Approaching the end, slithering along on the edge of the abyss as I now do each day, a certain thought recurs, with increasing frequency: I'm really a quite selfish man, maybe even a narcissist. No really, I mean it. Today is the thirty-thousandth six hundred sixty third day of my existence on this beautiful but beleagured planet, and I realize I'm doing it again, doing it still--thinking of myself, looking inward, wallowing in the adventure of it all, the thrill of simply being me. The improbability, the wonder of it all. The sheer audacity of imagining I matter, that anyone else cares who I am or what I think. The absurdity of thinking I will be remembered, even for a day, even by my closest friends and relatives. Really remembered I mean, not just after a fashion recalled--for who ever really knew me anyway? No one. Not like I know myself, because I've been living in this cage for over thirty-thousand days. And I've been working at it all these years: tirelessly, industriously, yes even to the neglect of the commonly agreed upon American highest value and most pressing, most godlike obligation, namely the pursuit of money. Others have found me a pain sometimes for this very reason: I haven't played the Game. I've cheated, found a way somehow around responsibility. Looking back now at my life, I see that I haven't accomplished much, certainly have done little for others. I'm one of Mitt Romney's "takers," I guess. I'm old and poor now, because I've spent all my life acquiring an education, and that of the most questionable sort: one concentrated on the 'liberal arts," the "humanities," yes, even philosophy...
I'm somewhat comforted however, now that I've discovered the Gospel of Thomas, which features a Jesus who might himself have majored in philosophy. He tells me that I've done the right thing, followed the right path. Not that I needed to hear it, for He and I are now One. The journey inward finally paid off, for I found Him there at the end of the trip, buried under all that Faustian ego. The Pearl of Great Price, that's what it was called, this new-found freedom--by the ancient Gnostics who in their Hymn of the Pearl prefigured the later Christian composition known since as the Parable of the Prodigal Son. Prepare the feast, bring forth the fatted calf, for this my son was lost, and is now found. Your brother was dead, but now he is alive. He was lost, but is now found. That's how the Luke Gospel has it, but before that the Hymn put it this way: for he has the Pearl--and the Serpent serves HIM.
Oh wow, I can hear you saying, he's gone, over the edge. I don't expect you to understand. It's a lonely trip, this journey inward. Others cannot follow. Don't scoff so soon, so loudly--for you too will find yourself there one day, like it or not. You were born alone and naked and in the end you'll be on your own again. Alone with ultimate reality, however conceived. In my madness I just want to entertain you a bit, if nothing else; just for your sheer amusement I want to lay it on you right here, right now, a few fragments from my own reality, just to plant some seeds, to prepare the ground for later germinations, perhaps, in these very pages.
So just who is this Serpent? For now, for starters, let's call it The Fear of Women. "Few people realize that the advent of the Atomic Age was also the beginning of the end of patriarchy, the return of the Goddess, and the triumph of the image over the written word." So says Leonard Shlain in his book full of words, The Aphabet Versus the Goddess. A New Era has dawned, he says, and I'm convinced he's correct. New Eras are slow in dawning, as is any light of any kind, on this darkened planet, in these darkened minds of ours.
So what is this Return of the Goddess stuff all about anyway? Some new religion, some new nutjob fantasy for liberal intellectuals to propagate, to play with? Whoa, slow down. This is one liberal intellectual who's not sure it's all good news, if true, for it means, among other things, that I've wasted my life wrestling with books--a commodity that's already almost obsolete... It means that my late project to publish a novel might be seen as a hopeless attempt to recover a time when there was no television, no movies, no computer images, no UTube videos to distract current readers. It's over... Former lovers of words on the printed page are now scarce. Does It mean that I myself belong to a bygone era, a masculine era of WORDS, BOOKS, CLASSROOMS? For images, says Shlain, are feminine, words male... Is the Goddess closing all those bookstores? Does she prefer e-books?