Sunday, 26 March 2017

The Great Good Thing

I found Andrew Klavan on youTube a few years back when he was doing The Revolting Truth. I liked his sense of humor, the way he saw the world and his clips were only about three minutes long. I have been tempted to share some of these videos on Facebook, but he is sure to offend some people, not with his language but with what he says. Today Klavan now has his own podcast, of which you can watch the first 15 or 20 minutes on youTube. I only watch the introduction of these as they are scripted and like The Revolting Truth the intros are funny and only three minutes long.

I didn't know that Andrew Klavan by trade was an author. He has won a few book awards and two of his books were turned into Hollywood movies. When I saw this book in Koorong, I thought, hey I might like this, and besides I was spending gift card money anyway.

This book is about Andrew's own coming to faith. I'm not one for reading autobiographies, but Andrew can write. He knows how to spin a good story, build tension and provide the right level of background knowledge and detail. He also knew his subject quite well.

Andrew always wanted to be a writer. He would day dream a lot, but the main rule is that everything had to make sense. In the end it was this drive for the real world to make sense that he eventually came to faith, but not before a very long time. Its a bit like Chesterton who said he wanted to write a book where an English man gets shipwrecked and lands upon a strange island only to learn he found England. Klavan goes the long way round to discover something that many many people before him already had found.

Klavan was a Jew and his parents were proud of it. His father especially didn't want Andrew to give up the faith, but Andrew was never really into it, he was Jewish. He recalls the lead up to his bar mitzvah and how he had to study Hebrew and then afterwards all the money and presents he got from relatives. He saw the gifts as an indictment on his phoniness towards Judaism and he ended up throwing all the wealth away.

This consistency of thought is evident in Andrew's life. He is able to  wrestle with the ideas that drive the culture. He didn't buy into postmodernism. There is a neat section in the book where he pretty much dismisses or dismantles postmodernism using Shakespeare's Hamlet and Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment. If only people paid attention to the ideas before their own time. Andrew also saw the Bible as a major influencing idea of the West and since he was going to be a writer, he figured he should read this influential book. One day his father caught him reading the Bible and he was furious. Retrospectively Andrew found this a bit amusing, as all the things a teenage boy could have been reading in the privacy of his bedroom he was caught reading the Bible. He was only reading it for the research, he swears...

From watching Andrew on youTube you may not tell how well read this guy is. Andrew got into Uni and studied English literature. He was kinda of an anti-snob to literature back then. He wanted to write tough guy thrillers. Nothing too pompous with long flowing sentences. Just real gritty life. But one day, when he didn't want to get out of bed he actually decided to read one of his set readings, and he liked it. Since then he read all the classics, and all the works referenced in the classics and other thinkers who disagreed with the ideas in them. This reading he did lasted more than twenty years. At the end Andrew states he thinks he has earned the right to have an opinion.

Klavan eventually went into therapy mainly due to his upbringing. While as a writer he was able to dissect the culture, he was also able to look inwards and be almost ultra introspective. At one point before therapy Andrew nearly went mad, after a series of book rejections he thought he could write a book about Jesus and the meta narrative that Jesus had brought upon the western world. If people didn't like it, it was because they wouldn't have gotten his genius. Andrew was not a believer here. He was probably agnostic. At one point Andrew also contemplate suicide, but by freak chance, he heard on the radio some sports post game interview where the guy had performed well on a bad knee say "sometimes you have to play through the pain" and he thought, yeah he could do that.

The therapy seemed to work, although Andrew disagree with Freud. Klavan though Freud's thinking about people were limited in that he ignored all of human history and examples before him. The thing that Andrew puts his therapy down to working wasn't the philosophy behind it, but the person. His therapist showed Andrew love and reflected himself back to him.

Near the end of his therapy he tried atheism, but like Chesterton before him, after reading the great atheistic writings ending with Marquis de Sade he couldn't hold their positions as they didn't align with reality, so back to agnosticism it was - with a bit of zen meditation thrown in. Later Andrew was reading in a book about some character who prayed and he thought if it was good enough for them in the story, it was good enough for him. So he tried it and kept praying for about five years, and from this expereince he experienced joy. There were ups and downs sure, but he felt like the grace of God was shining down on him. Then out of no where he had the idea that he should be baptised. This started another long series of introspective arguments with himself, wondering where this idea came from and why Jesus and all that. He kinda believed in theory about Jesus but not in practice. Was Klavan turing to Christian just because he lived in the West? Was it a final rebellious statement to his father? Or some Father hunger that he was missing? Was he going crazy again? All these issues he wrestled with, but in the end, eventually it seems that God won.

This was a good book It make me think that I should perhaps read Crime and Punishment. I would have liked more of Andrew's reasons or justification for Jesus in particular near the end of the book rather than just a vague God to pray to, but all in all I don't think my voucher money was misspent.


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