I come from a family that became religious over time. Of the six of us, only my mother and I have been consistent non-believers. Fortunately, my family was not very religious when I was a child and I was left completely alone on the subject. I was an atheist because I had never been brainwashed into thinking anything else. I barely knew the tenets of Christianity. We had a neighbor who was a minister and I was allowed to play in his church once. I couldn’t make heads or tails of what the building was for.
Religion made absolutely no dent on me as a boy. It was all in one ear and out the other, like most of the foolish things adults said. I was quite the little Howard Roark. It was only when my family started becoming seriously religious when I was in my teens that I took cognizance of it. This was right after (and partly due to) my family’s drug phase. My life in those years had a lot of horror in it. I saw people I loved change from open and intelligent to closed and rationalizing. It was a nightmare for me and it was in those years or maybe a little later than I started having actual nightmares about zombies chasing me down the street.
I was very afraid of people losing their true selves (or of never having them in the first place). I came up with the image of a “spark” that existed only in some people, a spark of self-awareness and authenticity. I made the mistake once of sharing this idea with a friend of mine who was very confused about many things, and he became concerned over whether I thought he had a spark or not. This was a very uncomfortable moment, because his spark seemed so smothered under the oddities of his personality that I couldn’t see it and doubted whether it existed at all.
No doubt I saw the issue too much in black and white. I now see degrees of self-awareness. But I still believe in a ideal amount of self-awareness and freedom that one obtains by ceasing to falsify one’s self, getting centered and using one’s mind.
That’s what Killing Cool is about. And that’s what my next book, Practical Freedom, as it’s provisionally titled, will be about, although from a different angle.