RW28 - Casual Shinto Exposure

This week, Dan and John talk about:

The show title refers to John’s dad having many Japanese friends and creating his own religion with the strong influence of this casual shinto exposure.

Raw notes
The segments below are raw notes that have not been edited for language, structure, references, or readability. Please do not quote these texts directly without applying your own editing first! These notes were not planned to be released in this form, but time constraints have caused a shift in priorities and have delayed editing draft-quality versions to a later point.

Friday the 13th (RW28)

Today is Friday, the 13th, John’s special lucky day because he was born on a Friday the 13th and as part of his childhood conviction that he was an enchanted being, Friday the 13th seemed like his day of enchantment and he feels a certain amount of ownership and proprietary relationship to it. In the Jewish faith, 13 is a big number, but it is a very positive number. It is the Bar Mitzvah for time, you are treated as an adult in the community and you are responsible for your own actions. 13 is a good thing and it is always weird when they don't have a 13th floor of a building. John doesn't like it either and will walk right out of a building. It doesn't matter if you call it the 14th floor and you are skipping 13 on the button, it is still the 13th floor. You can't get around it!

What it means is that they do not think very highly of witches or of Jesus or whoever is monitoring luck. Jesus has got a lot to think about and he looks down and says: ”Oh, I get it. Nobody gets off on the 13th floor!” and he moves on to something bigger, but it is a sign that architects or building designers or whoever makes that decision, which seems a little whimsical, but if you think back to when it started: Were people having fun with this or was this something serious? It seems to be a little bit condescending toward the supernatural powers, the luck powers or the spook powers. Are they really fooled by this? If anything, they are not reading the button how to get to floor 13. they are just going right to it. If you are in spirit form and you are a malevolent and you do a haunting, you are not floating around looking for the number 13, you are going to the 13th floor.

To John that seems like a Talmudic interpretation of it. Im Dan’s case anything would be. Numerology that is intrinsic to certain practices of the Jewish faith would maybe support this interpretation, but it has much more to do with that combination of numbers: 13. John is not exactly sure that they are haunting spooks. It is bad luck, not because there are spooks, but because Jesus frowns on it or the bad-luck game is played here. If you run into a guy at an Auto Parts store who has a black cat and the number 13 tattooed on him and maybe some tumbling dice and an ace of spades, what is he saying? He is not trying to ward off bad luck, he is trying to flout it. You can't stop me, bad luck! I put a number 13 right on me!

John doesn’t think it is the counting, but that is something Dan is bringing over from Ashkenazi town. If you roll the dice you can only get to twelve, at least on the traditional dice, like the Vegas dice, In D&D the dice goes all the way up to 20! There is a name for fear of the number 13, called triskaidekaphobia. There is a certain amount of his education that involves knowing words and what the words stand in representation of.

Growing old with dignity (RW28)

As he was driving in John realized that a certain part of growing old with dignity, at the point at which your faculties start to decline, your ankles start to crack and you start to forget words that you once didn't even have to struggle to lay your hands on, you do not talk about those things. This phase that John is in right now, the first sign of all these things happening because their generation thought they would live forever is now wallowing partly, but is also in amazement, surveying their futures and discovering their mortality. Then John thought about the real cool customers who get older. They make no reference to those things. It has to be happening to them too, but Charlie Watts (the drummer of The Rolling Stones) doesn’t walk around talking about how his bones are creaking. He bears it in silence and that is what John is going to start doing.

John is going to start suffering in silence like all the greatest generation. He is not going to talk about this, but he is headed toward his dad's voice so much earlier than he thought he was going to be. Slowly it is just turning into this (imitating his dad’s voice) and Pretty soon it is this, just trying to talk to get through all the bullshit. It is a gradual progression.

John’s parents and grandparents (RW28)

Dan wonders if John has his parents’ mannerisms or affectations in any way, but John’s mom is utterly affectation-less and her only noticeable traits in that way are that she still has a little bit of Midwestern tang, she certainly has a lot of Quaker Ohio expectations of the world.

