The Devil and the Tarantula

I confess that even amid a coronavirus nightmare, I am not an aficionado of a heavenly concept, though I wouldn’t want to die to prove a point or just to see if I could pass Pearly Gate face control.

The fact is — without much exaggeration — I have existential arguments in my favor should my Sam’s Club membership not gain entrance at St. Peter’s favorite checkpoint.

It seems I am firmly planted in what Woody Allen once termed part of the “loyal opposition.” I am that without apologies, fear or great expectations.

There is, though, a murmur of contrition and reverence after being brought up a proper Southern Baptist lad, one who broke speed records darting down church aisles to confess sins. I am certain though that no infraction veered into mortal territory.

I’m not exactly sure where teen French kissing and youthful lust stands on the holy judgment meter these days, but one would assume the statute of limitations has run its course eons ago.

For certain, I don’t fear the fire and brimstone and certainly not a clownish looking sunburned character with horns and tail. Furry tarantulas and slithering snakes? Now they scare the bejesus out of me.

While believing the metaphysical to be a cocktail of heart-warming historical tall tales, no one could accuse me of proselytizing on behalf of any belief or, for that matter, non-belief, other than praising the old verities.

I am mostly ambivalent about religion and its trappings, though I confess to being a fan of the prophet Jesus who — without a public relations scribe at the time — came up with wonderful and wise gems.

The old verities, of course, are set forth rather elegantly in parts of the Bible, the Koran, Poor Richard’s Almanac, John Prine songs, and, on occasion, the backs of cereal boxes and baseball cards.

No one — past, present or in the future — can trump this all-time hit parade for advice: “Do unto others as you would have them do to you.” That’s a tune to which everyone should be able to dance — even me with two left feet.

This homily appears, with varying verbiage, in eight different religions, including an ancient Persian faith, Zoroastrianism. My bet is you have never heard of it because, frankly, it’s just one of 4,200 beliefs.

I believe, though I haven’t done extensive research, most all religions require a monetary tribute, whether coinage, sacrificial virgins or the long-forgotten trade of Green Stamps and Wal-Mart coupons.

My sainted mom, the late Miss Mary, was the truest and most precious of believers. My sister, an Episcopalian priest, tacked theological scholarship to her string of advanced degrees. I trust her wise counsel on life issues.

These are people I hold in awe, as well as a younger brother who leans to the wrong side of politics. However, the fellow has a heart the size of his hallowed Florida Field (home of the Florida Gators) and otherwise is grounded in reason.

That doesn’t mean I could ever appropriate their sincere devotion to an organized spiritual cause unless, perhaps, there was a burning bush demonstration or a nocturnal visit by angels singing Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”.

There are many reasons for this.

It might have started when I covered the Florida Land Sales Board in Tampa as a reporter decades ago That was back when shysters were selling swampland plots as perfect oceanview pied-a-terre sites. Yes, I belong to a union of skeptics.

My all-time favorite interview as a journalist was with John Thomas Scopes of the famous “Scopes Monkey Trial” on evolution. Before you ask, the interview was not at the 1925 trial in Dayton, Tn., but a half-century later.

He was a genial old man at the time and sadly died a few months later. But what courage it took to teach that humankind evolved from furry primates and not just from the dysfunctional family we know as Adam and Eve.

There’s a figure I can’t get out of my head.

The planet we somehow landed on is 4.5 billion years old, and the Biblical stories represent a minute’ slice encompassing about 6,000 years. The math doesn’t jive, particularly for one who avoided advanced courses.

Most entrepreneurs praise the brilliance of Apple founder Steve Jobs who by all accounts was into Zen Buddism. This is refreshing because there is no all-encompassing personal god under that umbrella.

The path to enlightenment in Buddism is through the practice and development of morality, meditation, and wisdom. That sounds good enough for me, though I might add Butter Pecan ice cream to the mix.

As for Jobs, who died way too early, he once said: “Everyone wants to go to heaven, but no one is anxious to die to get there.”

Probably true.

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(Photo by Jordan Steranka on Unsplash)

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I am a novelist, painter, songwriter and essayist but my day job is elevating the profile of authors, entertainers and business executives.

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