Letter to a reader


Today I received a letter from a reader in Canada, asking if I’d ever read The Book of God. My news stories were lopsided, the reader wrote, and it seemed as if I’d never actually read the sacred text. I was a traditionalist sympathizer, or worse, a secret secularist, working for the other side.

My intent has always been to make it clear that I work for no side. Yes, I am employed by the New Collective, which maintains unique autonomy in the global environment of information control. They offer meager pay but protection and the freedom to write as I wish. The words that readers see in the New Collective have been reviewed and reshaped (and often heavily chopped) by gatekeepers and editors who fashion the original message into something new, approved for readers, aligned with the New Collective’s editorial mission.

I usually ignore the few letters I receive from readers and discard them without a thought. But when I do occasionally read one I’m not pleased with what I’ve read and it’s ultimately a waste of time because most readers have no energy or passion in their thoughts, there is no love or power or presence. I’m not upset when readers are critical of my work; I will always defend healthy criticism and discussion. The problem is that the letters are sabotaged by poor organization, sluggish prose, wildly inconsistent grammar, and puerile use of language in what basically amounts to a list of avid personal attacks. Most messages are critical in all the wrong ways, ultimately empty, useless, a waste of time.

But as this particular letter arrived from Canada, a home of mine for many years after having fled my childhood village, I read it and chose to respond. This is what I answered privately:

Dear reader, the first time I read The Book of God I didn’t understand it. I tried. It took two days of reading and rereading, and my first reaction was that it was incomplete. An adaptation of god’s words spoken through man, or so they say, the chosen son: an unknown and unauthenticated person of male or female gender writing from somewhere inside former Argentina. Sexless, they say. I read it after leaving the courier’s guild of North America to begin working for the New Collective. I remember hearing the story about this sexless child who could heal the sick and summon rain during drought. A demigod who could redirect streams of water to where it was needed and sate the hunger of its admirers when resources were hopelessly low. All of this according to legend, and all unauthenticated. Of course I never had the fortune of meeting this person (to date no one claiming to have met the child has been validated), but the stories I encountered pushed me toward the child so that I found myself at the New Collective, chasing leads across the world, a mercenary in the dialogue of ideas. If you’re still reading this.

I am no religious scholar and do not pretend to be. The first time I read The Book of God it seemed to me like any other holy text, though, as I wrote — incomplete. All the traditional elements were in place: stern and merciless (but absent) authority, promises of redemption or punishment, engaging narrative, eschaton. I’ve read it three times, and don’t believe there will be a fourth. My current critical opinion of the text mostly mimics my first impressions of it. Perhaps if more of the text survived, a meaning would emerge for me (for you know as well as I that the “book” is incomplete).

I can understand how some interpret the text as a salvo to rejuvenate a spiritually complacent human race. Perhaps there’s something to that. Religion has failed, they say. Man’s spiritual role in the universe has evolved. For that reason alone I gave your holy text a chance, dear reader. I read it carefully, three times, and it is only after careful thought that I believe the book to be an interesting historical artifact but logically unsound. I also believe the text to have been grossly misinterpreted by those who espouse it.

The world has changed as it always changes. The human experience is a unique emotional phenomenon and people create a framework (or multiple, overlapping frameworks) in which to best interpret and understand it. The Book of God is one of those frameworks. Another is the anonymously penned The Enlightenment Project, the champion of man as the ideal spiritual guide. Or so they say. As I stated before, I am no religious scholar, but isn’t The Enlightenment Project critical of religion, and don’t those who use the Project as a social tool understand the terrible irony in their abuses against worshippers? These questions are further reasons why I believe The Enlightenment Project to have also been dreadfully misinterpreted.

Unfortunately the authors in question are not present in the public forum to comment on the interpretations of their respective works. And so the readers and interpreters interpret and read at will, which is perhaps as it should be.

I signed the letter and delivered it to a courier from the European guild. Then I left to investigate and write another assignment.

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