Saturday, 04 June 2005

We're Mormons, Sort of, Every Last One of Us For reasons I'm reluctant to explain, I've been reading Grant Palmer's An Insider's View of Mormon Origins even though it's addressed "to other second-, third-, and fourth-generation Mormons who will better understand where I'm coming from" (9). Palmer, as you probably surmised, is himself a fourth-generation Mormon. But in one of those gossamer dovetailings* that follow any period of sustained research on two entirely unrelated subjects, I think Palmer's attitude toward the Mormon Church (which, if I'm not mistaken, recently excommunicated him) epitomizes the healthy attitude literary critics ought to take toward our pieties. He writes: We like to hear confirmations that everything is as we assumed it was: our pioneer ancestors were heroic and inspired and the Bible and the Book of Mormon are in perfect harmony, for instance. We never learn in church that the Book of Abraham papyri were discovered and translated by Egyptologists or that researchers have studied Native American genes and what the implications are for the Book of Mormon. Questions about such topics are discouraged because they create tension; they are considered inappropriate or even heretical. This approach has isolated many of us from the rest of the world or from reality itself in those instances when we insist on things that are simply untrue. I know the analogy only has so much mileage, but I think it may be an accurate account of the group dynamics propping up once-scientific but still-fashionable theories in the academic humanities. The analogy also suggests that, like most of the Mormons I've had the pleasure of knowing, the people doing the propping are earnest, intelligent and hard-working and not at all deserving of the condescending opprobrium sometimes issued from the mouths of self-righteous "rational extremists" like Y.T.** *I dare you to literalize that metaphor. **To toot my own horn: the next time you want to lob some opprobrium in my general direction, you could do worse than "rational extremists."
So Then I Say to Myself... "So self, you think recapitulating an incredibly funny but ultimately puerile prank from 1885 is the best thing to do shortly after acquiring a large public venue for your scholarly ruminations? You think now is the really the best time to write about heaving bosoms and all that other Cleland-esque nonsense?" To which I replied, "Yo." Was I trying to get under my skin? "If you have something to say to me, say it already," I said. To which I replied, "Yo." My faux-taciturn resolve was starting to piss me off. I couldn't believe what I was saying. Was I actually dismissing myself with a stern, masculine and monosyllabic "yo"? Had the years of proximity to the John Wayne Memorial Airport finally rubbed off? I had to find out. "Say 'yo' again and see what happens," I braved. "Yo." "This is your last chance," I said as I tried not to over-think my next play. If I moved quickly enough I could blind-side me, but then I asked myself, "Would John Wayne sucker-punch himself?" Then I remembered that I've never seen a John Wayne movie, and that the closest thing I've ever seen to a western is HBO's Deadwood. You can guess what came next. "Say it again, cocksucker." Then I went beserk. Not me, the other me, the strong silent one, the one who doesn't overthink things. I was all over myself. I kept on swinging until I nearly passed out. I could hear myself mocking me with that calm, collected "yo," followed by a vicious hook, "yo," another hook, "yo," another, "yo." Next thing I know, I've knocked myself silly. When I finally come to, I look at myself and I realize I wasn't myself at all. I had mistaken me for a Japanese robot designed by Idaku Ishii which can, theoretically, hit a baseball traveling 187 "Damn," I thought I said to myself, but apparently said aloud. "Yo." Blackness. I hope I recover soon.

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