"Let us not be ashamed to speak what we shame not to think."
-Michel de Montaigne
-Michel de Montaigne
Sunday, March 21, 2010
No Other Gods Before Me
"We are left alone with our imagination and our arithmetic"
"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.