So I was talkin' with this woman I know t'other day and somehow we got on the topic of her relationship with another woman - her first same-sex relationship. She said that she'd never been "gay" before and it was causing her to become aware of all kinds of things that she'd never noticed before.
I said "Yeah, I'm committed to celibacy - which isn't the same thing at all, but I do know what you mean about having a non-traditional form of sexuality/nonsexuality - you become aware of how much emphasis there is on same-sex relationships in every aspect of our society. When I said the words "committed to celibacy", her eyes got huge. She said "Well, I think you deserve to be happy..." and trailed off.
And that's pretty much what it's like to be celibate. Even the queers get weirded out. I'm pretty sure that if I said I liked fucking chickens - roosters, actually - people would find that, maybe a little odd, but ya know, whatever gets ya through the night.
My decision to embrace celibacy - actually, I like "chastity" better because it seems more old-fashioned - my decision to embrace chastity happened after five or six years of being sexually abstinent, which condition was my way of avoiding the type of sexual relationships I'd had since high school. Basically, I decided nothing was better than being involved with women who were crazy enough to get involved with me. During that time, I'd say I was "taking a break" and that if God wanted me to be with a woman, "God'll have to make that happen". And then, one day, it just clicked in my head - "I am celibate" - which I later changed to "I am chaste". It definitely started as a way of dealing with my own brokenness - my childhood did not prepare me for healthy relationships and the years of drugs, alcohol and the kinda sex life that goes with being drunk and/or high 24/7 only exacerbated an already fucked up situation. But it became another way of enacting my spirituality, like getting clean/sober or becoming a vegetarian.
I will tell ya, though - giving up weed, meth and booze wasn't exactly a sacrifice. Eventually, being blotto stops being fun and starts being what you have to do just to survive. When I finally staggered into detox, I was wrecked - mentally, physically and spiritually, and couldn't remember when it was all about "partying". I can't imagine ever going back to that.
Vegetarianism seemed like the right thing to do at the time. I stopped eating red meat first. That went well for a year, so I cut out the rest. I had to watch myself so I didn't turn into one of those self-righteous vegetarians who always annoyed me. Pretty soon, I lost whatever it was that separated pigs from dogs or cows from horses - why is fine to eat one, but not the other? At some point, I was talking with a Jew about the kosher food prohibitions and I realized that vegetarianism had become like that for me. I am conscious of the fact that I have a relationship with Brahman/God/Wakan Tanka every time I eat. Also, bacon stinks.
And so it is with chastity. Above and beyond not catching HPV, I am made more conscious of my relationship with my Deity of choice. I have been somewhat disgusted for a coupla decades with the way sex is treated by mainstream USA and that has become more pronounced. I really don't see how it's possible, in the internet age, to have a healthy sexual life. Sex is portrayed as a joke, bodily function or weapon everywhere you look. I don't think it's possible to block all that out enough to have uncorrupted sex. i'd rather not have sex than have sex with a head full of what sex has become.
A recent BDSR release (Hope In Hell, which you can find here - https://thebigdrumintheskyreligion.bandcamp.com/album/hope-in-hell) contains a sample - "If anything blocks your relationship with God, get rid of it", or something like that, and I concur. There's nothing more interesting, mind-blowing or joyful than the ever-unfolding relationship that I have with the metaphor that I use for the Ultimate Mystery, which is all that is, was and will be, and more. It sets me apart from the society I live in, sure, but that's just icing on the cake.
I expect that some readers have a question in mind - no I don't do that, either.
“Krazy Kat”, by George Herriman, was a comic strip that ran in newspapers from the 1910’s to the 40’s. It wasn’t very popular in its time because it was a bit too weird, but William Hearst, who owned a lot of papers liked it and basically demanded that it be published. Numerous cartoonists have cited it as a major inspiration since it ceased publication.
The three main characters were Krazy Kat, Ignatz Mouse and Officer Pupp. Krazy Kat was of fluid gender. The style at the time was to use “he” as a gender-neutral catch-all, so Krazy is more often refered to by that pronoun, but “she” appears occasionally and there were a few strips that mentioned the Kat’s androgyny. Ignatz Mouse harbored some degree of hatred for Krazy, which manifested in a constant desire to throw a brick at her/his head. Krazy was in love with Ignatz and for some reason interpreted being beaned with a brick as a token of affection. Officer Pupp hated Ignatz and was always looking for a reason to jail him. Catching Ignatz in the act of beaning Krazy with a brick generally provided justification for locking Ignatz up. Krazy was unaware of the hostility between Pupp and Ignatz and thought they were playing a game. In later strips, Officer Pupp was overtly in love with Krazy. Ignatz became aware of the fact that Krazy enjoyed being hit with a brick. Krazy and Ignatz conspired against Pupp to make sure the beaning could occur. Pupp didn’t catch on, being a bit dim.
I’ll explain it a different way. Krazy is transcendent of all pairs of opposites. Neither male nor female, both male and female, living only in the immediate present moment. Pupp is “good” in the sense of law and order, maintaining and enforcing the rules whether they make sense or not. Ignatz is “evil”, in the sense of chaos and destruction. Good and evil are in constant conflict. Transcendence has no knowledge or interest in their conflict. Good seeks to protect the transcendent without understanding. Evil seeks to attack the transcendent, which the transcendent interprets as love because chaos is what causes change. Good doesn’t move anything forward. If Adam and Eve had been good and obeyed the rules, creation would’ve stayed stuck in Eden. It is only when some agent of evil disrupts things that the story gets interesting. Ignatz – the serpent, the trickster – is a necessary force in service to the transcendent. Pupp –the enforcer of Commandments – serves the public order and basically does a fine job, but that’s all.
Transcendence loves chaos. Enlightened chaos – Ignatz in later strips – is aware of this and serves the wants of transcendence. Good, loving the transcendent in a limited and ignorant way, tries to prevent chaos, but generally fails because the transcendent is ensuring chaos will succeed.
That’s what “Krazy Kat” was about. And it was a really funny, weird and very well-drawn comic strip.
I recently got a tattoo of Ignatz Mouse looking grumpy and holding a pipe. I looked around for a strip where Ignatz is smoking a pipe, but couldn’t find one so I asked Andy, my tattoo guy, to draw one in. I wanted the pipe because at the same time “Krazy Kat” was being published, James Joyce was working on Finnegans Wake, which is a weird, convoluted tale about rise, fall and redemption. There’s a character in Wake, identified as “the cad with a pipe”, who plays some minor role in the fall from grace of the main character, HCE, and who is identified with HCE’s son, Shem. See, the Wake is a dream – everybody is also somebody else in the same way that Vishnu is also Krishna. Shem is the dark, esoteric, unloved son who moves things forward and who serves the mother, ALP, who is the agent of transcendence. The cad with a pipe, therefore, is in the same role as Ignatz, disrupting the plan and making things happen. I identify with Shem, and am comforted at times when I feel like the unloved son by the knowledge that this is how its supposed to be. Sean, the golden boy, gets all the glory, but delivers the wrong sermon – cf. modern Christianity – but Shem is always there, working in the shadows, to keep the wheels of the world turning. I’m with that guy.
My new tattoo, then, represents a pair of agents of enlightened chaos, with whom I identify. It is a very simple design which conveys much meaning – as symbols should do. I might as well state here, because it can’t be overstated, that symbols are only symbols. Symbols represent concepts. Symbols are a form of shorthand and should not be taken too seriously in themselves. Symbols should not be confused with the concepts they represent.
I see myself occupying a position between Krazy Kat and Ignatz Mouse. I am fully aware of the reality of the transcendent and seek to serve it, but on the ground, I tend to behave in a way that some people find chaos-causing. I do it because such is my basic nature and because I encounter a lot of people whostrike me as being a little too comfortable with their established forms and their concepts of how things “should” be. These people must be fucked with. I have no desire to butcher sacred cows, but a huge desire to point out to their worshipers that are, after all, just cows. I do the same to myself – soon I will slander James Joyce, who I am certain was the vehicle through which the Divine transmitted Finnegans Wake, a Holy Book on par with the Bhagavad Gita, the Diamond Sutra, the Bible and the Koran. In time, I may attain to Krazy Kat’s level – actually, I most certainly will, as shall all sentient beings – but for now, I’m satisfied to be a grumpy mouse smoking a pipe, tossing bricks when the opportunity arises.
James Joyce was a complete bastard – an arrogant, drunken, whore-mongering, syphilitic Irishman. His favorite comic strip was "Krazy Kat".
Three brothers were travelling. They decided to stop for the night. As they made their camp, the oldest said, “I hear a stream. I’ll go get water.”
He took their water bottles and walked toward the sound of running water. Sure enough, he found a stream and sitting beside it was a hag. She was a terribly ugly old thing – her skin was wrinkled, pocked and greenish-grey. Her hair was a tangled, matted mess; one eye was bloodshot, the other clouded with a bluish cataract. Rotted, yellow teeth poked out of her mouth. She stood to meet the oldest brother.
“Hello,” said he, “I’ve come to get some water.”
