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Jason Silva: What is a God?

We’ve covered a few of Jason Silva’s “Shots of Awe” here on the Grail over the past couple of years. But if you’re going to do ‘awe’, then you’ve got to go big, and in this latest monologue Jason scales things up to star size, contemplating the light- and life-giving presence that is our Sun. So much awe in fact that you can begin to understand how you might form a religion based on it…

More Jason Silva monologues:

  1. Waxing Technological
    That’s my kind of rap video! Definitely a dude that worships knowledge and technology as much as I do, and without severing ties to the past. I constantly feel torn between the two. I grew up as the son of a minister, but decided to pursue a career in engineering instead of religion. After watching my young wife’s world devastated by cancer and getting dragged through hell with her, the conflict only intensified. I wanted to take the path of the Atheist (and sometimes still do) of just mocking religion and walking away. Yet, because of my heritage I instead chose to independently study history and religion and try to understand it on a deeper level. So, one half of me is pulled toward the future and the other reaches back to those still bound by the traditions of the past. It doesn’t help that there is the ever-present fear that all our strivings may be in vain – that we were never meant to be anything more than accessories in a mission that has long been declared finished, and all attempts to redefine our roles will eventually be squashed by a cosmic beat-down.


      “To the Osages, the east represented light, life and the coming of all good things, while the west was symbolic of death, darkness and evil. This was probably due to Grandfather Sun who rose in the east to light the earth giving it warmth and life, then at day’s end sank into the west leaving a world cold and apparently lifeless. This probably resulted in the dawn being chosen as the appropriate time for prayers and supplication.

      The “dawn chant,” as it was often called, was typical Osage, having probably been handed down from their Souian ancestors. This manifestation of religious worship drew the interest and attention of all the early explorers who encountered it.

      In the “dawn chant,” the Osages’ mourning and prayers usually started with their lungs fully inflated and at the height of their voices continued in a progressively lower tone until all their breath was expended. The performance was then repeated over and over again until in a state of exhaustion, they often dropped to the earth sobbing and crying until they could cry no more. This morning devotion usually took the major portion of an hour. It seemed to be a manifestation of religious faith characterized by a mixture of devotion to the Great Spirit, of emotionalism, and of pining for lost loved ones. Usually their wailing and keening was accompanied by the barking and howling of a multitude of dogs, always present in and about their villages.

      Perhaps no one but the Osages could describe their “morning chant,” and they even had trouble in defining it. John Joseph Mathews, a descendant of the Osages, grew up with this religious practice and in later years, had this to say about it:

      “I heard it many times as I grew up and until the time I entered high school, and I have never been able to describe it to myself; it was indescribable, and there is nothing with which to compare it. It filled my little boy’s soul with fear and bittersweetness, and exotic yearning, and when it had ended and I lay there in my exultant fear-trance, I hoped fervently that there would be more of it, and yet was afraid that there might be.

      “It seemed to me later, after I had begun to reason, that this prayer-song, this chant, this soul stirring petition, always ended before it was finished, in a sob of frustration.

      “It was Neolithic man talking to God.”

      1. The Health Benefits of Sun Worship
        Group ecstatic singing was definitely one of the pleasurable experiences of my religious phase. (I’m starting to sound like Dustin Hoffman in Little Big Man, haha.) After a hour or so of intimate worship music I would feel an intense euphoria. I experienced a comparable euphoria after my basketball coach would make us run “suicide drills.” I’ve heard that professional singers have a significantly greater life expectancy, but that of professional athletes is below average. So, worship the big orange ball, not the small, bouncy one. Alternatively, I’d like to experiment with taking more baths with people like Faye Dunaway who “avert their eyes at the appropriate moment.”

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