“Religion is what the individual does with his solitariness.” – A. N. Whitehead
I know absolutely nothing about Mr. Whitehead. The quote above came from I And That – Notes On The Biology Of Religion by Alex Comfort, which I got at the free book stand in front of Downtown Books, a local bookstore that has somehow managed to stay in business. It’s a good book. The title refers to Martin Buber’s I And Thou, obviously. I haven’t finished it, but the gist of it is that the impulse to religion is inherent to the human animal; that the reason all of the world’s religions share so many common ideas and themes is that all people share the same biological blueprint, which is reflected abstractly in the ideas and themes of religion. This is a concept that I’ve encountered many times before, but Comfort delves into it in more detail. I And That is a bit dry, but certainly worth the effort.
Whitehead’s line about religion is thought-provoking. The first thought it provoked in me was “The word is solitude, not ‘solitariness’.” I certainly think religion is a little more than that, but that is a good starting point.
I had some solitude recently, an unusual thing. A whole day with no work and no little grrrl. I laid around drinking coffee for an hour or so – which is how I begin every day – then went out to Fridley’s Gap, one of my regular National Forest haunts. Usually when I go there I tread the same ground, but this time I decided to find my way to a rock face I’d been admiring on a ridge I’d never been to. I guessed where it was – I couldn’t see it from the bottom of the gap because of trees and didn’t want to climb above the tree line to get oriented. I just lit out a-walking. It was a beautiful morning of sunshine and cool breezes, butterflies and birds, scratches and spider webs. I wandered through some blackened areas – they were doing controlled burns out there last month – and was pleased to see the little green shoots coming up through the burn, ants crawling out of charred logs, new life popping up all over.
As I got higher, the mountain got rockier. Big hunks of stone jutting up out of the earth, like bones. Higher still, the trees thinned and I could see the valley stretching out, brown and green rectangles of farmland. The turkey buzzards were soaring in slow circles, riding the up-drafts. I could see their red heads turning from side to side as they searched the gap below for brunch. There were feathers on the rocks and I gathered a bunch of them, shoving them into the band of my hat. I found a dog bowl and slate marker on a cairn. I shed my cut-offs and laid there naked in the sun on a rock that was a hundred-billion years old. The mountains here were once like the Himalayas. They were that big. Unimaginable time has worn them down to the gentle, rolling mounds they are today.
I was in a slightly altered state up there on the mountain. I felt like I could just wander and wander, seeing and seeking the next rock face, scanning the cliffs for the chance to climb down for another wing-feather, gazing off at ridges and valleys and then suddenly seeing the shape of the wind-blasted cedar right beside me. It happens every time. I always feel like I could just drift off and become part of the mountain and I expect one day I will.
Eventually, I started heading down. There were more burned areas to blacken my feet, thorns to scratch my shins, bear shit to remind me to look for bears. I found a trail. There was actually a trail that led pretty damn close to where I was going which I followed back to where I’d begun. I was glad for the trail, which made returning easier, but glad I had forged my own way out. There’s a little swimming hole at Fridley’s Gap which I jumped into and then down to the truck. A bunch of cars pulled into the parking area when I got there – big, loud people with lots of kids, coolers, folding chairs and assorted errata. I was glad they were going to the swimming hole and gladder that I’d already been.
There are always carcasses around the parking area at Fridley’s. Hunters kill deer, cut out the loins and saw off the racks then leave the rest to rot. I always look around for bones I can use. This time I found a coyote. There’s no good meat on a coyote – people kill them just to kill them. The skull had been busted, but was mostly intact and I was able to find both pieces of the lower jaw. I brought it home and was able to wood-glue it back together pretty good.
Nap. Worked on some recordings. Dinner was beans and rice with a liberal amount of pickled Thai chilis. Then I went to hang out with friends, which ended the solitariness.
Every bit of that was my religion. But as I said, that’s only the starting point. Hanging out with friends is part of my religion, as is taking the sprat to playgrounds and working and sleeping and anything else I do. I’ve come to agree with the great mystics of all religions who say there is no sacred and no profane. Everything is a thing of God/Brahman/WakanTanka. Every action is a rite. I’ve spent years attaining to this understanding. Yes, I am sometimes less conscious of it, but I’m always somewhat conscious. It takes work and practice and repetition, but it does come and when it does, the world is different. Some people experience it as a sudden awakening. For me it’s been more gradual. I have had epiphanies, but mostly I’ve just grown into my awareness that the world around me is a manifestation of Divinity and that I am as well.
Comfort is quite correct. Religion is a reflection, in abstract language, of our inner selves. Jesus said as much. So did the Buddha. God/Nirvana/Shiva are within us already. All we have to do is realize and start acting like it.
So, I haven't posted in a while because I've been busy and because the word program I was using was actually a temporary thing that my mom had on this computer and it ran out or stopped working or some such and I'm trying to figure out how to get another one without, ya know, paying for it.
And I been busy. All good stuff - work, daughter, art, music, snow, good things. I set up a BDSR Bandcamp and put up a bunch of songs. But I haven't been doing this thing, which I don't feel good about because I usually do three or four a month and I feel like I should put something up once in a while at least. So, enjoy some photos of my mom's back yard which she also left on this computer.
Oh yeah, uh, religion is the best thing people ever came up with. I haven't been depressed or dropped acid. I rode my skateboard to the mailbox and back t'other day. I'm reading The Gateless Gate again - it's awesome. My daughter turns five next month! Holy Shite, seems like just yesterday she was in diapers. Not Noise, meditation, look both ways, smell the coffee.
I was in the car with the Spotted Opossum recently and out of nowhere she said "Daddy, you know how your wish came true?"
"Some of my wishes have come true, Honey. Which one do you mean?"
"When I was still in my Mommy's tummy, you wished that I would be a girl. You remember that?"
"Yeah, I remember that. I thought it would be fun to have a girl." I really did kinda hope for a daughter, but of course I wouldn't have been upset if it had gone the other way. I told her I had wanted a girl one day when she was talking about how much she prefered girls to boys. She's really opposed to boys right now, with a few exceptions. Boys are too rowdyand rough and don't follow the rules the way they should and they have little or no appreciation for cartoon ponies.
"Well, my wish came true, too, because you're my Daddy."
I teased some clarification out about that statement and what it came to was that, before she was born, when she was still with God, she wished that I would be her Daddy and her wish came true. I am her Daddy. She says things like that occasionally, incredibly touching and loving statements that make my heart swell and give me the ability to tolerate countless tantrums, fits and random bouts of obstinance. I'm sure all parents have stories about when their brats said amazingly sweet and endearing things.