“You may have water and more,” the hag croaked, “but first you must give me a kiss.”
“I’m afraid I must be going, then. Good evening” and the oldest brother returned to camp. “There is a stream”, he told his brothers, “but it’s guarded. I couldn’t get water.”
The second brother took the water bottles and went to the stream. He, too, met the hag and was offered the bargain – water and more in exchange for a kiss – and he, too, returned without water.
The youngest brother took the water bottles – what else could he do? He met the old hag as his brothers had.
“Hello. I’ve come to get water.”
“You may have water and more, but first you must give me a kiss.”
“Only a kiss? I’ll give you that and a hug as well.” The youngest brother embraced the old hag and, closing his eyes, kissed her square on the lips. When he opened his eyes, he saw that she had transformed into the most beautiful, young maiden he had ever seen, with clear, smooth skin, bright, shining eyes and golden tresses falling over her shoulders.
“Well done,” said the maiden. “You have made me young again. I am a Queen in this land and you shall be my King.”
The above is not a proper myth, but a snippet of mythy stuff. I might’ve gotten the outline from Joe Campbell – I’m not sure. It’s the kind of thing you find in various forms all over the world, but the way I’ve presented it is basically western European, which is apropos as I am too. I’ve bothered to type it out because there’re some shows on the calendar and I’m changing how BDSR performs - taking it away from the improvisational psychedelic noise with occasional myth telling and toward a more organized improvisational drum circle with some noisy elements and constant myth telling. I’m gonna use the above to introduce the idea to the audience – present the short story of the three brothers and the hag and then explain it, which’ll go something like this here –
See, it’s like this – in myths, nothing is only what it seems to be on the surface because everything represents something else. Traveling means living. The three brothers are three aspects of one person and that’s the person you’re supposed to identify with, though you’ll do well to identify with the aspect that succeeds, not the two who fail and who are, by the way, pride and fear. The sound of the stream is the lure of the quest for enlightenment or maybe it’s the rustling of the unconscious mind, depending on whether you choose to take these things metaphysically or psychologically. Me, personally, I take ‘em anyway I can because all interpretations are equally valid and all have their lessons.
So the brothers go to the stream and meet the wretched ol’ hag, the embodiment of the unknown who can only become known on her terms, which in this case means a kiss – there are plenty of myths where the hero has to fuck the ugly old woman and this can be bothersome to those of us who are bothered by gender stereotyping, but we need to look past all that and recognize that there are things beyond our socio-political ideologies and this myth ain’t about intersectional feminism, it’s about the importance of saying “Yes!” to life even when that means cozying up to some archetype that’s hard to look at and might possibly bite, which the youngest brother does, in fucking fact, do and gives more to the Goddess than is asked of him and that is exactly what the hag is – the Goddess in one of her forms and our hero’s willingness to say “Yes!” changes her from her wintery fearful form to the one she wears when representing spring, which is much easier on the eyes and so the youngest brother enjoys the bounty of the blooming, blossoming land of which the Goddess is Queen.
So, too, should we, in the journey of our lives, be willingly led aside by the babbling song of cosmic water, toward adventures unplanned and so, too, should we accept the invitation of the dark and loathsome-seeming Mystery who asks only that we relinquish our preconceived notions, our pride and fear, our clinging to an image of a self and the proper way that self should behave, and accept the terms life offers in exchange for the water of knowledge. This is what the story is saying – “Give yourself to the forces of the Universe, whose purposes are beyond your guessing, whose reasons are unknowable to you. Embrace the form that your life takes and give more to it than you must. This is the way to the fullest experience of life. This is the way become a Divinity.”
This story has been told and told and told again, by every culture in human history and precious fucking few have grasped it. All religions tell this tale.
Or something like that. Ya gotta remember that I’ll be shouting this stuff off the cuff, wearing a loincloth and a medicine hat with bones and strings of beads swirling around my head, a veil impairing my vision and a handful of ne’er-do-wells banging on buckets and drums behind me. I’ll be all amped up on caffeine and adrenaline and trying not to trip over my mic cord, so it’s possible I’ll forget half of what I’m trying to say. But it’ll be a spectacle, that’s for fucking sure.
Hope to see ya at the show.
Policies regarding the existence and free expression of the Big Drum in the Sky Religion
Statement of Existence of the Big Drum in the Sky Religion
Wherein is stated that there shall and/or shall not exist the Big Drum in the Sky Religion
The Big Drum in the Sky Religion shall be a thing which has and/or has not some form of existence and shall be called “The Big Drum in the Sky Religion”.
Article I: Differentiation of the Big Drum in the Sky Religion from the Big Drum in the Sky Religion
Wherein is stated that the entity bearing the name “The Big Drum in the Sky Religion” is different from, but not solely independent of the entity which is called “The Big Drum in the Sky Religion” and which is a band
The Big Drum in the Sky Religion shall include, but not be limited to, a group consisting of Brown Hat, the Espresso Shaman, and any number of other individuals, from zero (0) to infinity (∞), gathered together for the purpose of creating art-in-time or sound, which may or may not be called “music”, trading under the name “The Big Drum in the Sky Religion”, aka “Big Drum Sky Religion”, the proper abbreviation for which shall be “B.D.S.R.”, though “BxDxSxRx” may be accepted, hereafter referred to as “B.D.S.R.” which shall serve the greater goals of The Big Drum in the Sky Religion, which is a metaphysical entity of no known proportion and no fixed address, said group consisting of Brown Hat, the Espresso Shaman, and any number of other individuals, from zero (0) to infinity (∞), gathered together for the purpose of creating art-in-time or sound, which may or may not be called “music”, trading under the name “The Big Drum in the Sky Religion”, aka “Big Drum Sky Religion”, the proper abbreviation for which shall be “B.D.S.R.”, though “BxDxSxRx” may be accepted, hereafter referred to as “B.D.S.R.” is to be understood to be a “band”, and, as such, shall be a subsidiary of The Big Drum in the Sky Religion, the spiritual concept, serving the goals of same, but not acting independently from and/or of The Big Drum in the Sky Religion, the mystical reality, of whom The Big Drum in the Sky Religion, or “B.D.S.R.”, the band, is a microcosm.
Article II: Recording and/or Performing
Wherein are recognized at least two forms which the band referred to as BxDxSxRx may act
B.D.S.R., the band, may exist as a recording entity and/or as a performing combo and/or some combination of the aforementioned forms.
Article III: Theocratic Dictatorship
Wherein is established that BDSR ain’t a democracy an’ ain’t nobody got time to listen to your bullshit
B.D.S.R. shall be organized and administered as a theocracy under the benevolent dictatorship of Brown Hat, the Espresso Shaman, known familiarly as “browny”, the founder of the Big Drum in the Sky Religion, recipient of the inspiration, scurvy dog and sole constant of the band. In all cases, final decision-making power for the band, B.D.S.R., shall be held by Brown Hat; creative direction of B.D.S.R. shall be determined by Brown Hat; and the form taken by B.D.S.R. will fall under the province of the Espresso Shaman, Brown Hat.
Brown Hat, the Espresso Shaman, shall always be a member of B.D.S.R. and there shall be no B.D.S.R. which does include Brown Hat, the Espresso Shaman. Any and all other participants in B.D.S.R., human, animal and/or spirit, hereafter referred to as “participants”, shall be subject, at all times that they are participating in B.D.S.R., to the persecution of Brown Hat, the Espresso Shaman, who shall have sole power to determine whether they shall participate in B.D.S.R. and shall participate only at the pleasure of Brown Hat, the Espresso Shaman, who shall exercise final authority over B.D.S.R. and no one, with the possible exception of the Almighty, shall have power to exercise authority over the Espresso Sham, Brown Hat.
Article IV: Pursuant to Pursuit of Spirituality
Be ye active in thy quest to attain unto the Mercy of the Lord, which is thy God, and/or thine Goddess, and/if any/or thine pantheon of thy own making and/or thine own choosing; and be zealous therefore in doing that which is righteous in the Eyes of thy Lord, thy God, which is thy God
Any and/or all participants in B.D.S.R., up to and including the Espresso Shaman, Brown Hat, shall, during any and/or all times that they are participating, at the pleasure of Brown Hat, the Espresso Shaman, pursue some form of spirituality, whether of known and or unknown form, orthodox, paradox or some indefinable hodge-podge of scattered and unrelated bits cherry-picked from a variety of different faith traditions with some made-up shit tossed in, which is the preferred pollen path of the Espresso Shaman, Brown Hat, aka “Browny”. It is the revealed truth of The Big Drum in the Sky Religion that all religions are valid and true, as metaphor, and all are and ever shall be recognized by The Big Drum in the Sky Religion as possible forms of communing with that which cannot be conceived due to its eternity and infinity, which may be referred to as “Brahma”, “God”, “Wakan Tanka” and/or whatever ya wanna, and in order to have a relationship with, any and/or all participants in The Big Drum in the Sky Religion shall pursue some form of spirituality, whether of any pre-established form of such and such and/or of their own invention. (Atheism, humanism and scientology are not forms of spirituality.)
