Like Hamlet, I held this orb in my hand and regarded it feeling at once uncomfortable and a little thrilled. The lines where the bones of the skull had grown together looked to me as if they had been sutured, and I marvelled to think that that skull had once housed a brain, had at one time in the distant past been a person not so different from the 16 year-old boy I was then.
Dina said, "For all I know, that's my grand-mother you have in your hand."
Looking back from the age of 42 at one's youth leaves the fine distinctions of adolescence vague and so hard to specify. When I was roughly the same age, I suggested to my friends that we spend March break at my family's empty house in the bush on the outskirts of Sudbury.
About 10 of us decided to make the trip and so, by twos, we thumbed our way from fading Winter into a world yet to slip the grasp of that icy master.
Needless to say, being 16, 17, 18, we drank a lot (among other mind-altering diversions). And at one point, someone suggested we try a seance.
Already a cynical atheist, I rolled my eyes. "Why don't we call up Satan?" I asked.
All atheists at that time, I was shocked (and yes, appalled) that no one would take me up on it. And I realized: They're scared!
"Well," Ian said, "what if we're wrong? What if Satan is real?"
"Yeah, I don't wanna take that chance," someone else chimed in.
I grew pissed, disappointed in my friends and my realization that they didn't (quite, not really) believe what they said they did - or did believe what they said they didn't. Whatever.
I was pissed.
"Come on you guys! You want a seance, let's have a fucking seance! Let's call up Satan!"
But they weren't having any, and so I began to pace up and down the room, and to chant.
"SayTUN! SayTUN!" That didn't work, so I took a more direct approach.
"Satan!" I shouted while shaking my fist (non-sensically) at the roof, "I challenge you! Appear before me and fight me!"
And meanwhile, my friends (or many of them at least) are cowering on the couch begging me to stop, "just in case".
But I kept at it, until suddenly a basso rumble shook the house and everyone fell silent but me. I grew up outside of Sudbury, and knew the feel of blasting (it's a major mining centre for those of you, Gentle Readers, who are unfamiliar with Sudbury, Ontario).
Long story short, when I was 15 or so, I already had no fear of Satan (because I didn't believe in him) and felt no terror in holding the casing of what had once been a human being in my hand.
Which brings me to Keith Richards and why I am pissed off with him.
The other day, I came across an article that said he had told an interviewer that the strangest thing he had snorted was his father. He said he had mixed his father's ashes (his father died in 2002, by the way) with cocaine and snorted the lot.
In fact, it was one of you, Gentle Readers, who spread the news, saying something like, "Eww". But when I read the piece, I said, "Ha ha ha ha!"
But when I read it to my colleague at the office, she too said, "Ewww."
To me, it's just ashes; to most of the rest of the world, it's "magical thinking".
And I'm pissed off with Keither because he is denying it now.
In this month's issue of The Skeptic, James Randi discusses an experiment presented to the British Association for the Advancement of Science by a Dr. Bruce Hood.
He presented to his class a sweater and offered his students 10 pounds to wear it. "Most agreed to wear it, until Hood told them that it had belonged to an infamous UK serial killer...convicted of murdeing a dozen persons and had hanged himself in 1995."
Long story short, most of those students wouldn't even wear the damned thing for a couple of moments. Presumably, on some level, those students felt/thought that the sweater would somehow infect them with the evil of the killer.
My favourite sweater was a gift from an ex-girlfriend, the one I put onto the street and who jumped off a bridge a few years back. It remains a very nice sweater and I wear it without the slightest qualm.
There's no such thing as Satan folks, and wearing a cotton garment that once belonged to an alcoholic suicide means only that you have a very comfortable momento from an unhappy woman you once loved deeply.
Nothing more, nothing less.