The notion of a crowd of babies hanging out in Heaven waiting to be born is one we're all aware of, whether we actually believe in it or not. I don't know where it came from, certainly not the Bible. The Judeo-Christian tradition, which includes Islam, holds that all individuals exist in the mind of God before they are created, but there's no Biblical evidence that those individuals have any way of determining or influencing where, when or to whom they will be born. No before-life existence is postulated: the soul enters the body at the same time the sperm penetrates the egg, the individual lives for as long as they live and then go wherever God decides they should go, according to His Divine Judgement, which seems kinda arbitrary and harsh at times. I don't know where we got the idea of a Heavenly nursery filled with baby souls waiting to be born, but it seems to be associated, in my mind at least, with storks.
Eastern religions, of course, do offer a before-life existence. Hinuism, Buddhism and all their various tangents and offshoots postulate reincarnation. Souls, or monads, pass through physical bodies repeatedly. One's actions in any given lifetime determine the circumstances one will be born in next time, a theory known as karma. This is generally presented as a system of justice: if you're and asshole in this incarnation, you'll come back as a dung beetle, so be nice. John Lennon was using that idea with "Instant Karma". It's slightly better than the idea that you're going to burn in Hell forever and ever and ever for consensual sodomy or picking up sticks on the Sabbath, but only slightly. I personally find it hard to believe that the Universe turns according to such a petty little reward/punishment mentality. Reward and punishment are educational tools, not ends in themselves. I reward my daughter for good behavior and punish her for bad behavior because I'm trying to teach her certain values.Kicking people when you don't get your way is wrong because it hurts the other person, not because it results in no dessert. My goal is to instill in my daughter the idea that hurting other people is wrong in itself. Withholding dessert is a way of getting her attention and illustrating that actions yield consequences. The Law of Causality is one that Hinduism and Buddhism establish first and transcend later. I'll do what I can to help the grrrl transcend the cause/effect dichotomy when she gets to that stage, but first she's gonna have to stop kicking me when I say she can't watch just one more episode of "My Little Ponies".
Karma is an impersonal force like gravity. Karma isn’t doing anything to us. Karma just is. We can learn from karma, but first we have to think of it as a thing we learn from, as opposed to a Thing that punishes or rewards us according to some Celestial Code of Conduct.
I like the idea that we have some choice regarding our education, that there is a period between incarnations when we are at one with the One – Brahma, God, Wakan Tanka, or as a friend of mine says, the Great Whatever – when we are freed from our temporal attachments and concerns and can look at our progress without bias, when we can look with “eternal eyes” if you will. Seeing ourselves and our growth from this perspective, we can evaluate what we’ve learned and decide what we need yet to learn. I see the period between incarnations as a break between college semesters when we can sit down, look over the classes being offered and figure out what options would best educate us.
Accordingly, I choose to believe that when I was last between incarnations, I chose to be reborn as a white male, mostly heterosexual (I confess to having a slight crush on Daryl Dixon, the redneck character in The Walking Dead, though that might be because I like to think I’d be that much of a badass in the Zombiepocolypse), in 1969, to certain parents, in the Commonwealth of Virginia, USA, with a predisposition toward drug and alcohol addiction and a uni-polar depressive disorder. I chose this life because it offered me the best opportunities to get the education that my eternal Self knew it needed. The fact that that could be a steaming load of happy horseshit doesn’t change the fact that holding that belief gives me a sense of control over the circumstances of my birth and encourages me to look for the lessons, the growth opportunities in my life. Life doesn’t give me lemons. I chose a life that includes some lemons for reasons that I do not presently understand, but I did choose it. And I chose education for the sake of education, not because it was a means to an end. That’s where the idea of incarnations as college semesters breaks down. Most college students are in college to get degrees that will lead to jobs, not because they want to learn, an unfortunate result of living in a goal-oriented, materialist culture, but the metaphor still has value.
It is right and good, therefore, that I embrace the lessons my life offers, whether they are easy or difficult, comfortable or painful. Most assuredly, I do not enjoy every lesson. When I was in college, I liked some classes and hated others. Abnormal Psyche was lots of fun; Introduction to Statistics sucked. I have liked some teachers and hated others. I have had to repeat some courses many times. Fortunately, I got Pell grants for college and there is no tuition for life. I have not used my degree professionally – I’m not even sure where my diploma is at this moment - but the process of getting it did have profound effects on how I live my life. Some of the information I got at college has come in handy: anybody who intends to become a parent should learn a bit about childhood development and behavior modification. Mostly though, the three years I spent getting a two-year degree changed my perceptions of myself and my abilities, altering my life trajectory in profound ways that I do not yet fully comprehend. It’s important to remember that one doesn’t have to fully comprehend the educational process for it to work.
Remember The Karate Kid? What’s-his-name had to wax all Mr. Miyagi’s cars in order to learn how to block a punch. That’s classic Japanese-style education. You do what the teacher says even though you don’t see what it has to do with the education. Later, it all makes sense.
The problems that I face right now are lemons that I have to wax. I don’t know what I’m going to learn in the process, but I have reason to believe I’ll learn something. I always have.
It follows then that my daughter, who I consider a more advanced monad than myself, chose to be enrolled in a semester of life as a white female, of as-yet-undetermined sexual orientation, in the Commonwealth of Virginia, USA, with me as her Daddy. Her statement about “wishing” to have me as her Daddy meshes perfectly with my own beliefs about incarnation as education and I have no reason to doubt her. That I frequently doubt my own fitness for the job means that I am a person who frequently doubts his own fitness for anything. Beneath that temporal insecurity, deep down at the eternal core, I must know that I am exactly fit for the task. She knows it too.
I still have to study and work, of course. I still have to try hard to do well. I do believe that my actions will yield results on some level. A friend – another recovering alcoholic – once said that alcoholics who die drunk come back as dung beetles. I replied that alcoholics who die drunk come back as alcoholics until they finally learn to stay sober, which my friend agreed was a harder lesson.
I want to enter every learning situation with a positive attitude. It doesn’t always work that way. Sometimes I get frustrated with my apparent lack of progress. Sometimes other people get frustrated when I haven’t learned things they think I should’ve learned – that happened at work last night. I try not to be too hard on myself because I find it doesn’t help. Obviously, it behooves me to extend that attitude to other people. The person who scolded me for fucking up at work last night was working with incomplete information – the fault was not all mine – but she was partially correct, so rather than argue with her about how somebody else’s fuck-up fucked me up, I just accepted what she said. Some of the fault was mine and I need to work on that.
I’m going to go get the Spotted Opossum from school in a bit. We will not be watching My Little Ponies today. I’d be okay with watching one episode, but I don’t want to deal with the fit that will happen when she wants to watch a second one and I say “no” so I’m just going to nix the whole Ponyville gang entirely. She’ll be cranky, but hey, she’s the one who picked me to be her Daddy.
I was recently thinking about compiling a list of the Top Ten Most Satanic Songs for this space, but could only really determine the one that would be in the number 1spot. Then it occurred to me that I use the image of Satan, the Devil, in two distinct ways and that I have never clarified what the fuck I’m talking about. Here and now shalt that mistake be corrected.