Article V: Masks and Fake Names
Wherewithal, for the reasons defined, participants shall make every effort, stipulated herein, respecting their “government names” and indentifying facial features to conceal same for the prescribed duration of the times and events delineated herewith
In order to maintain the privacy of Brown Hat, the Espresso Sham, and any other participants who shall participate in B.D.S.R.; to protect any and/or all participants who shall participate at the pleasure and under the leadership of the Espresso Shaman, Brown Hat, from the horrors of ego-inflation and notoriety, all participants in B.D.S.R. shall adopt and use noms de guerre, such to be used whenever the participants are participanting, whether in a performance capacity and/or on any form of written and or recorded data-storage and retrieval medium. In order to achieve the same goals and also to facilitate the transforming of the base and individual character of the individual who participates in B.D.S.R. into an individual character of B.D.S.R., whenever the band, B.D.S.R. shall appear as a performing entity, i.e. at a performance, and/or in any event(s) wherein participants in B.D.S.R. are being photographed as participants in B.D.S.R., said participants in B.D.S.R. shall wear masks, face-paint and/or some sort of something which shall obscure the face(s) of such participants as shall participate in B.D.S.R. Masks et al. shall cover the face(s) of participants in B.D.S.R. to the point of making them unrecognizable by any and/or all forms of facial recognition technology, to include their own mother(s). Final determination as the acceptability of masks and/or facial obscuration shall be subject to the judgment of Browny. Masks and/or other forms of obscuring the face may be utilized during “closed” recording sessions, i.e. instances in which B.D.S.R. is functioning in its capacity as a band, but is not performing at a performance, or not, as the individual participant deems best suited to their individuality, UNLESS the Espresso Sham, Brown Hat delivers a ruling mandating the mandatory wearing of a mask and/or some other apparatus to obscure the face(s) of those participants participating.
Subject to the usage of noms de guerre: exceptions may and/or may not be made in the case(s) of individuals who perform services for B.D.S.R., but who are not definitely participants in B.D.S.R., cf: producers, visual artists, sound engineers, costumers, taxidermists, metaphysicians, &c., determination of the requirement to use a nom de guerre being determined by Brown Hat, the Espresso Shaman.)
Addendum: In regards to the wearing of some form of mask and/or face paint, which shall remain required as per above, any other article of clothing may be regarded as optional by any and/or all participants in BDSR, including, but not limited to, Brown Hat, the Espresso Shaman, notwithstanding laws or local custom, whether in the event of a performance, closed recording session, photography shoot or just hanging out.
Article VI: Rule Breakage
Acknowledgement of Browny’s absolute authority and ability to weasel out of his own Articles on the off chance that he decides so to weasel
The power and/or authority to alter and/or violate any and/or all rules included in the Articles of Faith, or otherwise understood to be in existence, whether included in the Articles of Faith, shall reside within the power and authority of the Espresso Shaman, Brown Hat, aka “browny”.
Article VII: Alcohol and Drugs
Go be high somewhere else
B.D.S.R. recognizes the importance and allure of alcohol and/or other recreational chemicals and has no desire to interfere with the recreational chemical consumption of her participants. It is therefore determined that any and/or all participants in B.D.S.R. shall be excused from participating in B.D.S.R. when and while they are enjoying alcohol and/or other recreational chemicals, whether they wish it or not.
Article VIII: Money
Wherein are bandied about the nickels and dimes that have trickled into BDSR’s coffers and the fantasy indulged that we will someday have some reason to discuss the distribution of the big money that rolls in
In the event that moneys shall be received by B.D.S.R., said funds shall be delivered unto the person of the Espresso Shaman, Brown Hat, who shall divvy up the loot according to whatever whim and/or wild hair tickles his fancy at the moment, but some possible derivation of the following may be foremost in his mind at the moment of same and said divination: to wit, and respecting the most likely foreseeable potentialities under which B.D.S.R. may most likely receive funds:
- Payment rendered for performance: Moneys received shall be divided equally amongst participants who performed at the performance, with special consideration considered in the event that one or some participants drove their own vehicles some respectable distance – this most applicable to the event of performances which occur outside the municipality of Harrisonburg, VA, USA, which is, at this writing, the “home town” of B.D.S.R., whether or not any and/or all participants of B.D.S.R., including, but not limited to Brown Hat, aka “Browny”, the Espresso Shaman, actually reside or have established legal residency in same municipality and/or the immediate regional surroundings thereof, that is to say, “outta town shows”, but NOT those performances which take place within the municipality of Harrisonburg, VA, USA, to wit: “local shows”, special dispensation of accrued funds, i.e. “our take” may be subjected to the removal from the total of the amount spent by the drivers of vehicles used for the portage of personnel and/or materiel to the site of the performance, to wit: “gas money”, in order that same shall and/or may be recompensated to the aforementioned driver(s), and that this action shall precede and take precedence over the equal divination of “the loot” which shall then proceed according to the aforementioned general policy of equal divvy.
- Payment for recordings: until, up to and including the time of this writing, all funds which have been accrued by B.D.S.R. as returns on exchanges made in the form(s) of recordings of the “music” of B.D.S.R., which have accrued to B.D.S.R., NOT including funds which have been generated by the sale of the “music” of B.D.S.R., but which have been retained, under tacit agreement and/or approval of Brown Hat, the Espresso Shaman, acting on behalf of B.D.S.R. according to the right(s) and power(s) ascribed to him by Article III, and/or without such approval and/or agreement, i.e. “they ripped us off”, all such funds as have been generated have become the sole province and property of Brown Hat, the Espresso Shaman, even including those circumstances in which participants other than Brown Hat, the Espresso Shaman, participated in the production of those recordings from which sales of them the funds were so accrued, the funds accrued became the property and province of the Espresso Shaman, Brown Hat, aka “browny”, the logic and justification behind such distribution of funds so accrued being that an overwhelming amount of work has been done, without recompensation for hours and efforts made, by Brown Hat, the Espresso Sham, which hours and efforts have, in toto, in situ, and in lingua franca, so laid the ground and created the circumstances in which present and future funds may be generated, and for which continuing efforts, the likelihood of Brown Hat, the Espresso Shaman, ever being actually compensated, shall be understood to be vanishingly small, understanding also that in the event that a recording was, is, and/or shall be, recorded, with the participation of some participant other than Brown Hat, the Espresso Shaman, such recording was made at a performance, for the performance of which, the participant(s) are/were compensated according to the relevant passages of the paragraph preceding, in which was stipulated the divination of funds accrued for performance(s); understanding also that in the case(s) of recordings being made in which participants participated who were/are NOT Brown Hat, the Espresso Shaman, such participants participated knowingly and that some form of agreement took place at the time of the recording, the responsibility for which agreement understood to be the responsibility of the participant who was/is NOT Brown Hat, the Espresso Shaman, who had other shit to think about at the time of the recording of the recording, wherein which, all participants agreed to some form of future divination of future funds, which information was agreed upon, and participants thus agreed, records of said agreements and the recording, storage and retrieval of such records, being the responsibility of the affected participating parties, and if not, well, ya shoulda thought of that.
Payment for recordings made, for which recording(s) participants participate who are NOT Brown Hat, the Espresso Sham, which shall be made in the future, which “future” being defined as events which may have occurred and/or which are yet to occur AFTER the writing of THIS DOCUMENT, in chronological time, which is a construct, but which is, nevertheless, recognized by B.D.S.R. as among the forms of sensibility and among the governing principals of life in the zone of middle dimensions, such future recordings shall be subject to the same stipulations herein stipulated and shall be embarked upon in good faith, with the understanding that the stipulations herein stipulated have been understood; UNLESS and EXCEPT, such case(s) shall come about in which case(s), conditions shall be so altered as to render the aforementioned stipulations unwieldy and/or inapplicable, in which case(s), some OTHER form of agreement shall be agreed upon which shall be the agreement by which such future payment(s) for such future participation(s) in such future recording(s) shall be render(ed) to such future participant(s) as shall participate(s) in such future event(s). Such agreements shall be made in real time, on a case-by-case basis, and shall be entered into willingly and with the consent of those entering into them; and shall be binding according to the binding(s) of which they are entered into at such time as into which they are entered. Thus, it shall be understood that that which will be was, but will be again, and shall be dealt with at such time as dealing with it shall become relevant.
Recognizing the future as the vague and unknowable unknown that it is and will, in all likelihood, be, it shall be understood that future events may unfold which may make future agreements desired, which future events are either: a) not within the preview of Brown Hat, the Espresso Shaman, and/or of other oracles which may present themself(s) to same; b) are in such purview, but the revelation of which is not deemed appropriate and/or desirable by same at THIS time; whether such events shall be in the form of performance(s), recording(s) and/or other action(s), which shall, or not, cause funds to accrue to B.D.S.R., which funds shall require divination, such events shall be dealt with at such time(s) as they occur.
