"Let us not be ashamed to speak what we shame not to think."
-Michel de Montaigne

Sunday, March 21, 2010

No Other Gods Before Me

"We are left alone with our imagination and our arithmetic"

--Salman Rushdie,
"Wonderlands" lecture at Emory University

A few days ago I watched Salman Rushdie lecture before an enthralled group at Glenn Memorial Hall at Emory University. He is in the process of writing a Children's book, and spoke about the power of narratives, the necessity that we as a species have for stories. It is as fundamental as the need for food, shelter, love. Stories are those things by which we understand the world, understand ourselves, and transmit culture across the ages.

After an hour of basking in his presence, I rushed to my car, my heart on fire to go home and create, to write, to form a story by which someone else could understand the world, understand themselves, and trasmit culture across the ages. My facebook status proclaimed to my friends and family that Salman Rushdie was timeless, brilliant--that he was in fact, and or rather colloquially, "the bomb-dizzle." I could not contain my enthusiasm, and shared this thought with every victim I encountered, like a deranged PR rep or starry-eyed fan-club president.

But then I talked to Grant.

Grant, an intelligent friend and adept conversationist, shared with me an article that Rushdie had written called "Letter to the Six-Billionth Person." I had never read this before, so naturally I was eager to gobble it up, particularly after the night of inspiration I'd had. Approximately 1,500 words later I felt deflated, disparaged, and off. I felt irritated in the same way that someone feels when they discover a stain on their favorite blouse when I read:

"To choose disbelief [in God or religion] is to choose mind over dogma, to trust in our humanity instead of all these dangerous divinities."

I choose belief. To choose belief means holding love and selflessness over the lies and self-aggrandizement of the world, to trust in the righteousness of a holy God instead of the faulty knowledge and fickle adoration of academia. It is not infantilism or suspension of disbelief. It is real. It is power. Oh Salman, I still love you. Your writing, your quotes, and your lectures still thrill me. But I love God more.


  1. I find it interesting that Rushdie assumes that one must choose one or the other; mind or soul. When was his article written? I would like to see how his treatment of this topic has developed over time.

  2. There never was and there never will be a substitute for the human soul. If that is truly his hypothesis on life, then he missed the point, and by publishing it he has created "dogma" for an elitist group of intelligent agnostics to use as a weapon in the arsenal of their debate that while some deity may exist, it is more simple in his mind and the mind of the many apathetic today that it's easier just to not deal with it. "Imagine there's no heaven." Imagine there is no consequence, while you're at it. Imagine there's no universe. Imagine there is no purpose. Sounds good on paper, but so did communism, and we see how that turned out. And... thanks for the mention. You're quite the articulatrix. :)

    - Grant