John’s dad… neither one of them were affected very much, but John’s dad's mother was born in 1889 and his father was born in 1885, which means John is only generation away from people wearing bustles. His dad had a lot of jazz hipster talk, he came of age in the 1930s and he had not the 1950s jazz hipster talk, he wasn't Shoobby Doobie, but he was copacetic. He was that Duke Ellington style of Apollo Theater jazz hipster talk that was in his lexicon. He would drop some of that stuff. He was very dismissive of the Shooby Dooby Scoobydi Doo Wah stuff, that was just teeny bopper talk. He felt like the Victorians are his parents and his grandparents who lived with him when he was a kid left Kentucky in the immediate aftermath of the Civil War.

The 1920s and 1930s were times when in America everybody was looking to the future. Right. World War I was over, they had the automobile and the airplane and the telephone and people were not old fashioned, they were wearing straw boaters now and long-pants they were headed into the 20th century, wearing raccoon coats and trying to see how many kids can fit into a phone booth or on top of a flagpole or whatever.

John’s dad left a lot of that behind, but the Victorian thinking and the Civil War era Southern thinking that was in his mother's family permeated and got translated to John because it was in the air. A lot of kids that are maybe a little bit younger than John whose parents were hippies. John was born in 1968. He had peers in high school whose parents had them in 1968 when they were 22 years old and their parents would have been John’s dad’s generation and then there would have been a layer of grandparents in there who were born in 1900.

John is several generations behind, both in language and culture, which accounts maybe for a little bit of… He is not putting on airs, but his education was from these older expectations. In 1865 most families had three books in their house: They had the Bible, they had Shakespeare, and the Almanac. It wasn't like you traveled across America on a wagon train with your library and there were a lot fewer books, but also they had more significance. A lot of people from John’s dad's generation can quote from Shakespeare at length because there were three books and if you liked to read you didn't have unlimited resources.

John’s mom talked about going to the library and having it be a big deal and she could check out just a few books and her brother could check out a few books and he would get Zane Grey Westerns and she would get Louisa May Alcott, but when they finished with their handful of books, they would trade because they would run out of books and they weren't going to go to the library until the following week, and so they would each read one another's books, just because they were starved. How can we relate to that?

Dan went to the library when he was little all the time. Both of his parents were in education. His mom was an English teacher first in high school and then at a community college for many years. Dan’s aunt, until very recently, was the director of the university library where she lives. Libraries are a big thing for them. Dan was there all the time. Did he read the Hardy Boys mysteries? He knows that he read that when he was very young, but doesn’t remember it. Those were fairly sophisticated storylines for a very young person, but Dan was one of these really, really early to read kids. He started talking really, really early, like 10 months old or younger - surprise - and he had read The Hobbit when he was 9 or 10 years old.

On their weekly trips to the library you could get three books and about that same age 8 or 9 years old you get three Hardy Boys books, you stay up under your covers in the middle of the night with your flashlight, reading about the mystery of the three-legged dog or the case of the haunted case. He is not sure he would remember the exact plot points of each individual Hardy Boys story because they were all basically the same, but he definitely remembers the world that they lived in, their friend Chet (?), they had a boathouse and a Chris Craft (?) style wooden speedboat that often figured in their adventures. They were set in the Midwest somewhere, like Michigan.

Places without a history, Florida (RW28)

At the time in Seattle and in Alaska they didn't have the same sense of… even that little difference between the history that you feel in Michigan and the history you feel in Seattle was significant. In 1857 when Seattle was founded, Michigan was already well-established. John’s mom's family was in Ohio back to 1812 and Seattle didn't even exist at the time, it wasn't even a dot on somebodies imagination. Obviously there was a large population of people here, but a town with houses didn't exist. The feeling growing up was always like they were pretty new here.

Dan moving from Philadelphia, very old, to South Florida, which although full of old people from Philadelphia and New York was totally new and there was no history of any kind there. Where they lived, now they built South Florida all the way up into the Everglades, but when Dan was there they lived on the outskirts and there was nothing past them. They had moved into a new in a new development in a new part of town and you couldn’t drive to the old part of town because the old part of town was 10 years old. Dan didn't really understand when he moved there that he didn't like that, it wasn't tangible to him as a kid, that part of what he was missing was a place that had a history and that felt substantial, that people had created and that meant something.