Article IX: Politics
Wherewithal, it is made plain that BDSR is a gaggle of Leftist radicals
Regarding activities of the sub-category of The Big Drum in the Sky Religion which has been specified in Article I and so named The Big Drum in the Sky Religion, aka B.D.S.R., hereafter referred to as BDSR, as such activities shall pertain to the realm of social injustice and unrest, forthwith referred to as “politics” and forms thereof, it shall be acknowledged that, reflecting the inclinations and leanings of Brown Hat, the Espresso Shaman, who is an unabashed and bleeding-heart liberal with socialist proclivities and has publicly made claims and/or taken positions related to the promotion and promulgation of radical actions and positions related to and including, but not limited to, environmentalism, feminism (most notably that of the intersectional variety), LGBTQ rights, single-payer healthcare, any action which has any chance of making any dent in the “American disease” of mass shootings &c., i.e. any causes which can be termed in the vernacular common to the time of the writing of this document, to be in the political sphere of the “Left”, such positions having been taken and retaken by Brown Hat, the Espresso Sham under the influence of Divine Guidance and in emulation of the great teachers of the various and sundry great religions and/or faith traditions to which Brown Hat, the Espresso, ascribes and loosely adheres, them being the highest form provided both by the sages of the ages and them through the intervention of the Absolute, acting voluntarily in this, the zone of middle dimensions, for the benefit of we, their personifications in scattered form(s), recognizing such as the proper behaviors, fetishes and political positions to be taken by them as what wants to be both Holy and Righteous in the Eyes of God(s), it shall be understood that BDSR is, in itself, as subject to the leadership and administration of Brown Hat, the Espresso Shaman, a political entity, inasmuch as a band can be a political entity, which it can be, and that, as such, BDSR is a political band. It follows from such that the form(s) of political activit(y/ies) engaged in by BDSR, as a band, shall be leftist in intent and actual practice, whether same take the forms of sensibility or merely those of well wishes, hopes and prayers offered in the best of intentions, for those better suited and so inclined to do more than pray.
(Stipulation: Any and/or all pledges of allegiance, offers of aid, immaterial or materiel, and/or participation in the actions of affinity groups and/or cells engaging in forms of property destruction, bombings and/or any other actions which are in gross, flagrant and blatant defiance of the laws of these United States, whether such same be made by Brown Hat, the Espresso Shaman, other participant(s) and/or agents thereof, such same shall be understood to be FOR ENTERTAINMENT PURPOSES ONLY.)
Article X: Simple enough?
Recognizing possible potential extenuating circumstances beyond one’s control and being not unwilling to consider reconsidering what must needs be otherwise an ironclad ruling, herewith be it stated the easiest way to get fired from this band
Didn’t make it to a show on time? You’re outta the band.
- The girl said to me one day, “Daddy, why did God make mosquitoes?” I acknowledged the obvious fact that mosquitoes don’t really seem to do us much good and it is kinda hard to see why they should even be here. Then I explained that God has a lot going on, much of which we, as people, might not like very much.
But it isn’t all about us. God is a big, mysterious thing and we, as people, can’t possibly understand how and why it all comes together and makes sense. We’re not the center of it. God is certainly real and God surely loves us. We can benefit from trusting in God and doing as God would have us do - treat other people with kindness and respect, for example. Whether or not mosquitoes are doing God’s will is really between them and God. It’s okay for us to smack them – as people, we have the right to kill parasites.
She seemed somewhat satisfied with that. My daughter is like me in that she has a natural desire to have Divinity and she seeks answers when things don’t make sense. I try to provide perspectives that will address her immediate concerns while leaving room for her to develop beliefs that work for her. She will certainly question what I say and may even conclude that I was bullshitting all along, which is fine – deciding that one’s parents are bullshitters is a natural part of growing up.
I avoid dogma – pretty easy for me since I don’t buy any of that myself – and encourage exploration.
- I may’ve mentioned this before, but my last incarnation came to an abrupt end in Cambodia.
- The Spotted Opossum and I went to the local kids’ museum. She was really into building stuff with Keva planks, which are pretty awesome. We spent a few hours covering a table with towers of various sizes and shapes. At some point, a staff member came around with a camera to get photos of the grrrl smiling sweetly with our constructions – only one of which was my design. She may be featured in more of the kids’ museum’s promotional material – a thing we’ve gotten used to.
Eventually, the inevitable happened. Some adult walked over and touched one of the towers – the biggest, most elaborate one, which my daughter had likened to the Empire State Building – and it came crashing down. The grrl stood there in disbelief for a moment and then sprinted away. I found her in a corner, sobbing. We spent a few minutes talking about the general unfairness of life and when she was okay, I walked back to assess the damage.
When I returned, she was with another staffer – a Hindu, with sari and bindi – who was telling her that in India, they make huge, beautiful mandalas of flower petals and then sweep them up as a lesson in impermanence. As a person who believes it takes a village to raise a child, I was quite happy that we live in a place where we occasionally run into a practicing devotee of Durga who can help us remember that life is change and that nothing is, ultimately, permanent.
- I don’t know the exact date when the spirits gave me the initial impulse to start BDSR – just that it was in April 2007. I decided to just round it off to 15 April because that’s the middle of the month and because it’s my own birthday, which makes it easy to remember. 15 April also happens to be the birthday of Humphrey Chimpton Earwicker, the main character of Finnegans Wake, by some one-eyed, drunken Irishman, whose name escapes me at the moment.
- I’m a Unitarian-Universalist. I became a U-U because I wanted to participate in a spiritual community and I thought I disagreed with Unitarian-Universalism less than any of the other churches in the area. Turns out I don’t disagree with them less, just in a different way. But I’m in the church now and I’m fairly active. And I really enjoy the fact that every joke I’ve heard about Unitarian-Universalists is true.
Great quotes by me:
“Clusterfucks don’t just happen. They have to be made.”
“Sweeping generalizations aren’t wrong if they’re true.”
“If it weren’t for sarcasm, we’d have no chasm at all.”
“If I didn’t have the scars, I wouldn’t believe that shit actually happened.”
“Cynics do it like dogs.”
“I shouldn’t speak when I’m angry because I might say something I mean.”
“If death isn’t funny, what is?”
“It’s easier to find pleasure in meaningful things than to find meaning in pleasurable things.”
“The best way to make enemies of allies is to attack them.”
“If you can’t do art, do photography.”
“Not giving a shit is the key to peace of mind.”
“His heart’s in the right place. It’s too bad his head is up his ass.”
“You never had an STD like me.”
“Irregardless, it’s not a word.”
“All women can play bass – some just don’t know it yet.”
I was doing some work with an angle grinder recently. The specific nature of the job was made easier by the removal of the tool’s safety guard and in the course if it, the grinder skipped off the work surface and bumped against my left thigh. Fortunately, my Neko Case-inspired eel tattoo didn’t get messed up, but I did get a wound which, unsurprisingly, caused me to reflect on the wound of the Fisher King.
As you may recall from Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Parcival, the Fisher King was the king who resided in the Graal Castle, where was kept the Holy Graal, which in Wolfram’s Christianized version of the story was the chalice from which Christ drank at the Last Supper. In its earlier, Celtic form, the Graal was a big, green stone, which seems pretty strange, but that’s what it was. And later, the spelling was changed to “Grail”, but “Graal” strikes me as weird in the esoteric sense and I like it better. It happened thus – as a young knight, the Fisher King went to fight in the Crusades, where he clashed with a Mohammedan knight. The Mohammedan – that was what Muslims were called at the time – was killed; the young Fisher King was “wounded in the thigh”, a euphemism meaning that he was castrated. There’s a fair bit here that needs unpacking.
In medieval Europe, Christianity was the only religion. Anyone who was not Christian was a heathen and therefore associated with Earthly powers, whether that was actually the case or not. Islam, which was and is a monotheistic, Abrahamic religion, revealed by a Divinely-inspired prophet, not unlike the canonized books of the Bible, was considered by European Christians to be no better than or different from the “nature religions” of “primitive savages”. This is all pretty offensive to modern, liberal thinkers, but that’s the way it was and we’re dealing with the myth on its own terms because that’s the only way one can intelligently deal with a myth. So the Christian, white knight killed the heathen, brown one and was castrated, which means that he was made incapable of fathering children. This is deep stuff, and somewhat subversive. Christianity had triumphed in Europe, but in the process had been deprived – or deprived itself – of its ability to bring forth. Because it had become a hierarchal organization – the “Church Militant” – because it had grown into the religion of the rulers, Christianity had lost its connection to Christ, the homeless mendicant who wandered around the Levant encouraging people to love God and each other. The medieval Church was quite capable of conversion by the sword, but had no power whatsoever to affect true spiritual growth.
So this young knight becomes appointed to be the king in the Graal Castle, attended by angelic servants, but lonely for human company and always pained by the wound which never heals. His least unpleasant hours are those he spends fishing in a little boat – drifting about on the surface of the water which represents the unconscious, casting for the creatures of the deep – and he therefore becomes called the Fisher King. Because he is incapable of generating new life, he cannot invoke the power of the Graal and his kingdom cannot flourish. He is a royal prisoner, impotent lord of a wasteland, condemned to wait, suffering, for the coming of the one who can break the spell, take over the throne and bring forth new life.