The Devil is, of course, a Christian character. Christianity, as we all know, has a rather warped sense of morality, some of which it inherited from Judaism and some of which it developed all by itself. The image of the Devil, goat legs, horns, general ugliness, came from Pan, the Greek god of the wild, embodiment of the animal nature of humanity, a piping, dancing, nymph-fucking id. Christianity vilified Pan because he represented all of the physical urges, the joys of the body, relegating the god-given and natural desires of the flesh to the same degree of evil as the actual sins which Jesus actually spoke against. Gradually, the “sins” of the body, which are external, became more “sinful” than the sins of the mind/spirit which are harder to point out in other people. Having sex somehow became worse than being greedy, which, taken to its most grotesque extreme, yields the Westboro Baptist Church, a group of utterly hateful and loathsome assholes who use a couple of verses from the Old Testament, taken deliberately out of context, to justify becoming exactly the people that Jesus was most violently angry with: the money-changers in the temple.
In October ’02, when the Beltway snipers were shooting people up in Northern Virginia, I was working in a restaurant. There was this squatty, bald mental midget who came in every morning to clean the place, one of those fervent born-agains who wears T-shirts that say things like “1 CROSS + 3 NAILS = 4GIVEN”. He was yammering at me about the snipers one morning and said something like “I know the good Lord says forgive, but the flesh is weak and I think they oughta hang those guys when they catch ‘em”. Apparently, he thought that Matthew 26:40-43 was a ready-made excuse for just not trying to do what Jesus said to do, a ridiculous and all-too-common misreading of what is, in my opinion, one of the most important passages in the New Testament. Later, he sexually assaulted a waitress.
That aside aside, I’m not really trying to go the direction of critiquing Christianity’s inanities. What I’m after here is an explanation of what the Devil means to The Big Drum In The Sky Religion. For that, I should turn away from Christianity to paganism, which is somewhat iffy since “paganism” is a big, jumbled mess of different beliefs, so why don’t I just drop that and say what I mean without trying to link it to anything.
Greed, deceit, selfishness, malice, bigotry and cruelty are fucking wrong. Enjoying the pleasures of the flesh is not fucking wrong. Cheating on your girlfriend is wrong because of the deceit involved, not because of the sex involved. Dancing around a bonfire in the middle of the night, whacked out of your skull on peyote and Night Train, naked and sweaty, participating in a filthy orgy and singing praises to the Morning Star is not sinful. Being rich, which means having more than you need while others have less than they need, is sinful. Being gay, okay; hating gay, no way. Is this making sense?
One of the points that I make here and everywhere, over and over, is that myth and religion are about living a genuine life. Every person is born with a purpose, a defining and vital driving force, and the goal of living is to find that whatever it is and live it. Jesus’ purpose was bridging the divide between people and God, which meant death by crucifixion. The Devil who appeared to Jesus in the wilderness (Mark 4, Luke 4) was trying to convince Jesus to do anything other than fulfill His purpose. Prince Gautama was similarly tested by Mara. Parcival encountered numerous obstacles in quest of the Holy Graal. Arjuna experienced paralyzing doubt at Kurukshetra. In all these examples, and many, many others, the hero holds to his purpose despite doubt, doing what he is supposed to do, even when it means death. That’s what it means to live a genuine life. The Devil in these stories appears as “the Prince of Lies”, telling the hero that he should forgo his particular purpose in favor of security, wealth, power, a normal life. An example would be a person who wants to major in modern dance, but goes for the business degree instead because s/he wants to make a good living. If your heart says “modern dance”, anything else is wrong.
When my daughter was born, I experienced a moment of temptation. I thought “I’m a father now. I have to stop messing around with art and music and get a real job.” Because I was familiar with myth, I was able to recognize that thought for what it was and respond appropriately: “Get thee behind me, Satan”. Art and music are what I am supposed to do. I have always known that. I have never been able to really imagine anything else. I paint houses and do restaurant work to make a living, and I do enjoy those jobs, but my real calling is art and music. Actually, I should say that my real calling is learning about myth and religion and spreading what I’ve learned. Art and music are the methods I’ve been given. And writing. I don’t enjoy writing the same way I enjoy art and music, but I use it because it allows me to express ideas that I can’t express in those other forms. Eventually, I’ll get around to using movies as well.
Of course, raising my daughter is more important than any of that, but I’m teaching her by example. I must follow my own gods-given path in order to teach her to follow hers. She is the future; I am the past. She is the one who is coming, whose shoelaces I am unfit to tie.
Figuring out what one was made to be and then becoming that is the great task of life. It is terribly difficult and means constant struggle. The Prince of Lies never stops placing obstacles in the path. All are called to this course, but few even begin.
I woke up from a dream this morning, a drinking dream. I don’t have them often, but I do still have them. I couldn’t remember this one very well, but I know I was drinking and drugging. Drinking dreams are the only nightmares I have anymore and they always freak me out. It took me a while after waking to calm down. For those who can enjoy drugs and alcohol without losing themselves, there is no sin in drugs and alcohol. I am an alcoholic/addict. If I drink or take drugs, I lose myself; I become a voracious consumer of drugs and alcohol, a hungry ghost, incapable of pursuing my path. That is death, spiritual death, immediately, physical death soon enough. If you can take drugs or drink without losing yourself, no problem, no sin. I don’t have a romantic/sexual partner right now, but if I did we wouldn’t be married in the eyes of any church and we would certainly engage in sexual practices not approved by the Bible. Occasionally enjoying anal or oral sex with a willing partner doesn’t cause me to lose myself or deviate from my own path, no sin.
So, according to the Christian, Sleep’s Dopesmoker is of the Devil because it’s a slow, sludgy glorification of marijuana that rips off Black Sabbath. Cool. I love Dopesmoker. Dopesmoker makes me laugh. Dopesmoker does not make me want to smoke dope. I would call Dopesmoker “Satanic” because it’s big, dumb metal, but I do not mean that Dopesmoker, in itself, leads anyone from their own path. Makes sense? Devil-horn-hands, pentagrams, goat-heads, deviant sex, drugs, rock’n’roll, those things are all “of the Devil” in a way that any pagan would say is perfectly fine and dandy. Lying, stealing (in most cases), rape, corporate malfeasance, &c. are “of the Devil” in a way that any pagan would call truly evil, because they cause harm to self and others.
The confusion comes from being pagan in a society dominated by Christians.
I hope this clears it up. When I say things like “Stalagh’s Projekt Misanthopia is fucking Satanic”, I mean it’s really, really fucking cool. When I say “Monsanto is fucking Satanic”, I mean it’s an evil corporation that profits from deceiving and harming people. The word “Satanic” can be good or bad. I generally assume that a person of reasonable intelligence can tell what I intend by the context.
