Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Can You Read While Riding a Dinosaur?

Written May 1, 2009 but not posted until today:

For extra credit in my Philosophical Foundations of World Religions class, I recently read The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs. (I wonder if I could talk my evolution professor into taking some of my philosophy extra credit and putting it toward my anthro grade, since I’m not very confident about how I did on the final which is 35% of my grade.) This is another one of those books that I liked enough that to want to share it with people.

I laughed my butt off in some parts and was moved to surprised insight in others. All throughout the book, I admired A.J. (I feel in a way like we are on a first name basis since reading this book) and his biblical alter (altar?) ego, Jacob, for their rigorous honesty that he expects from himself (he says he lies all the time and this seems to surprise him/them). A.J.’s obsessive compulsive disorder shines as he researches and tally’s up all of the Old Testament blue laws and almost frantically tries to abide by them, at least for a day. He thoughtfully tries to sort out the contradictory rules and tries to prioritize them in some way. Some of these directives are just plain bizarre, like having to shoo a mama bird away from the nest before taking her egg-and it has to be a wild bird- a kosher wild bird- a kosher, female wild bird sitting ON the egg- not next to it. (Although, by my reasoning, this egg thing seems to contradict the do not steal thing. Kosher or not kosher. How can a pigeon be kosher anyway, it eats garbage. If a pigeon is kosher, why isn’t a catfish?) Some of these rules make no sense to a city boy like A.J., but make perfect sense to anyone who grows stuff or reads about how to grow stuff. For instance, the rule about only eating fruit from trees at least 4 years old, that one makes perfect sense since most trees won’t produce fruit at all in the first few years anyway. And, if other trees are like the pear tree in my back yard, if it does produce, the fruits are small and mysteriously disappear before they are ripe anyway. (I’m hoping to get a real pear or two this year, I think it is year 5.)

Not only do I admire A.J.’s tenacity and honesty, I admire his wife for putting up with all of his tenacity and honesty and compulsiveness. She is able to tell him when he’s over the top or crossing a line she doesn’t want to cross with him. And he listens without taking offense. I wish I had her knack for drawing a line in the sand without creating a messy sandstorm.

I even found myself channeling both of them on Wednesday when we took the girls to Ana’s little league game. As she was warming up, I felt my but pucker when the girl she was playing catch with kept throwing insanely wild balls toward her. Of course, I wanted to run over and say “STOP” and wave Deb over to give some throwing lessons (my throwing is just as bad as the wild first and second graders’). I heard myself mumble under my breath, “helmet” and then started laughing out loud. I had to explain to Deb that A.J. and Julie Jacobs have a code word for when he gets crazy overprotective of their son. Can you guess? “Helmet.”

A.J. begins his year as an agnostic father of one and ends it as a “reverent agnostic” father of three boys (all circumcised). I’ll leave it to you to read the book to discover day by day how he makes this transition, along with his transition from a beardless regular Joe- type to a crazy-looking bearded guy dressed in white to a clean-shaven baby face.

I have definitely enjoyed riding along with him during this adventure. I wish I could ride a dinosaur. (See the picture in the book, each month has one.)

In the back of my current journal, I’ve started to write lists of books I’ve read while writing in this particular journal (The Red Tent, Audacity of Hope, The Year of Living Biblically, etc.), and books I want to read (Waking, The Power of Intention (again), etc.). Now, I’ve also added a list of places I want to visit. The top of the list is the “Creation Museum” in Kentucky. A.J. has shown me that it is okay to visit places like that as a tourist without necessarily being a believer (or a loud, obnoxious critic as I would probably want to be). Now that I’ve spent an entire semester reading about evolution and several religions’ explanations for how the world began, it might be fun to spend a few hours exploring how those who bury their heads in the sand claim creation happened. I’d like to see how the Dikika baby fits into their Eden-scenario. I want to see some T-rexes crack open coconuts. I love coconut.

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