The title of the work is Parcival, so it’s pretty obvious that Parcival is going to be the one, but what we’re looking at here is the Fisher King in the Wasteland. It is our position that when one is reading a myth, one should identify primarily with the main character; secondarily with every other character – so the Fisher King represents the state of one’s being before one has experienced Awakening/Rebirth/Initiation to the Life of the Spirit. In my own life, I was drunk, stoned and insane for over a decade, psychologically lost and hopeless. My spirit/atman/soul was, during that time, like the Fisher King – suffering from the wound of being cut off from the Source of Being, incapable of bringing forth anything of value, isolated in the depths of my unconsciousness, waiting for the time of renewal. At the same time, my conscious self was like Parcival himself, wandering in the Wilderness, seeking without hope of finding. Finally, the seemingly impossible happened – by an act of Divine Intervention. The disparate aspects of myself came into close proximity and the wasted, fucked-up conscious me reached out to the long-lost, castrated me and a new me was born. I was delivered from the Wasteland; the wound was healed. I live now in a state between Heaven and Earth – engaged in the pains and joys of life, always able to shift my stance so that I enjoy the bliss of moksha – pure Being, untouched by the illusion of that which is commonly called “reality”. Of course, I am aware that none of this makes much sense to those who have not experienced it, but that’s okay. It is enough for me to state that such an existence is attainable by any and all sentient beings – that is the primary purpose of The Big Drum In The Sky Religion.
Europe, the West, the whole of humanity, really, remain cut off. The Church Militant continues. The current Pope, Francis, seems to be trying sincerely to move it into alignment with the teachings of Christ, though whether the Church has any power to affect change remains to be seen. Secularism is the dominant paradigm now – the things of this world are now taught to be the only things there are – and how well that’s working out can be determined by a perusal of the headlines: environmental disasters caused by human industry, mass destruction and death, gross corruption by political leaders, bigotry, sexual exploitation, ridiculous affiliations by individuals desperate to find meaning and community in the Wasteland. People, by their ingenuity and hard work, have wrestled power from the Divine Mystery and have shown themselves to more destructive, jealous and wrathful than any old-time prophet could have ever imagined God to be. Whether we’re better off now than the ancient Semites, wandering in the desert, toting their Ark and eating locusts, or the Vedic Hindus sacrificing horses and practicing yoga depends on how much one likes Facebook. We – the collective “we” – have certainly made no progress in terms of the Spirit. The natural consequences of our actions will occur to our dismay, but whether the calamities will lead to changes in our behavior remains to be seen. The future of our race could be a return to our past – small bands of individuals scraping a subsistence from a hostile environment. Or we might have no future.
Or we could all realize that we are children of something greater than ourselves, find our common humanity, help each other, love each other and live together in peace and prosperity, enjoying the fruits of our collective labor and celebrating the bounty of this wonderful plane. Yeah, that could happen.
Until then, the best that any of us can do is reconnecting those aspects of our selves which have become separated. Looking within ourselves, we can find our truth, take root in the Immovable Center of our souls or psyches, discern those things which are eternally valid and which are simply passing fads, momentary distractions. By identifying with the deep and timeless experiences of the collective “we” – the whole of humanity – we can access a state of being that will allow us to transcend the fleeting pains and joys of our temporary lives and gain Perfect Peace, Eternal Bliss, Nirvana, whatever the fuck you wanna call it. My own experience has been that the Graal is worth the effort, that the Wasteland can be redeemed, that the dead can live again. I have generated new life – literally, in the form of my daughter, and figuratively, in music, writing, art, labor, kindness, charity and joys shared. I have been given opportunities to participate in life that I couldn’t’ve imagined and have been blessed far beyond my merit. My life, which coulda/woulda/shoulda ended with a senseless and stupid overdose or suicide years ago, has meaning to me and to others. Like so many others who came before me, I want to share what I have found.
All things can be Divine. Any soul can be saved. Even stupid accidents with power tools can lead to spiritual growth and greater understanding. The newest scar in my collection will remind me always of the Fisher King, suffering and alone, and of the possible redemption of the Wasteland. I’m pretty happy it didn’t fuck up that eel tattoo. Also glad the angle grinder didn’t hit my dick.
By this point, enough people have stated publicly that we live in a society with no unifying mythology – that is, no invisible means of support – that I feel confident enough to assume that I don’t have to offer evidence to support it. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have myths. We do – our popular culture is suffused with the same old timeless tales retold again and again. And unlike the hoary old religious traditions that used to hold Western Civilization together, popular culture changes with the times, breathing fresh life into the old archetypes and presenting them in ways that make sense to modern eyes (I am not generally a fan of popular culture and there are many examples of the entertainment industry screwing up what should be a cake walk, but I’m warming up to something here, so let’s just go with.)
The example that I want to work with is the Harry Potter books and movies, which my eight-year-old daughter, referred to here as the Spotted Opossum, got into a few seasons ago and which have held her interest far longer than magical ponies or Dora the Explora ever could. We’ve watched the movies repeatedly and have begun to read the books together – they’re just beyond her reading level and we both enjoy reading together at bedtime. The Potter series are modern examples of classic myth. I don’t know if J.K. Rowling intended that, or if she was just using the standard tropes of young adult fiction, which are the same as adult fiction, but a little more obvious. Either way, the nail was hit square on the head.
A young orphan, raised in a hostile environment, on the cusp of puberty, is ushered into a world previously undreamed of. A wise, old sage takes the boy under his wing. Obstacles are met and dealt with, often using magical weapons that appear just when needed. The student must submit to training and must face his inner daemons, but there are many pleasures along the way – friendships, the pleasures of love and sexuality, the joy of mastering various arts and skills. There is also death. And the cycle concludes with an epic battle in which the forces of good, besieged and hopeless, must fight an army led by an evil, bigoted despot. Good people die in the battle and people who we knew as weak, ineffectual or just not the fighting kind turn out to be more powerful than we expected. Victory is won. And our hero resists the final temptation – he refuses to wield “the most powerful wand in the world”, recognizing it as more power than a bad man should have or a good man should want.
This is just about perfect. Rowling has done an excellent job with the material and the public has grabbed hold. When the Potter craze began in the ‘00’s, I thought I could safely ignore what appeared to be a fad for people younger than me. I had no idea that I’d someday know as much about Potter’s wizarding world as anybody, or that I’d work with young people who had grown up knowing which of the Hogwarts Houses they belonged to. I certainly never thought that I’d know which House I fit into – I’m not going to say, but I think it should be obvious. The Potter craze shows no signs of letting up, judging from the amount of new merchandise I keep seeing.
If you’re waiting for the “but” that must surely be coming, it’s about to happen.
The Harry Potter series is great, but I think the point is being missed in the same way that the point is so often missed when it comes to myth. The ubiquitous merchandise – spin-off books and movies, T-shirts and other garments, bumperstickers, coffee mugs ad infinitum – makes it plain that many people are happy to collect gimcracks and gewgaws, to be active participants in a commercial franchise. That isn’t inherently wrong – my daughter has a “Hogwarts” T-shirt and a few other Potter-related items - but there is such greater potential within the Harry Potter saga that it’s almost tragic to see people collect the ephemera without realizing the hidden depths because the entire point of any and all myth is to help individuals realize the enormities of their own experience of life.
The first thing one should do with a myth is identify with the main character. It doesn’t matter what the race, gender, national origin of the character is relative to one’s own – you are the main character of your own life. In the case of Potter then, the reader of the books or viewer of the films is to identify with the character Harry Potter and ask themselves “How do these symbols match up to my own experience?” “How can I learn, from this story, to embrace my own story, to avoid certain pitfalls which will cause pain to myself and those around me, and to eliminate those daemons in my own psyche which will stand in the way of my achieving my goals?” “How does this story instruct me?” Asking questions such as these will always be beneficial. All works of fiction can be so examined and all will yield answers – though many will simply serve as examples of what not to do.
Harry Potter presents the same qualities as desirable that all myths do: bravery, loyalty, determination, willingness to work, willingness to sacrifice one’s immediate desires for the greater good, willingness to die for one’s cause and willingness to live humbly for same. The hero recognizes that there are times when it is right to submit to instruction and times when it is right to defy authority – and learns to tell the difference. Appearances can’t always be trusted – one must be able to trust the voice within. These are lessons that anyone would do well to embrace. And the symbols offered by Potter, the characters who serve as archetypes, are as good as any from any myth cycle. Few of us will find ourselves in direct conflict with an individual as powerful and evil as Voldemort, but all of us will experience conflicts with entities more faceless and destructive. All of us, if we choose to resist the forces that constantly strive to strip us of our individuality, will have to battle against enemies which appear to be far beyond our abilities, sometimes alone and without hope. All of us will find ourselves facing off against overwhelming odds. And all of us, if we choose to hold to what we know to be right, will succeed in our own story.
