Monday, December 12, 2011


She said it, I didn't, but I agree. Carrie Fisher said it on "The Sound of Young America", a public radio show hosted by Jesse Thorn. I was listening this past Saturday when he did two interviews, one with Carrie Fisher, film actor, author, and one-woman show performer, and the other with Errol Morris, documentary filmmaker and also an author. Both, but independently of each other, said something about zero that caught my ear.

Carrie Fisher said, with a little promptimg from host Thorn, that hope is going back to zero, resetting the clock, starting over fresh. Errol Morris said that the tabloids are the ground zero of storytelling. They tell stories at their most basic, at their simplest, grabbing their audience in the first four or five words.

It's true, isn't it, what both had to say. When you hope to meet someone, the love of your life, you're hoping to get back to zero. You hope you can lose all your baggage and she will love you for your pure essence. Even better: If you cannot manage to lose all your baggage, it won't matter. She will look right past it all and see you at a zero state, the pure you beneath all the baggage. And you, you lucky bastard, if you should meet someone like that, you will do the same for her. You will be two fat zeros for love's sake.

And you'll tell the story of how you met and fell in love, you'll tell it in the simplest way, at the ground zero of storytelling. Well, you'll tell it to each other, if to no one else, because the details might be too embarrassing for others to hear. But for the two of you, the world and love will have started over, even if your names aren't Adam and Eve. Everything went back to zero the day you saw her eyes, her lips, her cheeks. You were glowing in your heart, in your innermost zero, and soon it would be the two of you, just the two of you, yes.

It's a beautiful dream, and because it is so beautiful, it became painfully obvious that there is a place where it does not happen. That's academia. If you think about it, going back to zero is the last thing most scholars want. The point for them is not to get rid of baggage, but to drag it with them, take it everywhere they go, in history, in science, or whatever their field is, drag the world down with everything they can conceivably impose on it. I find this to be true in historical Jesus studies and to some extent in Darwin studies.

I could give examples, but what would be the point? I've given so many in my work. Just look at all the baggage they add to ancient Judaism -- Temple, rituals, purity concerns -- creating a fictional Judaism that never existed. Or weighing down Judas with betrayal and Jewish leaders with persecutory tendencies. Why go through it all over again? Just ask one question: Who in academia wants to zero out the baggage? No one. We all know the point of good scholarship is to make the world fit the perverse ideas scholars are committed to. It's about power. And that's not nothing. That ain't zero.

(I cannot help but remember the cry of the anarchist in the prison camp in Lina Wertmuller's film "Seven Beauties", just before he kills himself by leaping into a vat of something slimy. He cries out, "Man in disorder!" and makes an obscene gesture at the prison guards chasing him. Man in disorder. Maybe that's the same thing as, Man as a zero! A big fat zero.)

Leon Zitzer

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