An Open Letter to David Sedaris

Dear David,

I had the unfortunate pleasure of meeting you at the end of a reading in Portland, Oregon. I say “unfortunately,” because it was not pleasant. I have read every one of your books and I love the face you present to the world so much that I didn’t want time to slip away and the chance to thank you vanished.

So I’m standing in the top balcony trying to ask a question and it’s too loud for even me to hear me. All of the sudden, it was quiet enough and I yelled, “DAVID! LOOK UP HERE!”

You put your microphone to your mouth and you said, “ohhhhhhhh, we do not yell.”

I am so sorry, I acted like a jackass. But it was for a very good cause.

You are one of the people that’s helped me make sense of my life. Hearing your Southern drawl talking about growing up gay in North Carolina takes me back to my own childhood in Northeast Texas. We are kindred spirits, and yet not. I know you on the page. I won’t say that I love you, I will say I love “that you.”.

We both know what that means.

I am in the infant stages of launching a huge web site. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life, because I feel open and free instead of closed and stupid. Writing is definitely the best job you’ll ever have if you write about yourself, because not only do you figure out the times in your life when you’ve been a dickhead, you have an ever-present reminder in the faces of others.

Tears rolled down my face as I listened to your interview on Q with Jian Gilmeshi. We shared a moment through transparent waves. For the first time, I had words to express what I was feeling, and I broke like a dam.

Thank you, David. It is a moment that has divided time, kind of like dropping to the floor and praying in the bathroom launched Elizabeth Gilbert’s career.

Speaking of praying, this is what I wanted to tell you at your concert that night.

I love Christianity again, and one of the reasons why is that I read “Jesus Shaves.” I learned why it was important. God is always going to be around because it has been argued to death- there is simply no way to prove God is not real. And there are always going to be things we can’t explain on earth, so we all turn to our respective religions and talk to our gods, even if it’s money or drugs. What if there’s no God? Just sit with that for a minute. If there was no God, would you regret one second of the time you spent praying? I’m guessing not, because for a lot of people, that’s the only time of the day when they get quiet enough to hear what their consciences have to say.

I choose to believe that the voice that talks back to me is God, even if it’s completely ridiculous. As C.S. Lewis famously said, “I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because I’m helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time, waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God, it changes me!” It is the most eloquent quote about prayer I’ve ever heard. I got that feeling again in “Jesus Shaves” because of the denouement- basically, and I’m paraphrasing, “would this conversation have gone any better if we’d had the right words?”

Probably not. The words of faith are as sacred as your heartbeat. There’s no way to bring them up to the surface. They don’t live there.

A great example of this is Pope Francis declaring that if you do good works, you are redeemed… including atheists. Atheists don’t give a crap about redemption, but I give a crap about treating atheists with kindness. God is just my opinion. Not God is just theirs. Christians are not responsible for how atheists react. Christians are responsible for not treating people like crap just because they’re not “one of us.”

There’s just so much “one of us” in the world, David. Even if we don’t believe in God, we still believe we’re chosen. Everybody’s culture is better than everybody else’s. It never stops.

Until people run across your short story and preferably, your voice reading it. Your care coming through as you think about how you can explain something in French for which you’d have trouble in English.

You show your vulnerability, and they show theirs. I especially love the bit where you are speaking the English equivalent of what you said in French, because that’s exactly how I speak Spanish. When I was 17, I went to Mexico on a mission trip, and I gave my testimony. It was something like “thank you for the day to speak with the children. We went to church, we read the Bible…” At this point, I am utterly terrified. That’s pretty much all I know. The best part of that trip was that I only knew how to speak Spanish in the present tense, so I couldn’t express what had happened and what was coming. I could only live now, ahora mismo. In those ways, I see the similarity of our hilarity.

“But a bell, though… that’s fucked up.”

2 thoughts on “An Open Letter to David Sedaris

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