing Hitchens’ diatribe entitled God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything.
As I said, I’ve been mulling all of this stuff over and I’m still trying to come up with the words to describe what my thoughts about all of it is. The debate about religion is as old as the practice itself, but it feels fresh to me. I grew up going to Sunday school and church every week until I was about sixteen years old. It was not too long after I was confirmed a member of the church that I began the see the membership was rife with hypocrisy, behaving in one manner on Sunday and differently through the rest of the week. I began to realize that the practice of religion — or at least the United Methodist version of Christianity that I was accustomed to — was no guarantee of ability of one to lead a “good life.” Pastors — right along with their believers — were human and hence fallible.
The final break from organized religion for me involved a meeting with an air force chaplain, who told me that he believed Jesus Christ would have no problem working on a nuclear missile site. I didn’t know whether to laugh or vomit into his smug visage. Instead I left his office quietly with his list of scripture passages to read. Stuff about following orders and respecting authority. You know, bullshit. I started to compile my own collection of biblical quotes to counter his position, but alas, we never had another meeting. From there I went on to read about the religious practices and rituals of Native Americans and that led to studying Buddhism. It’s only been within the past year that I’ve ventured into the literature of skepticism and it’s been quite enlightening. I’ve learned more about the actual contents of the bible than I ever had while a member of the church.
I could go on all night in this vein, but I’d rather ruminate on these ideas a while longer. I will go so far as to state that I’m agnostic about the existence of any type of supernatural being. I consider myself a “freethinker,” unfettered by dogma and able to pursue the true nature of the world around me without the filters of some ancient tribal superstitions. But that’s just me. So rather than stay up all night blathering on about this, I’ll end with some banalities
I got myself out to a matinee showing of Jodie Foster’s latest flick, The Brave One. Jodie plays intense better than just about any actor out there today. Sometimes that intensity is misplaced, so it takes just the right vehicle for it to work. The Brave One is a fine piece of filmmaking by Neil Jordan (Mona Lisa, The Crying Game and The Butcher Boy to name but a few of his other films), but I’m still wrestling with the theme of vigilantism. I think it’s trying to be Death Wish with a conscience, but it doesn’t quite succeed. I’m hoping that while I’m in Madison next week I’ll have a chance to see a movie or two. On my to see list are: 3:10 to Yuma, Into the Wild, In the Valley of Elah, and I still wouldn’t mind catching the latest Bourne film while it’s still in the theaters.
As I’ve been writing this my soundtrack has been songs of the old west, or at least of western themes from film and TV. Marty Robbins and Tex Ritter. Eddy Arnold and Gene Autry. The mournful yodeling makes me want to be out on the vast prairie with a crackling fire to keep the dark night at bay. Coyotes yip and howl and in the distance I hear the rattle a train rolling over its tracks. A star-filled evening when the struggles of existence seem but a distant memory.