A morning at The Rotunda
A possibility. That's what I was going on when I drove the 582 miles to Charlottesville, Virginia.
Possibly, I could ask some questions from arguably the civilized world's smartest man. I had several questions written down to ask if I had the chance.
When I got there, I was expecting there to be a line waiting for the best seats in the very old, seating limited Jefferson Rotunda. There was a fellow by the name of Chris sitting down in front of the entrance door. He was reading his copy of The God Delusion with a small box of other books by Professor Dawkins at his side.
We chatted for an hour, in the cold, before the obnoxious 'security' officer allowed us to sit in the lobby. When he asked what we were there for both Chris and I said, "Richard Dawkins" at the same time. The 'guards' retort was, "Who?" [It's times like this where I can relate to people that receive the same query from me when discussing rap artists or rock stars.]
Finally, it was time for us to take our seats in 'The Dome Room' at the top of The Rotunda. [Rather elegant names for such mundane places on a boring campus with only one 24 hr. eatery called 'littlejohn's'.] I climbed the stairs with the rest of the quiet people that made up the initial group of chair-sitters. I arrived at the top of the stairs and made a joke about waiting for the coast to be clear and the bomb-sniffing dogs to give the all clear. My humor was wasted on the pompous as evidenced by the fact that only a few knew my meaning and snickered.
The 'book speech' went the same as any other from what I am told of them. I had the most disconcerted feeling while sitting in my chosen chair along the aisle. A feeling as if I was back in some church awaiting the arrival of the preacher. Most unhealthy for a man who remembers those same emotions. I felt my anger rise because of the crowd's conditioned response to the environment. Seating followed the bell curve to a fucking tee. "These are the people who share my vision of a religion-free world???", I thought. "We can't even overcome our programmed reactions to a room full of chairs." AND THEN, the scariest thought of all: "What is a man who taught animal behavior going to say when he recalls how these so-called rational people behaved like common herd animals at The Rotunda?" Needless to say, I was disappointed with my ideological colleagues at this point. I hurriedly scribbled down these thought in the form of a question to add to the list of 'possibles'.
The 'Lach'(sp?) study concerning children per household being indirectly proportionate to education and directly proportionate to poverty level seemed to dominate the conversation. [For those of you who do not know, I have four children and would love to have more some day.] I have always felt offended by this study in that I was not part of the demographic studied. Perhaps the rule could use an exception and I'd like to think that I am it. Anyway, this gave me another feeling of revulsion with the group. It's a good damned thing that it was Dawkins there. Anyone else and I would have left immediately since their minds had already been made up and it seemed that their 'faith' concerning this study would be unshakeable. Fine. Stupid and poor breeds quicker. I suppose that my children will have to be responsible for paying the bills on the retirement home of their fucking choice. To a certain degree, I'm glad they have chosen not to breed.
When the Q&A session was over, these people, including the Jefferson Scholars, filed out of the building as if they were heading to the fellowship hall for lunch after a moving sermon. Nothing but disgust and revulsion. I recalled that earlier that morning these people sat quietly with very little mingling. I attempted to engage a couple of people besides Chris in conversation. However, after witnessing the queue of 'followers' leave the building, I am glad that my attempt at discourse failed.
I waited on the concourse for Professor Dawkins, having already decided that my copy of his book did not need to be signed. I wanted to shake his hand, wish him well, and leave 'Vuhjinya' far behind. I got to do just that. I shook his hand, smiled, and told him that I hoped that I was an exception to the Lach rule and thanked him for being part of the reason for my continued education. He smiled back looking even more tired than he was on the Rational Response Squad stickam.com chat. The man could probably use a vacation as much as any of us think we deserve one.
On the way home, all of the questions which had 'popped' into my brain made me laugh. A few of them I had planned to lighten up the air surrounding the pretentious individuals in attendance. Or perhaps it was my own snobbishness that I reviled so much? A thought for another day.
In the end, the only question that seemed to be the one that would have given him a chuckle was: "Did you get to see the parody of yourself on SouthPark?" I would have reassured him that many people consider that to be the point where they know that they have 'made it' in the real world.
It was worth the trip. One of these days, I'll need to take a road trip to Philadelphia to see some other people whom I hold in high regard as well.
With that, here are the very few pictures that I took with the camera phone. [I've never been much of a memento keeper.] Hmmm. 'MEMEento.'
Damned backlighting through the windows.