How are you? Are the muses of autumn whispering in your ears? Or have they entered your blameless mind and turned to furies? The world is full of worry. Why not us? There's a New York Times article today where Woody Allen says he has never -- never -- seen one of his movies after it was done. Said if he was clicking through the channels and saw Annie Hall or Manhattan or any of them he speeds his clicker forward so as not to endure the pain of the film's imperfections.
So many people's heads are so peopled with critics that where seems to stand a man stands a multitude and not one of them enjoying himself. No wonder joy is so often tied to pain. Even Socrates on his death slab, prior to imbibing the dram of poison, rubbed his ankles where the guard had just removed his chains, and noted how often sweet pleasure is unbreachably in league with pain.
Will the pain you are in today some day, like the shackle removed, give fruit in pleasure, in relief? I don't know. I guess the truth is I'm still a little traumatized by 9/11, still wondering what's going to blow up next, and so where once I made promises now I can only offer a roasted plate of hope, plucked of its feathers, basted in its song. Delish, but making hope the thing without feathers, that does not perch on the soul, that does not sing a song with words or otherwise, and to our horror and our numb, sometimes stops at all.
Then again, you may spurn the wave, sailor, but what have you got if not your boat and whatever dream of seamless hulls makes that ship float.
Back in 2003 the MPR radio program Speaking of Faith devoted a show to my book Doubt: A History which is about religious doubt, all over the world, throughout history. They have replayed it over the years too, and over the years this show has brought my work to a lot of people, and often brought them to me -- in emails or other communications -- which is one reason I'm so glad to live in the future. I love hearing from people on these themes, and I do.
Anyway, the program, "Speaking of Faith," with the brilliant Krista Tippett, has decided to change its name to "Being." This week's very interesting show explains why. What moved them was the contributions of guests on the show (especially scientists) and audience members who have made it clear that they do not believe in God or are not religious, but who still find the show's questions to be their questions too -- questions about how to live with the mystery of life. I am moved to say that at about the 35 minute mark of this week's episode, Tippett introduces my book's episode and says it was pivotal in reframing the way she saw the conversation on faith, mystery, and reason.
It's funny to note, too, that the Woody Allen article to which I refer above is called On Faith, Fortune Tellers, and New York, because among the interesting things strewn around the piece, what seemed most headliney to someone was Allen saying that he has no belief in religion or fortune tellers, and that he thinks that if you can get yourself to believe either one, either one can do about as much to help.
So you see, it all comes around. Socrates thinks about his ankle, the rest of us nurse our separate wounds and wonder how so much happiness can well up in moments between so much anxiety and struggle. The man at the feast turns out to be frightened of the entre. Oh well. Perhaps he shall dare some antipasto.
That's all for today. Tonight I'll lead a discussion on Paradise Lost with a bunch of lively grad students and we will pity Satan even as he over and over explodes his own existence and wonders at the carnage life keeps raining on his reign.
Please be careful, bloved bleaders. Youth is difficult, aging a trial, and all our envy misplaced on other weary wanderers who when they meet their blessings in the street barely hale them, but rather click by at tricky, frightened speeds. Take up no arms against yourself, lay down your arms! Both the lion and the lamb are popping several pills to get through the day and several more to fall asleep again. You, by comparison and contrastion, are doing fine. I know you are suffering, or have been, but don't kill yourself and I shall return to encourage you yet again.
ps The picture above is art from the Crossing the Line Festival in Brooklyn this past weekend at the Invisible Dog. Here's another.