Those who know the Potter cycle may point out that there are numerous characters who fight for good and die along the way. What about them? What about Mad-Eye Moody? Lupin and Tonks? What about Harry’s parents? The obvious answer is that those are supporting characters, not the ones with whom one should identify, despite the fact that their personalities or characteristics may be more similar to one’s own. Other people will come into your life and serve important roles, will help you along the way, but ultimately, you are called to pursue your own course – not necessarily the course you would like, but the one that you are called to – Harry Potter does not volunteer to be “the Chosen One”; he clearly doubts his fitness for the role and accepts it very reluctantly. You may not want the calling you receive. Many characters in many myths initially reject the call, preferring a simpler, easier life. They either come around and embrace their appointed/anointed role or perish – consumed in the belly of the whale or torn apart by daemons. Also true – each of the supporting characters stars in her/his own story. Harry Potter survives and achieves victory – and his reward is a life. He goes on to marry his sweetheart and have kids who grow up. One assumes he has good days and bad days. Maybe his boss is a jerk. Answering the call, living the life of a Hero does not guarantee material success or freedom from minor irritants.
Not long after the Spotted Opossum got into the Potter books, she was talking about being one of the characters for Halloween, Hermione Granger, for girlish reasons. I was not thoroughly familiar with the characters yet, hadn’t seen all the movies. I asked who I would be, if I dressed up. After a moment of consideration, she said “Well, with that face, you’d have to be Sirius Black.” The way she phrased it was amusing – “with that face” being a standard set-up for an insult. I looked forward to finding out who “Sirius Black” was, to seeing this character that my daughter thought was most like me. When we watched The Prisoner of Azkaban, it was obvious – Sirius Black, played by Gary Oldman, is a scruffy, bearded man with black tattoos, not unlike myself. Beneath the surface, Black is Harry’s father figure, not always present as I am not always present in my daughter’s life, but significant nonetheless; possessing knowledge and power which Harry doesn’t have; able to guide and protect. Ultimately, Black dies, slipping away through a mysterious archway. Harry mourns this death, but continues on his own journey. This is exactly how my daughter should view me. As Black is to Harry, I am a supporting character in her life story. Eventually, I will die and she will live on, hopefully benefitting from my teaching and remembering me fondly, but certainly living on. My daughter is a wise soul – I believe she knows, on some level, how appropriate her choice to assign me the part of Sirius is.
Death in service to the greater good is – as far as myth is concerned – victory. None of us can expect or hope to usher in a glorious new age of Perfect Peace on Earth. All of us will die before we have completed our work, whether we die in battle at twenty or in bed at one-hundred-twenty. Death is as nothing, not worthy of consideration. Our job is to live, to truly live. To live truly, as individuals acting out of the center of our true selves, responding to the small, still voice within, doing what we know to be right. Any life so lived is heroic.
So, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying popular entertainments or collecting the ephemera of same. But to stop at that, when there is so much more available is tragic and sad. The hoary old religious traditions of the world are not dissimilar. One can attach too much importance to the externals, get caught up in the prohibitions and forms, and hold too tightly to the letter of the law while ignoring the spirit of it. Christ said as much. The ancient Zen masters ruffled plenty of feathers insulting the Buddha. Hui Neng famously said the Sutras were good only for wiping one’s ass. The point is to see the Truth behind the symbol, to know reality in the Biblical sense – to experience it personally and intimately. If wearing a T-shirt proclaiming your allegiance to one of the Hogwarts Houses helps you remember that, do so.
God made the first man and named him Moon. He put the man in a lake and gave him a horn filled with oil. After a while, Moon said, “I want to go onto the Earth.”
God replied, “You’ll regret it.”
“Nevertheless, I want to go onto the Earth.”
“Okay, then. Go.”
So Moon went onto the Earth. The Earth was cold and empty. There were no grasses or trees. There was nothing on the Earth. Moon wept. “How will I live here?” he cried.
“I told you”, said God. “You have started on a course which will end with your death. However, I will give you a companion.” God made a woman and named her Massassi. He said to Moon, “Massassi will be with you for two years.” God gave Massassi a firemaker.
In the evening, Moon and Massassi went into a cave. Massassi said, “I will gather wood. You can twirl the firemaker.” Massassi gathered wood. Moon twirled the firemaker. Soon, there was a nice little fire going. Massassi lay down on one side of the fire. Moon lay down on the other side.
Moon pondered the situation. “What am I supposed to do with this companion God has given me, this woman, Massassi?” He thought about it for a while. He moistened his finger with oil from the horn and announced, “I am going to jump over the fire!” Moon jumped over the fire to where Massassi was. He touched her body with his finger, rubbing the oil on her skin. Then Moon went back to bed and slept.
In the morning, Massassi’s body was swollen. She began to give birth. She gave birth to grasses, bushes and trees. She did not stop until the Earth was covered. The grasses, bushes and trees grew. Soon the tops of the trees touched the sky and then it began to rain.
Moon and Massassi had plenty to eat – fruits, vegetables and grain. Moon made a shovel and a hoe and planted crops. Massassi gathered wood and fetched water. Massassi cooked the food that Moon harvested. They were happy together.
After two years, Moon came home and Massassi was gone. God had taken her back. Moon wailed. He wailed and wept for a long time. Finally, God came to him. Moon said, “What will I do without Massassi? Who will gather wood and fetch water? Who will be my companion?”
“I have warned you that you are going toward your death. Nevertheless, if you wish, I will give you another companion. I will give you Morongo. She will be with you for two years.”
Morongo came to live with Moon. In the evening, Morongo lay down beside the fire. Moon lay down on the other side. Morongo said, “Don’t lie over there. Come lie with me.” Moon moistened his finger with oil. Morongo said, “No. I’m not like Massassi. Rub the oil on your legs, then rub oil on my legs.” Moon did as he was told. “Now couple with me.” Moon did as he was told. They both went to sleep.
In the morning, Morongo’s body was swollen. She gave birth to chickens, sheep and goats. The next night, Moon and Morongo slept together again. The next day, she gave birth to deer, asses and cattle. After another night, she gave birth to children. The children who were born in the morning were full grown by evening. That night there was a thunderstorm. God said to Moon, “Let be. You are going quickly to your death.” Moon was afraid.
When the thunderstorm had passed, Morongo said, “Make a door. Then God won’t be able to look in and see what we’re doing.” Moon made a door. When the door was closed, Moon laid down with Morongo. The next day, she gave birth to lions, wolves and snakes. God saw this. He said to Moon, “I warned you.”
Moon wanted to lay down with Morongo again. “Look,” she said, “the girls I gave birth to are women now. Go lie with them.” Moon went and lay with the women. They gave birth to children. Soon, Moon was the king of a great people. Morongo went to live with the snake. She slept with the snake and did not give birth anymore. After a time, Moon wanted to lay down with Morongo again. He went to her. “Let be”, she said.
“But I want to”, said Moon. Moon lay down with Morongo. The snake was under the bed. The snake bit Moon.
Moon grew sick. It did not rain. The plants began to dry up. The people didn’t know what to do. They decided to pray to God for an answer. God told them, “Moon is sick. He must go back to the lake.”
The people strangled Moon. Morongo took Moon’s body back to the lake. It had been two years since she came to live with him.
The people chose a new king. They continued to live on the Earth.
The above myth comes from the Wahungwe Makoni tribe of South Rhodesia. It was collected and translated by Leo Frobenius and Douglas C. Fox and published in their book, African Genesis, in 1937. Joseph Campbell included it in The Hero With A Thousand Faces, no doubt altering it slightly to suit his own style, which is where I found it. Of course, I took a few liberties with it to suit my own style and there it is.
Our myth begins with the fact of God and His desire to create. The existence of the Earth is assumed here – God must have fashioned it before the story properly began. The first man, formed out of whatever God chose to form him out of and by whatever method God chose to employ, not that it’s any of your business, was named Moon and he was placed into a lake. This first man was not a man, then – he was a titan, a being lower than the ultimate Creator, but greater than the human race which will proceed from him. He is, in fact, the smaller and lesser of the two great celestial bodies that appear in the sky, the Moon. God, of course, is the larger and greater of the two, the Sun. The myth follows the first man, Moon, through his beginning, rise to power and fall – all of which we see played out in the night sky every month. So the myth is not a history, not a repetition of events which took place only in some distant past, but a living story which is constantly occurring. The lake, of course, is the cosmic water of the Heavens, visible, but inaccessible. We can ignore the fact that humans have traveled to and walked on the moon because this and every myth is not about historical or physical facts.
When God placed Moon into the lake, He gave the first man a horn filled with oil, which served no purpose in the Heavenly realm. Clearly, God knew what was going to happen and intended it. God had made the Earth incomplete. It was His design from the outset that Moon should do all that Moon went on to do. The completion of the Earth and the generation of offspring were Moon’s work and it didn’t matter at all that Moon didn’t know what he was doing. He, Moon, was moved all along by his own innate desires, activated by the same urge to bring forth that had caused God to create him in the first place, because Moon was animated by the creative Spirit of God, which is another way of saying he was made in God’s likeness – not in God’s physical form, of course because God has no physical form. Rather, he was like God in his desire to make, to beget, to bring forth, so he was given the necessary tool with which to do so, and that tool was necessarily phallic.
