American Gods


I just finished reading American Gods as part of the One Book, One Twitter project that Heather told me about. I did a rather poor job of it, not staying at all on schedule and not following any of the online discussions, but I did, in fact, finish the book.

Since I don’t know whether anyone who reads this has read it, is reading it, will read it, etc., I won’t get into much about the book, but there were two passages that I wanted to share that should be sort of non-spoilery.

The first, the “‘I Believe’ Speech” is probably, looking online, the stand-out passage from the book — you can even buy it on a t-shirt. I don’t necessarily agree with it all, obviously, (I’ll let you guess which parts I do) but it is good reading.

“I can believe things that are true and I can believe things that aren’t true and I can believe things where nobody knows if they’re true or not.

I can believe in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny and Marilyn Monroe and the Beatles and Elvis and Mister Ed. Listen–I believe that people are perfectible, that knowledge is infinite, that the world is run by secret banking cartels and is visited by aliens on a regular basis, nice ones who look like wrinkledy lemurs and bad ones who mutilate cattle and want our water and our women.

I believe that the future sucks and I believe that the future rocks and I believe that one day White Buffalo Woman is going to come back and kick everyone’s ass.

I believe that all men are just overgrown boys with deep problems communicating and that the decline of good sex in America is coincident with the decline in drive-in movie theaters from state to state.

I believe that all politicians are unprincipled crooks and I still believe that they are better than the alternative. I believe that California is going to sink into the sea when the big one comes, while Florida is going to dissolve into madness and alligators and toxic waste.

I believe that antibacterial soap is destroying our resistance to dirt and disease so that one day we’ll all be wiped out by the common cold like the Martians in War of The Worlds. I believe that the greatest poets of the last century were Edith Sitwell and Don Marquis, that jade is dried dragon sperm, and that thousands of years ago in a former life I was a one-armed Siberian shaman.

I believe that mankind’s destiny lies in the stars. I believe that candy really did taste better when I was a kid, that it’s aerodynamically impossible for a bumblebee to fly, that light is a wave and a particle, that there’s a cat in a box somewhere who’s alive and dead at the same time (although if they don’t ever open the box to feed it it’ll eventually just be two different kinds of dead), and that there are stars in the universe billions of years older than the universe itself.

I believe in a personal god who cares about me and worries and oversees everything I do. I believe in an impersonal god who set the universe in motion and went off to hang with her girlfriends and doesn’t even know that I’m alive. I believe in an empty and godless universe of causal chaos, background noise, and sheer blind luck.

I believe that anyone who says that sex is overrated just hasn’t done it properly. I believe that anyone who claims to know what’s going on will lie about the little things too. I believe in absolute honesty and sensible social lies too. I believe in a woman’s right to choose, a baby’s right to live, that while all human life is sacred there’s nothing wrong with the death penalty if you can trust the legal system implicitly, and that no one but a moron would ever trust the legal system.

I believe that life is a game, that life is a cruel joke, and that life is what happens when you’re alive and that you might as well lie back and enjoy it.”

I managed to find the other passage online as well, but it’s far less commonly posted. It’s one of the characters talking about what it means to be a god.

“You got to understand the god thing. It’s not magic. It’s about being you, but the you that people believe in. It’s about being the concentrated, magnified essence of you. It’s about becoming thunder, or the power of a moving horse, or wisdom. You take all the belief and become bigger, cooler, more than human. You crystallize.”

The person who I copied the text from used it as part of a post about love and attraction. And, yeah, that’s a good application of it. In fact, it’s kind of where I was going with it, if via a different route. In the book, the character saying it is talking about being a god. But, to some extent, I don’t know that his reference to “the God thing” doesn’t work in a worship context as well. I talked with a friend of mine this week about the fact that I think the thing God values most about us is not what we do, but who we are.

I wonder if we shouldn’t seek that, to find our “concentrated, magnified essence” of who He made us to be.

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