I describe songs as “Satanic” according to a vague and poorly defined sense of je ne sais quoi – they just seem that way. The riff matters, obviously. The message of the lyrics, though relevant, has less to do with it than the impact of the music. “Sympathy For The Devil” is clearly Satanic. “Bohemian Rhapsody” is Satanic as a motherfucker. “Sister Ray”, Satanic. “Telstar”, “Lola”, “Fox On The Run”, “Land Down Under” and “Bloody Hammer” are Satanic as Hell. Conversely, “Back On The Chain Gang”, “Come And Get It” and “Radar Love”, though awesome, are not Satanic. “Rebel Rouser”, “Come On, Eileen”, “Don’t Fear The Reaper” and “Stuck In The Middle With You” are almost-but-not-quite Satanic.
So. That said, the single most Satanic song in the history of rock is Norman Greenbaum’s “Spirit In The Sky”.
The Spotted Opossum and I were in the car t’other day, going from A to B. The Slits’ Cut was playing at low volume, just sort of there in the background. I’m always conscious of the music I have on when my daughter is around because I’m trying to raise up a smart, active, assertive and riotous grrrl with good taste. The Slits started off as a gang of thrashing, bashing teenage hellions with more attitude than aptitude and evolved into a punk/reggae, feminist assault unit who punched out some great grooves without losing their edge. They carved a place for themselves in the rock’n’roll sausage party, basically ensuring that punk, unlike all other forms, would have some menstrual blood on its tracks. Good goddamn job, says me.
S’anyway, during a lull in the conversation, the grrrl caught the refrain “Don’t take it serious” at the end of “So Tough” and asked me about that. I explained that they were saying not to take things so seriously, that some things are not worth getting bothered about. I was coming at it from that angle because little kids, including mine, have a tendency to get really upset over matters that are, in the grand scheme, pretty fucking trivial. Part of my Daddy job is teaching her that her emotions are fine and good, but that they need to be regulated in some ways. One simply cannot function well in society unless one can control one’s emotions. Understanding that some things can be ignored or brushed off is part of emotional maturity.
She acknowledged the validity of that interpretation and offered an alternative. Perhaps, she suggested, the Slits were addressing someone named “Serious” and they were telling Serious not to take something. Like, maybe they had some Halloween candy and Serious was trying to take it. “Don’t take it, Serious.”
I agreed that this was possible. She asked who was named Serious. I said I didn’t know of anyone by that name. We arrived at B, got out of the car and our talk drifted on to other things.
This morning, after a last-minute wardrobe change, some minor abuse of the roomie’s cat and a hurried search for something to take for show’n’tell, we managed to get down to the car where she suddenly announced that she remembered who Serious was. Serious, she informed me was a dog who belonged to Hunter O’Ryan. I was still struggling with consciousness and was distracted by trying to get her to school and me to work so I was slow to catch on. I thought she was talking about characters in a kids’ show or some something that she’d heard someplace and partially understood. It took me a moment to get it: Sirius is the Dog Star, associated with the constellation Orion, the hunter. We go to the planetarium at the local university occasionally. They have free shows every Saturday, the earlier one for kids. Last summer, we saw a cartoon about Orion, his legend and how he became a constellation. I had completely forgotten it. If you’d asked me, I would’ve assumed that she had too, that it had just sunk onto her brain as one of the fun things she and I have done together.
Nope. She obviously held onto far more information than I would’ve thought any four-year-old could. Of course, this is a four-year-old we’re talking about. She can remember the name of my roommate who has a cat, but not the other one and she sometimes needs help getting her underpants on right, but still. That she remembers from a cartoon six months ago that Sirius “belongs” to the hunter, Orion, is pretty amazing and cool.
What I’m taking from this incident is that my kid is really fucking smart. I already knew that and I’m certainly aware that few people who aren’t immediately involved in our lives give a shit. Parental anecdotes about amazing kids are a dime a dozen. It does tie in with a theory I’ve had for a while about the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism and manifestation of the bodhisattva of Divine Compassion, Avalokiteśvara. See, I’ve always treated my daughter like an intelligent person. I’ve always talked to her as if she was an equal, obviously taking into account her ability to understand words and concepts, and answered her questions as completely as possible. I encourage her constantly and I’ve provided her with many opportunities to learn, i.e. visits to the planetarium, art galleries, farms, as well as classes in dance, music and simple construction. She loves classes. She’s taking swimming lessons right now – her Mommy signed her up for those, so she gets the credit there. We have the girl in a Montessori school, which she loves, and we read to her daily. Certainly, she was born healthy and with some inherent capacity for intelligence, but we’ve done what we can to facilitate her growth.
The Dalai Lama, a compassionate and kind man by any standard, was raised to be compassionate and kind. He was found/selected as a toddler and grew up in a Tibetan monastery where his education was specifically directed toward his position as Dalai Lama, so it really shouldn’t come as a surprise that he grew up to be somewhat kind and compassionate. How else could he have turned out? Sure, he’s a reincarnation of Avalokiteśvara, so he had a predisposition toward compassion and kindness, but all sentient beings contain Buddha-nature, so we’re all capable of awakening to Divine Compassion, reincarnation of a bodhisattva or not. Why don’t we? Because we’re taught not to. We’re taught that we are individuals, entirely separate from other individuals. We are, of course, individuals and thank the gods for that, but we are also aspects of a greater, eternal and infinite, whole. Realization of that fact is essentially Nirvana.
Any individual raised to believe s/he is intelligent, kind, compassionate and essentially at one with all that is must necessarily believe it to be so, at least as much as her/his capacities allow. Her Mommy and I have taught the Spotted Opossum that she’s a smart kid and she has proven she is, so much so that it sometimes surprises her Mommy and I, who were raised with different thought-forms. All of this is fine for raising kids to be smarter and more compassionate than their parents, but it goes further. I was not raised to excel at much. My parents did not set high standards or go out of their way to put me into situations that would enhance my natural capabilities. The under-funded public schools I was forced to attend certainly didn’t encourage me to pursue my interests. I had to find ways to learn about and engage in the activities that mattered to me, not all of which were positive or constructive. Eventually though, my diligence in finding and following my own course paid off. By the time I got sober and started getting effective treatment for my depressive disorder, I was quite experienced with alternative forms of self-education. I had learned to wrap my head around apparently incomprehensible concepts, accept paradoxes and embrace mutually exclusive ideas. As I delved into the world’s vast treasure trove of myth, I found that I could easily understand what was being said.
The sound of one hand clapping? Clap with one hand. That’s it. That’s all there is. Enlightenment is nothing more than that. Love your neighbor as yourself? No problem when you realize that your neighbor is of the same essence as yourself, though individuated on a different time-table and manifesting another aspect of the One. It really is that easy, if you set high standards for yourself and put yourself in situations that will facilitate the growth of the self you want to be.
