Posted by: Harold Knight | 11/30/2009

A completely uninteresting, sophomoric post anyone could write (or am I a Nebraska football fan?)

What does this have to do with religion?

My cats are useless. Being useless is not, in itself, bad. (Ralph Vaughn Williams once wrote an essay that landed him in much controversy in which he said the chief glory of music is that it’s useless. I understand that.) They’re not cuddly, they don’t catch mice (on the fourth floor of a mid-rise?), and they don’t “fetch” or play any kind of game. They are somewhat like my writing. 

A friend wrote in an email yesterday, “Your blog is sometimes confusing to me. Can I write that in safety?” I’d be surprised if anyone understood any of what I write. I hope what she meant is that she doesn’t want to jeopardize our friendship. My writing, like my cats, is most likely useless. 

My cats are sitting in front of some pictures in frames I have stacked on the floor. Either something is behind the pictures (a mouse?), or they liked knocking the whole pile over and want to do it again. They are useless. Joanie, who is usually at my feet when I’m writing, is watching picture frames. Chachi and Groucho, one of whom is usually on the chair beside me when I’m writing, are staring at picture frames. 

Go figure. 

My writing is, I suppose, my personal version of staring at picture frames. I started writing compulsively (OK, I didn’t realize it then, but looking back on it I know) when I got sober twenty-three years ago. I bought my first computer in 1988 to write my dissertation, and I’ve never looked back. The amount of crap I’ve written (and cannot throw away) is staggering. 

I’ve been staring at picture frames. The only reason I pretend I’m a scholar is to get material to write about. I teach college writing because it used to seem like something useful to do with writing. All my life I wanted to be a “writer,” so I wrote. But then I got drunk. It was a good substitute—and for other things, like making a living, learning to have relationships, and—most important—being oblivious to seizures. 

Am I or am I not hypergraphic? Or am I just a garden-variety (bad) writer hoping to accomplish something? Like a star-struck teen-ager headed to Hollywood to be rich and famous? My colleagues write books. They work long, hard hours at it. But their writing seems to be “work.” Publish or perish and all that idiocy. They could, I think, if they didn’t have their jobs, walk away from it. Oh, they might be curious and want to study and write because that’s what scholars do, but, as far as I know, they’re not up at five A.M. writing before they do anything else because it’s necessary to get the day started (and sometimes to keep it going). 

However, the question I really meant to think about this morning is religion. 

I read too much of the wrong stuff.

           …an increased tendency to report spiritual and religious experiences
          and beliefs (hyperreligiosity)… manifests either as a deepening of
religious and mystical feelings, or as overt extravagant religious
          behaviour out of keeping with personal and societal norms….
          Religious delusions are also commonly observed….***

This article is about refractory (resistant to treatment) epilepsy. I dunno. But I still have ridiculous seizures. Sometimes. Staring into this ridiculous monitor causes something that might be a seizure. I have other lights around so the vibration is not all I’m seeing. Remember when computers had black backgrounds and gold letters? Mine were green. They said it would help. (Or were the normal ones green, and mine were gold?) 

What’s religious experience anyway? Is my religious tendency “increased?” Do I want so desperately to believe in a power greater than myself that I’ll do anything to create her? Why do I like High Church Episcopal worship drama? I make the sign of the cross when I absolutely do not believe that God or Jesus or the Holy Spirit is paying attention. Is my religious behavior “overt[ly] extravagant…or out of keeping with personal or societal norms?” Of course not. I’ve never seen an angel, and God has never spoken directly to me. I don’t have mystical visions. Lots of people are High Church ‘Piscopals.

Lots of people

My problem with religion is like any other skeptic’s: skepticism is not unbelief. So one goes through the motions of religious practice without believing in what one is doing (especially if one is an organist and has precious few other venues for performance.) 

I have no point here, by the way. You’re reading the musings I can’t not write. It’s time to make sure I have everything under control for classes today (Right! under control!). It’s time to exercise for thirty minutes. It’s time to vacuum the carpet? But I’m stuck here writing—not about just any old thing, but about religion. I want to know for sure that my constant daily hourly minutely prayers are being taken note of by someone, something, that I can make conscious contact with. I don’t think such an entity exists. But I keep praying, and putting up the banners at my church, and making sure the candles are lit and the music is ready. Why? Does it have anything to do with epilepsy? No. It’s normal skeptic-as-believer nonsense. I want to break away from it, but I can’t. 

“Spiritual advisors” tell me in times of a crisis of faith, one should keep praying, and the crisis will pass. OK. I’ve been praying since I was two years old, and the crisis has never passed. It has nothing to do with epilepsy. I’m chicken. If I give up praying and practicing my all-too-elaborate religion, something will happen to me. Religion is not the opiate of the masses. It’s their insanity. Why, after billions of years of life on this planet, after Lucy the Australopithecus who lived perhaps 3,000,000 years ago, after hundreds of thousands of years of history of folks like us, would God (or whoever dreamed this all up) suddenly reveal herself to the creatures she had made and then, after killing off a million years worth of them, “save” the ones who were left, and do it in a span of (perhaps) two thousand years? 

I know, I know, these are such sophomoric questions I should have answered them when I was a sophomore. I did. Or I should have spent my life searching (reading, sitting at the feet of gurus) instead of drinking, making music, and being wrapped up in religion. Now I have no backlog of Buddhist writings to help me find God. Oh well.

*** Wuerfel, J., et al. “Religiosity is associated with hippocampal but not amygdala volumes in patients with refractory epilepsy.” Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry 75.4 (2004): 640+.


  1. What I have discovered is that it doesn’t matter if I know or understand God or even if I communicate…God is still there. It sounds “sophmoric” but, just keep showing up because God has you in the warm and loving hand that will not let you go.


  2. That’s right!

    Scepticism, to me, is reason.

    But in itself, it is a new form of belief.

    And also, reason isn’t sense or sensible. It can be counter-intuitive. (And intuition = faith).

    I have a stack of Buddhist writings to share, especially from monks. (an academic Buddhist who has a great deal of spirit. His blog is fun).



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