Monday, June 16, 2008

Apologies in Advance

(with additional apologies to Steve Martin and Eric Hoffer)

[The following post is a result of an admixture of cranberry juice, vodka, and blogging. It won’t happen again.]

THE CRUEL BOOK

Anna knew she needed a new book today, and Carlo had tried to help as she browsed every shelf in the store.

Carlo spoke wearily, "Well, that's it. That’s every book in the place."

"Oh, you must have one more book…."

"No, not one more…. Well, we have: the cruel book. But no one would want to read—"

"Yes, let me see the cruel book."

"No, you don't understand, you see, the cruel book is—"

"Get it."

Carlo disappeared into the back room for a moment, and then reappeared carrying a black leather-bound book with gilt page edges. But this was not an ordinary black leather-bound book with gilt page edges; this one contained Scripture.

It spoke of Original Sin, fallen nature, and redemption. It appealed to feelings of uncertainty and insecurity, and tried not to convince with intelligibility but to convert through blind faith, amplifying in the poor, the misfit and the thwarted a sense of frustration and a desire to be rid of an unwanted and flawed self. It spoke of a new, reborn self, offered an imaginary friend as help-mate, and encouraged absorption into a collective, meek, obedient whole with the promise of a glorious, posthumous future. It created a fact proof screen between the faithful and the realities of the world and claimed that the ultimate and absolute truth is already embodied in its doctrine, that there can be no truth or certitude outside of it, and that conclusions drawn from personal experience or observation are therefore not to be trusted. Thusly, it insulated the faithful from logic, reason, and common sense, subjugating their self-confidence, self-reliance, and personal freedom to the authority of its doctrine.

Carlo spoke hesitantly, "You must understand.... It's not fit for rational minds…."

"Let me read it."

"But….”

"Let me read it."

Carlo knew all arguments were useless. He placed the book into Anna's hands.

Anna opened the book to a random page, and fell silent.

Minutes later, Anna turned to Carlo and, with tears in her eyes, exclaimed:

“My God, I am a pathetic sinner! But this book… this book can show me the way!”

She paid Carlo and shuffled humbly out of the store into the street.

Later that day, Carlo was overheard saying to a new customer, "Well, that's it. That’s every book in the place. Unless, of course, you'd like to see: the cruel book."