Last night my subconscious was inhabited by two persons with enormous duende between them -- Johnny Depp and Margaret Atwood. Something great may come of this.
Before bedtime I watched the disturbing movie The Libertine, starring Johnny Depp and dealing with the debauched life of John Wilmot, the 2nd Earl of Rochester. A dark and muddy film, The Libertine portrayed Restoration England at its most dissolute -- oversexed, underwashed, and lost for more than one generation. This historic period is fascinating, both for its dark and lighter side, and for its saving grace and playground of iniquity, the theatre. It has held me in thrall since I discovered the character of Nell Gwynn (and Samuel Pepys) in college. The Libertine focuses on the unredeeming qualities of the age, and critic Roger Ebert praised Johnny Depp for his bravery in playing this role. I do too: It is the evil twin of Captain Jack Sparrow.
Side trip on the road to the Restoration: There is a happy film called Stage Beauty, starring Billy Crudup and Claire Danes, romping through the theatre in a romantic and lovely adventure. It's easy to take, and an excellent date movie; The Libertine is only recommended for the strong of stomach and the insatiable mind in seach of Restoration matter. The Restoration, with Robert Downey Jr., is another fine movie about the period.
I watched the film and went to the Internet to read Ebert's review, then dropped off to sleep to awaken again at 3 A.M. and find they were replaying Bill Moyers' interview with Margaret Atwood. Atwood is one of the most refreshing women in the world today. I think I could say I'd like to be her when I grow up. With Moyers she was discussing faith and reason, which I think is the name of his show, and there is no better person alive to make those topics come to life, in a novel, a poem, a television interview, or in my livingroom if she would just drop in for a visit.
She claimed to be a committed agnostic, and made the statement that atheism is a religion. Ha ha. I love that, and agree with her. Ha ha, because those I know who claim to be atheists would hate that characterization -- but Atwood says, it is a belief, therefore it is a religion. As a committed agnostic, she admits the possibility that God may or may not exist, and that her commitment allows discussion of the matter. She says we believe what we are comfortable believing, and that that is a choice we make because it works for us. An atheist believes, because he demands proof -- in a negative. An agnostic simply wonders and investigates, not looking for proof so much as for belief. And a believer is happy with his choice -- there is something, I just know there is. I know he's (it's) there; I talk with him all the time. I think that's what she said, but don't forget I was half asleep as I watched. It may just have been my own conclusion.
One thing I know she did say is that our idea of "God" being an old man with a long white beard does not come from anything in the Bible. In the Bible, God is manifested in many ways -- a burning bush, a piece of seashell, many things, but no bearded man in the clouds. The bearded man in the clouds came from the old mythology -- he is Zeus, Jupiter! Of course. But I can tell you, it's hard to get that old man out of my mind.
Then I went to sleep and dreamed of someone I love coming back to me. It was worth it to be haunted by those duende to have that dream, and have that shred of faith that it may still come true.