It feels like I do “Morning Sedition” on Air America–Marc Maron and Mark Riley’s show–every other week. Which is fine by me. They broadcasted live from a coffeeshop in Chelsea on Friday, and I went over and played some tunes, and talked briefly about how my chief Watergate memory was the preemption of Batman for Senate hearings in 1974. I was mad at the time.
PLOT SPOILER ALERT!! DO NOT READ THIS ENTRY IF YOU DON’T WANT REVENGE OF THE SITH RUINED FOR YOU!!
After spendng the whole twelve-hour-marathon of “Queen Smabbalabba from Planet Boobylooby and the Lords of Shimmybimmy” stilted dialogue, just sitting there thinking, Will Darth Vader just please show up, please? Please?, by the time the climactic Obi-Wan v. Anakin/Vader lightsabre battle begins, I thought, “OK, so Anakin’s gonna fall into the flaming lava and get all burned and then they’ll have to enclose Vader in his tragic life-support scary-half-robot, black-shiny-monster suit that we all know and love him in.” Roughly two and a half hours of swordfighting later, he finally gets all burned up in the crazy molten lava–by which time my eyes have turned to igneous rock.
Then–though it’s awesome to see the helmet affixed to Vader’s burned up face, and the boots and suit put on by robots, the first thing Vader says–in James Earl Jones’ amazing voice–is, essentially, “What’s up with my wife and kids?”
Talk about a buzzkill. George Lucas–harshing my mellow.
The precise moment I fell madly in love with Darth Vader is a crystal-clear memory. I was seven, and my Dad took me to see Star Wars, telling me only that there was a movie that I ought to see. I had never heard of the thing, and was slightly weirded out by his insistence.
So: the first scene: the Imperial stormtroopers blow out the door of Princess Leia’s spaceship and go storming in. There’s smoke in the doorway. I hear that omnious Vader breathing, and I see Vader’s boot step through the portal. I am one scared shitless seven year old. I think, What the hell is my Dad putting me through?! and cover my eyes.
A moment later my curiosity gets the best of me. I open my eyes. I see Darth Vader striding through the iPod-esque white corridor of Leia’s spaceship.
I am in love.
Jung said that in a dream, a black man is the “father in the dark”–the shadow-father. (nevermind what the fuck this means if you are a black man and dream of a black man–what’s up with that, Jung?) I’ve always thought this to be a great explanation of white kids’ fascination with black culture; they’re looking for the shadow-father, the father in the dark.
Forgive me this tenuous analogy. But I believe that on that moment, seeing Darth Vader and falling in love with him, I found the father in the dark. Ironic that my Dad took me to see the movie, and on his own whim, almost as if he planned to introduce me to the shadow-father without my prior knowledge.
And that that was the seed of my lifelong identification with black culture, my yearning to mine a kind of life-force from it. As Sekou Sundiata–the black poet that I idolized in school, the teacher that put me on the path I’m still on–once sang, “Darth Vader was a black man!”
I discovered when I saw the first new Star Wars–in 1998? When was that? I don’t remember–that no movie is going to magically make me seven years old again. A curious, existential disappointment.
I have this interesting memory from my childhood: I heard that rumour that there were going to be nine Star Warses. I was elated. Then I did the math. I realized it would be well into the 2000s by the time the last one came out; I’d be in my thirties, and the movies wouldn’t mean that much to me. I remember so well this poignant feeling, desperately wishing I wouldn’t grow up.
I’ve been getting some emails asking me about “His Truth Is Marching On,” asking me if I’m a Christian.
The backstory of “His Truth” is that I wrote it in the immediate wake of 9/11. Hence the title being a lyric from “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”–though I meant that as a bitter reference to the war that seemed inevitable to me.
The first line, “They say that God is great,” is a reference to the Muslim prayer, “Allahu Akhbar.” Literal translation, “God is great.” And I kept thinking about the old hippie Christianism, “God is Love.” My beliefs about God shift constantly–my view is that a rigid idea of God is impossible, that the nature of God is unknowable–sometimes God is music, or the spirit of humanity–even sometimes, often in troubled or scary times, God is that personified paternal Christian God that I was taught as a child–and oftentimes God is love.
So I was struggling with a belief in God in the face of 3,000 painful deaths a mile from my apartment. And struggling with how to have faith in a world exploding with murder over supposed faith.
I wanted to say that God can be a huge part of your life without being a fanatic. What fanatic, Christian, Muslim, or otherwise, is really compassionate? The God I struggle to have faith in is all about compassion.
I grew up an ambivalent Lutheran, but I’m not exactly a Christian. I’m fascinated with certain aspects of Christianity. I love Sam Cooke/Soul Stirrers records, the passion and the fervor of that Gospel. I love the Rev. Charlie Jackson’s “God’s Got It,” a fantastic groove that I recommend to all and sundry, atheists included!
And the first line of the Book of John: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” What a gorgeous little puzzle that line is! And the Book of Revelations and the Psalms (though they’re very cruel poems seemingly written by a poet suffering from bipolar disorder).
There’s a lot about Jesus that I really dig. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” That strikes me as absolutely beautiful. That central Christian idea of God turning himself into a human and volunteering for human suffering is so moving to me.
But the repression, rigidity, and backwards moralism of fanatic Christians is disheartening to me, and ugly a lot of the time.
It struck me as sad and fascinating that an Amazon reviewer, railing against Haughty Melodic, said, “He even has a song about how much he loves God! What the fuck?!” It’s fucked up to me that to believe in God is to be on the wrong side in the culture wars. Why the fuck do we let the Republicans lay claim to God?!
Spirituality adds tremendous meaning to my life. It waxes and wanes–I need both reverence and irreverence in my faith. The line that seems most significant to me in “His Truth” is I’m fucking starved for love. I’m not pious.
A guy wrote to me this morning asking me not to elucidate my intentions in writing “His Truth.”
He wrote: “I’m hoping against hope that you don’t actually compose a journal entry about your Christianity. The question is much more intriguing than any answer can be. Does anyone really want to know what Bill Murray whispered in Scarlett Johanson’s ear at the end of Lost in Translation?”
Though I guess I blew it as far as that guy’s concerned, what a perfect representation of faith as I see it: mystery and irreverence.