The first Noble Truth of the Buddha states that all living things suffer. Suffering is a condition of being alive because life must lead to death. Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha of our present age, spent a while working on the problem of suffering and came up with a way of eliminating it. This was a fine thing to do, but certainly not the only response to the fact of suffering. Another way of dealing with it is to simply accept it. Moon chooses this course: when God tells him he will regret going onto the Earth, he simply states again his desire to do so. To live is his wish, and if suffering is to be part of that, then he will suffer, but he will live.
Moon goes upon the Earth and discovers that it is not good. Perhaps he thought that everything would be just right, as a child imagines that Mommy and Daddy will always put food on the table. But Moon is not a child anymore – he is a young adult now, moving out of God’s home and into his own. He must learn to do for himself if he is to live. Of course, God knows that Moon will be lonely – and, let’s face it, Moon isn’t all that bright. He will need a companion and helper. So God creates one, Massassi, whose name refers to the morning star, Venus in one of her aspects. For a time - here called “two years”, though “two-hundred-billion years” would be closer to the truth – Massassi will dwell on the Earth with Moon. She is the personification of the creation-urge, the life-force, which has motivated both God and Moon. As such, she is closer to the Source than Moon and requires less instruction. She starts giving instructions right away – I’ll gather wood and you start the fire. She is able to gather wood prior to the creation of trees because she is to be the mother of all plants – wood is of her own substance. The firemaker, like the horn filled with oil, is a phallus. Fire exists within it and must be brought forth by rubbing. The making of fire foreshadows Moon impregnating Massassi by rubbing her with oil from his horn. The generative act, at this point in the story, is still done by magical means.
When the Earth is covered with vegetation, Moon and Massassi are quite happy. They have done all the creating they need to do and are able to enjoy an idyllic time together in their Eden. The division of labor is spontaneous and natural to them, with no hint that either resents or envies the other. Certainly, this part of the myth would reflect and reinforce the division of labor between the men and women of the Wahungwe Makoni tribe during the time that this myth was active among them, though not necessarily with such contentment from all parties. We do not need to be concerned about that, though. We are examining a myth, not judging the mores of a culture. For us it is enough to recognize that this passage refers to the state of bliss in the garden primeval, where blood is not shed and there is no strife. Alas, it cannot last. Time does not pause, though we might wish it would, and Massassi must return to the sky-lake from whence she came.
Devastated by loss, Moon wails. The first epoch has ended and he has no idea how to go on. God provides him with a second companion/wife, Morongo, whose name refers to the evening star, Venus in another season, another aspect. Morongo states that she is not like Massassi – this is only partly true. They are alike and different in the same ways that beginning and ending are alike and different.
Morongo will not become impregnated by the touch of an oily finger. She is one step further from the Source than Massassi – though still an aspect of the creative urge, the life-force. She instructs Moon in the generative act and he seems to find it enjoyable. First, she bears the domestic, dooryard animals from which people sometimes get meat, but which are more usually kept for their eggs, wool and milk. Next, she bears the larger food animals and beasts of burden. Finally, she brings forth people, the first humans, who grow to maturity in a single day. These first people are not yet like us. They are the offspring of the celestial parents and are therefore still a bit magical. Their children will take longer to grow and will be as we are.
At this point, God interrupts the action in the form of a thunderstorm, the booming voice in the sky. The association of God with thunder is ancient. Many religions assign divinity to thunder – Thor, Yahweh and Indra being just three of the commonly known thunder gods. God has, of course, given Morongo to Moon in order that the work of creation should be carried through to its completion. He does not want Moon to stop begetting altogether, just to slow down a bit. God here is like any parent who knows that his child must grow to adulthood, but who would like to slow the process down occasionally. “Stop growing up so fast” is a common thing for parents to think or say. Perhaps God would like to see Moon enjoy another idyllic age with Morongo as he did with Massassi – tending his goats and bouncing fat babies on his knee. And so it might have been if Morongo had been willing to wait a while to complete the job at hand, but she is the embodiment of the process of making a world, the inspiration that caused God to move His hand in the beginning and she isn’t going to stop now that things are so close to being done. Just one more night and day of begetting and bearing and the world is as it was always meant to be. Sure, the wild animals will be problematic for humans at times, but really, the world is not for humans. It is for itself and humans are just one part of the greater whole. God may favor Moon and his offspring, but She – the ultimate and ineffable which is behind God, Himself, and which has only taken form in Massassi and Morongo temporarily – is impartial. All creation is equal in Her eyes.
Having finished her work, Morongo is less inclined to indulge Moon in his desires. She sends him off to couple with the human women, who are his daughters. Incest – one of the very few taboos observed by all known cultures – is common in myth. The individuals involved are not, after all, individuals. They are entities, energies, natural forces and cosmic musings. Do you imagine that the moon had children with Venus? Of course, such a thing never occurred.
So Moon begat children with his daughters and became a patriarch. His people populated the Earth and all was well for a time. He sat in his great chair, surrounded by his descendants, not useful for much, but generally well-regarded and worthy of respect.
Morongo went to live with the snake, that same strange animal that played the villain’s role in Genesis. Hardly surprising, really. The snake is universally associated with the moon because it sheds its skin as the moon sheds its shadow. Our hero, Moon, is really a version of the snake – anthropomorphic and a little dense, or perhaps, the snake is a version of him – just as Massassi/Morongo is a version of Venus. Creation is finished and the life ways of the people have been established. The epoch of the titans is drawing to a close. Moon is an anachronism now, an old king in danger of becoming a doddering tyrant. He must exit the scene soon.
Moon thinks back to the days of his prime, when he spent his nights with the evening star and he returns to her. Morongo demurs, but without much feeling. She, too, is past her time. She has created creation and has enjoyed watching the world unfold for a while, but her place is in the Cosmic Lake, not here in this temporal and finite zone. The time has come and she allows Moon to lie in her bed and be bitten by the snake, his own other side. Moon sickens and the whole world sickens, too, for a moment, dragged down by the illness of the old Adam.
Moon’s children, distressed by his suffering, go over his head to God, who tells them that Moon must be sent back to his original home. The cycle that began when Moon went upon the Earth must be completed. No more will a superhuman dwell on the Earth. Now it is up to people to find their own way. They kill the old man as mercifully as possible and Morongo returns him to the cosmic water from whence he came. He is there still and his rise and fall can be seen played out again and again. Massassi and Morongo, two aspects of one divinity dwell also in the celestial lake and can be seen now one, now the other.
The people, Moon’s children, have inherited the Earth. It is right and good that they should remember and honor their primal ancestors, better still that they remember they are children of gods and best that they not forget that all seasons must pass, including their own.
The story of Moon, the first man, like many origin myths, is an origin myth on the surface only. Behind the strange fantasy of the Earth being made as we know it by magic oil and the couplings of our moon and the planet next door, is a lesson about letting go and passing on. To everything there is a season and each of us will grow and create, will rejoice and suffer, and will finally reach the end of our allotted time. This is not merely a fact of life – it is the fact of life. There is no good without bad, no morning without evening, no going onto the Earth without returning to the lake. We will wail when it is our time to wail, laugh when it is our time to laugh and in the end, we will die, but death is not really death. Around and around the heavens turn and so we can expect to turn with them, though whether we will know ourselves from one turning to the next is anyone’s guess.
And also, the story about Moon is a story about saying “yes” to being alive. God knows, it isn’t always going to be easy, but it will be worth the effort.
I was perusing some myths recently and happened upon the ol’ yarn about King Minos and it struck me that there was something there that might be relevant to our current political situation. For those of you who may’ve forgotten, I’ll roughly re-cap:
Minos made an arrangement with Poseidon wherein Minos would become king and all he had to do was sacrifice a white bull, which Poseidon would provide, which was a pretty good deal for Minos. On the day of the coronation, the bull arrived, carried to shore on waves. Minos took a look at the bull, beautiful and powerful, as white as snow and utterly without blemish, and thought it’d be a crying shame to sacrifice such a magnificent creature. I mean, this bull was really great. Most folks nowadays have no appreciation for cattle, but the Greeks knew bulls. So Minos had the wonderful white bull added to his personal herd and sacrificed in its place another white bull, which was a fine animal, but not even in the same league as the bull provided by Poseidon.
So, what happened here is this – Minos was presented with an opportunity to live up to his agreement with Poseidon, to sacrifice the wonderful, snow-white bull, and to fully embrace his role as king. See, the king is supposed to be a personification of the people of the kingdom. That’s why kings and queens say “we” instead of “I”. They’re not supposed to have personal agendas. If Minos had sacrificed the bull, he would’ve been acting as per his arrangement with Poseidon and cementing his place in the god’s favor. Poseidon would’ve looked upon Minos as the right and good king of Crete and blessed his reign. But Minos acted selfishly, denying Poseidon his sacrifice and keeping the bull to enhance his own glory. That kinda shit don’t float. When you see that sorta behavior in a myth, somebody is gonna get a comeuppance.