Dan got to see the Liberty Bell and has a memory of touching the Liberty Bell and later they put it behind this really hardcore plexiglass thing. He went to the Franklin Institute and the art museum where Rocky ran up and down the steps. It was very much a place with tons and tons and tons of history. You couldn't escape the history. Everything was historic. When his mom told him they were moving to Florida, the only thing he could think about was that there was a Bugs Bunny cartoon where he the two guys are stranded on the island, they keep looking at each other, imagining one of them becomes a hamburger and the other becomes a chicken leg. He had the images of the Koopa Kay (?) from Gilligan's Island and: ”How can we move there? Are there schools there? I don't want to live like that!” Moving down there was a huge letdown: ”This place really sucks! There is nothing good here!”

Dan’s Philadelphia accent, Yiddish (RW28)

Dan pronounced it ”Flarida”with an A, which is his Philly accent, like he still says ”mirror”, ”down there”, and ”water”. He can’t lose it although he tried. There is a known thing of the Philadelphia accent with these guys on there with these really heavy Philly accents. Dan was watching with a group of his friends and they were laughing because like this sounded like another… You hear the Boston accent and you know that, but this is just as weird and just as easy to misunderstand it because there is Street Philly. Dan can't really speak that way, but when he grew up he was hearing people talk like that all the time. Where he came from it was also mixed with enough Yiddish, for example when his grandparents spoke there would be a Yiddish word every 5 or 6 words.

That was because their parents spoke Yiddish fluently. Dan’s grandmother could speak it so much that in a group of people who spoke only Yiddish she would understand them and be able to do basic communication. There is so much expression with it and so much gestures and inflection and meaning that comes through that even though Dan couldn't understand necessarily what they were saying he still got it. When he was younger they would use this to communicate with each other about him directly in front of him. The history of Yiddish is fascinating and the fact that it for so long was this communal language that these people could speak and communicate with. They would use it to say these things that was almost like code talking, like their own version of the Navajo language.

John’s understanding of Yiddish was that in part you weren't supposed to speak Hebrew. It was supposed to only be the spoken language after the messiah returned. The choice to have Hebrew be the language of Israel was fairly controversial because it was considered somewhat of a sacred language only to be used in temple because you were saving it for the return. There is so much of the return of the Messiah business in the Holy Land where a lot of the evangelical Christians here really support Israel because it is part of the prophecy of the return of the Jesus messiah. If that stuff isn’t all cooking along, you can't say: ”Oh, Jesus is coming back unless some preconditions are met!”, which all have to be happening in Jerusalem or thereabouts.

The super-evangelicals are really watching the whole daily news of Jerusalem because they are looking for the signs, but the Israelis are playing fast and loose with some of the rules because there was that whole problem of mostly it being somewhat secular Jews who were founding the country and they needed a language here and Yiddish was sort a German-derived thing, so they went with Hebrew. It was their tongue after all, but surely there were some other people that were like: ”Meh!” The Lubavitch (?) and the Super Orthodox speak Yiddish rather than Hebrew because they are maintaining this prohibition. That is why all the people in Williamsburg speak with some German accent because they are speaking Yiddish to one another.

John doesn’t particularly follow messiah politics very closely because on the other side of the River Jordan there are also a lot of rules about the messiah and one of the things that has to happen is a caliphate has to be restored and that is why ISIS has such a broad appeal to young people in the Muslim world because once the caliphate is restored then the messiah clock is ticking and it can't really get ticking until you re-establish this kingdom on earth.

Here we all are and those of us living in a secular life are caught politically between all these different Messiah versions: Until the man in the yellow hat comes then Curious George cannot climb to the top of the banyan tree, which is the sign of the return of the prophet who is going to immediately ride on the subway walls and then we are all going to dance Watusi (?) and then the chosen ones float up and the rest of us sinners just percolate down here until the blood wave of Cthulhu.

John’s dad’s religion (RW28)

Both of John’s parents invented their own religion and his dad's religion did not resemble his mom's religion at all, which was not really problematic because both of them felt like they had invented the right religion, but it was the correct version. From his mom's standpoint the fact that his dad didn't understand was just par for the course.

