This post celebrates submission for production of my next book, Golem. Here’s the preface:
When in 2000 I resumed my journey into faith, I found myself wondering whether people had any sympathy at all for Jesus. It wasn’t enough that he had to suffer the pain of all the wrong-doing on our planet – no, he had to be responsible for everything, everywhere.
It has been painful for me to witness the success of escalatory monotheism in public debate. Even the atheists buy into it, blaming religion for all the magical thinking and selfishness that infects the world. The contradictory evidence of the natural world seems to escape their attention – predation has an enormously long pedigree. The anti-religious seem to have no sense of just how difficult it is to heal creatures that nature has programmed to hurt each other. Religion has no magical talisman to protect us from the prejudicial instincts of our neighbors – that requires us to relate to them.
Because life is so complex, every generation seeks solutions for the problems that are immediately obvious, often failing to realize that those problems are the cracks in the solutions to uglier problems addressed by their ancestors. The misguided impulse to sweep away rules and restrictions brings a satisfying sense of activity, but it also polarizes public debate. Both sides of the struggle advertise the proclamations of hysterics, impeding rational discussion and informed problem solving.
In this famous dictum, the Catholic philosopher George Santayana characterized the problem:
Those that cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
In Three Philosophical Poets, Santayana marshaled his wisdom to illuminate the difficulties of living well. His source material, spanning two millennia, are the writings of Lucretius, Dante and Goethe. The first extolled the virtues of reason, but Santayana observes that complexity runs reason into the ground with “analysis paralysis.” Dante upheld faith in Divine Love in his allegory of universal redemption, but reliance upon forces beyond our control leads to passivity and dependence. Goethe celebrates the accomplishments of forceful will now trumpeted by the elitist libertarians of the Republican Party, but a failure to negotiate with our peers generates ever mounting resistance that eventually crushes the solitary man, and brings the pyramid of tyranny crashing down under its own weight.
My first work of fiction, Ma, celebrated the feminine virtues of intuition, anticipation and compassion as a means of escaping these traps. It chronicled the psychological struggles of men caught in the limitations of Santayana’s world-view, and their liberation through submission to the caring of their women. The parallel story of Leelay suggests the psychological experience of a woman learning to support such men.
The deus ex machina of Jesus’s appearance at the end of the book was jarring to me. I rationalized it at the time as an assertion that Christ is called into being by the harmonization of masculine and feminine virtues. But it suggested to me that there was still more to be said.
I was also aware that Ma left many unanswered questions. The strategy of its construction was actually to overwhelm reason, forcing the reader to focus on the psychological experiences of the characters. When readers complained that I left a lot of loose ends dangling, I found myself playing with ideas that would tie them together.
Thus was born Golem. As a firm believer that love is universally redemptive, the work expands upon the dysfunctionality of digital technology, still characterized here as a unique manifestation of Earth’s unstable ecology, and then imagines its applications in reconciling the divide between gods and mortals.
But at the heart of the writing is a plea for sympathy for our great religious figures. In the crushing grip of the enormously destructive forces that oppress humanity, to be a seed of light can be both humiliating and painful. Adherents to faith may seem foolish or misguided, but ultimately they serve to dissipate those contrary forces, allowing the pure light of love to be liberated for all to see.