“I never go to bed without an hour or half an hour’s reading of something moral, whereon to ruminate in the intervals of sleep” – Thomas Jefferson, 1819
While having caffeinated drinks and smoking cigars with some friends at the Haven on the evening of November 28, and waiting to receive an “Obamaphone” that apparently comes with enrollment in Virginia’s food stamps program, Ken West weighed in on the idea of original sin, and its treatment throughout American history.
The concept of original sin, West said, is actually part of the basis for a novelette that he has finished but has not yet published.
“God said: ‘don’t eat off the tree of life,” West said. “It wasn’t apples … it was an old ancient tree – it had psychedelic mushrooms under it.”
Although a snake is commonly figured in the biblical tale, West says, that part is a myth.
“They went on a really cool trip,” West said of the two human characters in the Genesis story. “They saw the face of God in the trip – they weren’t supposed to. They were supposed to be innocent. They hallucinated the snake.”
West briefly remarked on his own situation, noting that he is “in abstract poverty” and “living among the vagrants of the world,” before re-orienting the conversation toward his efforts to build a rhetorical case for bullet control.
“Let’s get back to square one,” West said. “I like square one.”
In going about laying the groundwork for an essay on how to curb gun violence, West said, he has found some important literary and historic ballast in the form of a book about a founding father who, like himself, was critical of various elements of the Christian faith.
West is reading Henry Wilder Foote’s “The Religion of Thomas Jefferson,” which, he said, sheds light on some of the guiding principles of a man who founded the University of Virginia, and, in West’s words, separated church and state in the U.S.
“He hated Christianity,” West said of Jefferson. “He was an atheist and a deist. He fought against the Christians because they were narrow-minded – he was a scientist.”
Jefferson, he said, valued education in a time when many wanted to control the masses through the promulgation of ignorance.
“In his time, you could be executed for heresy against the Christian doctrine,” West said. “They didn’t want people to be educated – they could kill you.”
Some of the backwards ideas that found fertile ground in Christianity, West said, go much further back, for example, to the time of the crusades.
“They didn’t take baths,” West said of many Christians of that era. “They were nasty-ass Europeans – they were stupid as dirt – they let dirt cake up on them because they thought diseases could get through your pores. When they took over the Muslims – they abolished baths.”
West feels that the European Christian’s aversion to bath water marked them as one of the low points on modern human society.
“The Romans were dirty ********,” West said, “but at least they took baths.”
However, describing Jefferson’s moral trajectory throughout his life, West said that Jefferson was only opposed to some aspects of Christianity, not rejecting it entirely – and West himself doesn’t, either.
“As he was passing,” West said of Jefferson, “In his old age – he found God. He loved Jesus. He rewrote the bible.”
Of what West called “rumors” of Jefferson’s despicable ill-treatment of slaves, West said the allegations are probably true.
“We know he had his sins behind him,” West said, “but (Wilder’s book) is the best of Thomas Jefferson. It will enlighten you – it’ll wake you up to what’s happening in Charlottesville right now.”
What’s happening in Charlottesville, West said, is that residents are prevailing over a recent invasion by neo-nazis and assorted white nationalists, who, despite converging and sowing chaos, have not changed the fundamental character of the community.
“We’re defeating them here,” West said.
In closing the interview, West mentioned the mysterious man named Silverman, who, West said, can’t figure him out. West said Silverman recently called him “insane”.
“He picked on the words I use,” West said. “I told him a song I wrote. It was a little on the nefarious side – Silverman couldn’t figure it out, because he didn’t have the music with it.”
West then sang an excerpt of the song, which has been very roughly transcribed due to poor cellular communication signals:
“Adonis, Venus, snow / the devil sheets take way / our sins and sheets / yes, it will be sweet / like honeybees …”
“It has to be done with a piano – and I’m accomplishing it,” West said.