Dave Sim's blogandmail #41 (October 22nd, 2006)
My "My Documents" menu is filling up fast again (Ger dumps it all into various file archives when it gets to this point) so I thought I'd click around and see if there was anything that would save me part of a day's working filling up the Blog & Mail. The good news was that I found this: uber Yahoo Dan Parker's transcript of the "Spirituality vs. God" panel I did with Steve Peters at SPACE in 2003 that D.B. Little had forwarded through Gerhard. The bad news was that even just doing a basic clean-up of the transcript (and I worked backwards to keep myself from inserting whole paragraphs and pages) it ended up being a lot more work than just doing a new entry from scratch. Anyway, here it is with D.B.'s original cover note to lead off. Thanks to Dan and D.B. for all their help with this:
- First off let's pat Dan on the back for doing this at all, because I sure as hell wouldn't have. However, it did need some correction, which are either in italics (all italics mine) or [blocked in bold italics, like so.] Most of the italicized corrections were either titles or emphasis added because they made a point I felt lacking without it [With one exception, because I didn't know if it was an actual correction, these have been made-Dave]. I also capitalized the masculine pronoun relating to God because Dan wasn't consistent on that count. I didn't make a lot of punctuation changes because I'm just not much of a masochist.
I'm not sure what would be the best way to go here. Personally, I would like you to look over it and make a final copy for the Yahoos and the Archive, but that's up to you.
Anyway, have at it.
SPACE 2003 Spirituality Vs. God
Featuring Dave Sim & Steve Peters April 5th, 2003
Transcribed by Dan Parker
Dave Sim: It was your idea for a panel, Steve, so you get to, you start off by telling them what your idea was.
Steve Peters: Well, I really wanted to discuss a lot of the things that we've all been reading in Rick's Story and Latter Days and also I was reading the From Hell dialogue and that gave me some ideas for some questions, and I thought maybe we would start out by discussing how we came to spirituality. I guess your take is pretty different from mine.
DS: I would think so.
SP: I'll give a little background of where I'm coming from.
DS: Does everybody know Steve does a book called Everwinds?
SP: Everwinds, well, Everwinds was cancelled, I'm doing Awakening Comics.
DS: Does everyone know that Steve is not doing Everwinds?
Crowd: Say it ain't so, Steve!
SP: Well, my characters will still be around, so don't worry. So I was born to two scientists and for most of my younger life I didn't believe in any type of God at all because my parents didn't. My father died when I was real young also, but I think having two parents who were scientists kind of instilled in me a sense of always testing your beliefs and always questioning, questioning the world, questioning everything, experimenting, basically. As I get older I guess into my teen years or so, I started feeling a pull, and by the time I was in college I was more strongly pulled and then by the time I got out of college I guess what I would define as God, or whatever it is, grabbed me, and I've just been trying to find out what God is ever since. In my comics, that's pretty much what my comics are all about is trying to find that answer, and I'm not sure that we can really know what God is.
DS: Do you think you've gotten any closer?
SP: I do think so, but, as you find out, the more answers are solved, the more questions you get, I don't know, I'm continually re-evaluating what I believe in, refining, and trying to figure out what I believe. I might even say that I don't necessary believe anything, because I really can only believe what's in front of me. I can't even believe my memories, because memories are so subjective and something that you remember from ten years ago looks... an event that you share with someone you might remember completely differently. I think that there's a God, and to say, "I think" kind of implies, well, "I think so" means that you're not sure, but I don't mean it that way.
DS: Do you hope so?
SP: Well, yes. Yes.
DS: I like that question. I'll give you a second to think about it and just say, how many people here believe in God?
SP: About fifty percent?
SP: I know that this is going to get a reaction, but it's more like I feel that there's a God.
DS: I think that there's a God, so I think we're on the same page, well, two sides of the same page.
SP: But spirituality for me is an intuitive thing and I'm at the point where I'm just about certain, or I am certain, but I couldn't explain it rationally.
Crowd: You just can't see it. It's hard to believe if you can't see it.
SP: Where are you coming from?
DS: I'm-a coming from Kitchener.
SP: I believe you wrote that your interest in the Bible started when you were researching Rick's Story.
DS: Yeah, basically. What I set out to do, in Cerebus, in that part of Cerebus which I knew was way up ahead at the time was to do a really cutting satire of the Bible, and people who believed in the Bible. Because I came from, I think we all came from the same background, being either in the generation that I'm in, or the next generation after it, or the one that preceded us... if you can't prove it verifiably in an experimental laboratory sense, where anybody can demonstrably prove that something is, then that thing isn't until it is. You know, perfect example being neutrinos where in the scientific community it was a good theory, but they didn't, you know, it started being theorized in the early 1900s, and wasn't given the Nobel Prize confirmation until I think the 1980s. Because until then, it was just a nice story. It's like, "Yeah, that works. If those things actually exist, that answers a lot of questions." But we can't prove that they exist. This ties in with Cerebus. I'm not going to give away the surprise about it.
So anyway, I set out to do this scathing satire of the Bible and people who believed [in that] stuff and the approach I was going to take was that Cerebus was going to get the Bible to tell a completely different story out of it from what people conventionally believed, which stayed pretty much intact. What I thought that I had to do, first of all starting with Rick's Story was that I wanted to write it in the 17th Century English, just as a writing discipline, and because it's far more interesting in the 17th Century English than when they try to update the Bible. "Let's make it modern and relevant!" and it's like "Let's take all of the poetry out of it until it's just this leaden prose!"
So anyway, I figured, okay, what I have to do is get a copy of the Bible and there was a Bible store— as a matter of fact— just a block from the studio, the Canadian Bible Society and I went in and said, "I need a Bible." She said, "Which one do you want?" It's like, [laughing] "What do you mean `which one do I want?' I want a Bible. There's only one, right?" "Well, do you want the Revised Version, do you want the King James version, do you want this version, do you want Modern English?" I'm looking at these racks and racks of Bibles that they've got and first of all I'm boggled by the idea that there's all these different variations. You know, shouldn't there be like one Bible? You can't have eighteen different versions of relativity, you've got one. That's how you know it's a working hypothesis. I happened to look down and I saw 1611 on the spine of one of them. And I thought, y'know, that's either the product code or maybe that's the year that it came out. I said, "What's this one? What's the 1611?" She said, "Oh, that's the King James Version. That's the original translation of the Bible from 1611. People don't read that anymore. We keep that around, people buy that as a souvenir." And I thought right away, no, I think this is the one that I want because not speaking Greek to read the Gospels in the original form, and not knowing Aramaic to read the Gospels in that other version and not knowing Hebrew, The earliest version of the the Torah— that was one of the first things that I learned, that you don't call it the Bible, the Old Testament and the New Testament, no, it's the Torah and the Gospels—that I could read…so I bought it and started reading it and immediately went, "Oh, this is what was missing." I kept looking for, working through Dostoevsky and Tolstoy and all the various philosophers and find this guy and find the guy further back that he was interested in and the guy further back that he was interested in. Who was the guy that they were pointing to? Who was Dostoevsky pointing up at? And sometimes I'd find out, okay, I don't consider that guy up there, Dostoevsky might have, but I look as Dostoevsky and I go, "No, you're up there... he's a little strange." Norman Mailer I put way up there. Hemingway I put way down here. But everyone else put Hemingway way up here and Mailer down here, and I'd go, "This isn't pointing to them, or I'm missing something here because I keep trying to build a scaffold." [And] as soon as I started reading the Bible I went, "Oh, okay, well, this is it. This is where it all came from." These are the original mysteries, the stories we're supposed to understand, and these people have wandered so many hundreds of miles away from it, that, y'know, you can't even know what it is that we were intended to know after this.
So, essentially I went, okay, that's all in the future, just read it, learn how to do the language, learn the 17th Century language so that you can do Rick's Book. I decided to make Rick a Jesus figure in the book and to say okay, I want the language to sound right, get the rhythm of the writing, and there's a definite rhythm to the Bible. Once I've got that, then what I'll do is build Rick's Story, illustrating exactly what I ended up doing in Rick's Story. This is a tavern, but over a period of time that gets lost and it becomes, no, this was this revelation that came to this person. Because I think that's, of my generation that was the view of, as an example, Jesus. The cynicism, which is, the atheist would call realism, looks at that and says, "I don't think all of these things happened. I think that there's mythologies mixed in here. There's the eternal champion, [the unconquered sun] there's all of these different Jungian things. This is the, both the substrata and the overarching thing and apart from that, this is just the sort of the thing we believed when we weren't very sophisticated." My reaction was completely different from that.
So essentially I learned how, as best I could, to write 17th Century English and to try and write Rick's Story so that you knew what was going on in the story because you could see the pictures and you knew it was Cerebus and Rick but to make it into that conventional belief: that over a period of time [these peculiar human psychodramas] coalesce into a... what would be a good word for it? Not a pragmatism... help me here, Steve.
