Podcast: William Least Heat-Moon Travels Highway Between Science and 'Otherhood'
Humans evolved with a quest for the spiritual. To deny it is to also deny evolution. With that, let me quote a passage from a book, which might help explain what I mean:
“Didn’t religion itself rise through evolution? No complex brain, no gods and no science. No arts. Pigs don’t pray, cats don’t cipher, and dogs don’t compose verse. Not even doggerel. Of all evolutionary consequences, isn’t the greatest our attempt, however flawed, to understand the origin of life?”
This quote comes from a character named Silas Fortunato, who believes in science, yet continues to have mysterious experiences despite himself. Silas comes to call himself a disciple of “otherosophy” who studies the “otherhood of humankind.” Beyond that, though, I’ll let the author, himself tell us what he means. The book is called Celestial Mechanics, published by Three Rooms Press, and it’s written by William Least Heat-Moon. You might recognize the name if you follow travel writing. His travel memoir, Blue Highways, was a best-seller. Now, in his first work of fiction, he’s writing about one man’s spiritual and scientific travels.
Listen to the entire interview here, or read some of the highlights below.
On what his protagonist is searching for.
Silas Fortunato wants to link his time on our planet with something far greater than himself, something that could be eternal. However, and that’s a big however, he wants that something to be empirically founded, something free of assumption, free of magical thinking. He calls himself— jestingly I should say—an “Othertarian,” a term that he makes up.
On the role of religion through history.
We tried to create a religion that could survive all that human beings could do to it over the globe. We’ve been working at that for over three- or four-thousand years. And you can see that we’re doing the same thing that probably were doing in the beginning, and that’s pulling out our simitars and cutting people’s heads off, putting people in cages and throwing gasoline on them and lighting it, turning our backs on people who need our help, so whether it’s going to happen again within the lifetime of anybody listening to your broadcast, I don’t know. I’m dubious.
On common ground between science and religion.
Are we to tolerate intolerance? Are we to tolerate cruelty? Brutality? But I think it’s at this point at which the religions of the world, regardless of the religion, can connect with science, embrace it, because we know that to do unto others as you would have them do unto you is a practical piece of advice, simple as it is, as difficult as it is, and when people do that, we tend to get along.“
Howard Lovy is executive editor at Foreword Reviews. You can follow him on Twitter @Howard_Lovy