I still remember how I first got into Joan Osborne’s What if God was One of Us. It played during Bruce Almighty, which I was watching on DVD with my family sometime when I was in my early teens, and I was enraptured. I remember being very struck by the idea that God could be sitting on the bus…just a normal person…probably on some mundane, insignificant errand…an invisible dot in the heaving sea of life like the rest of us.
Michael Cunningham said that “It seems that for some of us, reading a particular book at a particular time is an essential life experience… as the more traditional novel-inspiring experiences – like first love, the loss of a parent, a failed marriage, etc.” I know I am one of those people, except that I have a really bad memory – in other words, stringently selective. It’s rare that I remember, but when I do, it usually means it truly did mean something special to me, that it had left an imprint on me somewhere, no matter how small. With Narnia, I remember the imagery I drew from the books and built in my head so well, even if I don’t remember too much of the plot nowadays, because I am inherently escapist. I remember that better than so many other parts of my childhood that should have been more important.
Which is why I’m glad this Joan Osborne moment is still so clear to me. I am often assailed by doubt in the authenticity my character – my personality, my likes and dislikes and inclinations…I often suspect that I intentionally chose to be interested in things because I was trying to fashion myself into something I admire. Woolf is existentialist and feminist and abstract, disordered in plot, often amorphous in morality – the antithesis to my background and education. Fernando Pessoa pits inner selves with diametrically opposed views on religion against one another, which is very contrary to the generally traditional or devout Buddhist, Christian and Muslim communities I have known both as a child and adult. So maybe my subconscious thought it’d be fun to wave a flag about and proudly proclaim that I am impervious to nurture that I do not agree with now, as an adult.
At least I now know that some part of me is naturally, genuinely drawn to these subjects, and I’m not a total phoney.