Friday, August 24, 2012

Life: A Manual

I quoted the Bible in a post the other day, 2 Kings. Looked it up to get it right. Then found myself spending an hour reading the Old Testament.

Catholics are not big Bible readers. We are supposed to take our revelation direct from Rome. No need for the Bible; the man with the ruby slippers will tell you what you need to know.

As a kid, then, I got my Old Testament from the movies. Gregory Peck and Susan Hayward as David and Bathsheba. Victor Mature and Hedy Lamarr as Samson and Delilah. Rita Hayworth as Salome. Good, sexy stories. Or at least as much sex as the Legion of Decency would let us see. Those Old Testament movies didn't seem to have much to do with religion. Religion was for Sunday. Movies were Saturday.

Anyway, I suppose by now, at one point or the other, I have read the entire Old and New Testaments. Except for the Song of Songs and the Sermon on the Mount, they still don’t seem to have much to do with religion. A lot of sex and violence, but that's what the movies are for.

Do we need a user's manual to get through life? And, if so, what would it be? The Torah? The New Testament? The Bhagavad-Gita? The Koran? The Book of Mormon?

I remember with fondness my Boy Scout Handbook. Handy advice on how to tie knots, treat snakebite, build a signal tower out of pine saplings, and deal with wet dreams. That was useful info at the time, certainly better than the Bible, but less useful now.

So what would it be?

As a secular New Englander, I suppose it would have to be Thoreau's Walden. I'm still building things with hand tools. I'm still planting beans. I'm still listening at the shores of ponds. I would still rather sit on a pumpkin than a velvet cushion. I still want to live deliberately, even as I fall short.

So let others have their divinely-inspired user's manual. I'll settle for one inspired by the sound of winter ice groaning on the pond or the sweet two-note call of the chickadee.