Chapter 5

Whew, could it get any more depressing around here? Now you see why I had to write in the Satanic menage a trois into chapter 5. If you can’t reward people with some hot, transgressive devil sex, they’re not going to do the work of slogging through all the church nonsense, because it’s fucking depressing. At the end of chapter 5, Hannah and Kevin are talking theology and Kevin, who you may remember is a local professional wrestler, is talking about how he’s come to understand religion (meaning, for him, Christianity) is like wrestling. He asks Hannah if she thinks, when a wrestler gets tossed into the crowd and the crowd pounds on him a little, if that has any effect on the outcome of the match.

Of course it doesn’t. The outcome is predetermined. Sure, how the winner wins might be improvised as they go, but the wrestlers know who wins before they get into the ring. Even if the action is real and the wrestlers are athletes, the victory is already secured. What the audience does matters not one whit.

I didn’t know I had those kinds of thoughts about religion and wrestling until I wrote that part and now I can’t stop mulling it over. I think it’s right that Kevin believes it. But I’m not sure if I believe it.

But I am still resisting the urge to start rewriting. I have no self-restraint, so I’m as amazed as anyone that I’m managing it.

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8 thoughts on “Chapter 5

  1. I love that idea (about the similarity between religion and wrestling). The whole concept of predetermination was always a troublesome one for me. What’s the point of free will if the choice is strictly binary (and you don’t get to select the choices)? It’s a maddening concept for someone raised in a fundamentalist Christian sect.

  2. Yeah, I like it, too. That’s one weird thing I really like about writing. Sometimes you just don’t know what you’re capable of until you read back and are like, “Oh, wow, I came up with that?”

  3. You linked to a post by Katherine Coble a while ago, and her words really blew my mind. I hadn’t ever tried to write anything as involved as what I’m working on now, and it’s just unsettling and satisfying how emotional a process it is, and how these things are coming out of me that I didn’t know I was capable of.

    So yeah, I understand a little bit. There are all these emotions bound up in me, and sometimes I’ll just be thinking about things that I plan to write or maybe I’m thinking of how to write, and the tears will just start flowing. I still don’t understand it, but I guess it’s part of the process. Anyway, I’m looking forward to reading your next book. I’d better get back to mine.

  4. I’m really dying to hear more about what you’re working on, too, Sam!

    One thing that’s been interesting to me, and I hope it comes across in the novel, is how writing about the kinds of people I grew up feeling suffocated by has made me feel a lot of sympathy for them.

    Like we’re all in these weird, untenable positions that, if we think too hard about them, make us sick to our stomachs and so we lie, lie, lie to ourselves and to others about how secure we actually are.

    I really hope I get that across.

    So, yeah, on the one hand, I’m bowled over by what I’ve accomplished. On the other hand, I feel inadequate to the task of what I want to do.

  5. Like we’re all in these weird, untenable positions that, if we think too hard about them, make us sick to our stomachs and so we lie, lie, lie to ourselves and to others about how secure we actually are.

    But isn’t that the definition of human life? You were talking about the comparison between religion and wrestling before, and how the outcome is known in both. But in wrestling, at least, most all the spectators understand the fix is in, but they don’t care. It’s the entertainment, and perhaps in some way the morality play, that moves them.

    Bear with me, because I don’t know that I can make this coherent: on the one hand, you have religion, which (generally and roughly speaking) offers this comforting and frightening notion that we are somehow more than this decaying flesh, and that there is a grand purpose to our little fearful and fitful lives. But in almost every religion, especially in the larger denominations of the Abrahamic faiths, the purpose is linked to a predetermined outcome, which means that you as an individual, though you are ostensibly a free moral agent, essentially have two choices: connect the dots and reach paradise, or go your own way into destruction. Everything else, the doctrines and teachings and myths, exist to explain away our frailties and the illogic of our existence and place them in the context of the larger purpose.

    But then you have the more or less atheistic view, which states that there is no higher purpose, at least not one that’s dictated from any higher, sentient intelligence. So we are just animals with really cool apps, and we just got here by accident, and that’s the way nature works. But this opens a can of worms, too. If this is how it’s supposed to be– birth, pain, pleasure, death– then why do we fear the cycle? Why do we loathe and fear death and struggle against it? Shouldn’t we all be like the futuristic hippies at the end of “Zardoz,” begging to get shot through the heart because death is our long lost friend?

    I’m not expecting answers to these loopy questions, B. I’m just suggesting that I’m glad you’re asking them, too. And since none of us is up to the task of answering them, the best we can hope for, I think, is to entertain and maybe uplift ourselves in the way we ask them. The question then is not whether Betsy Phillips is up to that task. The question is when she’ll finish her fucking book so that we can all read it.

  6. Oooh, Sam, you know that Yeats poem, “Death”?

    Nor dread nor hope attend
    A dying animal;
    A man awaits his end
    Dreading and hoping all;
    Many times he died,
    Many times rose again.
    A great man in his pride
    Confronting murderous men
    Casts derision upon
    Supersession of breath;
    He knows death to the bone
    Man has created death.

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