I’ve made part of the book I’ve been writing available as a smaller book. You can have a look here:
Making Belief: Speaking for a Natural, Intelligent, Outlandish Faith
Here is my introduction to the book on Amazon:
When I was a boy, I wanted my stuffed animals to come alive. I wanted my life to be magical. I wanted my desires to mean something. Death didn’t exist.
Around age 12, I remember thinking I had learned a lot about life in the previous couple of years. The gist of it was: you can’t always get what you want, particularly what you really want. Magic happens in books and movies. Or to someone else, far away. Maturity is bucking up, doing what you’re told, and realizing you’re not the center of the universe.
Then you die.
In the background of my forty years since then—of graduating from Harvard at the top of my class, teaching high school science, writing comedy screenplays, learning guitar, forming a band, writing songs and poetry, falling in and out of love—I’ve been aware of something hard to define. It’s been labeled many things—God, a still small voice, intuition, a calling. It dwells in my heart and my gut but feels connected to the great universe that swirls around me.
Call it a river of wanting.
Wanting there to be more than what a certain kind of intelligence told me there was. A yearning for my life to have meaning beyond Darwinism, materialism, and cynicism. An insistence that death is not the end.
Atheism’s spokesperson, biologist Richard Dawkins, said that we should “be open-minded, but not so open-minded that our brains drop out.” For Dawkins, you can’t be smart and also believe. But the scientist generally considered the greatest who ever lived had a different take on the relationship between intelligence and belief. He wrote, “He who thinks half-heartedly will not believe in God; but he who really thinks has to believe in God.” His name was Isaac Newton.
When I started writing this book, I had come to agree with Newton, and so I set out to convince my readers. But as I wrote, I realized that my belief in that indefinable something was not entire. It came and went, was sometimes intellectual and sometimes really lived. Writing the book was helping me live it.
Until my college graduation—when I began sailing into uncharted waters—I would have told you I didn’t believe in anything. The truth is I believed in plenty of things, including atheism. My point is something I’ve come to see since then. To be human is to believe. Whether we call it religious, scientific, or philosophical, belief is the way we make our way through life. Kids make believe. Adults make belief.
And belief makes reality.
Before college graduation, I did have a faith—a group of beliefs that I used to frame existence. These beliefs—about who I was, what I could do, what I should do, who I should talk to, what books I should read, and so on—created a bubble. But I didn’t see it as a bubble. Its edges were smooth. The bubble seemed to be scientifically, cosmically, absolutely “the way it is.”
The process of discovering I could step through the bubble was gradual. A walking pace suits me. (When people ask me my religion, I sometimes say I’m a Pedestrian.) It’s also been magical. As I make my way on foot, dropping one tired idea after another, walls crumble before me, new worlds open. This book is about that journey.
It’s been an eclectic one. I don’t like leaving things out—my parents, Jesus, quantum physics, the church, politics, Picasso, Plato, Keith Richards, bad breath, history, jokes, orgasms, Jung, UFOs, William Blake, the nightly news, how I write poems and why I get pissed off at the pygmy goats I keep in my yard. I tried to cook everything into these pages.
I don’t know what to call the resulting dish. Not exactly biography; not exactly philosophy, science, spirituality, or psychology either. I could call it, “Me Making Sense Out of Life—or at Least My Own Life.” But that’s not very catchy. And anyway, it doesn’t matter. I just hope you find it tasty enough to keep eating.