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Alan Weisman

Alan Weisman's reports from around the world have appeared in Harper's, The New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic Monthly, The Los Angeles Times Magazine, Orion, Wilson Quarterly, Vanity Fair, Mother[…]

Weisman says he was born Jewish, but went freelance later in life.

Alan Weisman:  You know, a lot of people ask me that and I am not sure I know how to respond, because though I was born into a religion, nearly all of us are, I am not particularly practitioner of it. I was born Jewish and it’s not that I have anything against it. I've been sort of like a freelance in all aspects of my life and my dialogue with God has been a private one rather than borrowing someone else’s words. I remember use to sit in the synagogue wondering why are these prayers the one that you have to say so God listens and ultimately, I just started talking on my own and sometimes I think that may be every think that I write is part of that conversation. But there is a couple of important responses to your question about spirituality here. One is that I am grateful, enormously grateful for having done this book, because I got into the book feeling extremely concerned about the fate of the planet. Now I no longer I am, because what I have learned through my research is the planet is going to be fine. Life is so indomitable, it is so creative, it is resilient that no matter how bad the world gets hammered, either by us or by some natural disaster and this has happened many times long before human beings appeared on Earth, huge volcanic eruptions that have created enormous extinctions. I mean 250 million years ago, the Permian extinction, wiped out 95% of every living form on earth and that due to a volcanic eruption and what is today Siberia that last about a million year and came out right through the carboniferous layer and so talk about global warming, that was pretty intense and then this asteroid hits Antarctica apparently and yet life comes back and eventually it took millions of years, but it got so successful that we got this age of dinosaurs, which is rather amazing and then another asteroid eventually millions of years later, knocks them about and after another huge die back, then we get the age of mammals of which we are currently a part. This has happened often. I understand the creationists who feels such reverence for life, because, there are so many examples of it, how it will always find a way. A seed will lodge despite the best efforts of the people who maintain New York’s bridges. A seed will lodge between two steel plates and it'll sprout and its roots will start pushing apart the bridge. Stuff will figure out the way to grow in Chernobyl or in places we use to make nerve gas. So, I feel reverence for life and science has never explained how life got here in the first place or what is the spark of life. I don’t to try the answer that in my book or in my life. I think that is a mystery that really what life is about is, we are suppose to deep in that mystery, not try to solve that, but the other thing about religion is that I realize that many of my readers, probably most of them, will be believers and I would have to at least address what their religions think about the concept of the world without people and it turns out that to the biggest religions on earth Islam and Christianity, believe that the world was created for people and when we;re gone, there is no more need for world and the world will go away. So, I had to at least touch those bases in the book, but I had it really wonderful an unexpected experience as a result of talking to lots religious leaders. I realize that one point that three of them very different form one another. A Korean Buddhist monk, an evangelical Protestant leader here in the United States and the Muslim cleric, a Sufi Master in Istanbul. All gave me almost identical answers. They all said that “Yes, the earth as we know it is going to disappear sometime,” it's just going to go away and after the human experiences is over. I guess the Buddhist believe it is going to come back again, but the others there is an Armageddon really and yet all of three of them, said that “we don’t know when that is going to happen, because that is going to happen in God’s time, which is a mystery to us and anybody who presumes to know when that is, that’s pride” that’s not knowledge, because religion is not about knowledge, it is about faith. While we are here just as we should keep our bodies pure and uncontaminated to be vessels prayer or we should keep our temples or churches or mosques or synagogue, beautiful places to welcome the spirit. So, we should keep this earth as lovely as God created it, to welcome God back. Well, no matter what you believe in life, whether you believe in religion or whether you are secular atheist, human or scientist, you name it and that's something that we can all get together behind this idea, that there is a reason to preserve, the planet as it is right now, because we are blessed to be a part of it. Wherever that blessing comes from and that isn’t incredible that we get to be part of this force called life and we should nurture it rather than destroy it.


Recorded on: 2/5/08