...because your neighbors do, and they're idiots. :)
here's a cool and clever video by the boys who are responsible for aqua teen hunger force, one of my favorite cartoons on adult swim.
Monday, October 27, 2008
10.24.08 - FEAR
In reviewing Shadow Theatre’s recent production of ‘Joe Turner’s Come and Gone,’ I was struck by how closely the current state of our country resembles in some ways the travails of African-American people in the years just after emancipation. The play is set in 1911, and centers on the lives of people at a boarding house in Pittsburgh. As the sons and daughters of former slaves stream northward, they are left with an interesting and not wholly unpleasant conundrum: where do I go from here?
The world is suddenly opened up wide for them, in ways that were not possible before they escaped from the South. True, there are still huge barriers to overcome. There are white people who will never accept blacks as their equals, who will always carry fear and bitterness and hatred in their hearts toward what they view as ‘the other.’
Hell, a hundred years later, we are still seeing remnants of that in those adorable and delightful pockets of this country that certain Republicans have anointed ‘the REAL America.’
At the same time, I have been re-reading Phillip K. Dick’s ‘Valis,’ a sci-fi book that centers on the ideas of the early Gnostic Christians. The idea of gnosis, a Greek word for ‘knowledge,’ is that understanding of the divine is possible through oneself, that we don’t need the church or its teachings in order to find Him. In short, that we each individually have the power to access the divine, and that those who purport to tell others the way to God are charlatans.
Certain Gnostic sects took this view further, positing that, yes, there is a God running this world, but he is damaged. And there is another, larger God from which our God cleaved himself, and that this other God is trying to break through into our God’s world in order to save us. You can see why early church leaders sought to suppress these ideas.
(That’s an oversimplification, and probably not entirely correct in terms of theological study, but it is Dick’s usage of the word, and the one from which I will take my meanderings.)
Dick quotes the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus as saying: “Time is a child playing at draughts.”
I found the same quote translated a different way: “Time is a child moving counters in a game; the royal power is a child's.”
He is of course referring to the randomness of time, the random nature of the universe. But take away the word ‘time’ and substitute ‘God,’ and you get the idea of what Dick was going after. Our God is a twisted, stunted, deranged child, selfish in his greed for love, who becomes jealous and angry when he doesn’t receive it. He has stolen away from his brother, his twin who was nearly killed during their inception, and he forgets the good part of what he once was.
As do we. What Dick is trying to say is that we have forgotten that we ourselves are gods, and that we ceded our power millennia ago, and chose to play a game, to enter a maze. The maze was this world, this life, these flesh sacks which we occupy, and from which, with all of our former faculties we would have easily escaped. But in order to make it a challenge, we chose to hobble ourselves.
Only now we have forgotten. We no longer remember that we are truly powerful and have allowed the myth of the all-powerful, alleged God to supercede our own true nature.
And so we cower in fear of his power. We are fearful children, worried about going home late to a darkened cabin in a dark wood, where drunken daddy waits with his belt already off and half a pint of whiskey and a whole lot of resentment running through his system. We misunderstand that His power is only power that we have chosen to give him, and that at any moment, if we could only wake up, if we could only remember, we could take it back.
Dick points out that the word ‘idiot’ is derived from the Greek word idios, meaning ‘private,’ or ‘one’s own.’ In our isolation, that famous pain of being a human who will always be alone inside his personal meat-sack, inside the walls of his skull, we are indeed idiots. We have lost the true nature of our larger selves, which is as part of an interconnected, larger whole. Oh, we feel traces of it from time to time. We KNOW in our souls that there is more--that’s why we gave the name God to the being that runs this messed-up world. There is indeed something larger than ourselves. And we seek out that connection, but only blindly, only in stunted, and, well, idiotic ways.
And in our aloneness, in our weakness, we are afraid.
This fear of the mighty ‘other’ can be seen in our politics, in how we run our lives, and especially in those that cling to religion and the bible as the literal, unimpeachable word of God, the authority.
Now back to ‘Joe Turner.’ In the play there are those who are afraid, and those who are daring, who choose a path, a way to live their lives as they see fit, and who turn their backs on fear. There are those who step out blindly and hopefully into the bright, fearsome light of the future, and those who cower and cling to the past.
I think that’s the cusp upon which we sit in this country today. There is an opportunity here, in the glorious mess the fear-mongers have left for us to clean up. There is a moment here when we can finally banish fear, when we can finally seize our own power and remake the world the way we want it, the way it should have been all along--without fear of a dubious God who has mainly led us to hatred and fear and dissatisfaction.
It make sense, doesn’t it, that the God so worshipped by so many is a demonic child, as selfish and short-sighted as we are? They say he made us in his image, after all... And when you think about the hate spouted by those who purport to believe in him, and the misery they have caused themselves and everyone else over the centuries, how could it be anything but that?
