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Wed Jan 9, 2013, 08:52 PM

Adam and Eve’s Long Strange Trip

Reading Mom’s Bible after her death: An excerpt from Walter Kirn’s new memoir.



Walter Kirn's mother's Bible.Photo by Amanda Fortini.

This is an excerpt from My Mother’s Bible by Walter Kirn, out now as a Byliner.com original.

By Walter Kirn|Posted Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013, at 11:47 AM ET

Two Augusts ago, my mother, Millie Kirn, a 71-year-old retired nurse, died suddenly of brain infection. While going through her things a few days later, I found a book I hadn’t know she’d owned: an oversize King James Study Bible whose pages were covered with handwritten notes. My mother wasn’t conventionally religious but she was immoderately literate, an old-fashioned freethinker and lover of the classics with a skeptical, irreverent turn of mind. In my grief, as a way of feeling close to her, I opened her Bible and began to read—my first true and thorough attempt to study the scriptures.

The result was a conversation through the veil about stories I thought I understood but didn’t, most of them stranger than I’d ever suspected, with lots to say about parents, children, love, and love’s dark echo, anger. I put my own jottings together in a small book, My Mother’s Bible, which captures, I’d like to think, my mother’s spirit. People can be so neglectful of each other and of their own heritage—then death intrudes. Conversations we wish that we’d had earlier are had too late. This is part of one of those.

Minds of Their Own: Genesis, Chapter 3

At last I think I understand: The story of the Fall is about a drug bust and its aftermath. It begins by discussing the prohibition of a potent psychedelic substance: a plant or a fruit that grants those who ingest it personal access to divine capacities. Most damningly to those who wrote the story (with the goal, I suppose, of consolidating their hold on law-giving and other “holy” prerogatives), this prohibited substance sensitizes the mind to the presence of “good” and “evil,” essentially making priests of those who take it—and rendering other, conventional priests redundant. The closest I came to this feeling in my own life was the year I dropped LSD about an hour before a Thanksgiving dinner at our farm. At some point I looked around the crowded table and saw what I took to be thoughts, like wisps of fog, moving in and out of people’s heads. What the thoughts were, I wasn’t sure, but some were beautiful and others ugly, which caused people’s faces to change accordingly, sometimes tightening them, sometimes relaxing them. What astonished me was that the thinkers were unaware of this, emitting strange energies known only to me.

Rather than live for all eternity in frustrating look-but-don’t-touch proximity to the alluring, magical botanical, the humans decide to go ahead and take the stuff. Like God himself, whom they supposedly resemble, they’re restless creatures, unable to keep still, so it’s hard to fault them for their choice. Had they done the impossible and remained incurious, the need for a Bible, or books of any kind, never would have come about, since life in hammocks eating fruit and petting the animals as they pad by hardly warrants recording. Life would have been like one of those mass Christmas cards that some of my relatives sent out every year. Life is good and everyone is healthy. They all love their jobs and are doing well in school. We hope and trust that it’s the same with you.

http://www.slate.com/articles/life/faithbased/2013/01/my_mother_s_bible_by_walter_kirn_a_kindle_single_excerpt.html

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Reply Adam and Eve’s Long Strange Trip (Original post)
rug Jan 2013 OP
Jim__ Jan 2013 #1
rug Jan 2013 #2
jamtoday Jan 2013 #3
rug Jan 2013 #6
Adsos Letter Jan 2013 #4
rug Jan 2013 #5

Response to rug (Original post)

Wed Jan 9, 2013, 09:27 PM

1. It seems like a strange reading.

It might make more sense within the context of his book. But, based on that excerpt, I'm not really tempted to read it.

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Response to Jim__ (Reply #1)

Wed Jan 9, 2013, 09:30 PM

2. I'm more curious about what he learns about his mom from reading her notes.

The Bible has been treated like elastic for so long that I don't expect too much along those lines.

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Response to rug (Original post)

Wed Jan 9, 2013, 09:43 PM

3. It goes well


with some of the theories on 'Holy Mushrooms' (psylocybin), that are quite popular. Some of those link the word manna to a translation that means mushroom.

Just tongue in cheek, the writers of Revelations had to have been on some good shit surely.

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Response to jamtoday (Reply #3)

Thu Jan 10, 2013, 12:17 AM

6. It wouldn't surprise me in the least.

Now for a psychedlic interlude.

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Response to rug (Original post)

Wed Jan 9, 2013, 11:00 PM

4. Those marginal conversations sound interesting...

...but I'm also intrigued by the thought of someone dropping acid before a sit-down Thanksgiving meal.

Having indulged on occasion in the distant past, I'd have to have been pretty comfortable with everyone around that table...

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Response to Adsos Letter (Reply #4)

Thu Jan 10, 2013, 12:13 AM

5. I never did acid. I felt if I got there I'd never come back.

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