A column in my small town newspaper, The
My wife Carol is much more civic-minded than I am, and she
finally figured out something I could do for the community—without leaving the
comfort of my desk! Sounded good to me! All I had to do was volunteer to write a
weekly column for the town newspaper, The Selma News. I like to think of
these ephemeral texts like Tibetan Buddhist sand paintings, to be scrutinized
and appreciated for brief moments before they pass on down the river of
forgetfulness. And I guess that including them here is a vain effort to keep
them alive and available just a little longer. There are no doubt many other
reasons you might wish you could live here in Selma, too, but now at least you
can read these columns wherever you reside! Lucky stiff! How do my little
writings affect the town and its populace—and my living here? Well, sometimes
people will remark on having read one or another. Then I do a double take just
to see if they look mad. Once, just before surgery, my dentist (one of them,
anyway—my teeth are in such lamentable shape, I have three. Dentists, that is.)
mentioned that he always read my column, though he didn’t always agree with me.
Just how seriously did he disagree? There was only one way to find out.
[Go to Mind's Eye
A column that appears on Hero's Are Here (comic
book store) web site
This column proves beyond doubt just what a nerd, what a geek, I am. What you will read here is essentially the kind of pontifications exchanged by horn-rimmed windbags in comic book stores, whether or not they know each other. Having advanced academic degrees does not necessarily set me apart: nerds are of course notoriously brainy. I suppose I am distinguishable mainly by the fact that I do not call superheroes by familiar nicknames, as if they were my imaginary playmates. Nor do I wear T-shirts. But I have been known to pontificate over the counter at a comic shop or two.
I started writing these animadversions for my pal Tim Priebe’s website Cool Collecting. And then I hit upon a fiendish and brilliant scheme. I buy so many action figures it starts costing real money. So I asked my old friend Eddie, who runs the local comic shop (Heroes Are Here, in Goldsboro, North Carolina), if it would be worth anything to him for me to write regular columns for his store website. I trade him columns for figures. I’m coming out ahead.
But I do believe in what I write: I take comics very seriously. I understand them to be today’s mythology, like the myths and gods of the ancient religions. They resonate deep within me. I see a lot of depth there, and I like to share my insights with others who may possibly not have noticed the same things, being too busy just honestly enjoying them.
I know you might be tempted to think I am just rationalizing my childish fixation. As if my conscience told me to put aside these childish things, and I am fending off such a step of maturity. Hell, no. I know I’m a kid who never grew up. I’m not ashamed of it. If comics had no redeeming value, I’d be happy to admit it. But they do! And it’s fun to write and, I hope, to read about it.
[Go to Hero Worship articles page]
A column that appeared in newsletter of church I pastored
Having long enjoyed editorial chores, it was with a great deal of relish that, upon assuming my pastorate at the First Baptist Church of Montclair, New Jersey, I seized the editorial reins of the congregational newsletter. It had been called Harmony, but I changed it to The Epistle, referring, in my characteristically humble fashion, to my monthly essay. This was sort of an extra sermon, though less obliged to be pious and edifying. Reading these, you will immediately begin to say to yourself, "No wonder this guy eventually had to leave!" But it was, or once had been, a unique church, filled by people who had given up on churchgoing because they were disillusioned with it, alienated intellectuals, most still having a spiritual thirst. My predecessor (who had won me back to churchgoing) had attracted these people and rebuilt this congregation. I had been a member for three years before leaving to take up a teaching post in North Carolina. Four and a half years later I returned to New Jersey as the new pastor. But things had changed, and it took me a while to realize it. I left after five years of growing friction. In fact, the straw that snapped the camel’s vertebrae was the demand by the Sanhedrin of the congregation that they review and approve my Epistle columns before they went to print! No thanks, said I. Get yourself another patsy. Then I took some parishioners with me to form our Church of the Holy Grail. I kept grinding out the newsletter, but since the Baptists continued to use the name The Epistle, I decided on The Encyclical. Columns from both appear here.
[Go to The Epistle articles page]
From "The Sect of Zarathustra" newsletter
Once I worked for the Council for Secular Humanism, and my superiors told me I could carve out my local franchise in my own
image. I turned out to be on a much shorter leash, as I eventually discovered. But for a while, I decided to give our group and its programs a definite Nietzschean emphasis. Instead of some bland thing like "Secular Humanists of North Jersey," I dubbed the group "The Sect of Zarathustra," hoping the right kind of people would get it. I wrote most of a periodic circular of opinion and news. I called it, and the main feature, my column, "Zarathustra Speaks," modeled of course on the Black Muslim newspaper Muhammad Speaks. The title was also a tip of the hat to Nietzsche’s Thus Spake Zarathustra. I loved the "holy arrogance" of it, to borrow Saint Jerome’s term. I sought to carry on, in my small way, the legacy of Nietzsche’s blasphemous gadfly. I remember how, a couple of months previously, while a guest at an Atlanta fantasy convention, I sat in my hotel room reading Nietzsche’s classic, it dawned on me: I had found my destiny. I would be the (or, less delusionally, a) new Zarathustra.
Eventually I found I could no longer keep up the unremitting scorn against religion. I knew better. I had learned to reject and to joke about
the ironies and hypocrisies of it, and I knew that wasn’t all there was to it. Reading Max Scheler helped me realize that one could embrace Nietzsche’s honesty without being totally anti-religious. I decided religion had formed too important a part of me for me to waste the rest of my life futilely fighting against it. I knew, to gain psychological integrity and composure, I would have to make some sort of peace with religion. I still have no religious beliefs; I just benefit from the drama of the liturgy of the Episcopal Church. And I figure the ghost of Nietzsche will not curse me, or worse, abandon me, as long as I keep it honest, do not fudge, do not prefer not to know the truth.
[Go to Zarathustra Speaks articles page]
Robert M Price
Carolina Web Design