Yes, the argument against this hypothesis is that, of course God and those who believe in him have done good, too. There are good Christians and Jews and Muslims out there who do good works and who are good people, no doubt.
But at what cost? The fear and weakness and capitulation that even the good religious people must by definition carry inside themselves in order to worship this creature completely subvert any chance that they might ever truly BE, that they might ever find out what they are, what they are capable of. They exist only through subservience.
And it is interesting to me that the so-called Christians in this country are also the ones who are so beholden to the notions of earthly authority and power and control. They have given themselves over to the authority and control of this God, and so they seek to exert the same authority and control over their fellow humans, and in turn, they capitulate to those on this plane who have more perceived power than themselves. After all, it’s very comforting to think that someone else is in charge--whether it’s in this world or a higher one. It absolves us of any mistakes.
Maybe it’s time for us to take back control. Maybe it’s time for us to let go of fear, despite our idiocy, despite our uncertainty.
Maybe it’s time to leave Daddy to brood alone in his dark and dreary house and strike out on our own and see what’s out there.
Maybe we don’t really need him after all.
Maybe it’s time we fucking grow up.
Friday, October 24, 2008
10.22.08 - HOPE
There is a part of me that is very cynical. Having lived the life I have lived, and having seen the things I have seen, I cannot help but be sardonic and judgmental about the supposed ‘better angels’ of human nature. I bear too many scars acquired at the hands of the ‘worse demons,’ my own included.
Especially when it comes to politics.
I have watched over and over again as politicians have turned their tricks, as they have pimped out the tiny hopes and dreams of tiny people and twisted them in order to benefit themselves. I have watched our supposed leaders in their unmatched cynicism, their staggering greed and selfishness, as they have shamelessly used the rest of us as tools to get the power they crave.
And I have watched as we have played along.
I have watched in stunned disbelief as the lies and scorn and malice, and the ever-more dubious means with which politicians employ them have grown to staggering proportions. I have watched as they have played us for suckers over and over again. And, like rubes at a state fair, we have stepped up to that wheel, one more time--one more time, sweetheart, really, I can win this time, I can feel it!--but, no. The sucker always walks away, empty pockets hanging out, vaguely dissatisfied with himself, vaguely feeling that he has failed somehow. But no, the game was rigged all along.
And it makes me angry to think about how stupid they must think we are, to trot out the same old tropes, the same old lies of divisiveness, the same old fear, to the point where it makes me want to stand up and scream, ‘Don’t you know they think you’re idiots?’
But of course, we are. We, too, are greedy and small-minded and short-sighted and needy and easily flattered. And so we go along, just one more time, just one more roll of the dice, one more spin of the wheel. Maybe this time I’ll win that stuffed pink elephant. Or a $300 tax ‘rebate’...
But I feel something different stirring. I feel...hope. Dare I say it? I feel as if a perfect storm has finally, finally, at long last circled up and spun away the black clouds, driven off the blinding rains and the dust that have occluded our eyes for so long. I feel like there is a chance that the politics of hate and greed and divisiveness--and most importantly, the politics of treating the American people like we’re those rubes at a state fair who will believe anything--may soon be over. Or at least radically altered.
Cynics are just idealists who have been disappointed once too often. We are the true romantics, the ones who think things should be better than they are, who can visualize an ideal that remains out of reach. And when a cynic finds hope again, he has to ease into it slowly.
With plenty of lubrication.
It takes a while to believe again, but when a cynic does believe...hoo boy. The potential for disappointment reaches a scale never achieved by the non-cynic.
But. But but but. There are signs we are at the clear eye of a storm that will change the political landscape of this country for a long time. That the ignorance and fear that have been allowed to run rampant for so long may be swept away, like a bad dream. Signs that people are waking up to the fact that they have been treated like rubes, that they are finally seeing the truth. Perhaps people aren’t buying into the hucksters’ shtick any longer. Perhaps they’ve grown tired of fear. Perhaps we can emerge from our boarded-up basements, step out blinking like newborns into the sunlight and see that our neighbors really aren’t that dangerous after all. That in fact they are just like us--red state, blue state, Christian, Muslim, Jew, atheist--we’re all struggling. We all love our country, we all love our children and want the best for them. We’re all doing the best we can.
Perhaps the thin veil of ‘us versus them,’ used like a fan dance to barely disguise the greed and hunger for more and more and more that the rich have used for so long to hoodwink the poor into thinking they were on the same team is finally crumbling into tatters. Perhaps we can see a moment when we can get past the ugliness and the lies and come together without hidden agendas, without preconceived notions, and without preconditions and truly make an effort to do what’s best for all of us--and in the process help ourselves.
Perhaps, finally, finally it’s time we can make this country into what it was supposed to be all along.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
...sorta fell off the map there. here's a link to a review i just did on 'Joe Turner's Come and Gone' at Shadow Theatre. Cool show, about the African American experience in the early part of the 20th century, with many, many parallels to today's moment in history.