A Review of Julia Sweeney’s Production, Letting Go of God
The beauty of this world, the complex nature of man and the intricacies of our human experience were masterfully encapsulated in a recent performance by Julia Sweeney in her now famous, "Letting Go of God." I had wanted to see this production for some time, and when word came to me that she was going to be performing in the nearby Sodom and Gomorrah of Utah, even Park City, I had to go.
Finding my seat next to a very dear friend, the performance began, and I found myself engrossed in Julia's journey from ardent believer to a rejecter of all things metaphysical, better known in faith-filled circles as an atheist. Her story was poignant, touching and thought provoking, leaving me feeling very connected to her story and journey. It was hard not to notice the many parallels in my own life, which led her from her faith and firm conviction of deity to expressing a rejection of her former heavenly friend and constant companion.
Hers was not an easy journey. It was not a simple renouncement and moving on to other views and opinions, it was a journey fraught with challenge, difficulty, sadness, uncertainty, courage and humor. However, in the end, she dared to go where few are willing to tread. She looked outside of herself, her faith and community and into the world and minds and faiths of others and found her own path despite the personal cost to her family, faith and personal comfort.
I revel in the courage of those who forge their own paths in life. I draw encouragement and comfort from the experiences of those who have gone before into the unknown and returned colored with the patina of experience, wisdom and growth. Julia in her own way conveyed that message through humor and passion which left me feeling confident and comforted in our shared experiences on the path of independence and mental liberty.
In a final segment of Julia's monologue, she comes to the realization that there may not be a god in charge of this world, and through her fear of that notion began to question what that meant for her and for the world at large. "No one is in charge!" "No one is minding the store!" "We are on our own!!" were just some of the thoughts she expressed regarding this new found concept. She then turned her thoughts to her own existence and the very real possibility that when she dies, there will be nothing more of her that goes on following this existence. There would be no more Julia, she would cease to be and that was that.
My companion turned to me and said, "This is very hard for me to hear. I don't know what to think of this. It's just so hard to comprehend and accept that when I'm dead, there will be no more me." The pain of dissonance on this issue has bothered me as well, but in the end, we are left with the understanding that there is nothing we can do to know one way or the other on this subject until we find ourselves staring out into the great beyond where a further existence awaits or that nothing more than the comforting silence of oblivion. Either way at that time, we will be certain one way or another.
Julia further expressed, "Life is so cheap and so precious" which struck me as the most important statement of her performance. Life is so very fleeting. So very brief, so incredibly precious and rare. The beautiful and profound words of Carl Sagan come to mind which he expressed regarding this little oasis of life we call earth,
"Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there--on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.
The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.
Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.
The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.
It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known.
-Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot, 1994
A picture of the Pale Blue Dot can be found here: http://www.humanistsofutah.org/images/PaleBlueDot.jpg
Tears well up in my eyes as I read those words. The profundity of that statement and the weight it carries should not be ignored in my opinion.
I find myself in the non-religious camp of agnosticism. I feel most comfortable with that approach to life, leaving all ideas and concepts open for scrutiny and observation. My world is far different from those perceived sun filled days of my Mormon existence, where thought, debate and inquiry were not required. Where a life on autopilot was celebrated, and deceptions were actively embraced.
Now I comfortably stand at the edge, peering into the depths and feeling peace.
-by Chad Spjut
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- The Big Lie
- A Review of Julia Sweeney’s Production, Letting Go of God
- Joseph Smith and Kabbalah: The Occult Connection by Lance C. Owens
- The Book of Mormon: A Voice from 19th Century Dust
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