Suppose you want to attain to Nirvana. You simply tell yourself that you, like all sentient beings, already possess Buddha-nature and then put yourself in situations that will help you realize that fact. You might think that I mean go join a Buddhist monastery. Nope. Buddhist monasteries are filled with people who are absolutely convinced they cannot attain to Nirvana. They’re working and working and struggling and mediating because they believe they can’t be Enlightened. It seems like a paradox, but it’s really just a logical error. It’s the same as the Bill of Rights granting everyone the right to “the pursuit of happiness”. Friend, if you’re pursuing happiness, you’re not happy and you never will be until you stop pursuing.
Anyone, at any age, can change how they think. When you change how you think, you change how you live. As Funkadelic said, “Free your mind and your ass will follow”. It is not difficult. It does take a certain amount of effort and it doesn’t happen instantly. Well, some things do happen instantly. I have experienced moments of satori, when dots are connected and realizations occur, but mostly it’s just a matter of deciding to be something and then acting like you are that something until you are. That’s how I became a shaman, how I conquered death, how I became one with the One.
Of course, I do still get upset over trivial things from time to time, until I remember not to take things so serious. I’m playing a game called life in the zone of middle dimensions and sometimes I get caught up in the game. That’s just part of the fun of playing. It really is just a game, though.
Anybody can change. Anybody can conquer fear, keep their head when those about are losing theirs, enjoy the luxuries of poverty, walk through the valley of the shadow of death fearing no evil. It’s all about what you tell yourself.
So. What do you want to be?
Autumn is the dying time. The trees shed their leaves, the creeks go dry, the earth goes cold. Animals crawl into holes to hide and sleep. There are few birds and they don’t sing, just shiver and pick at whatever carcass they can find. Dawn comes later and dusk, sooner. The veil between the living and the dead, no more than a veil at any time, is thinnest now, with ragged holes to peek or creep through. This is the time of shutting down, closing up, preparing for the cold to come. It is right and good that we think of death now, display death’s symbols and paint our faces as corpses.
We know, of course, that spring will come, as it always does. The animals and birds will return, the flowers will bloom and the riverbeds will swell with rains and melting snow. The world doesn’t die, only seems to, for a time and then returns to joyous, abundant life. ‘Round and ‘round roll the seasons as Terra Mater turns and turns forever and ever, unto the world’s end, amen. And why shouldn’t we celebrate the time of death? Are we not the same as the earth from whence we came? Do we imagine that our own deaths will somehow be different?
Everything natural is round. Day rolls into night into day as the seasons roll, the planet rolls, the Milky Way rolls, around and around. All of time and all of space are ever-turning circles, cycles, ceaseless rotations. Wheels within wheels.
My daughter, the Spotted Opossum, is four-and-a-half. I am forty-four-and-a-half. She finds it amusing that our ages end the same. And so they always will. She is at the beginning of her life this time; I’m in the middle of mine. She understands that death is only sad for the living, who are deprived of their loved one. The dead go to be with God, perhaps returning in another form or the same form, she doesn’t really know because I don’t really know and I tell her so. I’ve told her that death is nothing to fear and she wants to believe that. In time, she will. She’s had very little experience with life, doesn’t understand even the basic concepts of time or space. There’s no way someone so young can grasp that death is life’s other side.
It wasn’t easy for me to learn it. I once feared death. I once feared life. Fear drove me to dark places, to alcohol, drugs, suicidal ideation, insanity. I’ve courted death, jerked off to death, slipped into unconsciousness certain that I’d not wake up. I have killed and caused to be killed. I have held bloody human flesh. I have lost control of cars, dragged myself out of freezing water, been on the wrong end of swinging blades, tasted gun barrels, overdosed. I’ve seen the dead, heard the dead, walked with the dead. A man I knew died a few days ago, sixty-six-years old. He was in Vietnam, deep in the shit, with confirmed kills still fresh in his mind. We called him “Pastor” because he was one. Another man died a few days ago, Lou Reed, seventy-one. I never met him, of course, but his music blew my mind twenty-five years ago and still does today. The Velvets, I mean, and obviously Metal Machine Music. Both of them were recovering alcoholic/addicts, as am I, and it’s surprising, really, that they managed to hold on as long as they did. Maybe I’m closer to the end than the middle. We’ll see. I’m not planning on dying anytime soon. I’ve got a lot of shit to attend to before I shuffle off this mortal coil, a lot of work to get done. I might not have the final say on that matter, but I’d put up a goddamn fight, that’s for sure. I expect to be around for a bit longer, long enough to get tired and start to look forward to death as one looks forward to sleep at the end of a long, hard day. That’s how my paternal grandmother went. She was ready. She told me.
One my mother’s side, it’s not at all unusual for the old and failing to report being visited in the night by dead relatives who tell them not to be afraid. When somebody mentions that Uncle Arlen or Aunt Bon was in their room the night before, everybody knows they’ll be dead soon. I wouldn’t mind that.
I’ve been talking about physical death. There are other kinds. We’ve all experienced transitions in our lives, experiences that changed us in deep, profound ways which we were unable to comprehend until later, if ever. That’s a type of death. I experienced it when I got sober and again when the nurse put my newborn daughter in my hands. In both cases, the person who I had been ceased to be and a new person came into existence. In both cases, I had to figure out how to let go of the person I had been to be the person I had become. When I got clean, I was pretty close to physical death, in no good shape mentally and utterly ignorant of spiritual matters. When the girl came out, I was ten years straight and ten years into the study of myth and religion. I perceived that I had crossed a threshold of sorts, that I had entered into a new form of existence. That’s what religions mean when they talk about death and resurrection. People who are physically dead do not physically get up and call on their old friends before floating up into the sky. Metaphorical deaths happen all the time, many times to each of us.
Then again, there is the matter of identification. Who am I? Am I the body that houses the spirit for a brief time or am I the spirit that uses the body and casts it off when it is no longer useful? Am I the ego which clings to status, security and fondly held notions or am I an eternal, ever-changing monad which is playing at being temporal? Am I a blip that exists for a moment in an inconceivably vast and ongoing universe or am I an inconceivably vast and ongoing universe which is seeing itself through the eyes of a blip for a moment? I know my answers to those questions and knowing them, I really don’t think about it much. I don’t have to think about it. Thinking about would only distract me from the game that I’m playing, the game of being alive in the realm of middle dimensions. It’s a good game and I’m trying to play my hand well, according to my understanding.
Death isn’t the end of the game, not really. Well, it can be, I guess, if you choose to go to Amitabha’s Pure Land or something. I expect I’ll come back. I’ve got a list of things to do that I don’t think I can get through in one lifetime. Whether I make it to ninety-one, like Grandma, or go out in a fiery explosion tomorrow, I’ll have to come back to finish what I’ve started, which is the total transformation of human consciousness. No shit. The myths and religions of the world are all about living life and transcending death and I’m pretty sure that if people understood that they’d stop being such insufferable assholes all the time. The only way this world is going to become the place I want to live is for it to be radically changed, so I’m going to change it or die trying and come back to try again.
