I didn't really know what to expect, and frankly wasn't expecting much, since it was in a coffee shop. As it turned out the event was pretty darned cool. It was the kind of thing where you're really glad you went because what you thought would be a large crowd turns out to be small and intimate. When I walked in to the Aurora Coffee Shop, it was small and seemingly an impossible place to host what I thought would at least be a moderately large event. I took a seat, and had a badly needed cup of coffee as other people started showing up. I met a couple of like minded, interesting folks from the area. A guy from Kennesaw who made quite a drive to make it to the event. I invited him to sit at the table, as space was at a premium. Another person from Macon sat down on the steps to the exit beside me and we chatted. Eventually, she joined us as well.
|Brad Warner on "stage" at Aurora Coffee in Atlanta|
When the "show" started, they introduced the authors and used the stair landing as a stage. The author of Breath of God, Jeffrey Small, got up and introduced himself. He is an Atlanta native (very rare in Atlanta) and a World Religions graduate of Oxford University. His book is a sort of Dan Brown-esque book about Jesus' lost years. Or as he put it, "Da Vinci Code Goes To India". It is a novel based on a real "legend" of sorts that Jesus spent a number of years in India and what he did and learned while there. It is, in the authors hopes, a novel to start a dialogue about the intersection of the various world religions. Small was an interesting guy, who seemed very interested in his subject matter and was clearly knowledgeable, so he made for good discussion. I chatted with him after the event about the Axial Age and he pointed to sections in the book that are influenced by that idea.
After he stepped down from the stage, Brad Warner took over and did a great job of giving a sort of brief talk about his books, particularly the most recent one, and sort of tied a little Dharma Talk type of stuff in with it. It was interesting and entertaining. He's an interesting guy who is very unassuming, and sort of seems painfully shy but yet is a very engaging and interesting speaker. The very shyness that he seems to have when hanging out is kind of what makes him so engaging. Also, if you've read any of his books you already know, he has a great sarcastic sort of humor about him that is fun to listen to.
He spoke about sex and sin and the difference of how the two are viewed in America as opposed to Japan, with the central idea being that idea that when you contrast the two cultures you realize that the acts themselves aren't inherently bad or good...they are just viewed as such by society. I'm doing some really big paraphrasing here, but if you want better, then get out there and see him live! He opened the floor to questions and the small crowd seemed a little shy. There was a couple of questions I can't recall, as well as one about Polyamory which he delved in to in depth and quite interestingly. I asked a couple of questions as well about The Axial Age and so forth. He and the other author both gave their take on it and it was very interesting.
When it was over, I was surprised by how quickly the place emptied out. While I was chatting with Small, the shop mostly emptied and the merchandise was packed away. I had to wrap up my conversation with one of the kind folks from the Atlanta Soto Zen Center and make my way to Brad in order to catch him before he left. I told him how glad I was to get to hear him talk and how I have really enjoyed his books and have found them helpful. I'm NOT an autograph kind of guy, myself, having worked for a band for years, I kind of find it a little weird. I usually opt for letting people know I appreciate their work and shaking their hand. I bought a copy of Sit Down and Shut Up because I only have a digital copy and it's the only one I don't have the physical copy of, and he offered to sign it, so I accepted as it would have been kind of weird for me to explain at that point. I'm really glad I did too because he drew a quick Godzilla and autographed it.
As we were chatting I let him know that I was as much a fan of the fact that he worked with UltraMan as I was his books! He was surprised by this and we talked about the weird regional showing of the UltraMan show in America and about the DVD series. I won't print the details of that here, but ask him about it if you are interested. Anyhow, he added a drawing of UltraMan to his autograph which really pleased me and made me glad to have gotten it!
|Brad's autograph in Sit Down and Shut Up|
(Never imagined I would get - much less
show off - an autograph, but I love this!)
All told, I went in to the event with a sort of "take what I can get" attitude, a little disappointed that I wouldn't get to visit one of the Zen Center appearances, and I left incredibly pleased that I met so many great folks and got to chat a bit with Brad. Best of all, was the interesting talk the authors gave.
If Brad Warner is coming to your town, I highly recommend that you make it out for an appearance! You can check his schedule here!