Girl with magnifier

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

The Agnostics Prayer

Insofar as I may be heard by anything, which may or may not care what I say, I ask, if it matters, that you be forgiven for anything you may have done or failed to do which requires forgiveness. Conversely, if not forgiveness but something else may be required to insure any possible benefit for which you may be eligible after the destruction of your body, I ask that this, whatever it may be, be granted or withheld, as the case may be, in such a manner as to insure your receiving said benefit. I ask this in my capacity as your elected intermediary between yourself and that which may not be yourself, but which may have an interest in the matter of your receiving as much as it is possible for you to receive of this thing, and which may in some way be influenced by this ceremony. Amen.

For those of you who might need one, this prayer was written by my favorite author, Roger Zelazny, in his seminal work published in 1969, Creatures of Light and Darkness. It was originally titled Possibly Proper Death Litany in the book but came to be known as the agnostic's prayer. I was introduced to the novel the year after its publication by my teachers at the boarding school Desert Sun, Gordon and Evelyn Wilson. Gordon taught me math and Evelyn, French. They were incredible teachers and a great influence on me.

The manuscript for the book was never intended to be published but Samuel R. Delaney read it and insisted that Doubleday pick it up. It followed what later became a familiar Zelazny trademark, appropriating an early culture's belief system and giving the characters magic, power and life. As I have mentioned before, the opportunity to meet and talk with Roger several times prior to his passing was one of the high points of my life and he has been a lifelong inspiration to me.

The Wilsons later made literary history in 1973 when their phenomenal Laguna Beach bookstore Fahrenheit 451 was raided by the Laguna Beach Police for selling a copy of Zap Comix #4, which had a rather sordid story by Robert Crumb titled Joe Blow. Evie, eight months pregnant at the time, was manhandled by the cops. They both were arrested and charged with selling pornography. 

The case dragged on and on and caused local protests regarding censorship and press freedom, ironic when you consider the name of the bookstore. Fahrenheit 451 is the name of a famous Bradbury book and it relates to the temperature at which paper and books will burn.

Finally, nearly two years after their arrest, the charges against the Wilsons were dropped on October 31, 1975. The District Attorney’s office “felt the comic books no longer would be considered obscene under contemporary community standards."

I love the prayer, it hits all the potential stops for me and covers every possible base. It came up in conversation with my friend Pat the other day and I told her that I would print it. Feel free to incant it at your own convenience.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Zelazny was and is my absolute favorite author. I was introduced to him by subscribing to the Science Fiction Book Club in the early 80s and picking the double volume Amber books because it was more bang for the buck (literally). They opened and then blew my mind. This book specifically if one of my favorites. I was crushed when I heard of his early demise, but maybe, like Sam, he may be brought back to us one day.