Also, skulls are cool. Halloween is fun. Old horror movies are great. We’ve been watching Hammer horror movies lately. Gary Oldman was really a better Dracula than Christopher Lee, but whatever. The classics are classic.
In case you were wondering, yes, the title is a reference to Sonny Curtis’ “Love Is All Around”, the theme song to The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Terrible song, great show. Sing it with “death” instead of “love” and it’s just as true.
You’re gonna make it after all.
Let me just state right here that, most of the time, I have only a vague idea of what I’m doing. Seriously, I’m winging it more often than not, strolling right in where angels fear to tread. It consistently surprises me how well it works out.
As Espresso Shaman, I’m the one who assembles/produces/slaps together all BDSR releases. I do put some little thought into what goes where and how it’ll all end up, but I also jam shit together somewhat higgledy-piggledy and randomly. Sometimes, I realize why something goes together a certain way long after it’s finished.
That happened tonight. I was at work, confined to the dishpit, listening to some BDSR cd’s that I had in the car. I like to listen to BDSR sometimes when I just wanna trance out. One of my motivations as a musician is to create music that I can listen to when I just wanna trance out because I frequently wanna just trance out and the right kind of music makes that happen a lot easier. So I was listening to The Trout Mask Of God Replica/Ārya Soundtrack, thinking that it was a pretty decent release and I was happy with it and then I started free-associating.
There’s a long section on that’n where a voice chants “everything you do is wrong” over and over while another voice slowly says “I am yesterday, today and tomorrow. I have the power to be born a second time. I am the source and creator of all the gods.” over and over. The first voice is Danny Elfman – it’s a sample from Oingo Boingo’s “Same Man I Was Before” – the second is Smokin’ Joe Campbell and I can’t remember the title of the DVD that I stole that from. I got it from the library, that’s all I know. Anyhoo, I was thinking that the section goes on a little long and then I remembered that when I was putting that part together, I decided to repeat the Oingo Boingo sample 666 times because the voices that Elfman says “start shouting at me ‘everything you do is wrong’”, voices in his head, voices which I’ve heard in my own head, are infernal. That’s what the Devil tells you. You’re wrong, you suck, you’re no good, your dreams are for shit. That’s the Prince of Lies telling you that. So it made sense to have it 666 times. Smokin’ Joe Campbell is the voice of transcendence, the voice of Brahmā, the ultimate and unknowable energy that creates, sustains and permeates all that is and more, of which the other gods are representations. As human beings, we live in the Zone of Middle Dimensions, between the opposites, caught in the middle, constantly torn between “good” and “evil”, but Brahmā/Wakan Tanka/God(head) is not caught in the middle. Rather, the ultimate and unknowable energy is all that is and more, which means that it is both good and evil, but because it is beyond pairs of opposites, it is neither good nor evil.
That’s paradoxical nonsense, I know. When you start mucking around with transcendence, paradoxical nonsense is something you get used to. I’m trying to convey something like the free association thing I had going on whilst listening to Trout Mask at work.
The voice over against the Devil telling you “everything you do is wrong” is not a voice telling you “everything you do is right”. That would be another Devil. The Devil is nothing more than your own ego arrogantly trying to convince you that it is all there is. Poppycock, says me. There is a whole hell of a lot more than your ego, but your ego doesn’t want you to know that so it takes on different disguises to tell you lies. Many people think that “everything you do is wrong” is what God says, or rather what the Church says, and they’re right. The Church has toned down the whole absolute authority business in recent years, but it’s still there. That’s bullshit. You wanna go to Heaven? Fine, do what the Church tells you to do. But if you wanna do better than that, like for example if you wanna actually become one with the One, you gotta break past what the Church says. Somebody – maybe Meister Eckhart – said something like “the Church is the final defense against experiencing God”. This is what is meant by the saying “if you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him”. See, if you meet the Buddha, it means you’re not the Buddha. It’s like how if you’re acting on your inalienable right to “pursue happiness”, you’re not happy because if you were happy you wouldn’t be pursuing it. The goal of Buddhism is not to venerate the Buddha, but to become the Buddha. Yeah, I know all about Amitābha and all that Pure Land jazz, but even with that, the final goal is to realize one’s own Buddhahood. You’re it, right now.
In the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas, Jesus says “he who drinks from my mouth shall become as I am and I shall be he”. So what does that mean? When the Devil tempts Jesus, he appeals to His hunger: “cause these stones to be made bread”, he says. Jesus responds “man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth from the mouth of God” and we know that Jesus is God because he also says “I and the Father are one”. So Jesus is saying that whoever hears His teaching and understands – has ears to hear – will become as He is, which is God. See what I mean? Understand the teachings of Christ, who came to Earth to bring about the atonement, i.e. “at-one-ment”, of human beings and God. That’s exactly the point of Buddhism.
My favorite clean joke: A Buddhist monk walks up to a hot dog vendor and says “Make me one with everything.”
To know that one is at one with the One is Enlightenment. To become reconciled with God is to become at one with God, which is to become God. This is what the serpent was offering Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden: eat of this fruit and you will become as God is. Adam and Eve committed no sin at all. They were simply trying to become one with God. Trouble was, God wasn’t ready for that. The most poignant and overlooked passage in the New Testament is that bit about the garden of Gethsemane when Jesus asks some of His disciples to keep watch while He goes to pray. What He’s praying about. of course, is how much He would like to not be crucified the next day, but “Thy will be done” and that’s pretty major shit right there, but He keeps going back to check on the disciples and keeps finding them asleep. That’s when He says “the Spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak”. That’s the moment when God, in the form of Jesus, a simple man from Nazareth, understands the weakness of His creation. There is nothing like that until that moment. Read the Old Testament, I dare ya. What you’ll find there is an omnipotent God demanding the impossible from human beings who can’t ever fucking live up. Read Leviticus, for shit’s sake. Nobody can follow all those rules. When Jesus acknowledges the weakness of the flesh, it’s the first time God understands weakness. That’s when God and man are reconciled. That’s when the “sin” of Adam (and Eve) is wiped clean. At that moment, the barrier between God and man – a barrier God put up – collapses. In the East, of course, there never was a wall around Eden, but it all comes to the same thing: there is nothing between the individual and divinity. The Creator and the creation are of the same substance, infused with the same energy, are the same.
There are still infernal voices, of course, which is why it can be a bit tricky to realize one’s oneness with the One. More people than I care to think of have gotten a taste of this truth and gone mad. That’s part of what the Church and the Pure Land sect do – protect people from too much knowledge. I’m not worried about it because I know that I have no credence. I can go around spouting off ultimate truths all day long and nobody’s gonna pay any attention because I’m just some nutjob in a weird hat. The fact remains: Christ and the serpent were offering the same thing.