SP: Well, I don't want to use the wrong word.
DS: Okay. Well, I haven't got the right one, so...
DS: No, no. It coalesces into a... dogma!
SP: That's what I was going to say.
DS: Oh, okay. Well you should have said it!
SP: I wasn't sure if I was right or not.
DS: It coalesces into this dogma that has nothing to do with what actually happened. Do people, do you agree that that's a pretty conventional acceptance of the Gospels that this all got changed over 2,000 years? Something happened, but what we got passed down wasn't it. See, I don't think that that's the case.
SP: I'd like to get back to that more a little later.
DS: Okay. [All right.] Yeah, I'm taking up way too much time for the first question, so let me just go real fast and say what I ended up doing was saying okay, I will address the actual Bible after I do the Rick's Story thing, with Going Home in between. [And] I thought, okay, I have to understand what the Bible is actually saying, what I think it's actually saying, so that I can write this strange twist that Cerebus is going to put on it when he reads it. And as I read it, and I was reading the Bible, I would read a complete book of the Books of Moshe: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, the first five that make up the Pentateuch, I would read the complete book on Sunday and then the following Sunday the next book and I ended up reading the Pentateuch out loud, to myself, basically ten times, between the time that I picked up the Bible and when it became time for Cerebus to do his commentaries. What happened was, that I got so involved in, "What do I think this is actually saying," that I went, "No, this is the story." Cerebus will say what I think this is actually saying because that's so far at variance with what everybody thinks this is saying, that that will accomplish the same literary effect, which is what I was driving at, to say...
SP: That's another question I was saving for later.
DS: Oh! Well, we took care of that one, we can take that right out of the pile. Do you understand what I'm explaining?
MARIA GAVILA: Wait, so in other words, you read the Bible, and you interpreted it, and so it's your interpretation.
DS: Right. And at excruciating length. I think all Cerebus fans can be agreed, it's like, "Dave this is really, y'know, this is more than I possibly could want to know about this." [And the fact that had become] very, very interesting to me became the problem. This is far more interesting to me than anything else I could do in the book, to do it accurately and to say, "Okay, I can either go across the whole Pentateuch, the first five books, and take individual chapters that I think I understand, or I can try to understand the first 38 or 35 [chapters of Genesis] however many I'm going to get up to and really tax everyone's patience, but be able to say, no, for complete creative freedom this is far more important to me than anything else that I could possibly put into the end of this book, and my contribution as a commentary. As an example, and I'm almost finished, I will be turning the microphone over, when I read the Pentateuch aloud, when I read the books of Moshe I don't call Yoohwhoo, Yoohwhoo. There's no pronunciation for Y-H-W-H. It says in the 1611 King James, "LORD God." So I say that. Although I think it's blasphemous. I think to say that there is a God and a LORD God is [as] they say in the Koran—what was revealed to Mohammed—"joining gods with God." Which is blasphemy. But at the same time, it's God's book. He let them put LORD God in there from 1611 on, I'm not going to try and come up with my own variation on it, or some less insulting term than Yoohwhoo when I'm reading the Pentateuch. I tried it and it's like, "No, what I'm doing in Cerebus is commentaries, this is scripture." I can say this is what I read when I read scriptures, there's a long history of commentaries, but the Jews particularly, very definitely kept the two things separate. There's commentaries and there are scriptures. And the Torah has been handed down intact, word perfect, with obvious words missing for at least 2,000 years, once they discovered the Dead Sea Scrolls. Previous to that it was believed, as a lot of us did believe earlier, that it was a game of broken telephone. That the scriptures came down in this fractured sort of way, and the Torah that we read today in 1940 is not remotely like the Torah that they read, the earliest one they had at the time was like from the 1400s. The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls blew that out of the water. It had all of the Books of the Law and the Prophets and all of them were word perfect to the Torah that we have today. Back to you Steve.
SP: I left out, when I was trying to say where I'm coming from, everybody who's, I guess, a Cerebite (quote unquote), knows that you're into the three monotheistic faiths, Christianity, Islam, and Judaism.
DS: Wrong order.
DS: No, that's important because to me it's beginning, middle, and end. The beginning's the Torah, the middle is the Gospels, and then Islam. Mohammed was God's last messenger is my belief. That saves me in a lot of ways when you're doing really controversial commentary: the fact that somebody might mistake you for a prophet, it's like, "Not possible. That ended in 632." When Mohammed died, that was the end of the revelations. Everything now is, I think, each individual should be reading the scriptures, and trying to understand it in their own terms. If you don't agree with my conclusions, that's fine, but I really think that everybody should be reading it. I apologize for interrupting.
SP: That's fine. Where I'm coming from is pretty much completely different. I mean I do have a very strong interest in Christianity and Jesus. Jesus is very interesting to me, but I'm also interested in eastern religions, like Hinduism and Buddhism, and a little bit of what you might call paganism, Native American beliefs and whatnot. [But] I wouldn't call my beliefs New Age or something, because that term kind of gives me the creeps, but I guess I do come at it from a very different perspective than you do and I just wanted to start out saying that so that everybody knows where we're coming from. My beliefs are kind of, again, I don't know if I should use the word "beliefs" or not, but my thoughts come from a variety of sources and I kind of take what I think works for me, and I don't know if that's an unusual approach or not. Your approach is pretty unusual too because there aren't that many people who follow all three faiths simultaneously.
DS: I'm the only one I know.
SP: So, for now I'll go to my first question, which is about Rick's Story. In the introduction to Rick's Story you wrote that you wanted to see what the traumatic events of what happened with Jaka would have on a likeable character like Rick. When he comes back to Cerebus' world we see that he's totally unbalanced, er, maybe he's not totally unbalanced in the beginning but he gets there.
DS: Which for Cerebus fans is really saying something, to say that they think a character is unbalanced.
SP: We see that, y'know, as you said Rick becomes a Jesus figure. We see that in some way he really is a true prophet, because what he says comes to pass. So I was just wondering if you're making some kind of comment on prophets, on the type of personality it takes to be a prophet or to have been a prophet -- y'know, there's no longer any more prophets to be had...
DS: Yeah, I think we don't know that. I mean, part of the whole mystique of the prophet is... it's very difficult for me to get a mental image of Isaiah. I mean, it's sixty some-odd chapters of some of the most overwhelming prose and ideas underlying it, but I don't get a sense of a person. Because my belief is these are revelations that came to these individuals. And I see it as a debate between God and YHWH God acted out through the prophets. The ability to discern accurately, with any degree of perfection, in my opinion, on our part, does not exist. I can read Isaiah and I can say, "I think this is YHWH. And then I think this is the point where God starts to answer [he/she/it]. And this is actual narration, this part. There are bridging parts. This is, this part is really interesting, but you might have to know exactly what was going on in Jerusalem in the year 750 BC, and then it would be boffo material. If you knew what was going on, boy oh boy, that chapter's a killer, but it's useless now. It really doesn't say anything to anyone."
With Jesus, to me there's also the division between the Synoptic Jesus of the synoptic gospels -- Matthew, Mark, and Luke -- who to me, I could be entirely wrong in this, I think is YHWH's Jesus. And that the Jesus of John's Gospel is God's Jesus, because it's the three and the one. You know, he/she/it and He. [And, you know, it would be] an irresistible deal that God could present to YHWH: "You're saying you're God, I'm saying you're not God, I'm saying I'm God, you're somebody that I created. Let's have a guy come along, you get three books and I get one, and I bet I end up winning. Yours will have contradictory elements, the stories won't match up. And the centerpiece of Judaism is unless three accounts agree, then you haven't gotten anywhere close to the truth."
So God's proposing at the outset let's base this on a lie, in the Judaic sense. A demonstrable lie -- I'll have my one book and my Jesus but my Jesus will become completely different from your Jesus and let's see if this endures. And it did in my view because it wasn't a lie. The accounts didn't match up perfectly, but everything Jesus said was a perfect rule. A barometer, a litmus test of whether you recognized good or evil, in my view when I read it. I reread the things that he was saying and I'd go, "That's wrong." Y'know, he's saying that, but I think that that's wrong. I think you're supposed to come to scripture that way, whether you're talking about the Torah or the Gospels or the Koran. There's going to be a lot of trouble with the Muslims, y'know I'm really putting my life on the line here, because I think in the Koran the dialog's continuing. "We spoke to you," "we said to you," "have we not always said": If the point of the Koran is that there's one God, why is it always "We"? And I think it's because, again, it's a real fine-tuned debate between God and YHWH and you're supposed to read the suras of the Koran and go, "This is wrong." Or "This is right". The stuff that the Muslims are doing in the Middle East when they wage jihad, that, to me, is YHWH stuff. And there are verses, individual verses in the Koran, that one after the other just absolutely contradict each other. And it's like, YHWH says he/she/its thing. And it's usually "Blood!" and "Pound them!" and "They're being unfaithful!" and "We have to pound the infidel and destroy the infidel!" and all this stuff "Because they're the unfaithful ones". To me, it's YHWH really just acting out this hatred of the Jews who wouldn't do what he/she/it said. And God on the sidelines going, "No, I created them, they're good. You're the one with the problem."
