One of my very favorite classes in college was The Bible as Literature. The text: a copy of The King James Bible. The point of the class? To look at the greatest selling book in history as an anthology of poetry… NOT as scripture. The class was fantastic! And David was a hell of a poet. Therefore, Observation One: The context of my argument here is to discuss the power of belief, ie faith. My point is not to engage in a debate on specific faiths, or the value of faith as a religious construct. Looking at The Bible as a canonized set of literature, from a given time, allows us to look at these writings from the perspective of an artist, rather than that of a theologian.
Tuning Fork. Holy Spirit. Holy Ghost. Still Small Voice. Warm Fuzzy. Whatever you want to call it, most of us have had that feeling, at some point. Sometimes we have it at church, sure, sometimes we have it hiking, sometimes we have it meditating and doing yoga, sometimes we have it reading, sometimes we feel it at a movie. You get the point. Even most of my religiously devout friends can agree, inspiration, atunement, a feeling of connection, can come in mysterious ways. Therefore, Observation Two: Truth can come from multiple sources. Allowing this as a given, allows us to discuss the relevance of certain mediums in certain contexts… rather than debating their actual value.
So. Fact. I was a high school and college english teacher and debate coach in Arizona from 2000 – 2007. Fact. My debate team participated at Harvard University twice under my tenure. I coached State Champions. I was Rotary Teacher of the Month five times. Fact. I messed up in the fall of 2007, and it ended my teaching career. Teachers are held to a pretty different standard, for living on poverty wages. Anyway… I digress.
I bring all of that up to ask you, yes you, dear reader, a question. Why is teaching literature allowed in school and The Bible is not? If inspiration, truth, goodness, value… can come from multiple sources, and we can posit that canonized literature has an intrinsic value, then really ponder this… my reader…. is the teacher all that different than the preacher?
Red flags! Red flags everywhere, and I understand. I am not trying to say all teachers are preaching to your kids. What I am trying to say is that as an English Literature teacher… I was good at teaching Bradbudy… because I LOVED Bradbury. How can we argue with Fahrenheit 451, written in the early 50s and in the first 30 pages it says,
“I am scared of children my own age. They kill each other.”
Spoken from a high school girl. Fourteen years old. 45 years before Columbine. And the infinite rest. Is it Biblical? Of course not. But is it prophetic? It is true?
And I taught it, well… because I loved it. I loved them all. Hamlet and Machiavellian questions. The Scarlet Letter and the power of the state over individual parenting. The Great Gatsby and the lengths we will go for the American Dream…. and the people we will destroy. Lord of the Flies and the ways society will break down. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and those damn civilizing elements of religion and education. Othello and the Divinity of Hell. All the Pretty Horses. Fellowship of the Ring. The Open Boat. Julius Caesar. Great Expectations. Tale of Two Cities. I marked them up. I highlighted the passages. I cross referenced the history. I memorized huge chunks. I internalized characters as aspects of my own struggle. And I taught it to your children in a way that most had never seen before. Why?
Because Passion is Contagious.
But again, my question: What is the difference then between faiths? Because canonized literature was meant to be a baseline. A foundation. A set of givens that could then be used and built on. Like science. Whereas, The Bible, or The Koran for that matter, instantly have a cetain connotation. However. As a teacher, now living in the real world, I am forced to question the existance of that baseline daily. Afterall….. the flatness of the earth is once again…. in supposed question.
And Fear is Passion.
And now…. now all that knowledge is like faith. Beliefs. Philosophies. Truths. References and proven. Iron Clad. With History. In a world of Fake News and Op Ed Reality.
It is like…. JUST…. LIKE…. being the last of a dying religion. And that Crisis of Faith….. my friends…. is exactly…. the…. same. And most…. if asked to deny their “faith” say they would die first….. but if your belief lies in the arts…. you are crazy. Riddle me why that is?
So…. my dear reader, I say all of that to get to the real point here. I think all of us can see and witness that the divisions in America are incredibly deep. Those divisions have been there, well….. forever. The Civil War, was not civil. The Trail of Tears…. were not tears of joy, and Wounded Knee was some bullshit. But, as an American, I can say for myself…. I taught to learn from history. I wanted, like Elie Wiesel, to teach times and writings, so that certain things would never ever happen again. I believed that I was a small piece in carving that future.
It was not political. It was nothing but a pure love of written…. art. And the ability to share it with teenagers.
But, somehow, regardless of the best efforts of teachers like me…. we somehow created a world where the world is once again allowed to be flat. Facts do not matter. Eloquence and dignity do not matter. Intellect does not matter. And there is absolutely no baseline or foundation….. of anything.
So….. they rally around your family…. with a pocket full of shells….
And we watch the News? That tells us what we want to hear.
And we Hate.
And we Divide.
And we Fall.
Social Media has given everyone loudspeakers… about everything from dog selfies to left overs to the next revolution…. but ears…
Shit man. Look around. Most people don’t even take the earbuds out to say whether or not they want a box.
We are a culture that thinks it is hilarious to put our toddlers in Onesies that say “Come at Me Bro” and then hate everyone else’s kids.
It’s not all political. It is cultural. It is obvious. And it is everywhere.
It should surprise nobody we are here, right… HERE. America. Trump did not cause this. He just allowed everyone to take their damn masks off, betting we were too complacent to do anything.
There is a reason why intellectuals are on the Fascism warning signs.
And Fear is Divisive
Keep the Greasy Side Down, My friends.