John’s dad grew up in a very Japanese culture because there were a lot of Japanese in Seattle and his dad had a great affinity for them because they were the better basketball players. He practiced an ancestor worship that he picked up from his Casual Shinto Exposure. All of the Japanese kids, all of the Nisei or the Isei, whichever the second generation is, they were all secular, too. They just had to go pray at the shrine on on Sunday and they wanted to go play baseball. John’s dad picked up a lot of that ancestor worship and he talked to his mother and eventually his sister, somewhat his grandparents.

As people died that he knew personally he entered them into the roles of who he was kind of praying to, but it was very irreverent. It was his own practice, he didn't just do it for show, but when he was alone in his house he would walk around talking to his ancestors, maybe leave them little burnt offerings, John is not 100% sure. He was irreverent as fuck about it, but also was practicing some strange religion. He wasn't an animist, he didn't talk to trees, but he did feel like his pets, which were always cats, were his friends and had superior knowledge. He pieced it together out of a lot of different traditions.

John watched him very carefully as he got ill and died and he never got any more religious than he had been before. When he was at the old folks home, there is a whole industry of people praying on old people in this country and you wouldn't be aware of it until you were close to an old person. They are inundated with phone calls and now emails and letters in the mail, offering them all these things. There are psychics that pray on them and in a way the publisher's clearing house is an institutional way of praying on old people.

John’s dad buying a time-share, John’s sister talking to customer service agents (RW28)

There are people calling them and selling them timeshares, there are these fantastic offers and all these old people are sitting around in their lazy boy recliners wondering if they did enough for their kids, wondering if they had made a big enough impact on the world and then someone cold-calls them, gets their phone number from AARP, and says: "Have we got a deal for you!” Old people have a guaranteed income a lot of the time, retirement and Social Security, and: ”If you just sign over some portion of your Social Security check every month, you will have access to these fantastic timeshares all around the world and you can go vacation there with your family!”

It sounds amazing and those old people think they never got a vacation home for themselves and now all they have to do is sign over some small portion of this imaginary income they are getting. All the brochures arrive in the mail, access to all these wonderful beach front condos and they can take all their grandkids and they will be a hero and will finally have done something to benefit their family. There is all this evil dream casting onto people and you end up with situations where their entire check has been signed over to faith healers and psychics and people in these crazy Southern television churches and so forth. It is a massive industry that we don't regulate, largely because it happens under the rubric of a church and churches aren't taxed and they are given special dispensation.

The contract that these timeshare-things are offering you is perfectly reasonable, except a) you are never going to use it because you are old, b) your kids don't want to go on vacation with you to Boca Raton, and c) when you do get there, those plates are awful. John’s dad got sucked into some of that and at one point John was opening his mail and it was clear that he was carrying on a correspondence with a psychic. It had been ongoing. She had been sending him letters for some time, you could tell by this letter, and she was really trying to soak him. John looked her up and she was this licensed and registered psychic somewhere, not just some scammer working out of her car. This was an industry for her and how she found John’s dad he has no idea.

John’s sister practices a religion that is a Misch Masch of Buddhism and relentless positivity and also think-into-action, like The Secret. If you imagine a thing and are direct and positive about that thing, you will manifest it and it will become true by virtue of the fact that within the universe there are energies that you can collect and use. She is very authoritative about it, she is not sitting around in a dream state, but she is wielding that philosophy like a flaming sword. John used to mock her relentlessly, but if anyone can be said to have manifest things in their life she has managed to do it which of course confirms in her the truth of her outlook. John’s dad had some of that, too, although he always stopped short of magic.

John waved this letter in his face: ”What the hell are you doing? You dumb ass!” - ”She told me that I was going to come into a lot of money!” - ”Yeah, is that right? What a surprise she told you that!” Then he bought a time share and when John found out about that he didn't want to deal with it so he called his sister and said: ”Guess what? Dad bought a timeshare and they have attached themselves to his money!” and she immediately got in her car and drove to where John was with dad and she got on the phone with the timeshare people and she basically verbally threatened them with federal prosecution, she went after them in that way that only she can do, where it was very polite, very formal, very, very strict and she said: ”You will return every cent that you have taken from him. You will cancel this and never contact him again. You will…”

She got the argument from them that John gets all the time. He tried to cancel his alarm company a couple of weeks ago and they said: ”In order to cancel your alarm contract, you have to write us a letter, tell us why you want to cancel the contract and a month later perhaps if you have written the letter correctly, we will deign to cancel this contract written in blood where we are providing you a shitty service!” John argued with the guy for 45 minutes and made no headway with him and eventually he was like: ”Fuck you and your company. But fine, I'll do whatever you like!” You can only demand so much satisfaction.

