Friday, March 13, 2015

All Sizes Vaguely Disinterested

I was talking to my friend, the Jesuit, when he asked me, “What do you believe?”  Then he took back his flask and he took a long drink.

I said, “Father, some days I believe in nothing; some days I believe in everything.”

My friend, the Jesuit, said, “Me too.”

We walked across 24th Street together and on through the Omaha snow. A voice said, “Walk signal across 24th Street is now on. Walk signal across 24th Street is now on.”

It was.

I said, “Father, if you think that – if your belief’s like mine is – then that’s a really funny collar that you’re wearing.” (But I stole that line from an episode of “House, M.D.”)

He laughed. He shook his head and he finished his flask and he laughed.

He said, “Do you know that old saying that says there are no atheists in foxholes?”

I did.

He said, “I can tell you that it’s not true in seminaries. I can tell you that it’s not true in novitiates. And it’s certainly not true in rectories... But I’ve never been in a foxhole.”

Then he shrugged and we sat on a bench together, watching the snow fall. 
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“I believe in everything; nothing is sacred.
I believe in nothing; everything is sacred.
Ha ha ho ho hee hee.”
-       Tom Robbins

28 comments:

  1. "Well, I believe life is a Zen koan, that is, an unsolvable riddle. But the contemplation of that riddle - even though it cannot be solved - is, in itself, transformative. And if the contemplation is of high enough quality, you can merge with the divine." - Tom Robbins

    Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/t/tom_robbins.html#P2V7yAj51P97xp5U.99

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    1. Good one!

      Tom Robbins' books are chock full of good quotes.

      The first novel I wrote was basically just a Tom Robbins rip-off. My second novel was basically just a Kurt Vonnegut rip-off. Everything I've written since then has been all me, and it's been much the worse for it.

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    2. I was talking to my friend, the Jesuit, when he asked me, “What do you believe?”

      OH NO Mr Bill! Heading off on a Sunday morning tangent while half asleep in frog pajamas...

      Jesuits are know spies!

      In his novel Skinny Legs and All, Tom Robbins offers a similar but updated interpretation of the dance of the seven veils. With each veil the dancer removes, a different worldly illusion is challenged and shattered. Memorably, the dancer in Robbin's novel removes the veil covering her groin first and saves the one covering her face and head for last, suggesting that the dance is not about titillation, but about shedding one's worldly hangups.

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    3. Tom Robbins has some vivid, memorable scenes scattered through his books. My favorite, I think, comes in "Still Life with Woodpecker," where he juxtaposes a Ralph Nader speech and a sex scene.

      That book also has a lot of lines about redheads, which impresses me for some reason...

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  2. Replies
    1. Haha... They're an interesting bunch of guys. If nothing else, I've never had one threaten me with Hell.

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  3. Replies
    1. Could be. I don't know what they dip those little white collars in... let alone what they do in their free time.

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    1. Actually, at 20, I believed I was rapidly closing in on the Answers.

      I no longer believe that I'll have Answers during my lifetime.

      And you know what? That's okay.

      In my experience, Those Who Search are much happier and more interesting than Those Who Have Found.

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    3. Hmm. Maybe. We'll see. Stay tuned...

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  5. If you're like me, the voice you hear is your own trying to get a word in edgewise with yourself. god would be lots better but sorry, no dice.
    Aren't Jesuits the bean counters of that brotherhood? the ones with the Rolexes?
    "Dunno 'bout foxholes .... but I'm POSITIVE there are no atheists in the KKK!" carlin ... I think

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    1. Hi, bj! I could try and convince myself that the voice in my head IS God... although I'd probably just end up bitching that He's hungry and/or horny way too much for a Supreme Being.

      Jesuits take a vow of poverty... Live in community and can't have any property of their own. Communist utopia thing, I think.

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  6. Replies
    1. Thank you, misfit! This one was unplanned. And short and sweet.

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  7. Doubt is the catalyst of achievement .

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    1. That's probably true...

      It's like Bob Dylan's old stuff: Every time he was counted out, he did something amazing. Every time he was universally lauded, he messed up.

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  8. A vignette richly devoid of judgmentalism.

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    1. Rupert, you're going to be the one who writes the blurbs for the front of my novels.

      You don't mind writing blurbs under the name "Thomas Pynchon," do you?

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    2. I have managed never to read Thomas Pynchon despite four years of tertiary-level English. I'm partial to Samuel Beckett, though.

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    3. I love Thomas Pynchon- "Gravity's Rainbow" is just about my favorite. I like James Joyce, too, but I don't even try to write like that.

      Used to.

      Then I discovered Vonnegut. Vonnegut's thing is to simply write what you mean. "If I broke all the rules of punctuation, had words mean whatever I wanted them to mean, and strung them together higgledly-piggledy, I would simply not be understood. So you, too, had better avoid Picasso-style or jazz-style writing if you have something worth saying and wish to be understood."

      So I try to just keep it simple.

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  9. I had to look up "novitiates". Great word. The rest of the post was enjoyable as well, but that word, novitiates, is really great and hard to drop in a sentence. I also just realized I didn't know what a Jesuit was. I do now. You're learnin' me all sorts of things with this post.

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    1. You just inspired me to look up the word I was using. Apparently, it can mean a novice or the place a novice lives. I meant it in that second sense: It's the place the new Jesuit kids live during their first two years before they take their vows. They also keep the retired Jesuits there...

      I spent two nights in a novitiate in Opelousas, Louisiana one time. Nothing weird, I was just doing a retreat. I didn't speak for two days!

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  10. I was in Korea returning from a tourist type trip to the dmz when our guide decided to ask everyone what faith they were. I said atheist. He then recounted the no atheists in a foxhole lore. He the tried to further reinforce it by saying "just like there are no racists in a foxhole". Dat man never been to Alabama...

    I contend I can be an atheist in a foxhole

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    1. Is there anybody in a foxhole these days other than a fox?

      Aren't foxholes very WW1/trench warfare-type things?

      I don't know. I guess they still use defensive pits of some kind.

      If so, someone should do a poll.

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  11. Replies
    1. Gracias, el chupacabra. It's all about figuring out what makes the most sense and then doing the opposite.

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