In college it was required that I take a semester of Philosophy. I went to a public high school, and never forayed into such educational spheres, but I felt like I contemplated things enough in my own head to stay up with my class. I was wrong. My professor was some Ph.D candidate that liked to ride bicycles into cars to force people to go green or something, and he had extremely existential views on the world. One day I fell asleep while we were talking about that Plato cave business, and when I woke up some kid was all like “I see blue, and you see blue, but how do I know that your blue and my blue are the same.” Nonsense.
On the other side of things, I thoroughly enjoy talking about the history of religion. The Da Vinci Code, the Knights Templar, the Masons, etc. I think it’s intriguing. I’m a firm believer that religion has been interpreted to fulfill non-spiritual needs, for example the Bible being so patriarchical and what have you. I may just get excommunicated from my grammar school parish, but I do think Jesus and Mary Magdalen were married. It fascinates me.
So I was on the ferry last summer and the gentlemen next to me (who may or may not have been famous – it wasn’t completely clear why he looked so familiar) was reading Mark Booth’s The Secret History of the World. The subtitle suggested the book was about secret societies and Leonardo Da Vinci and Sir Issac Newton and all that jazz. I immediately added the book to my must read list.
When the Borders bookstore on Boylston Street went out of business last month, I headed over there to purchase as many discounted books as I could carry. Booth’s book ended up being one of them, and I finally made a crease in the binding this week for the first time. Let me just tell you, my mind was not ready for lay within those pages.
Let me just preface all of this by saying that the time I read the most during the day is on the train on my way to work. It’s early. I’ve probably only had one cup of coffee so far. And my mind is not entirely equipped for certain things. Sure, I can wrap my head around a biography of Eleanor of Aquitaine or the story of some 40-year-old murder in Florence. But the kind of shit that keeps coming out of The Secret History of the World hurts my face. And I’m only on page 76.
So the book opens with this promise: “The Secret History of the World is a rude gesture in the face of the know-it-alls who make up our intellectual elite.” Ok, I’m down with that. Rebellious. I like it. But then the introduction ends on this note: “You must be mad, or you wouldn’t have come here.” Ok, now I’m scared.
The first part of the text (and again, I’m only in the first part of the first part right now) deals with the Genesis story and how the Bible is all crazy and scientists are all mean robots. Booth goes on to explain that, for the ancient thinkers, ideas were more real than the physical. Everything is interconnected, and gods can enter into the physical world at any moment. And just when I’m starting to think that I’m smart and I’ve got these concepts under wraps, he starts talking about Saturn coming out of nowhere and trying to kill Mother Earth. Like they’re people on the cover of US Weekly. Even more disturbing, he tries to add this uncomfortable metaphor:
“His grandmother was bare-knucke fighting on the cobbles outside her home among the Victorian terraces of the old East End. He remembered the gaslight on the wet cobbles and flying spittle, and how his grandmother resembled a giantess, lumbering but supernatural in strength. He remembered, too, that her massive forearms, built up and rubbed raw by the washing she took in to help feed him, thudded again and again into the other woman, even as she lay on the ground unable to defend herself…We must try to imagine something similar as we contemplate the two titanic forces locked in combat at the beginning of time.”
It really took everything in me to continue to reading after this point. Like seriously, I think this guy might be on drugs.
So I have about 500 pages to go before I apparently know everything there is to know about how a grandmother tried to kill someone and it erupted into life as we know it. I’m scared. I’m nervous that at the end of this book I might actually, finally, go completely insane. I’m going to start talking about the third eye and how me and Zeus were hanging out with the Muses the other day at the playground. They lock people up for that shit. Maybe I should stop reading, but now I need to know. Ugh.
Oh, and right now, Booth is trying to tell me that Adam and Eve were plants that took up the whole universe. So there’s that.