I missed the Summer of Love in San Francisco in 1967, stuck instead in Provo working my first full-time job at my dad’s office. Three years later I got there, on my way to Vietnam. My parents showed me the town before I left on a jet plane. I’ve been making pilgrimages to San Francisco ever since.
Last month I had a chance to visit San Francisco, twice.
The drive across Nevada was enhanced by satellite radio tuned to the Metropolitan Opera channel. Nevada takes on another dimension when the sound track is Phillip Glass’s Ahkenaten. Opera was one of my father’s passions. On weekends he would have radios in the garage, garden and wherever else he was working, tuned to the same opera station. The story line of Ahkenaten is about the introduction of one of the first monotheistic religions, replacing the many gods of ancient Egypt with Aten, the Sun god, and the ultimate misfortune of Ahkenaten at the hands of angry, laid-off priests.
Crossing Nevada in July , the notion of worshipping the Sun seems ludicrous, unless you believe in an angry god. As we know, a lot of people do.
Maybe monotheism is where religion went wrong. That, and angry gods. Monotheism is basically a clever feat of branding. New, and improved! Cures baldness, warts, infertility and existential angst. You name it, our God cures it! Join today.
Polytheism can be a real pain for the priesthood – so much competition for followers, offerings and tithings from other priesthoods, so many rituals to memorize, so many beliefs to reduce to dogma.
Polytheism provides a personalized blend of salves for the soul. Believers can choose what to believe and what not to believe. Religion should be a pan-cultural smorgasbord, not a package deal where one is forced into buying the whole can of worms, like getting the knitting channel and Masterpiece Theatre when all you want is sports and the opera channel.
If you only believe in one god, and he’s pissed, you’re out of luck, maybe even, naught in the sight of god. If you believe in many gods, chances are you’re in the good graces of at least a couple of them.
It’s interesting how often monotheisms transmute into monopoly-theisms. Much of recent history (the last two or three thousand years) is the story of one religion trying to wipe out a competing religion, winning the mantle of state religion. Events in India and China are only the most recent examples.
San Francisco looked like the film set of a post-apocolyptic thriller – something about a selective rapture that left only the homeless, dog-walkers and joggers behind.
And construction workers. The city was taking advantage of reduced traffic to do street work and the Nobs on Nob hill were making home improvements like it was the end of the world and their chances of getting into heaven depended on the size and splendor of their abode.
The homeless made up about half of the sparse population, none of them wearing face masks. Dog walkers and an occasional jogger made up the other half, all wearing masks (not the dogs). Kind of like post condo-monium, pre-Covid 19 downtown Salt Lake City.
Covid 19 has taught us the problems inherent in living in vast metropolises. A lesson we have learned, and forgotten, literally ad nauseum, since the beginnings of civilization.
I hate masks. Breathing becomes labored. Either my glasses or my eyes fog up. I also hate insurance. Combine masks and insurance and what’s to like?
But I’ve reconciled myself to wearing a mask in public for the next couple of years. I think of wearing a mask as stupid people insurance.
Not so much stupid, as stubborn people insurance. Stupid people, generally, are smart enough to figure out that if nearly everyone is wearing a mask, maybe they should wear one too. Stubborn people who refuse to wear masks, on the other hand, see mask wearing as a failure to perceive the tentacles of a global/Chinese/CIA/deep state/pick your favorite boogy man… conspiracy.
John deJong is not a theologian. He barely passed the Bible study class he took prior to being prophylacticly baptised a Congregationalist before his family moved to Provo when he was fourteen. His Volkswagen bus did have a well read copy of the Dao de Ching. A practicing Non-believer, he is willing to not believe in almost anything, impossible or not.