John’s sister is not swayed by that kind of thing, not dissuaded by it, but she just stays there in that space with the customer service agent, ratcheting it up, always asking to speak to their supervisor until she arrives at the last best place and then, just with a diamond tip, drills into their… She is imagining the script that they are working from and knowing that somewhere in this organization there is someone with the authority to do what she wants, and so she just drills like a dentist's drill until she finds the nerve and then she just sits and pulses on them. John has watched it 1000 times, he has no idea how she does it, it terrifies him as well as it just leaves him perspiring with admiration. She just sat on the phone with these people until they refunded all of his money, canceled his contract, wrote her a letter of apology and admiration, and by the end, and this is the miracle of her, they were laughing with each other and they were happy to have made her happy.

If John could have that, his life would be so much different because all that dread that you have about dealing with that side of corporate life… his sister doesn't have any dread, she longs to call customer service agents, it is right up at the top of the list of: ”Oh, I get to call a customer service agent today?”and basically take their clothes off one by one and look at their clothes and look at the tags in their clothes and talk to them about their choices and at the end they are naked and they are holding out their wallet to her.

John’s dad’s religion (cont)

John’s dad's religion was basically that if you stuffed confetti into a T-shirt cannon and the confetti being pieces of every religion in the world, shot it into the air and then collected the confetti as it came down in a Tupperware container, what you had in the container would be John’s dad's religion.

John’s dad's dad was a minister and he was born in the church where his father was the minister, it was his church, in Frederick, Maryland. John’s dad had such an aversion to his own father that it soured him on organized religion. His mother was was a singer, and part of the way that she spent her weekends was that she would go sing in every church. She would grab him and his siblings and march them from church to church on Sunday because she would join the choir or sing a solo in the choir of five different churches on Capitol Hill on a Sunday morning. She had a non-denominational desire to be in any church where singing was happening and that got John’s dad, his brother and sister, where they just practiced some kind of hodgepodge.

Dan’s grandparents were very clear as far as: ”This is the religion!” They never worried about it, they didn't think about anything else, and there was a funny line in a old Woody Allen movie where he is talking to his parents while he is on a religious, trying to find his own religion. At some point he finds Catholicism and is experiment with that and his parents who are the most typical New York Jews you could imagine in the movie, ask: ”Why Catholicism?” - ”Don't you worry about what is going to happen when you die?” - ”So what? I will worry about it then!” and that is very much the attitude of Dan’s grandparents as well: ”Not much you can do! We will get there and deal with it when we deal with it.”

Dan’s mom followed along in Judaism to a point and there was still this aspect of crystals and meditation and psychic phenomenon and a bit of magical reality stuff, and thoughts are real and reality. She took that very seriously. Ancient Judaism, that sort of mystical Judaism ties into it. Kabbalah is how she connected with that. Dan was raised with this, until he was 13 he was in Hebrew school, he got his bar mitzvah and everything else, but he was never connected to that. He was raised in it, but it never felt like a thing that he connected with. He always had fun at the Sader and everything else, but it didn't speak to him on an internal level. He never felt connected, he was never aware of the presence of God or anything like that.

When Dan turned 13 he was now a man and they take that seriously, You are responsible for your actions now and you can make decisions and they would respect your opinion more. If you said: ”I really don't want to do this!” and that is how Dan made that decision and he didn't have to go to services on the high holy days anymore. After 13 you are empowered, at least that is how Dan’s family treated it.

The decline and return of religion on post-war America (RW28)

That precise post-war generation, there was this enormous decline in interest in religion. All that first generation immigrants from Europe who still practiced the religion of the old country, but also a lot of the Protestant denominations and the Catholics that have been in America for generations, but that whole post-war vibe of just like: ”Nobody wants to go to church anymore. Come on, let's get serious. We are a modern generation now and we are not playing around with these old superstitions!” When John was a kid, when the Moral Majority, which was the first national movement of evangelicals. Jerry Falwell's Moral Majority, when that burst onto the national scene, the adults in John’s world were shocked and contemptuously, dismissively surprised at this resurgence of this hillbilly religion, a tent revival style prosperity gospel.