SP: So in a sense your approach to scriptures, you're looking at it and you're determining what you agree with and what the other side is saying.
DS: Right. Which is basically agreeing with what you said, which I think is a given of our belief. A given of each person whether they're embarking on finding God or have an interest in spirituality, that you don't know. It is impossible, as an example, if you read the Books of Moshe it is impossible to run a society based on the Law of Moshe. If you read those actual laws they're really incoherent things. There's some good stuff in there but a lot of it is incoherent and very little is covered. It's the same reason that Sharia Law in Islam, doesn't work.. I mean, I read the Koran every Sunday now that I'm done with the Torah commentaries. I read something from the Torah, a complete book, something from the gospels or Paul's commentaries, and either several chapters or a lengthy chapter from the Koran. You can't run a society that way. The things that it's demanding are incoherent. And in Islam they've endured to this time. "I'll cut off your hands and feet on opposite sides." You think that's God? You think God's talking about cutting out peoples' tongues? That people should be stoned to death for adultery? It's like, come on, we know better than that. And I think that's God's point. It may take a long time, because the authorities that we put over ourselves... which is also your choice. Each cultural, each society puts people over them. The Jews chose to have a king when they had God's prophet. Bad trade. "We're going to have a king, and we'll deal with his son, and then his son's son, and then his son's son's son..." And it's like, that's not how it goes, that's not how God does it. You'll know the guy because as you said, the perfect centerpiece of the prophet: If what he says comes to pass, he's a prophet. But if he says it today and it's not going to come to pass for 200 years, that's a tough one. The Rabbis have certainly expended a lot of effort to create this idea that the Torah has been changed in order to make the prophecies sound right. Like they'll say, "Okay, we've got this book that we know is from 750 BC and it's predicting things that happened in 350 BC. Well, they just changed it when they got to 350 BC." No they didn't -- it came to pass. But it didn't happen right away. That's my opinion. How this striking you?
DS: Okay. I'll let you get to your questions...
SP: I'm just trying to keep up.
DS: (To crowd) Is this interesting?
(Various responses of agreement)
SP: Something that occurred to me after reading Rick's Story, it was probably a while after reading it, maybe a couple of years, it occurred to me it's possible to look at the story, and I don't know if you intended it to be read this way, but it's possible to look at the story with Cerebus representing you, and Rick representing certain portions of your readership, perhaps the "Mama's Boy" portion. Cerebus is you is imparting the vipers/scorpions philosophy, or dogma, whichever way you want to look at it.
DS: It's whatever you take out of it.
SP: Yeah, I guess so, but was that one of things you intended for it? It's almost like you saying when you read the Bible, certain... I don't want to say characters, certain people in the Bible are representative of YHWH, and others are representative of God. I guess it depends how you interpret it. That's a very strange way of looking at the Bible.
DS: It is. I'm not sure if it's a dangerous way. Until the last twenty years, I'd be dead. You don't say stuff like this. If I had done Cerebus at DC, there's no way Paul Levitz would let me do "Chasing Yoohwhoo." Right?
DS: Even though it's very hard for me to tell [that], you know…Paul Levitz, as in Levite? "What are your beliefs? Are you an [observant] Jew? Would you say you can't do that because you're offending against my religion or would you say that's just not good for business?" And it's like, that's not my idea, to do something that's good for business. I embarked on… starting with Cerebus, once I started doing things like High Society, it's like what's the truest thing I know? Or what's the truest thing that I think I know? And let's put that into the book. Let's not keep putting that off ahead like so many people do, y'know, "I only know two or three really cool things and I'll save those for up ahead and the rest of it I'll do a lot of smoke and mirrors and song and dance." No. If I think I've figured something out, put it in High Society. That's what I've tried to do. Okay, that's as true as I can get. Now I'll start on Church and State. Get it as true as I can get it. Trying to go in a straight line, presupposing there is capital "T" Truth up ahead and if I just be as true as I can month by month, how close do I get to it in 26 years?
SP: Then you get into, "What is truth?" And if there really is truth.
DS: Pilate's question. Pilate's question.
MARIA GAVILA: Can I just ask a question?
Maria: Are you trying to make a distinction between interpreting the Bible as fundamentalist word for word, where then you have some of the distortions in the way people interpret it or are you thinking about interpreting on a contextual basis based on the entire readings so you have a complete understanding of what God is.
DS: My presupposition is that the Torah, the Gospels, and the Koran are one story. That God...
Maria: So it's contextually as one...
DS: Yeah. Obviously if you've had any experience reading commentaries on the Torah it's not treated that way. Practically each verse is taken out and dissected into its various component parts and you've got these histories in the Mishna of each successive rabbi of varying degrees of [status and acclaim]. Like Maimonides, [who is pretty universally considered to be the most astute rabbi who ever lived so—if] he says "this is what it said [this was God's intention behind this instruction in the Mosaic Law" that's considered to be pretty close to irrefutable by Orthodox Jews and trying to build truth by saying "This is what Maimonides said [this passage was about] so the next guy along adds something to that and every detail of the Law is commented on cumulatively but, it's not considered to be a story. To me, God wouldn't do a book unless it was a story. Why He would just tell an anecdote and then, "Okay, forget that one, let me tell you a completely different anecdote and the rabbis will tell you what it means." That's like saying God's a stand-up comedian (laughs) instead of a storyteller. I assume that God would tell us [the Truth in a single] body of a story and say, "Look, it's all there. I want to prove that you're good, and the way to prove that you're good is to give you this massive work over the course of six or seven centuries": to say, "Here, it's always going to be there [for you to figure out]. It's never going to get eliminated. I've locked it in so it's always word perfect. There are some variations, chapter twenty-one of John that they don't know was originally in there [got added on], but out of the whole Torah and Gospels and Koran, it is a fixed piece." And my supposition is that God's saying, "They'll see what it means. They will come to see what it means." Whether it's what I see doesn't matter to me. I'm doing my bit. A year from now I'll be done. I'll be delighted if some twenty year-old kid comes along and goes, "I follow what you're saying Dave, but..." And then proceeds to fill 80 issues of his own comic book, knowing that he can't do it at Dark Horse, he can't do it at Marvel, he can't do it at DC, he can only do this self-publishing. And say, "Dave's really on to something, but this is where Dave's wrong."
SP: It doesn't even necessarily have to be a comic book creator, it could be...
DS: Oh yeah, [with] God... you never know where it's going to come from next. He's really full of surprises. And always likes to find a real out of the way place to bring in an excellent... Jesus came right out of left field. For people who were waiting for the Jewish Messiah, the Meschiach, to come along like Superman and just kick everybody's ass and the Jews are on top now, and to have this essentially wimpy little guy going around Jerusalem saying the Pharisees and the scribes are wrong. [The human impulse is] No, no, no. [but the divine imperative hatching out is] Yes, yes, yes. "This is what you're ready for. You had to go through all of this king stuff first. You had to have your Temple destroyed and rebuild it, and now you're going to have to have your Temple destroyed again. And you'll start edging towards the truth."
The lead that they [the Jews] have, to me, the lead that Judaism has on Islam…Islam is going through a lot of what Judaism was going through around the time of King David: the absolutist idea that "This is God's Law and if we are good and impose this Law on everybody and give nobody any freedom from the Law, we will make good people." [This many thousands of years later] There's no idea anywhere—now that the Jews have been restored to Jerusalem and Israel—there isn't a single notion there that "We should take these books of Moshe and start sacrificing animals and rebuild [Solomon's] Temple." [For centuries that was always the understanding. If the Jews were ever restored to Jerusalem they would rebuild the Temple and start sacrificing animals again.] but it's like, "Mmm, no, I think we're kind of beyond that. I don't know why we're beyond that—it should be our first priority now that we're back in Jerusalem—but it's not." Whereas it is still a priority for a large element of Islam to impose worldwide Sharia law.
But, God bless the United States of America going in and going, "No, no, no, no, no. We have to show you that this is not sensible. We understand that [the Koran is] scripture, we're very sensitive [towards] scripture, we're very sensitive [towards protecting] people's beliefs. But, no, the United States is never going to come to a point where they think, `Y'know what's wrong? When people steal stuff we don't cut off their hands. If we can just get back to that we'll have a real revival of goodness and decency in this country'."
