Richard Dawkins and my dad share a certain urbane madness. Both are charismatic, intelligent and very angry. It’s the same madness found in Nathan Price, the southern Baptist minister who drags his wife and four daughters into the dangerous melting pot of the Congo in the ’60s in The Poisonwood Bible. If you haven’t read it, this is a brilliant book by Barbara Kingsolver, who says she had to wait for years to develop the maturity as a writer to handle the complexities of a plot she had planned.
Children of such men end up with damaged roots; a feeling of insecurity at the base chakra that makes them see red but which also makes them archivists, writers of notebooks, discontented shifters and sorters, always using words to move the Chi so that even a temporary fit gives comfort to the soul.
I feel uncomfortable around anything that has an ism at the end of it, because it suggests a dogma is not far away. There is a myth spreading like wildfire that science can enable humans to seize control of their collective destiny; a myth that is spawning a sub myth that indicates that time is running out and therefore ONLY science can enable humans to seize control of their destiny. Darwinism has somehow got mixed up in this tangle of myths and of late has begun to be peddled as a faith, a militant version of secularism.
How can evangelical atheism work? It’s a contradiction in terms as well as being a rather pointless activity. If the fittest surviving all have a faith shaped hole in them, god has to exist, surely whatever name you give to the shape (even atheism perhaps?)? If survival is the driving force and the survivors all search for meaning in some form, such a search is a part of the mechanism, so why denegrade it with fundamentalist fervour? If this isn’t true why then is materialism proving to be such a soul-destroying activity, leading to an epidemic of depression?
The thing that Dawkins, my father, Nathan Price and the Boy have in common is that they are all fanatical, authoritarian, militant men who evangelise either for or against; the latter seems to matter not a toss-its the same emotion involved. For or against, it ends up in crazed anger. But if you peer through the cracks in the crazing, all you will see is fear.
In that seeing something in me is diffused. A certain calm follows. It’s all right to want meaning, it’s all right to follow one’s intuition, to realise that there is a point in evolution, that the ists and isms do not have a patent on the truth. Darwinism is simply a resident hypothesis.
If I had to grab a belief to save my life would it be Darwinism or the Intelligent Universe hypothesis? No contest. For I like to see a point. I’ve lived miserably through my existential youth to find, like Malcolm Muggeridge, that I have come via experience to the light, just in time you might say.
I like my life as an archivist, sitting here surrounded by my numbered journals, commonplace books and notebooks. I am never bored or lost now, nor am I afraid. “Father’s mistake was to try to convert the whole shebang over to his exact way of thinking,” one of the Price girls observes. It was my father’s mistake too. Being brought up by an immoderate father took my soul to Africa , where nothing is moderate and all was frighteningly familiar. There I witnessed the rainforest eating itself and knew illusions could be mistaken for truths and shouting louder makes nothing right. My soul chose such a father and Dawkins reminds me of the choices I made while learning to relate to him. What I learned is that mistakes are a part of the story, like decay is part of the life of the forest. Forgive, the message comes like a whisper. Listen, remember and forgive. And I do.
Where did that come from? I sat down to write a post on pyjamas that I have loved and that have mapped my life. Well, that’s blogging for you!