The consensus among the adults in John’s life was the organized practice of religion, particularly one that involves salvation, was a thing that humanity was socially evolving past. They were in motion and progress was synonymous with moving beyond a strict religious interpretation of what it means to be a human being. You could maintain Catholicism or Judaism or Protestantism as a ritual because you liked the songs or because you appreciated the feeling or because even you believed in a benevolent God who loved you, but there was a strict interpretation of the Bible, a literal interpretation of it. They couldn't believe that there was still power in that.

As the 1980s and 1990s progressed and that took root again, took hold over people again and there was this big resurgence of in such that a lot of the people that John knew in Indie Rock in the 1990s were children that were a product of this resurgence of evangelicalism in the 1980s. John’s very close friend Dave Bazan, Damian Jurado, and dozens more famous Seattle Indie Rockers all came from this deeply Christian tradition where people were talking in tongues, tent-revival style. It affected the culture up here. Mars Hill was a prominent church in Seattle with a ”Wives, submit to your husbands!” style of religion, but mated with tattoos and Rock’n’Roll and getting drunk and all in the service of Jesus, and it is still very powerful.

There was that secular era, and it is so pervasive in the culture of the 1950s and 1960s, where you were Paul Simon and you were growing up in Brooklyn or your grandparents lived in Brighton Beach, but you were a young guy and you wanted to get out of their old dumb world and stop going to temple and get downtown and sing some doo wop on the street corners and get laid and read comic books. Then this weird post-hippie Reagan era return to it that felt like a real backsliding.

John at Gonzaga University (RW28)

John went to Jesuit school at Gonzaga University. The Jesuits are the educator arm of the Catholics although every single one of the Catholic sects also considers themselves educational, it just depends on who you are educating. The Jesuits were a counter-reformation group that went to American and took it upon themselves to convert a lot of the Native Americans to Catholicism. They were somewhat considered the intellectuals of the Catholic Church. Our current pope (Francis) is a Jesuit. John went in with a big chip on his shoulder about it, thinking he was going into a monastery, basically and all these priests are living together in a dormitory, some of them old men who have lived their whole life and in setting where they were college teachers, but they also never left the dorms.

One of John’s first classes at the college was an Old Testament class. He sat in there at first day pretty smugly and the teacher walked in with his priestly collar, portly, covered with dandruff and chalkboard chalk. This was too perfect! He started right off: ”What is the Old Testament?” John was super smug, raised his hand, already with his feet up on the chair in front of him: ”It is the word of God!” - ”No! I see where you are coming from, smart ass, but: No! The Old Testament is a long series of oral traditions of many, many tribes throughout the distant pre-history!”

John immediately took his feet off of the chair in front of him and sat up. Really? There were priests that were coming at it from here? After a couple of weeks at Gonzaga John realized that all of the priests were pretty forward on archeological Christianity and recognizing that a lot of the Bible was metaphorical, but that that didn't diminish its power and it didn't diminish the truth of it and it didn't diminish the fact that there was a loving God. It was written by unsophisticated people, translating religious inspiration into language that they understood. It was their take on it. John was captivated by that.

It seemed reasonable that if God were communicating with you through an emotional conduit, he wasn't always going to appear with a burning bush, but was influencing you emotionally and through visions and of course you would be constrained by your environment in the language that you could use and how you were receiving that message. Particularly if the message was awe-inspiring or if you were having a religious experience, like in the movie contact when the alien appears to Jodie Foster in the shape of her father and says: ”You wouldn't really be able to handle seeing us in our natural state. I get that you know that I am not your father. I am just here to make this handleable for you. That was pretty Carl Sagan-y and Carl Sagan was tipping his hat to this archeological Christianity notion of life. God is appearing in a way that hopefully you understand.

That was appealing to John and if these priestly orders where they are still maintaining celibacy and they are still practicing tenants of the faith that truly require a lifelong commitment and a lifelong sacrifice, taking this very seriously, they are not saying: ”Oh, it is all a metaphor and it just means: Be cool to each other!”, but: ”No, Catholicism is real and we believe it all the way to the fact that we don't eat meat on Fridays and yet we are also capable of understanding that throughout historical time, human beings themselves are fairly unreliable narrators and there is enough evidence that humans wrote the Bible that we don't have to sit and say this is exactly a word for word transcription of what God said.”

