Ian, in his father’s guest room in the desert, is on a video chat with Tessa, in their Venice living room.
TESSA: So, did you see my status update?
IAN: No, hold on… (checks quickly) You’re telling Lucy the Adam and Eve story, huh?
TESSA: Yes, though I know that kind of thing pisses you off.
IAN: (reads to himself) “Reading C.S. Lewis… Lucy is stumped with what being naked has to do with being innocent, and struggling with the idea that knowledge is inversely proportional to innocence.”
IAN: Well, I don’t understand it either. Why does knowledge necessarily make you less innocent?
TESSA: That’s the whole point. There is necessarily a loss of innocence when you learn more about the world. There was a loss of human innocence when we made a weapon of mass destruction and actually used it. It was unavoidable.
IAN: But you know what the Bible means by “knowledge”, right? It equates “knowledge” with “evil”. That’s why the snake – sorry, the serpent – gives them the apple.
IAN: So the Bible has no interest in innocence. The whole point of this section was to keep followers from doing any thinking, to avoid getting too smart, so they could just stay stupid and do what they were told.
TESSA: That’s a super reductive way to look at it. I think it’s a compelling and beautiful way to express the loss of innocence, something that every culture deals with. Besides, I’m just telling her the story, and she can interpret it how she wants.
IAN: Well, I guess now she can. I avoided telling her Bible stories because – well, I just think it’s almost impossible to present a child with a book and say “Here’s a bunch of stories. Most of it isn’t true. But millions and millions of people believe it.” I just can’t see how you can stop some of it from bleeding in-
TESSA: She already has her own ideas! You don’t give her enough credit. A few days ago, she said, “I don’t know why I’m the only person in the world who doesn’t believe in heaven.” And I said, “There’s a bunch of cultures who don’t.”
IAN: The Jews, for one.
TESSA: Jews are agnostic on the idea of Heaven.
IAN: Wait, I thought that was a great part of Judaism. No heaven to deal with-
TESSA: Either way, she’s asking questions and she’s genuinely interested in this stuff. But she can come to her own conclusions.
IAN: Well, I guess it’s okay to tell Bible stories, as long as-
TESSA: Oh, here we go. As long as what? The Bible is a central text to our culture! It’s important that she have some familiarity-
IAN: The Bible is a bunch of fables, 98% of them totally false, cobbled together by 400 different sources, each with their own agenda-
TESSA: It’s a text with a lot of culturally-significant stories that I find quite beautiful.
IAN: Look, it’s fundamentally different. We read a fictional book to her, it’s made-up characters doing made-up things. We watch a documentary with her, it’s based on fact, or at least the facts as we have them. But this is a book that says things as fact that are ABSOLUTELY NOT TRUE.
TESSA: She can tell the difference! She comes at this her own way. She doesn’t have your baggage. Someday you’re going to have to realize THAT YOUR DAUGHTER IS NOT YOU.
IAN: (long pause) Okay. Then we also have to read Buddhist texts. And, like, “The Art of War”.
Pause, while Ian wonders why, of all texts in the world, he came up with “The Art of War”.
TESSA: Okay. I’m in.
video chat earlier this week