No. I think we all know in this room that the wave of history is going the other way, and we're watching it on CNN. Live. What this impact of the wave of truth hitting Islam is doing. When the wave comes back the other way, when the United States and the West is going to come to understand how profoundly Muslims don't need materialism... clean water, sure. Great idea, clean water. Central heat, central heat's a good idea. Air conditioning... bonus! But prayer five times a day. I will vouch for the fact that as somebody who prays five times a day, it beats heck out of Maseratti. Or a Rolls Royce. Or any of the crap... your giant screen TV. And that wave's going to come back the other way. You go into the Middle East, you tear down these ridiculous dictatorships, and get rid of these jihad assholes -- which is long overdue and I'm right with you, good job, guys -- but that wave's going to come back the other way when you find out it's possible to have a really good smoothly-functioning society that functions around five prayers a day, that functions around fasting in Ramadan, that functions around submitting yourself to the will of God, acknowledging God's pre-eminence and making the pilgrimage to Mecca. And everything else is just, "Try not to screw up, cause there's two different ways for your life to end, one of them's good and one of them's bad."
Major applause from a Canadian coming from I would consider a socialist country. Boy, you guys, you're doing exactly what you've got to do and you're doing it right. You're not rubbing it in. You're being very matter-of-fact about it. It's not, "We will toss you on to the junk heap of history." It's, "You guys picked a fight. You guys did September 11th. You guys could have kept your little game going in your own incestuous little poisonous environment. But no, you came and cracked the egg of truth and it's coming back across." No one will be able to indict the United States of America, nobody with any degree of coherence.
Crowd: Excuse me.
Crowd: Are you saying the current war against Iraq is part of a larger war by America against Muslim led countries?
DS: No. It's a…I consider the war in Iraq, the same as the war in Afghanistan, is addressing the degree to which the jihad assholes are dominating Islam at a lower level than the dictators. There's this constituency which is dominating the debate. The bullies, in Islam, are dominating the debate over there. Having started reading the Koran two years before September 11th and having observed my first Ramadan [fast in 1999] and whatnot and then having September 11th happen, it's like, "You guys have to get over there and you have to show them how [backward] they are." That, if God is on their side, if God is on the side of the Muslims [as Muslims devoutly believe]" and there's no question to me that He's on the side of the Islamic faith, it's one of His revelations – "He's not going to save Saddam Hussein, who suddenly decides to find Allah at the eleventh hour." [The United States single-handedly cracked the misapprehension that] God will not allow the infidel to come into Baghdad. "Infidel" has that Arabic sound, but it means "unfaithful", the unfaithful ones. It means unfaithful to God's promise. And if you look at Judaism, Christianity, Islam, the ones who are the closest to God's promise, the good people, the humane people, people trying to wage war with the fewest casualties—"How do we fine-tune this so we have the fewest civilian casualties and go in there and get the bad guys and get rid of them?"... at so many levels you have done exactly what you have to do. You have shamed socialist countries like Canada and Germany and France. Who have always tried to have their butter on both sides of the bread. Like, "We might go". "Maybe communism will stage a comeback but capitalism is good too. Let's sit back and think about this." No, no, no, no, no. No, no, no. "We [America] will make you look foolish without having to say a word [about your malingering and your foot-dragging]. It is embarrassing to see what the Canadian government is doing. In the face of this obviously good thing. You're getting rid of the bad guys! Isn't that a good idea? Getting rid of the bad guy?
SP: I guess that's not a universal perception and there's a lot of people against the war everywhere.
DS: I don't know how many there's going to be in the next week. I mean, as this begins to unfold...
Crowd: How do you see China's role in all this? I mean, being either godless or Buddhists, it's a huge population.
DS: I think freedom is the key. I think liberty, the idea of human freedom, is centrally God-like. God wants us to be free. Because that's His point in the debate. "If [people are] free, if you're not subjugating them as a regime, if you're not subjugating them as a priest class, if you're not forcing them into these little boxes they'll be good -- I created them." So in the case of China—toppling Saddam Hussein and getting that element out of Iraq, regime change—is like pulling the first thread on the sweater. You just keep pulling -- and the United States is prepared to do that. For how long I don't know -- but you just start pulling on that thread and keep going, you're going to freak yourselves out, I think, and you'll probably elect a Democrat in 2012, just because you'll go, "This is getting spooky! Cause this is, y'know, we're really changing everything now! Are we really entitled to do this? We need somebody in who wrings his hands and anguishes about these things! [We need a Democrat!" Because China is very much a part of that unravelling thread]. And you'll do that [elect a Democrat] for like four or eight years and have a really good time, you know, because, "Now we can all sit around wringing our hands," and stuff like that. And then you'll bring in another conservative who, like George W. Bush just says, "No, there's right and there's wrong. Let's go in and fight for right. Let's go in and bring about greater freedom for the greatest number. Let's not go in and conquer Iraq and make it an American protectorate, or go in and seize their oil. But let's go in and make sure the Iraqi people are deciding."
SP: Well, you did it again Dave.
DS: (Laughs) How many of your questions did I wipe out?
SP: Well, actually I was trying to save Iraq for the end because everything else seems trivial by comparison. Especially this next question, but I guess I'll give it a shot anyway.
DS: Oh, okay. We're all friends here, right?
SP: My last question about Rick's Story: Can you discuss a little bit the significance of Chapter 3 of the Booke of Ricke, which, if you recall, is that endless list where he walks around the bar and takes measurements and everything. Is there any significance to that other than to drive Cerebus crazy later on in Latter Days when he's all tied up and has to hear it over and over again?
DS: That was the same experience that I had with the Book of Leviticus and most of Numbers and Deuteronomy. Once Aaron starts building the sanctuary, it was a very bizarre effect, because I was reading the Bible as a book. Here's the beginning of it—"Okay there's stuff that I don't understand but there's forward momentum,"—and suddenly there's, like, these building plans. For pages and pages and pages and pages! "And the mumble, mumble, mumble. And two cubits by three mumble, mumble. And the so and so of the so and so..." Most people when they read the Torah, they skip all that. Don't like to admit it, y'know. Even the rabbis, it's like, "Don't really worry about that." (With renewed strength) "Very, very important, it's part of the law of Moshe." (Under their breath) "F--k, we can't read that... It's enough to rot your brain."
But I'm doing it.
SP: You do read it?
DS: Yeah and it was rotting my brain. Every week I was sitting and reading another book of the Book of Moshe until I had read out loud these books ten times, over the course of about a year and a half, and reading aloud there's about an hour and a half, two hours, of the Book of Leviticus where you go, "And the mumble, mumble, sanctuary. And the mumble, mumble, mumble. And the mumble, mumble, mumble." And you go, "I don't know if I can do this. Nope, it's Scripture! Keep reading it!" Once you do that you go, "This is coming from someplace weird." This to me was just Aaron's, Aaron getting dealt out of the game. It was going to be Moshe and Joshua, and Aaron just said, "I'm going to institute essentially an Egyptian-style priesthood. All the stuff that I loved in Egypt, all the affluence and the ram skins dyed red and the gold-plated this and all y'know... that's good. Let's have that and let's have it for me. We get all the really good meat. Me and my sons we get to eat all the meat, everyone else gets those little lumpy chunks of bread, the manna."
SP: So it's another YHWH thing.
DS: Yeah. Well, it's not really YHWH. I think YHWH thought, "Yeah, this will work. This is great." Because I personally think that element of human nature is so contrary to God-nature or spirituality. The Vatican's a really bad idea. Can we all agree if we're moving towards freedom, the Vatican is a really bad idea of spirituality. Pardon me?
Crowd: I'm sorry, I was just saying any organized church is a bad idea.
DS: Okay. Well, that was…because I think you're going to have that same thing that you get with government. Soon as you've got the one guy in the middle sitting on the big pile of loot...
Crowd: The bureaucracy.
DS: Yeah. Not just the bureaucracy, but let's all put the money here. Even Christianity, that just started as, "Gee, we need a place to meet. We'll make this guy the one who does the collection [and pays the innkeeper or whoever]" And boy, what that led to.
Maria: But how do you explain Jesus picking Peter as a leader, and his apostles? How do you explain that, then? Didn't Jesus in a sense see that there was a need for someone to be kind of part of the apostles and part of the group to be a little bit of a leader?
DS: Uhh... that's the interpretation that's popularly come down to us. [But] at the time when he says it to Peter—this is one of the classics of the synoptic gospel Jesus—he says, "Upon this rock I shall found my church. And the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it." But, well, what are the gates of Hell for? The gates of Hell are to keep the evil in, right?
Maria: Evil in, and good be separated, right.
Maria: I think it means that the church will be able to keep people out of Hell. I think that's what that interpretation is.
DS: That's the interpretation but that's not what it says. "The gates of Hell will not prevail against... this rock upon which I will found my church." This is going to break down the gates of Hell. If the rock is going to break down the gates of Hell, presumably that's going to let evil out.
