Friday, September 9, 2016

Thanks Ganesh.

     Yes, I'm an agnostic who never believed in God for a second.
     But I'm still human.
     So for some reason — some kink in the neural network — this thousand-year-old Indonesian statue of the Hindu god Ganesh cuts through my wall of spiritual cynicism. 
    Actually, I know the reason. It is because Ganesh is described as, "Remover of Obstacles."
    Who doesn't want to embrace that? Particularly when the entity ballyhooed with this obstacle-removing ability is so placid, so centered, so elephantine. 
     So when I pass, hurrying through the ground floor of the Art Institute, to the modern art wing perhaps, I usually pause, stand before the innocent millennium-old lump of sandstone and say, "Please Ganesh..." and usually some plea involved with the writing, publication, sale or promotion of books, an endeavor just chocked with obstacles. 
     I figure, it couldn't hurt. And Ganesh, to his — her? its? — credit, never explains to me why whatever it is I'm hoping for won't come true. 
     Thursday night, my new book, "Out of the Wreck I Rise" was launched at the Poetry Foundation. My wife was there, and my brother Sam. My co-author, Sara Bader, and my agent, Susan Raihofer, of the mighty David Black Literary Agency, both flew in from New York.   Kind friends agreed to read with me — Rick Kogan, Carol Marin and Bill Savage. Plus many old friends took the time to come, such as Cate Plys and her husband Ron Garzoto, and Kier Strejcek, from Northwestern, and Magda Krance, from the Lyric Opera, and the great Ed McElroy, and the good folks from the University of Chicago Press, and many more, all joining a standing room only crowd of enthusiastic readers. 
     I can't say for certain if it was those passing prayers to Ganesh that made it all happen — actually that was Steve Young and the fine folk at the Poetry Foundation. But I can't say that the great stone god didn't help in some abstract way beyond reasoning.  Thanks Ganesh.


  1. Sounds like a successful evening.

    Perhaps you should look into the Hindu philosophy a bit more.

  2. Hi Neil: I know you'd probably rather have us note typos via e-mail, but there's a glaring one here. Near the end, it should read "...the good folks from the University of Chicago Press, the delightful and strikingly handsome J.J. Tindall, and many more." OK, just kidding. Fine night out, powerful presentation, getting started on my copy this morning. Props to u, urs and, of course, Ganesh.

    1. Noted, J.J. and EGD regrets the error without actually correcting it. Thanks for coming.

  3. Glad the occasion was a success. Am looking forward to reading it.

    A minor quibble. If you "never believed in God for a second" you're an atheist. An agnostic is one who neither believes nor disbelieves; or, more amusingly, an atheist who hedges his bets. H.L Mencken avowed disbelief, but noted that, should he find himself at the Pearly Gates confronted by Saint Michael and the heavenly host he would simply say 'gentlemen, I was wrong,'and hope the Gates might swing wide for him.

    Tom Evans

    1. No, atheists are aggressive about their non-belief, making it almost as annoying as religion. Agnostics have more subtly and tact.

    2. Possibly. But my dictionary tells me that if you ask an atheist if God exists he will say 'no.' An agnostic will say 'beats me.'


    3. The fact that Neil credits (kinda) Ganesh props up his agnostic claim. I'm agnostic; I don't believe in God, the single, divine, omnipresent being most believe in, yet I've a great deal of respect for others whom believe divinity exists in other forms and shapes. Who am I to say they're wrong?

    4. Great piece. Also, FYI, I'm a non-aggressive atheist. :) Also! Ganesh holds a rope to help pull us to our highest good, rides a mouse to symbolize humility, holds a lotus, a broken tusk, a piece of dessert, and a conch. He also has 3 hands. There are many different interpretations of all that he holds, and why: I love Ganesh. Part of yoga practice is known as bhakti, or devotion. This is where I learned about Ganesh, and have sung countless hours of meditative songs about him, which 1) clear the mind and 2) place our focus on good rather than bad. (I realize that religious appropriation has it's problems).

  4. Someone gave me a Ganesh, and I must say my fortunes did improve. However, elephants themselves have not been doing so well lately.


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