That would seem to be where we were headed. Civilization-wide we were going to understand these things to be true. Scientists are not trying to dupe us. They don't have an agenda. They are just curious people that are discovering these things, reading books. Books are not always true either. Humans are unreliable narrators, but once you get a preponderance of evidence, it requires… Faith allows you to take in all the evidence and maintain a sense of emotional connection, it is not a tool that we use to deny evidence. That was completely understandable to John and through his teens and early 20s it inspired him to wonder: ”Am I capable of a religious experience?” It doesn't require that he dismiss knowledge or be ignorant. What if he got hit by a lightning bolt? Would he be a reliable translator if an archangel appeared to him on the road and said: ”Do good! Fight the heathens! Drown everyone in the sin who doesn't convert!” or whatever it is that archangels have to tell us.

Then there was this groundswell globally of this return to a religion where you were meant to accept what the priests told you, you were meant to take the most orthodox interpretation of these ancient scriptures, you were meant to use the scripture in place of all other knowledge. Seriously, what happened? We were going so good there for a while! We harnessed the atom, mostly. We almost have microwaves that can cook to the center of a lasagna. We haven't yet met that challenge, but we are close. Some microwaves don't even spin anymore!

John and Dan were raised in a time when it seemed like civilization was progressing linearly. Things were getting smarter and better and more reasonable with every passing day. We had more civil rights now, we had more and greater understanding of how the universe works. When they were kids they had no idea that the Gulf of Mexico represented an asteroid impact. The whole notion that the dinosaurs were killed by a giant asteroid impact happened in their lifetime. The whole notion of tectonic plates happened within their lifetime! They were discovering major things and it seemed to point in a direction, and now we are living in a world where all the major conflicts are happening between religions that are trying to go back to some core belief from 1500 years ago when people wiped their butts with their hands.

John doesn’t know what the appeal is and what was so scary about science that sent everybody chasing back to this voodoo, and he doesn’t know what the end result is. Ted Cruz was a major candidate for the presidency this year and he believes that God is talking in his ear. This is a national political figure that we thought maybe was better than the narcissistic lunatic who ended up beating him. At least Donald Trump doesn't think that Jesus is talking to him!

We are engaged in a battle for the hearts and minds of half the world! Although we inflate the importance of ISIS, they are making a broad appeal to hundreds of millions of people that they are God's government on earth. Just within Israel itself, what is going on here? Is this seriously what we are fighting? What happened?

The threat of nuclear war was so scary to everybody, it was scary to John. Dan used to wake up in the middle of the night sometimes when he was a kid. When the movie The Day After came out… zombies are really popular today and when Dan and John were kids anything about nuclear war was really popular, as far as movies and fodder for discussion and in the popular news. But did that turn us against science? It turned us against science for the sake of science.

Dan recently watched Dr. Strangelove and was reading an article about the Teller–Ulam design of the hydrogen bomb where they talk about the idea of a doomsday bomb. That movie was made in 1964. Part of it is because it is a black and white film, and it feels like an old movie, but a movie that Dan can connect with. It doesn't feel like it is a movie from his parents’ time, it doesn't feel like It's a Wonderful Life or something.

The first time John watched it in the 1980s it still felt seditious. He couldn't believe that it had come out in 1964 because he had this idea that the terror of the Soviets had dispelled all irony from the national conversation. You could talk that way because it would be sedition. It is hilarious and it described the world that they grew up in to. War games, a very influential movie on both Dan and John, described the exact same scenario, excepted it starred Matthew Broderick instead of George C. Scott. Right.

This idea that somehow they had harnessed the atom and it had immediately created the Spectre of global annihilation. Maybe that was too much for everybody and the comfort of reading tea leaves and burnt offerings and bags full of magic stones and burning bushes and golems seemed apprehendable or more easily taken in than the notion of mutually assured destruction. John still struggles to understand mutually assured destruction, not the concept, but that anybody could have such a religious faith in such a crazy doctrine. Mutually assured destruction is so much crazier that maybe Zoroastrianism seemed more reasonable.

Silly ending

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License