Maria: I don't think that's what it means. I mean, that's your interpretation...
DS: Well, yeah. Yeah, definitely. But that's what I'm saying, you have to watch, to me, in the Synoptic gospels, you have to watch what Jesus is actually saying. It's very fine-tuned. YHWH, when he/she/it gets going, or when God's giving her help, like, "Hey, how about this one?" It's like, "Oh, yeah, they're all evil! They'll go for that. They will read that and say the gates of Hell will not prevail against Peter. This is good." And they'll stick with that for like 2,000 years. And it's like, this guy is going to break down the gates of Hell and let all of the evil out?
Maria: That's not what that means. I don't believe that.
DS: Okay. I think God allowed that, because He knew that people wouldn't do it for that reason. They wouldn't say, "Yeah, let's have a church, let's have a church founded upon this rock and it will break down the gates of Hell [and let all the evil out]." Because they're good people. Everybody reads Matthew, Mark, and Luke and sees nothing but good in what Jesus said. And [yet] never really look at what he's saying.
Maria : I know, but here again you're interpreting this very fundamentally, in a way that… I don't think that's how it played out. I mean, if you look at how the early church formed. The early church formed with the apostles and the people who were believers and listened to Jesus were the early Christian community. This was, let's say, the early church—which continued on. I think if you looked at it as a whole, you're saying look at the Bible as a whole, I think part of the whole is if you read Paul -- you're reading Paul now, right -- you're reading the letters, you'll see that the church is part of this community that's [made up of] followers of Christ. I don't think that Paul in any way means it to be letting Hell or breaking into Hell. I don't interpret Paul that way.
DS: No, no, but Paul [himself] was an interpreter...
DS: ... that was God's wild card with YHWH was that He brought [Paul in after the fact as an almost literal deus ex machine—a god out of the machine]. You know: here's Jesus and here's his twelve disciples, who's going to be the one that takes over after he's gone? And Yoohwhoo is looking across the twelve of them going, "I can work with any one of these guys." This is a no-brainer, cause, y'know, I can do this one with this guy, I can do this one with this guy, I can do this one... And it's got to be one of them. Cause it's his twelve, it's like Jacob's sons. It's like which one inherits the mantle of prophethood...
Maria: Twelve tribes, yeah.
DS: Yeah. Which one of the twelve tribes. And he/she/it's going, like, "I don't get it. This is gotta be like a trick question." And it was. God gave it to Paul. "I didn't say it was going to be one of them. Went to this guy on the road to Damascus, I know him, I know what he thinks, and he's not going to see evil in any of this." And he didn't. There was no question about it. Paul, if you read his commentaries, Jesus was absolutely perfect.
Maria: But aren't you saying you read the Bible as a whole book?
Maria: So, you're excluding Paul, you're saying, "No, no, Paul is not… he's not really part of that book, he's not part of the story." Is that what you're saying?
DS: That's an interesting one, because you're talking about scripture. In Judaism there's a difference between scripture and commentary. The Books of Moshe are scripture, Maimonides is commentary. The Jews are looking at Christianity and going, "Paul's a commentator. Jesus was the prophet. And these are his gang of friends. Why are you even talking about his gang of friends? That's not how it works. A prophet is a prophet." So it changed the complexion of everything. Am I answering your question, or...
Maria: I don't see how it, what you're saying…because you're debunking that, debunking the church, the Pope, all this stuff, right?
DS: Not necessarily. I think it serves its function. I would certainly rather watch the ceremony from St. Paul's on Christmas than my traditional observation of Christmas of going over and opening presents at my parents' and sitting around drinking and eating a lot of turkey. I think what's going on at St. Paul's is far closer to God than Santa Claus is.
Maria: Watching it on TV?
DS: Yeah. Anything having to do with the Pope. He came to Canada over the summer. I don't know if you guys heard.
And yeah, I followed with rapt attention [his every step] in the newspaper. He's a Marianist he really believes in Mary as, y'know… That's always troubled me about the church. It's like, fine, have Mary as part of the story, but Jesus has got to be here. The more the Church keeps trying to move her up next to him or above him I think you get into problems, personally. Which is why in the Koran Jesus is always called the son of Mary. Jesus bin Mariam. God knew that she was the one women were always looking for, "Well, where are we in this story? We certainly appreciate that, the Torah, the Gospels and the Koran. This is all well and good, but where are the women?" And so the earth, the living thing inside the earth, that thinks it's God is the woman in the story. And everything else comes out of that. My take on it.
SP: One more Rick's Story question.
SP: I have to ask.
SP: When you go and visit Cerebus in the bar...
DS: Mm hmm.
SP: ... and then you leave, the drink he's poured for you, the wine I guest it was, he poured you some wine?
SP: And Jaka tastes it and it's Coors Light?
DS: Yep. Watery beer. She takes a sip of it and goes, "Ooh. Looks like wine but it tastes like watery beer." Or, no, looks like water but it's...
SP: You don't find it a little blasphemous that you go into the story and you turn wine into Coors Light?
DS: That I turn wine into water.
SP: No, wine into watery beer, Coors Light. It's an allusion. I take it as an allusion to Jesus changing the water into wine.
DS: Well, the same way that it's blasphemous to create your own world on paper. I mean, that's one of things that brings you up short as an artist when you begin to experience Islam. Somebody asks Mohammed what happens to artists in the next world and he laughs uproariously and he says, "They have to bring their creations to life." I'll be sitting there, paradise is right over there, all you gotta do is make Cerebus stand up and walk around. And everybody else is filing past me and going in there and I'm sitting there with Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster and they're trying to get Superman to stand up and walk around.
And it's like, it's just a good joke to Mohammed. I don't know if that…I haven't read anything about that in the Koran, which is the actual revelations so it would have to be in his commentaries [the Hadith], which is an issue I take with Islam, that they tend to treat the things that Mohammed just said on his own on the same level a lot of the times as the Koran. And Mohammed was very scrupulous about making the distinction. "This is the sura. This came from God. But if you're asking me what I think about this, I'll tell you." That's another one of those dicey propositions on the 50 yard line is: "How do people react to that?" Was everything Jesus said inspired by God? Or was some of the stuff, like when he, when Judas and the disciples sort of castigate him when the women breaks the jar of spikenard on his head and says that it could have been sold for 300 pence and given to the poor. He said the poor you have with you always. But not me, I'm only here for a little while. Ooh, that's not good. I don't see that as coming from God. The poor you have with you always? You can say, y'know, maybe she'll try better next time, she meant well. And particularly that it says she will be remembered for having done this, she will always be remembered for having done this. Well she may have, but there's no name given to her. So there's only the anecdote. How are we doing?
SP: When you did the From Hell dialog with Alan Moore...
DS: Mm hmm.
SP: ... you mentioned that you think that there's a being, you said, created of the sum of human kind, plant life, beasts of the field, fowls of the air, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. I was wondering if this was an early version of Yoohwhoo or if you'd already been thinking of Yoohwhoo at that point because it kind of reminds me of the living being in the earth that you mention later on in Latter Days.
DS: Right. Because I was doing so much of the research completely alone, everybody that I know, everybody that I would have considered a friend, is a screaming atheist. Y'know, scrupulous screaming atheist. And there was absolutely nobody that I could talk to about it. It was very strange to be completely absorbed and fascinated by this thing that had come into my life and have nobody to talk to about it. So I really don't know the chronology. At one point I noticed that Genesis:1 is God, and Genesis:2 suddenly switches to Lord God, and the Lord was all in capitals. And I went, "What is this about?" That was probably about my third or fourth time through, when I went this is strange because it's like the first issue is like the origin story. The first chapter is the origin story, the first issue -- (to someone in crowd) exactly -- and then the second issue is like a completely different origin story. And it's like, that seemed really weird. Particularly for a comic book fan. You can change it down the road, but, c'mon, the second issue comes out and it's like, okay, we got a new way the guy became -- he didn't come from Krypton, he came from Xenon -- and it's like, "You can't do that!"
Maria: There was more than one story going on simultaneously. And when they put together the Bible they picked these stories because each of them has a different aspect of God. The first one is a more impersonal God of having given people authority and having created everything. The second one is much more personal, He actually picks up the soil and [blows lightly into her hand] breathes life into the person. He had a very close one-on-one God, not an impersonal God. That's why they're both in the Bible.
DS: Well that's the conventional thought. There's no question...
Maria: What's your thought on that?
DS: When I started reading that, it pre-supposes a redactor, an editor. The YHWHist tradition and the Priestly tradition.
SP: Can I jump in here?
SP: When I first read this stuff, I guess the first time Cerebus brings it up in Latter Days, I was like, "Wh-what?!? You've got to be kidding me!" I had to find out, I picked up my Bible and I saw, okay, whenever it says God that means it was translated from [?]