Minos’ wife, Pasiphae, please forgive my omission of umlaut, also appreciated good cattle and when she saw the splendid bull which Poseidon had sent, she developed a hankering for same, that is to say, an unnatural desire for it. So, she called Daedalus, the royal handy man, and had him build a replica of a cow which was hollow and into which she could get. Daedalus did the job, the queen got into the cow which was placed in the bull’s paddock and the deed was accomplished. Pasiphae achieved her goal and conceived of the union, which shouldn’t’ve happened, but the bull was not a natural bull after all and Poseidon certainly had something to do with it. And besides, Pasiphae is here representing the shadow of Minos himself. She is the feminine/dark/emotional/unconscious counterpart to Minos, the masculine/light/intellectual/conscious king. Her actions with the bull are the inevitable result of Minos’ with same.
Pasiphae gave birth to a monster – the Minotaur, bull of Minos – which had a human body, but the head and tail of a bull. This creature was the embodiment of the sins of Minos/Pasiphae, the shameful secret which will always come out. Now presented with evidence of his guilt and painfully aware that destroying the monster would only bring about something even more awful, Minos called up Daedalus and had him construct a labyrinth to imprison the Minotaur and keep it out of the public eye. Ya see how this whole sordid mess is getting more and more complicated? And to feed the beast, Minos demanded that the various conquered lands around Crete send as tribute some number of young people, males and female, I don’t remember how many, but say a dozen, which were put into the labyrinth to wander around and be gobbled up by the Minotaur. I don’t know why they didn’t just feed it grass or hay or something, but they didn’t. The youth of the lands, the flower and future of the realm were fed to the monster which was a personification of the king’s selfish sin. How ya like them apples?
The myth goes on, of course, to describe how Minos gets his just desserts, which is ruination and death, but I’m gonna stop right there because that’s where we are as of this writing. Our own land is being presided over by a modern-day Minos: selfish and constantly building or having built elaborate structures to conceal the results of his own wrong-doing, feeding his ego with that which should belong to the people and throwing the country’s future into the maw of his own wickedness. In case you aren’t catching my drift, I mean Donald Trump. Trump = Minos. That doesn’t exactly make Melania Pasiphae, but it could work out that way. We’ll have to wait and see.
Myths are not history. Myths are stories that represent aspects of the human experience that defy logical explication. Myths communicate concepts that are difficult to put into words. The story of Minos is a psychological treatise on selfishness, shame and the results of keeping secrets. Crete never had a ruler whose wife fucked a divine bull sent to be sacrificed by the god of the sea. The story of Minos, like all other myths can be interpreted in many ways – I’m going with the standard brain-shrink reading, but there are other ways of looking at it.
Myths are metaphors. And I want to be very clear on this point – metaphors represent things. So when I say myths are metaphors, I’m not saying that there are not Mysterious, Divine Forces at play in the world. There most certainly are. And it right and good that we recognize, honor and try to have relationships with those Mysterious, Divine Forces. Myths help us to do just that. And to see where we are in life’s journey and teach us where the dangers are, how to overcome them, and what joys we may hope to encounter along the way. (Word to the wise: always kiss ugly, old hags.)
There is much we can learn from the tale of Minos, about Trump and about ourselves, but we cannot learn anything about actual, historical events. We certainly cannot look forward to Poseidon rising up out of the Potomac to impale Trump on His trident, though that is a lovely mental picture.
I was gonna leave ya hanging with Minos, but then I decided not. Minos doesn’t die. Like Prince Humperdink, he is left to live with his shame. Theseus kills the Minotaur and becomes the good and proper king of Athens, putting aside his own wants to serve the people, which doesn’t really work with my Trump as Minos thing, but which is a very good ending nonetheless. Theseus was an Athenian, after all, so dealing with the king of Crete wasn’t his job. He had other things to think about – entering into the dark maze of the unconscious, slaying the monster within, in this case, the selfishness of one who would be king, and realizing in his own life his own kingship, which is what we’re all supposed to do. And maybe it does work because what we need is not Trump impaled on Poseidon’s trident, though that is fun to think about, but the collective will to change ourselves and our world so that we are no longer ruled over by megalomaniacal tyrants with shameful secrets who are all too willing to sacrifice our future for their own ends. Accomplishing that will take sincere effort. And we will need all the help the myths can give us. And if Araidne offers you a sword, take it.
The proper and natural position of the shaman/bodhisattva/mystic is standing with one foot in eternity and the other in the temporal clusterfuck of Samsara/Babylon/so-called “reality”, shifting from one to the other as needed or wonted, always seeking to best serve the poor, deluded suckers who believe whole-heartedly in the illusion of duality, taking refuge from the fray in the Absolute Peace of Transcendence. It ain’t as easy as it sounds. The Infinite Bliss of Unity with the Divine is a pretty sweet tranquility – leaving that to re-engage in the swirling shitshow of man-made madness is shocking, to say the least, and becomes ever more so as the ignorant and selfish degenerates who rule this land of lies gain greater power over the brief lives of the pitiful souls who make up the biggest mass of humanity, those sad sacks suffering senselessly, beaten and driven to consume and fight over scraps, always chasing rainbows, utterly unaware that they hold the Universe in their hands, if only they would know it. How stupid are their squabbles; how petty their quest for the gimcracks and gew-gaws of material gain. How ugly their achievements; how banal their attempts to find community. One can only shake one’s head and sigh and continue on, offering answers which will be ignored or misunderstood, holding out the Perfect Truth of God/Brahman/Wakan Tanka, knowing it will be rejected in favor of some glittery garbage or the brief numbness provided by intoxication. Easy to understand why so many have just thrown up their hands and quit, retired to the wilderness to meditate on the Golden Lotus Feet of Vishnu or shut themselves up in monasteries to wade in the Blood of the Lamb until He returns. So, too, will I do, some happy day, but not this day. Soon, my work will all be done – but it ain’t done yet.
All around us, we see people in conflict, fighting over ideas, each struggling to impose their own fantasies on the others, to grab for themselves all the crumbs that have fallen from the table of the robber barons, wretched human wreckage bonding over skin-deep coincidences and breaking the bodies of any who dare to have another trait. Every day, the headlines tell versions of an incident I witnessed when I was drunk and deluded, waiting in line for a free church-basement meal, surrounded by the addicted and addled refuse of the city.
One down-and-outer, with a half-cigarette dangling from his lips, a fag-end picked up off the sidewalk, asked another “You got any matches?” and the latter responded by pulling a book of matches out of his pocket, holding them up and saying “Yeah, I got matches. See ‘em? Here they are.” And he walked away, glorying in his possession of something that someone else didn’t have.
That struck me. That hit some inner part of me. For a moment, I saw through the veil of Maia, I realized how insipid were the categories that people create to separate themselves from each other, how insignificant the egotistical and heart-breaking struggle for personal glory and material gain. We were, all of us there, the impoverished and filthy dregs of society, the bottom-feeders in an artificial system where dogs eat dogs unaware that they are gods. We each had Heaven over head and we wandered with our eyes down looking for butts with a bit of tobacco above the filter, desperate for the next fix, another bottle of beer, whatever would dull our senses for even a moment. Then the doors opened and I went in to get a plate of beans and rice or whatever they were serving that day.
That’s the human condition – ragged bums picking their wine-sores and gloating over matches.
(Interruption. I went for a piss and another cuppa joe, passing a radio which told me that some other people have a lot to worry about today, by executive action of the Grand Wizard. First, they came for the Dreamers and I did not speak up because I was not a Dreamer – oh wait, yes I am.)
How nice it would be to drift away into the woods, shed the costume of engagement in the horrors of history and rest in the Eternal Sunshine of the No-Mind. The gentle babbling of some mountain spring would tickle my ears as dragonflies flitting changed colors in the dappled light, now navy blue, now emerald green, and breezes whispered the leaves, as I reclined on a mossy rock which settled into place while Adam was cutting his teeth. I could disintegrate there – I know the exact spot – becoming one with the Earth, smaller symbol for me of the One which is behind Her.
But that’s only a brief interlude. I have sworn to foreswear Nibbana until I can take with me all suffering souls and that means I must return to the litter-strewn streets of Babylon, where him what has the gold makes the rules, where the strong trample the weak, where Mammon is Lord Supreme and the quality of mercy is strained to breaking. And I have a feeling there will be protests this weekend, again, and fighting in the streets. Participating in the sorrows of life means choosing a side to be on and I have enlisted as a medic, the better to administer to the wounded in the next battle. I’ll be somewhere with my boots on, bandages for the baton blows and L.A.W. (liquid antacid and water, 50/50 mix) to wash away the tears. Maybe I’ll be battered or jailed or maybe not, but the fight is good and in any case, this body was made to be broken.
I am doing what I will – though it saddens me sometimes. I am enjoying a hiatus from music-mocking to act in another way. Riffs are coalescing in my ether and will surely be recorded – possibly to join the mass of materiel that currently collects dust on the shelves of various micro-labels that are gonna release those sides pretty soon, as soon as we can get around to it. There will be more entheogen juice dropped into the stream of consciousness by this BDSR, God willing and the creek don’t rise.
May it be so.
Brown Hat the Espresso Shaman
The pun is always intended.