This isn’t original, of course. The whole Christ=serpent thing was well-known to the Gnostics, those freaky early Christians who wandered off into the desert and had orgies or whatever and who had the foresight to bury their texts good and deep before the authorities, representatives of what became the Church, came out to slaughter them. I knew all this in my brain. Knowing something in your brain because you read about it in something Smokin’ Joe Campbell wrote is not the same as wandering around to it in your own way, which is why free association is good. Free association helps you find your way, your own way, from A to B and from B to eternity.
This is what I had going on in my head while washing dishes and trancing out to The Trout Mask Of God Replica/Ārya Soundtrack tonight at work. It was a good time. I like washing dishes and trancing out to BDSR and I certainly enjoy wandering around in the Comparative Mythology section of my brain. I hope that BDSR can facilitate this sort of wandering and epiphany – that’s another motivation for me to do what I do. I want to communicate what I’ve learned and experienced.
The Trout Mask Of God Replica/Ārya Soundtrack is available from HysM? They’re in Italy. The whole thing is on youtube. Search for “the big drum in the sky religion trout mask” and you’ll find it.
Happy trances to you, until we meet again.
It is no secret that this here Espresso Shaman has ingested a veritable shitload of chemicals. I was a walking pharmaceutical dump for a number of years and I don’t do that stuff anymore. Mind-altering substances do figure into many of the world’s faith traditions – most, actually – so altered states are within my area.
First, I need to define a term: an “entheogen” is a “god-containing” substance, as opposed to a “hallucinogen” which is a drug that makes you see weird shit. For my purposes, entheogens are derived from plants and have been tested and approved by traditional use. So peyote, fly agaric, psilocybin, tabernanthe iboga, silene capensis, salvia, morning glories, ayahuasca, Syrian rue, pitcheri, uncured tobacco, cannabis, kava kava and/or San Pedro are entheogens and blotter acid is not. I know, many people have seen god(s) on acid and many people have taken peyote just to get fucked up and listen to Ten Years After, but I’m sticking with that definition. There are several synthetics which appear to have some entheogenic properties, most notably DMT, but those haven’t been around long enough for any serious research to have been done so I’m leaving them out.
All traditional/pagan/primitive/nonliterate peoples, with the possible exception of those living above the Arctic Circle have used entheogens. As far as I know, all peoples that use entheogens acknowledge that they are a shortcut, a less-than-ideal way of achieving a desired state. Again and again, I have read accounts of grass-clad heathens telling anthropologists some variation on “In the early times, shamans didn’t need to use (whatever) because they were stronger. Now our shamans are weak and they need (whatever)”. The substance does the job, but other ways are more desirable. I’ll get back to that.
Eating a handful of ‘shrooms and listening to Ten Years After might be a lot of fun, but it is not even close to proper entheogen use. I’ve eaten ‘shrooms. We were probably listening to Royal Trux instead of Ten Years After, but it comes to the same thing. Getting fucked up is not seeking the divine. I can’t stress that enough. In any real shamanic/entheogenic-type situation, the shaman would have to go through a training period, an initiation into the correct use of the substance. She or he would have to come to know the specific deit(y/ies) within the plant/cactus/fungus, to develop a relationship with them. Use of the entheogen would take place under specific conditions, usually in combination with other, non-chemical, methods for achieving an altered state, i.e. fasting, sleep-deprivation or self-flagellation. Under no circumstances would any real shaman ever “trip balls”.
I know a few hippies who have been to South America. Every one of them has ingested a few of the substances listed above and every one of them will happily tell you about the good times they had drinking mescal and tripping balls on San Pedro. Fucking hippies.
If you want to use an entheogen – and I am certainly not suggesting that anyone should – you would first have to fast for forty-eight hours, at the very least, and stay awake for thirty-six hours, at the very least, before ingesting the substance. That most of that time should be spent in prayer and meditation goes without saying. Self-inflicted suffering – heat, cold, pain, and discomfort – can only help. Hanging upside-down for a while is good. Chewing on habaneros is always helpful. The many different cultures that use entheogens all have their own preparatory rituals which any student of spirituality would do well to research whether he/she intends to ingest entheogens or not - Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy, by Mircea Eliade, is a damn fine place to start. After all that, you can eat the ‘shrooms.
Then again, if, as our sources say, the only reason modern shamans use entheogens is that they are weak, might’nt it be better to eschew their use? Should one settle for what is, admittedly, a less-than-ideal pathway to Divinity? Is it not more desirable and advantageous to follow the very best course? Of course, it is.
Fasting, sleep-deprivation, self-inflicted suffering can bring about altered states without chemical assistance. It takes a little longer, but that’s actually better. Mohandas Gandhi, who certainly knew about fasting, said “There is more to life than increasing its speed” and I couldn’t agree more. The long, slow, tedious and boring method is almost inevitably the better, especially when it comes to spiritual growth. I’m not going to get into the details of my own practice here because some things are private, but I do employ non-entheogenic methods to achieve altered states. And I do encourage others to do the research and follow the time-tested techniques. They work.
I must admit that I am not entirely certain that I would not use an actual entheogen. I am sure that they can yield benefits when used the right way. As I type this, Italian Ice, BDSR’s Ambassador to the Third World, is wandering around some tropical rainforest with a Hare Krishna, eating various cactuses and slime molds. Her reports to BDSR HQ have been quite entertaining and insightful. If I ever found myself in Peru, being offered ayahuasca by a local medicine man or if I were somehow allowed to take part in a peyote ceremony with members of the Native American Church despite the fact that I am a dirty wasi’chu, I would probably drink the Kool-Aid, so to speak. I don’t expect to be in either of those situations any time soon. It would be a big thing for me to ingest any mind-altering substance. I’d have to think and pray and be absolutely sure, but I might do it.
Another thing happening as I type this: the fine young fellows at HysM? are burning copies of Entheogenocide, which should be hitting the market very soon. This one is a slight deviation from the typical cacophony you’ve come to expect from BDSR: fucked-up stoner-sludge metal. It’s heavy, man, heavy and dark. 66.6 minutes of heavy, dark, stonerage in open G6 tuning, Locrian mode. You can pre-order it now.
Oh, the Earth’s been good to me
and so I thank the Earth
for giving me the things I need
like the Sun and the rain
and the apple seed.
The Earth’s been good to me.
At the local Montessori school, the little grubs sing the above song before tearing into their PBJ’s and apple slices. The Spotted Opossum gets it stuck in her head frequently and – like everything else that comes into her head – shouts it out loud over and over.