DS: [repronounces it: Elohim]
SP: And whenever it says LORD God, that means it was translated from YHWH God, or, ...
DS: YHWH. The tetragrammaton. The ineffable, or unutterable name of God is how YHWH puts it.
SP: I found a few references. What really interests me is that so few people bring this up. It just seems a really big thing to me after you pointed it out and why don't people talk about it more? One book I found says that the Torah was built from four sources, Elohist source, Deuteromonist source, YHWHist source and a Priestly source. I also found another reference to gnosticism. In Gnostic Christianity -- is that how you pronounce it? Gnostic?
SP: In Gnostic Christianity there's this entity called Ialdabaoth who created the world, who's like, kind of a satanic figure. I found out that one of the tenets of Gnostic Christianity is that Ialdabaoth and YHWH are one and the same. Just an idea that I came across. So I came across like three different things about the Elohist version and the YHWHist version and just was really surprised.
DS: I'm sorry, what's your name?
DS: Maria. Let me finish answering Maria's question that when you talk about -- those are all good examples -- there's the Priestly tradition, there's this document that's P. There's the YHWHist tradition and that's J or Y. And that at some point these books were brought together. There was a redactor, which is really a more exalted term for an editor. And I thought, who? Who do you think took these separate traditions and said, "Let's put `em all together in this order." Moshe didn't do it -- they're the Books of Moshe. Abraham didn't do it. Who after Abraham among the Jews would have the stature to say, "I think it's time that we edit these, and this is how I think they should all be spliced together." Splice the Torah? Splice the revealed word of God? You don't splice the revealed word of God and say, "Let's take this part here and put it next to this part over here. Let's shuffle these a bit. Instead of having this Priestly book and this YHWHist book, let's have the Priestly chapter followed by the YHWHist chapter..." Do you think any Jew would dare and do that without getting stoned to death? That's insane.
Crowd (Hal?): But isn't the raw material flawed from the beginning? Forget the splicing, isn't the raw material flawed because it's filtered through humans in the first place, even if it's a divine revelation? Y'know, like you always talk about -- I hope my right hand doesn't mess it up. Maybe their right hand messed it up.
Maria: They complement each other. It really doesn't matter what order... Let's say those two books you're talking about. It doesn't really matter that much what order, they compliment one another. They just tell...
DS: No, no, no, no, no. I'm talking about who would do it.
Maria: Oh, who would do the actual splicing together? I don't know. Probably someone during the time of Moses. Moses was the first one who started writing things down from what I understand.
DS: But there's no editor that would outrank Abraham.
Maria: Well, Moses is pretty top, pretty up there.
SP: I came across a reference that said that traditionally Moses is the author of Genesis.
DS: Yeah. But I can't believe that.
SP: I can't either, but...
DS: There was absolutely no tradition among the Jews is what you're saying, for a good 3,000 years until Moshe went, "Hey, let's write this stuff down." Well, it had to have existed if you're going to write it down. It had to have been, to me, passed on.
Maria: Well it had an oral tradition. Y'know, where they repeated the stories...
DS: I did get -- I'm sorry to be a little blasphemous myself -- I did get this funny mental image of what the Bible looked like at the time of Abraham, just this little pamphlet. It's only like five chapters, this one's real easy! We can memorize this one.
Maria: Well, not even the time of Abraham wouldn't have even been the other parts. He's just Genesis.
DS: Yeah, but the individual chapters...
Maria: Oh, of Genesis.
DS: By the time you get to... I think Abraham comes in around ten, eleven or twelve. So it's just this little eleven chapter story.
Crowd: There's a possibility that Moses, having been one of the higher ranking Egyptians and being very literate, so to speak, actually bringing all of these together and setting them down, which would have been an Egyptian thing as they were a little more anal than the other races, or the other cultures around them. It does say something about the possibility that he was the editor if not the writer. Where he took all of these things from these tribes that they'd been passing down verbally and solidified it to one form, editing it so it would have some sort of cohesion, as you said, complement each other.
DS: Well, Islam has a few things to say about that as well. In the Koran it's repeated several times that you have sold, the Jews sold their scriptures for a mean price. And the same phrase is used at least a dozen times in the various suras as indicting them for... and it's like I'm going, "Who did they sell it to? And what was the mean price?" There are very few other references apart from that they changed words. That they ["moved the words out of their places" and of the scriptures they were given they "published some but concealed most"]. And traded it for, basically like trading Manhattan for a sack of beads is the sense you get from the Koran. ["A few dihrems counted down"]. As I say, if you take my view that it's the Books of Moshe, the Gospels, and the Koran are the beginning, middle, and end of the story, then that has to be taken into account. Of course, the same thing, as I found out in researching Islam, happened to them. The Koran is pretty much intact, but it was assembled much later in the day and it does make me sort of suspect a lot of the repetitiveness in it. Either God really didn't have very much to say and wanted to say it the same way about 114 times, or they went, "How did that one go?" And it's like da-dent-da-dent-da-dent-da-dent-da-da, "Oh yeah! That's it! Write that one down!" "No, that was 41. We already got that one." And it's like, "No, I'm pretty sure there was another one that had that one in it." That's pretty suspicious on my part.
SP: You mentioned that in the Islam essay too that Prophet Mohammed died, I guess whoever was in charge after him made some revisions... to...
DS: Well, it wasn't actually assembled until I think the fourth or fifth Caliph and he was the absolute worst guy who ended up deciding to be the one to sit and write it down. If you're not going to trust a guy, this would be him. Abu Bakr I would trust. Omar I would trust, maybe to a lesser extent, but Ali? Ali would be interesting. I had no idea that Ali, leader of the Shiite faith, Mohammed's cousin, the Shiite's believed was Mohammed's chosen successor, was buried in Iraq. That was great when I found out you guys... I don't know if you read... that was a wonderful scene that was in the National Post. Every once in a while they put something in there where I don't think they understand why they're putting it in, but boy is it ever interesting. That the American troops in the city, I forget, I think it's Nazeera that's got the tomb of Ali, coming down the street to the mosque that is the reputed tomb of Ali, and the Shiites just coming out into the streets and forming this mob in front of the Americans. And it's like: "In the city, yes. In the mosque, no."
SP: They were prepared to give their lives.
DS: And the U.S. commander said, "Everybody smile," and all of the Americans smiled and went down on one knee.
SP: And turn your guns down.
DS: And turn your guns down. Man, that was an atomic bomb in Islam. That was, "They're Shiites! They're all smiling in front of Ali's burial place and going down on one knee? What does that mean for the Sunni?" Who are the dominant...
SP: I never even considered that.
DS: I think whoever came up with it realized it'll be better to just get `em to do this. Just tell the troops they're going to do it like the same way these are the rations you're going to eat tonight. "Hey guys, you're all going to go down on one knee in front of the tomb of Ali..." "Yeah, all right."
To just give Islam a big honkin' thing to think about. I'm not sure where that comes from. Then we get into tri-lateral commission things and [the question] "Has Christianity, western Christianity as epitomized by the United States, decided to divide-and-conquer, Islam?" "Let's take the Shiite side." In certainly the last few conflicts that the Americans have gone into, weighing in on Islam, I think most of the time they've weighed in in situations where the Shiites need help. Which is "lets back the weaker force." On the one hand, very conventional political strategy. But on the other hand, sheer explosiveness when it comes, to me, God's revelation on earth. Back to you.
Matt Feazel in the back...Hey, Matt.
SP: Moving on to Latter Days, I don't know if you've already explained this but can you discuss a little bit the reason behind choosing the Three Stooges as the Wise Fellows.
DS: Well, because I think that was one of those trade-offs, I think that the synoptic gospels Jesus, as YHWH's guy, one of the great temptations that God put in his/her/its way was that his authenticity as the coming king, will be authenticated by mages. You can't think of anything more repulsive in Judaism than the idea of three sorcerers coming from a foreign land, from the goyim, and saying, "We are one of the proofs that this is the Davidic Messiah, the Meschiach." And [God] thinking, "Oh yeah, he/she/it'll love to work with that, this is great, we're going to turn them all [the followers of YHWH] into sorcerers. Because the three Wise Men is of course—our conventional sanitized version is that there were three "Wise Men". But three mages is also used. A mage is a very different thing from a wise man: which is as distinct from a prophet and certainly in descending level of repulsiveness from a Judaic standpoint. So I just thought if I'm going to try and do an analogous thing with turning Cerebus into sort of the heir of Rick's Jesus-ness, let's bring in Curly, Larry, and Moe, the three Wise Fellows. I would think that the mages or the wise men or whoever they were, the Three Kings of the Orient that came were essentially God's stooges. To God, a mage isn't anything important. To God, a king isn't anything important. To God, a wise man isn't anything important. So you might as well bring in whoop-whoop-whoop-whoop... nyuck, nyuck, nyuck.
