I have to say, I admire John Cusack as an actor quite alot. I like some of his activism too. In any event I certainly admire his commitment to social justice even if he sometimes comes off as a knee-jerking liberal (I imagine I have my knee jerk reactions too). However, I was watching him on James Lipton's wonderful, if somewhat self-involved, show, Inside the Actor's Studio
. The subject of his film 1408
arose close to the end of the show. The film is based on the Stephen King's short story of the same name. Cusack plays the hero of the tale, a skeptic looking, much like Houdini once did for evidence of a hearafter in allegedly haunted places all over the world. In the film 1408 is the number of a hotel room with a rather nasty and potentially supernatural history. I don't want to reveal anymore of the film its well done and worth watching.
Lipton, asked Cusack what his thoughts on the paranormal were, was he a skeptic as well, or believer? Cusack made the assertion that anyone making a King film had to a be a bit of a believer. For all I know this is true, though I doubt it. His rationale for belief was what caught my attention. He said, "I think you have to be an incredible egotist to think you are all that there is. I am an incredible egotist and even I can't believe that." What is stunning about this statement is how incredibly thoughtless it is. I'm not even sure what it might mean. Does it really follow that incredible egotism might lead one to skepticism of a hearafter. The belief that this life happens to be all there is does not, in fact, lead people to ululations of joy. Most people like the idea of living forever, of reuniting with family, friends and other loved ones that have died. Its an idea with more than its fair share of allure, and explains more than much else the supreme resiliancy of religious ideas.
To characterize a varied system of thought like that of athiesm isn't an easy one. However where is the ego in saying that this is the only life we get? Where is the ego in saying, this world is likely the only one we get to live in? Where is the egotism in saying, these people next to me get only one life too? Contrary to the mind-numbing nihilism that is implied, or the hedonistic self-gratification people worry will come from such an intellectual space, athiesm implies no such thing. It isn't that we think athiests think thoughts like "I am all that there is," rather, it is "we, that is to say whatever life may be, is all that there is." Egotistical? I don't think so. But if you want raging solipsism you really need look no further than to believers. "I am an insinificant peice of dust, or a made from a clot of blood a sick lowly creation worthy of nothing. I am a miserable sinner, who has a share in crime i didn't commit. However....the creator of the universe, the seer of all things, he/she/it who knew the number and place of every hair on my head before I was born has a plan for me and daily intervenes in my life." I think I know where I would put my money for who the greater egotist was.
Having taken John Cusack to task it is also important to note that his views maybe more subtle than they originally appear. This was a best a two minute conversation between the increasingly likable Lipton and Cusack. Its quite possible that he has more to say on the subject. In any event, it won't stop me from going to see his new film.