Several people have asked me lately to tell them what exactly I believe in. These questions have actually become sort of demanding since my one word answer has become “Atheist” upon repeated questioning by certain individuals.
Enough is enough already.
Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
Today I want to talk about belief that has nothing, or very little to do with the man in the sky and whether or not he hates the gays and the women. Personally I think that IF there is a god it has little time to think of such petty things. What I want to talk about is belief in the fringe, the unexplained, and the downright preposterous. I am by no means going to cover all or even most topics, just a few which have had an impact on my life.
Let’s start with the single most influential thing I’ve ever read.
Meantime, there are these twenty-odd (and some, I should warn you, are very odd). Each contains something I believed for awhile, and I know that some of these things — the finger poking out of the drain, the man-eating toads, the hungry teeth — are a little frightening, but I think we'll be all right if we go together. First, repeat the catechism after me:
I believe a dime can derail a freight-train.
I believe there are alligators in the New York City sewer system, not to mention rats as big as Shetland ponies.
I believe that you can tear off someone's shadow with a steel tent-peg.
I believe that there really is a Santa Claus, and that all those red-suited guys you see at Christmastime really are his helpers.
I believe there is an unseen world all around us.
I believe that tennis balls are full of poison gas, and if you cut one in two and breathe what comes out, it'll kill you.
Most of all, I do believe in spooks, I do believe in spooks, I do believe in spooks.
Okay? Ready? Fine. Here's my hand. We're going now. I know the way. All you have to do is hold on tight . . . and believe.
-Stephen King, Myth, Belief, Faith and Ripley's Believe It or Not!
The above excerpt is the end of the introduction to Stephen King’s third collection of short stories “Nightmares & Dreamscapes”. I remember the first time I read those words. It was about one in the morning and I’d just got home from my job at the local McDonalds, yes the one I used to play Santa at every year. The book was sitting on the counter in the kitchen having been delivered by our less than reliable mailman earlier that day.
Seriously I think that guy lost or stole more Christmas and Birthday cards.
After hitting the shower, because damn son as much as I still love the taste of McDonalds poison to this very day I never liked being cloaked in its aroma, I hit the bed. I intended to skim the book and maybe read a story. I did that the story being “Dolans Cadillac” but it was that piece of the intro which smacked me in the face.
That made me love Stephen King.
Oh he’s made a few missteps but on the whole I consider him arguably the greatest living author in the world and one of the best ever. I fully believe his work will still be read 500 hundred years from now. Maybe that’s pushing it but we still read Dante, Shakespeare, and Washington Irving so stranger things have happened.
This bit of prose opened my eyes the power of belief more fully than any preacher or h0ly man I’d been exposed to in my short life. And considering the nature of my family and upbringing that is a substantial claim.
I wanted to believe in the fingers …
I wanted to believe in the toads …
I wanted to believe in the hungry hungry teeth …
I just wanted to believe in something, anything, I could wrap my mind around and didn’t offend me at the same time. I wanted the magic in the world to NOT be defined by the old men who told me I was going to hell. I wanted my beliefs to inspire me and direct me without leashing me with a choke chain and making me heel.
I wanted something besides religion to believe in.
“Could it be that God was an extra-terrestrial? What do we mean when we say that heaven is in the clouds? From Jesus Christ to Elvis Presley, every culture tells us of high-flying bird men who zoom around the world creating magnificent works of art and choosing willing followers to share in the eternal glory from beyond the stars. Can all these related phenomena merely be dismissed as coincidence?”
My grandfather, the one who helped raise me not the other one, told me about “Chariots of the Gods” when I was in 7th grade. My grandfather is a very religious/spiritual person, not the kind who uses the bible to justify hate but the kind who tries to do good works and help people. We may not agree on religion these days but I respect his faith and it is almost singlehandedly because of him that I discuss religion and not go all “Christopher Hitchens” “Penn Jillette” or “Richard Dawkins” on people.
It starts with a church lock in.
My best friend, and future roommate, Jeff invited me to his church for a lock in. While there we ate pizza, played games, and watched movies. In retrospect it was a very cultish and designed to make us afraid of God and his son Jesus.
I’ve said it before, I have read the bible and I think Jesus Christ of Nazareth (If he was real) was a hell of a guy. Too bad many of his current followers are probably his greatest shame.
During the lock in we watched a trilogy of movies about the Rapture, the Christian end of times. These were badly made, badly acted, poorly presented terrifying flicks. I assume this was the capstone of their plan to scare us into worshiping a hate filled judgmental deity and badly misrepresented Jewish Carpenter.
Fuck me but it nearly worked.
When I returned home the next day I badgered my grandfather with questions about god. It was the first time I’d been interested since my cousin’s slut shaming in the church we used to attend. Grandpa did his best to answer me but in the end he bought me a bible and I read the thing cover to cover in three days.
When I was finished I was less than impressed.
I’m not sure if it was because of my loss of interest in religion of because he knew I was sci-fi junkie, I’d been reading and rereading Arthur C. Clarke and Isaac Asimov at that point, but he told me about “Chariots of the Gods”. I checked it out of the library and read it twice before returning. I opened my eyes.
Now before you start yelling things about me being crazy let me stop you.
The book didn’t convince me that our civilization and race is the product of alien meddling. What it did do was open my mind to looking at things from a completely different point of view then the one my family, church, and schools had presented. Although in the years since I’ve devoured everything I could get my hands on from both sides of the argument and have reached the conclusion that it’s the worst example of hubris to assume we know everything.
Always keep an open mind boils and ghouls.
One more anal-probing gyro-pyro levitating ectoplasm alien anti-matter story and I'm going to take out my gun and shoot somebody.
So where am I in my journey?
I’m still travelling, and really that’s the important part. I am still keeping my mind open to ideas and to the old ones. I want it ll to be try, I want the magic to be real, I want all possibilities to be explored. But in the end I have to work with t information I have access to, I have to understand that I will never have any but the barest of answers.
You know what?
I’m okay with that.
The journey is the important part. I will rest when I’m dead.