SP: How about Spore? When Cerebus becomes Spore it's a very bloody period, moreso I guess than when he was Pope, although when it occurred while he was Pope I guess it occurred off-camera. What's that all about with Spore? I guess you were writing that about the same time as you were talking about Mohammed, his reforms, the wars that Mohammed waged, is there a parallel between those two?
DS: Yeah, I wanted to make Cerebus also a stooge. He just thinks he's being clever. This would be a good way to accomplish what he wants to accomplish, but that was really my version in the Cerebus context of "the gates of hell will not prevail against it." Let's have the rock actually break down the gates of hell and bring out a demon and go and kill everybody. It's the next extrapolation that here's the promise that this rock will prevail against the... one of the things I didn't get to use which I regretted somewhat although it is kind of provocative is that YHWH is the rock to me, like anything that is of the earth is YHWH and at one point in... Deuteronomy? I think it was Deuteronomy... where Moshe is to bring the tribes water, they're dying for water, and YHWH God says to him, "Ask the rock to bring forth water and I will provide water for all of the tribes." And Moshe comes out with his stick and goes, "Must I fetch you water from this rock?" and hits it. And I pictured God cracking up and just pouring water out of this thing and right after than YHWH decides that Moshe's got to go. That was so abhorrent. "I told you to ask the rock to give you water, I didn't say to hit the rock with a stick." And I think Peter was God's way of trying to make it up later on. "On this rock we'll build a church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it."
DS: (Laughs) Well, thank you. It's my soul that's in jeopardy.
No, I think about that. I think that's the next phase that we're coming to, because, and I completely agree with you on this, everyone makes their own decisions. Everyone reads whatever they want to read, everyone decides. If you want to believe that the American Indians are right -- here, this is what I believe in. Alan can decide that we have mytho-poetic regions in our brain, and that's were the gods reside. He has free will, he's perfectly free to believe that. But we're going to find out that each person, I think, is expected to have an opinion: that fence sitting will become the only truly abhorrent choice of the twenty-first century as exemplified by France. As exemplified by Germany. As exemplified by Canada. You can't fence sit. You can't say, "Well, maybe some of this, maybe some of that..." No. Choose.
Audience: But is it okay to say, "All I know is that I don't know and I hope there's a God," like you talked about that you hope there's a God, isn't that enough because we're ultimately in this body and we don't really know…?
DS: You have the right to choose that. I wouldn't.
Crowd: I think St. Augustine said there's a special place reserved in Hell for those who delve too deeply into the mysteries.
DS: Yes, yes. And I very much agree, particularly in terms of those who delve into the mysteries and don't take care of the basics. Feed the poor. Pray, well in my case five times a day, but pray often. Acknowledge God's pre-eminence and sovereignty. Do good. Don't do evil. Don't sit there with your computer screen doing anagrams out of the Torah that are predicting when Saddam Hussein is going to die, and then going out and getting tanked or snorting cocaine or something and stealing money from orphans and going, "This is it! I'm cracking the code." You may think you are, but I doubt that God would be too terribly impressed with somebody who is actively not doing good in the really basic stuff. And it's something I have to remind myself of constantly. Give lots of money to the poor, feed the poor. Try and keep your own life as modest as you can, try to become less greedy. Try to do less bad things, get rid of vices. Television, one of the biggest ones that I got rid of that I just had this sudden sense of God going, "Whew, one! Good! I got two hundred and seventy million or so of the best people I ever made and they're passing their whole lives sitting in front of idiotic garbage like the Bachelorette and Survivor." What a great joke though! They're going to transform the world, they're going to transform Islam, that has been kept in this pristine form from practically the year 600 and they're going to do it watching TV, in their spare time. "We'll watch the Simpsons, and in the meantime we'll purify Islam." And they'll do it! It'll be great! God loves jokes like that, I think.
Crowd: Are you familiar with Meher Baba at all?
DS: I know the name.
Crowd: Basically claimed to be an avatar in the form of Abraham, Jesus and Mohammed. His teachings were: "There are no more rules.] I'm not here to give you rules, you haven't been paying attention to them along, what are more rules going to have then? What are they going to do?" It seems almost to me what you're saying is we closed the books with the Koran, no more rules. It may come back but we're not going to keep going on in that tradition.
DS: And Jesus said the same thing. You keep asking a sign... there is no sign going to be given to this generation. I think that's what he was talking about in the quote where he talks about, "You have piped unto us and complained that we have not danced." And I think God and the angels find that insufferable, that people think what we have to do is find the right music and it'll make God do the stuff that we want him to do. "I'm not getting all the stuff that I want but if we just sing really pretty choir songs and have lots of really pretty candles and stuff and go and sound really devout, God will give us all the stuff we want." I don't think God's into stuff. Moshe wasn't into stuff. Mohammed wasn't into stuff. Jesus wasn't into stuff. Y'know, he said to the young ruler who had observed all of the commandments from his youth up, "One thing you lack -- sell all that you have and give the money to the poor and then come and follow me." And the guy is just immobilized. Sell all my stuff? I can't sell all my stuff.
Picture that. What did he go home to and go, "Yep, that was the right choice. I got my divan, I've got my ivory thingee here and I got my marble walkway and I got my skylight and all this stuff that everybody envies and all these gold leaf plates." All that stuff was going to get chopped up and hauled off to Rome in thirty years. And that guy traded his chance to follow Jesus... for crap. None of it's here. All of it's dust. Whatever he had, it's all been transformed into other forms, long ago, got hauled away.
I tried doing that when I left my apartment. I just decided I'm going to take a few things out of my apartment and sell everything else and give the money to the poor. You find out how much your crap is worth... used... when you decide to sell it all and give it to the poor. I paid more than that for one of the carpets! I have Persian carpets here that I paid $2,000 for, and the guy, it's like, "I'll give you $1,275 for the works." That's everything that I own? It's twenty years old. I bought all the stuff back in the 70s, back in my "I'm going to be Bruce Wayne with my penthouse apartment" sort of thing. A guy coming in from an estate sale place—ordinarily he just buys dead people's things from the heirs— looks at it and goes, "Eh, I'll give you like, how's $1,275 sound?"
"Can you go a little higher?"
"Not really. I don't even want to take the sofas. Nobody buys sofas, used sofas don't sell, we don't know why." I got like three sofas, they're worthless. Completely worthless. And you think, what would have happened to the young ruler? Go back to his house and go, "Jeez, I've got how many thousands of pieces of silver and gold locked up in this. I'm going to do it, I'm going to sell it." And the guy probably got: "I'll give you three pieces of silver for it." It's used crap. All of the stuff that you own is used crap and its market value is worthless. There's almost nobody to sell it to. Sobering though, I thought.
And this is Bob Corby, the organizer of SPACE, can we have a nice round of applause...
DS: The show's done.
Bob Corby: It's gone. I just wanted to let you guys know.
[This was literally true. When we came back out to the exhibit room there was just my table and Steve's in the middle of a Big Empty]
DS: Are we done here?
Maria: I have one more question.
Maria: My question is if... you know, I agree with everything you say, you know, about the really...
DS: Oh, don't do that!
Maria: No, no... But I see one thing missing...
DS: Don't blame me! You're making your own choice, it's your free will.
Maria: You know, about the giving to the poor and all this idea and not looking at the materialism part of life and really seeing what's really of value in life. But if you're taking, you said you're a follower of Judaism and Christianity and Muslim, right, Islam?
Maria: Islam. I see one thing, you haven't said this, you said pray five times a day, which is really wonderful. But part of all of those faiths they also…they get together as a community and they pray together. And we see that as an example happening in the Hebrew Scripture, we see it in the Christian Scripture, and I really don't know a lot about Islam, so I can't talk, but do you do that?
Maria: Why is that missing from your, when you see everything else...?
DS: Because I'd have to choose.
Maria: But isn't that what you object to Canada and France and Germany?
DS: Except when it comes to God's revelations. If I went to a mosque, as happened when I went to, not to a mosque but an Anglican church, I felt like I was slighting Judaism and Islam, saying, "This is the faith that I will observe. I will go to Sunday service here." I suspect the same thing if I went to a mosque, I would feel as if I was slighting Christianity and Judaism, and if went to a synagogue I would feel as if I was -- and notice I'm saying "feel", because it is a "feel", in this case -- that I was slighting...
Maria: ...Christianity and Islam?
DS: Christianity and Islam... yeah.
Crowd: But since you've given up TV, don't you have tons of free time to...
DS: Well, yeah, Friday, Saturday, Sunday if you want to do it. I'll stick with praying five times a day and fasting in Ramadan...
Hal(?): Finishing Cerebus...
Maria: And for Lent too, I hope.
DS: What's that?
Maria: For Lent also?
Maria: Oh, okay.
