I minored in religion at college, this much can be agreed on, it says so in Syracuse University’s archives. This is at least a fact. Not a seminarian thing, of course, world religions, comparative religion. The study of all faiths from an academic perspective, learning all their differences and similarities, “compare and contrast”, why they exist and how they diverged. If you cared to, you could “prove” it was my minor. Anything beyond that, however, is a question of memory, of my tendency to spin narratives, of our culture’s faith there’s always one single “real” explanation for any given thing. One truth, one objective reality. Just gotta find it.
I’ve told the story of why a number of ways. Sometimes I say I did it to be contrarian, as nearly everyone else in Communications seemed to minor in English. Newhouse School had a rule you couldn’t minor within Newhouse, ostensibly to encourage well-rounded educations. Considering how many of my classmates were Type-A Strivers, I understood, would’ve had most Television-Film kids minoring in Broadcast Journalism and vicey-vee, to keep building up experience near their chosen fields. So, instead, they said “Writing a lot anyway may as well minor in English”. But a contrary snot thought, “What else about the basics of story is there for a screenwriter to minor in, instead?” I remember it as my reason sometimes. I was that arrogant once. Still am, little bit.
Sometimes I say it was because when I was a teenager, dealing with my first taste of real grief, organized religion failed to help me astonishingly badly and there was a part of me that wanted to dissect it like a frog in a science lab. Take it apart, organ-by-organ, learn what made it tick, reckon why it was so utterly useless in helping me. Sometimes, that’s how I remember it too. I was that bitter once. Still am, little bit.
I’ve told others it was because when I was a boy, my parents often worked alternating shifts and so, while my mom’s bedtime stories were all the Current-Times American Child appropriate Dr. Seuss and what have you, my father told us Greco-Roman mythology and other religions as well, Mesopotamian, Norse. Gilgamesh, Tiresias, Icarus. I’ll claim that’s what sparked my interest and that’s completely true, too. That’s what he told us as we drifted off. He wanted to name us Ajax and Agamemnon, for Christ’s sake.
I’m the only person who should be able to say which it was, I should know the Objective Truth, but if it ever existed, I’ve told the story so many times, so many different ways, it no longer does. All I’m left with is whatever feels right at the time, whatever fits that narrative, whatever gets me through the night.
Which is ultimately what I learned about comparing religious faiths as well, of course. All I can do is toast the gods of irony and move on, slouching toward a better life to live and story to tell.