I’m fine with that. The Earth has been pretty good to us. Without the Earth, we’d all be having a really tough time right now. I have, of course, provided the wee grrrl with the image of earth-mother/sky-father, among other possible ways of imaging the Great Mystery and that seems to make sense to her, but the culture in general and our local piece of it stresses the sky-father part of that duality to the total exclusion of the earth-mother, so I’m quite happy to have her school provide a little ditty that encourages the sprats to remember the Earth.
One of the many books on my need-to-read-again list is Gaia: The Human Journey From Chaos To Cosmos, by Elisabet Sahtouris, an easily readable little book that explain how our planet became the incredibly complex, life-sustaining place that it is. This is the book that turned me on to the Gaia Hypothesis, in very brief the notion that our planet, Earth, Terra, Gaia, is a living entity and that the many life-forms that live on Earth are parts in a greater whole. Some scientists have criticized that premise because the ability to reproduce is one of the defining characteristics of living things and there is no evidence that our planet has reproduced, i.e. given birth to another life-sustaining planet. To that objection I respond, Go fuck yerseffs, ya literal-minded gits. No sensible person believes that the third rock out from Sol is alive in the same way a person or frog is alive. No one is suggesting that Gaia is floating around in the Kozmic Sea thinking “I think I’ll make it rain in Virginia today.” The Gaia Hypothesis does not suggest that Earth is a conscious being, but that it is a totality which has, factually and demonstrably, evolved from a noxious, violent blob of conflicting forces to the stable, life-sustaining beauty that we now pollute. The Gaia Hypothesis is not a religion; it is a way of thinking about the Earth. I would argue that it is a better way of thinking about the Earth than the old way which held that the Earth was a thing that existed for no other reason than to be conquered, used, exploited and paved by human beings, possibly the only thing that Western science and religion have agreed on in the past five centuries.
Many peoples, probably most, have believed in the life-loving nature of Nature. The exploitive and destructive idea that the Earth is a thing is an idea whose time should never have been and hopefully, people will stop thinking that way soon. It’s bad for the planet and it’s bad for people. As a firm believer in the Gaia Hypothesis, I can assure you that I never feel alone. When I go out into the National Forest, especially, I have the warm and wonderful sense that I am a small part of a magnificent and madly complicated whole.
Some scientists have objected to the Gaia Hypothesis because it’s named for a Greek goddess, Gaia/Gea/Ge, the Earth Mother. Right. All the fucking planets are named after goddesses or gods, you assholes. So are most of the months and days of the week and elements for fuck’s sake. No one is saying that people should start worshipping the Earth, running around naked, singing endless songs whilst twirling around Maypoles like those goofballs in The Wicker Man – well, actually, I would really love to live on Summerisle, especially if I could engage in certain pagantics with a young Britt Ekland – but it isn’t mandatory or anything. Scientists, man. How ‘bout you guys stay in your labs, torturing mice or whatever, and let those of us with creative minds blather on about big picture stuff like how human beings can and should live happily and peaceably in this, the best of all possible worlds.
That is not to say that personifying the Earth is a bad thing. I am 100% in favor of personifying natural processes, emotions, planets and states of being and naming them for ancient gods, goddesses and other beasts and beings. vast pantheons of unseen forces have always populated the Collective Unconscious, giving people inspiration, comfort, strength in times of need and good ol’ healthy fear. When there were monsters in the night, there were reasons to bond together. Fear is fine. I watched Willie Wonka And The Chocolate Factory with the little girl recently and got to vicariously relive the thrilling terror of the boat ride, which is just as important and wonted as the fantasy of unlimited candy.
All the goddesses, gods, et al. are metaphors, personifications of energies. That only becomes problematic when people start thinking that their metaphors are facts. Yes, I am referring to the big three monotheistic, Abrahamic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Metaphors are not facts. The gods of other people are not devils. Personification is a perfectly good and useful tool for making abstractions intelligible.
Gratitude is good. We are entirely dependent for everything on forces that we did not create and cannot maintain. We should, humbly, appreciate the planet that allows us to live. We should act as stewards of the planet, not as destroyers. Certainly, we must have as much information about our Earth in order to be good stewards, to balance our own needs and desires with the needs and desires of other species and with those of the Earth itself/herself. I was kidding earlier about scientists. We do need them to learn all that can be learned about the Earth, so we can thrive. I stand by my assertion that there are people better suited for big picture abstractions than microbiologists and chemists, but I should add that religious folk, especially those who are partisans of the Big Three, have no business making claims about natural processes. Where I live, the Creation vs. Evolution debate continues to be debated in public forums. That’s just dumb.
So. We live on a living world. Or it is as if we live on a living world.
I highly recommend Dr. Sahtouris’ book. I also recommend watching Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory again, especially if you can share it with a child who has never seen it. And I recommend The Wicker Man, the 1973 original, not that fucking abortion from 2006, but I wouldn't advise sharing that one with a minor.
And yes, the song is wrong: the Earth did not give us the Sun. It was the other way ‘round.
I was at the grocery store with the Spotted Opossum t’other day, getting bread, peanut butter, bananas and other essentials and I didn’t have enough cash on me so I pulled out the debit card.
So I wiped the card on my shirt and swiped it again.
I was pretty sure there was money in the account so I asked the cashier if there was an ATM. She pointed it out and I was about to take my cranky, hungry kid over there to withdrawal cash when a woman in line behind us stepped up and said “I got it.”
“I’ll just pay for it. You don’t have any beer or anything in there, do you?”
“No, we have peanut butter and bananas.” I was kinda surprised and not catching on.
She swiped her card and whispered “God says ‘hi’.”
“Oh. Hi.” That was a really lame response, but I did thank her and then I took the grrrl out to the car and gave her a banana. We went downtown so I could check my balance and I realized that I’d forgotten to account for the insurance on my vehicles which comes out automatically every month. I wasn’t overdrawn and I got paid by one of my jobs the next day so it all worked out that way. And I got to explain to my daughter that other people also commit random acts of kindness and that, in this case, the beneficiaries were us.
Friends, what that woman in the check-out line did was about as fine an example of the positive power of religion as you can get. She had on scrubs, so she works in medicine, which ain’t bad money. She had a bit to give to strangers. Her hair and complexion indicated a recent round of chemotherapy, so she understood a bit about suffering. She let me know, in a small and simple way, that she was motivated to kindness by her faith. Bam. That’s a fine thing, right there.
Of course, that woman was almost certainly a Christian, which means that she and I don’t see eye to eye on some matters, but no matter. Whether we share common views on such piddling details as the exclusive divinity of Christ or the Triune nature of the Almighty is trifling bullshit. The important thing is that kindness was done. A small, spontaneous goodness happened, not enough to get anybody into Heaven or significantly improve anyone’s karma or secure anyone a seat in an open lotus in Amitabha’s Pure Land or anything.
God – by any name – appreciates kindnesses. I try to help other people and to teach my child to do the same. As we reap, we sow.
Brown Hat the Espresso Shaman
The pun is always intended.