DS: No, I decided I like the structure of Islam, the pillars of Islam. Fasting and Ramadan came as a real revelation... this works. As opposed to going to an Anglican church for six months. That was interesting in its own way. I prefer praying in church to praying at home, but I preferred, when I was staying in London -- a friend had loaned me his flat in Soho -- and there was a Catholic church just up the street, and it was open during the day and you could just walk in and pray. I could do my own prayer, my own prayer that acknowledges the books of the Torah, and acknowledges the Gospels, and acknowledges Mohammed and not have to worry about, "What is a good Christian going to think of this?"
Maria: But there's a problem. The problem is that you're basing everything on Dave Sims...
Maria: Sim. Excuse me.
DS: No problem.
Maria: Dave Sim. And I think that part of community and part of people together is that you can question each other and hopefully if there's something that doesn't look right someone can say something to you about it, it's part of being in a group. It's almost like, I don't want to be questioned.
Crowd: But he's up here doing that. This going back to…maybe you can help me more with the verse… "Two or more of you will gather in the name, I am there." I believe this is a church service by that quote.
Maria: Thank you, that's exactly true.
DS: I think that does tend to lead to the Vatican. It's a two-edged sword.
Maria: Well, don't go to the Vatican, I don't really care what, just something about community.
DS: I tend to find that—particularly in present context where I think a lot of people are fence-sitting when it comes to faith—they like having discussions like this. I don't think too many of you are going to start praying five times a day, starting tomorrow. In which case, that's problematic, to me because you're still keeping it at a remove, and that's the way I find our entire Western society [to be]. So it's permeated the churches where the churches are more like social agencies with crosses now, rather than genuine...
DS: Consequently, I'm not really interested in what they think of how I'm conducting myself, because I have to...
Maria: Okay, I agree with what he said though [the Christian concept that there is no presence of God in observance without a congregation—at least two or three gathered in Jesus' name]..
DS: Yep, yep.
Maria: Okay, lets all respond to that. Because I thought that was really valuable.
DS: The two-or-three-are-gathered-in-my-name... if that's YHWH [saying it] then [to me] you've got a problem. If that's God, that's fine. But I think when you get into twos and threes it's he, she, and it. I think that was another temptation for YHWH. "Jeez, anytime two or three of these guys get together, I'm there! This is it, this'd be a cakewalk."
Audience: I'm so there.
DS: "I'm so there! I will be tight with this for millennia..."
SP: Well, when you have a group it usually has to reach a consensus, whereas an individual you make your own conclusions.
DS: And I think souls are individual. Everybody has their own individual soul. I mean, in a sense what I'm saying is dangerous, which is why I'm always very careful to say, "It's your decision. You can listen to what I'm saying or you can go home and watch Pat Robertson and decide that he's bang on the money [or just stick with what you're doing]. That's your choice." Or you can go with a group and say, "What does this group believe?" and "I will refine my decisions to conform to this group, even though I really... it was funny, when I started talking to this group I believed this, but after we talked for an hour I decided I believed that."
It's still your soul [that's at stake]. If they talked you into moving into their position and their position is wrong, then...
Maria: Well, it's still your own conscience, you have to be responsible...
DS: It is. It's your own fault for saying, "Boy, that makes sense to me." It might make sense to you, does it make sense to God? Is it what God wants you to do?
Crowd: I'm just concerned there's a lot of generalizations being thrown out, in that, one thing you said was you don't think any of us or any Christians were -- I assume Jews were thrown in there too because you said, "... wouldn't pray five times a day," -- and then there were some other comments about the idea that a group has to come to a conclusion...
DS: Well, Steve said that...
Crowd: Yes. Well, I know. They're all generalizations.
Crowd: So the idea is the group has to come to a conclusion. All I want to say is that there are those of us out here who are trying as hard as you are to find the truth and as you said, it's our decision. But I just wanted to make it clear that we're not all the stereotypical... "Well, look at me. What church will I go to that will let me come in?" But they do. It's not a…I don't buy into a program, I don't shut off my brain when I come to the door, and if I were to cut down to five times a day praying, that would be less praying for me. I have a continual dialog with my Lord and he guides me in every decision that I make. So I guess I just wanted to give a other side of the coin that says we're not all the movies and the TVs portray us to be, we're not all stick-up-our-butts...
DS: No, definitely not.
Crowd: We're not all "we-know-the-answers-and-nobody-else-knows-the-answer", there are a lot of us out here crying and striving as much as I can see that you are, to find the truth and the hope and the reason and to take care of the widows and feed the orphans, because that's really what faith is. I think that this can get to be a really heated discussion where people are saying, "Why aren't you doing this?" Somebody says, "Why aren't you doing this, why aren't you doing that?" I think in this day and age, if we're not smart enough to say, "Look, we need to move towards a unity, towards a positiveness, and we're going to have differences of opinion and we're going to have separation of some of the theology." But why should we… the last thing I think any of us would ever want to do, and I don't think you would want to do it to us either, is to squash that enthusiasm to find that truth.
DS: Oh, there's...
Crowd: I just wanted to give the other side of the coin, that there's...
DS: My opinion is that all of the journeys are still individual.
Crowd: I agree.
DS: But you can join a group.
Crowd: You can be part of both.
DS: Yeah. If you find a group and something resonates with you and you say, "This group, I definitely, I have this complete sense I am compatible with them..."
Crowd: Well each individual faith gives a call to join together as a group. The Scriptures specifically indicate that, using an analogy of a body, that one part is a foot and one part is a hand and one part is an eye, and they can't say to each other, "I'm going to do my own thing."
Crowd: So it would be great to be part of a body, and this goes more to your comments I guess, but the eye doesn't necessarily start to become a foot just because they're in the same body. They still have their own individual thoughts and their own individual desires and their own individual gifts that they can use to glorify God in the end.
DS: I think we're very, very individual as well, in terms of... there's an ideal [version of you] that anybody in this room can become in the eyes of God. That—when you were born, millennia before you were born, God went—"If this guy turns out right, he'll turn out this way. This is the best he can be." And the roots that carry you to that point are different for everybody.
Crowd: I think he still loves us whether we make it to that individual person that's The Right Person or not.
DS: Oh yeah, yeah. But one of things that I do believe that the synoptic Jesus says, "If you had sufficient faith you could tell this mountain to cast itself into the sea and it would." That's God's way of saying that's how high up it goes. That each individual human being... that's not hyperbole. If you have that level of faith, those miracles do become possible. But "all have fallen short of the glory of God" is, I think, the great contribution that Christianity made. One of the larger theories in Islam is that the Jews exceeded the boundaries and the Christians under-achieved and that Islam tries to find the middle course. Which is of course what Islam is going to think. And definitely there is a large sentiment in Islam very freely expressed by the imams that God wants to see all his followers at the mosque head-to-toe. Which is why they pray en masse, in that tight... y'know, there's no space between them. So that the king and the pauper are at the same level. But then I also hear that praying alone is okay in Islam. And I only heard that a while ago. And sometimes I don't know, "Was that there [all along] or is that being negotiated?" And somebody went, "Yeah, all right." (Dave laughs) "You've been praying five times a day for three years now and you quit smoking, all right, we're not happy about it, but okay, we'll give you that. `Cause we're sure you'll screw up on something else, we'll nail you on that."
SP: I think we need to wrap this up. Let me just make a closing comment and then you can have the last word if you have anything else. As far as the ideal person that we all could be, I'm sure everybody in this room falls pretty well short of that, maybe even you, maybe less so than me...
DS: Oh, no, no, no, no...
SP: No, I mean, you make me feel humbled, like praying five times a day and doing all that you do, I could do so much more.
SP: I also am sometimes a little troubled, as you say, am I believing the right thing or thinking the right thing, I think we have to try. Do the best we can, be as good a person as we can, be as compassionate as we can, give as much as we can and continually try to improve yourself. As far as what you believe, who knows who's right, there's really no way to know, so at least try to believe something is what I think.
DS: There were so many times the first few years that I was reading the Bible and starting to work on myself that I would say to God, "I'm doing the best I can." And it's like, that was such a lie. No one is ever doing the best that they can. And it's really unfair to say to an omniscient being—who knows you in levels that you have absolutely no awareness of yourself—"I'm doing the best I can!" It's like, man, you haven't even scratched the surface. Because if you had that faith of a mustard seed, that absolute faith, strong enough, you could tell that mountain to cast itself into the sea and it would. Until you do that you're not doing the best that you can. Okay, we'll call that a wrap.
SCRIPTURE AT THE REGISTRY THEATRE
122 Frederick Street in Kitchener
NOVEMBER 12 AND 19 AT 1 PM
WITH THE FIFTH BOOK OF MOSHE
(also called Deuteronomy)
REPLIES POSTED ON THE CEREBUS YAHOO! GROUP
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