Friday, February 13, 2015

On Reading VALIS: a poem

I just finished reading Philip K. Dick's science fiction novel VALIS for a project I'm working on called Philip K. Dick in Orange County.  One of the best ways for me to process and internalize what I read is to write about it.  So, today, I wrote a poem inspired by VALIS.  Here it is:

The most creative theologian of Orange County
was a science fiction writer, Philip K. Dick.
He was the Soren Kierkegaard of the OC,
refusing to accept orthodoxy,
searching, ever searching
for God, or VALIS,
the bright pink light of inspiration
which contains the secrets of the universe,
which is Holy Wisdom, Hagia Sophia,
meant to heal us with information.

But to be a prophet is to suffer,
to risk ostracism, and madness.
What is faith?
What is God?
What is VALIS?
And who are his prophets?

The ability to see the divine in math,
in molecular biology, in mythology,
in ancient texts no one reads anymore,
in a dead cat, in trash, in a robot
is an occupation for mystics and saints
and a science fiction author
living in suburban 1970s 
Orange County, Nixonland,
The empire never ended.

Kierkegaard said that
the problem with most people of faith
is that, for them, faith comes way too easily.
For him, and for PKD, faith was a burden,
a never-ending search
that refuses to exclude the revelations of
Muhammad, Lao Tzu, Siddhartha,
Mani, medieval Hermetic alchemists.

An inclusive world soul, 
not in a cheesy, easy, new agey way,
but in a rigorous Jungian or Platonic sense,
a difficult puzzle, a few pieces missing,
labored over in solitude,
and silence, and pain,
and sometimes grace.

How can we, in the age of science,
still believe in miracles,
take seriously the wisdom of the ancients?
One science fiction writer
sought this path, 
in the throes of mental illness,
this path from the stars to the earth,
and back.

Maybe, Philip K. Dick said,
our problem is not moral,
but intellectual and creative?
Maybe we suffer from 
a failure of imagination
and intellectual amnesia.
Blessed is he who reads,
and seeks, 
and finds,
and loses,
and keeps on seeking.

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