It has been more than a few years now since I sussed out the whole ‘Father Christmas’ scam and, at the time, I suppose I was meant to keep quiet for a couple more years until until my little brother cottoned on but, you know, screw that, I was probably the first person to tell him. All kids are blabbermouths. A couple of years later I had become certain that, in all likelihood, I was going to die and so was everyone else, including my parents. At first they told me it wasn’t true, a little later they explained that it was true but that’s ok because we belong to this club and there’s this other place we all go to afterwards, you know the stuff we do every Sunday. I was an altar boy at the Catholic church next to the Primary school, so let’s say at ten or eleven years old I distinctly remember thinking, “I’m not buying any of this but I don’t know why.” So I went and off to explain to my little brother that he was definitely going to die.
We can thank all major religions for bringing society forward through the last five thousand years or so. You can’t make an omelette without breaking some eggs but sure, good job religion. Thing is, for the first four and a half thousand years all the worlds first self help books could only be read by a disproportionately few amount of people charged with the responsibility of shepherding the flock. The stuff about shellfish, good health advice, the stuff about promiscuity, good health advice, the stuff about homosexuality, not so much. Still the user benefits, then as now, are undeniably powerful and, for the most part, clearly enriching. On the ground level, you join a club that invites you to meet regularly, perform some activities that remind you to be a good and responsible person for the rest of the week, join in with other people looking to do good and responsible things and go about your day, and if you do all that for the rest of your life you get a prize when you die. Sounds pretty good, unless part of getting that prize involves strapping a bomb to your chest. The politics of religion, higher up the food chain, remains significantly intrinsic to the fabric of our society and we are still cutting our cloth accordingly. The ‘D.U.P.’ of Northern Ireland are adamant that parity of law with the mainland of the ‘United Kingdom’ is paramount, apart from the bit about being the last place in Western Europe where abortion must remain illegal because ‘God’ said so.
When Dante wrote ‘The Divine Comedy’ he did not envisage the first part of his book being turned in to ‘B -Movie’ schlock versions of hell. The first level of hell was, essentially, sitting around in a fog, knowing that a bus is coming and all you have to do is wait. Boring? How would you feel waiting for a bus for eternity? Yet ‘Dante’ was a politician in exile, in Italy when ‘Rome’ ruled the world. He was obsessed with dismantling the idea that the governance of people where the church is the state with a gangster pope at the helm was a very bad idea, particularly as, at that time, heaven and hell were as real as the earth being flat, as real as ‘Google’ is to us today. I tried believing in the flat earth thing for a while, it actually felt great. Think about the fact that, if you imagine the earth spinning, while orbiting the sun, while our sun is just a star in orbit within our galaxy, just in our galaxy alone, just me, sitting in this park, writing this out on my laptop on a sunny, Saturday afternoon with a can of beer next to me, with a baby caterpillar that has just experienced a dramatic consequence of gravity by falling out of a tree onto my keyboard and is not at all happy with the latest ‘MacBook’ and is doing a runner for it, hold on, he’s on my leg now, I’m just going to put him in some dirt. Ok, so, both of us, along with you reading this are, technically, travelling about 60’000 mph through this galaxy on a spinning rock. This thought gives me vertigo of a kind that a ‘Flat Earther’ simply does not have to worry about. As a child I remember laying back on the grass on a summer’s day turning the fluffy clouds into cartoons. If I try that now, with what I know, it makes me vomit.
Thoughts that make you nauseous should be avoided right?
Motion sickness, whether on a motorway or a rollercoaster, is a mixed signal where the subconscious brain interprets conflicting messages from the eyes and the ear canals and, naturally, presumes that you have you have been poisoned, so, just in case, rejects the contents of your stomach. In my early teens I spent some time on a loop the loop type rollercoaster and as I got to the top of the loop, my downstairs brain decided that I might have been poisoned and ejected my candy floss and pop corn. I could not help but keep my eyes on the concoction as I completed the loop and gravity did it’s thing, I saw my meteor of lumpy pink gravy hurtle up towards the ground and adapted my beliefs about my place on theme park rides accordingly.
And back to Dante!
Dante wrote the culture shifting manifesto of his time. He was writing a ‘Bible’ update, given the additional knowledge gained over the previous thousand years. He challenged and subsequently changed belief, like a patch on an operating system. This did eventually happen, not immediately, but given almost another thousand years of perspective he eulogised thousands of profoundly relevant tenets to our society today.
Belief is always the most powerful thing. It is the only way we can function as conscious entities. Other people believe what you know to be true. One of the greatest traps of the human condition is our habit for once we know something is ‘right’ we stop asking the question; ‘Is this right?’ Once your downstairs brain has decided you need a cigarette, there is very little your upstairs brain can do to talk you out of it. You might consider yourself a good singer, dancer, footballer, lover… until someone plays you back the video. I do not believe that I am capable of coming off the bench at the ‘Champions League’ final and scoring a bicycle kick within two minutes. Only ‘Gareth Bale’ believed that before he did it.
You’re walking down the street, generally believing everything in your world is ok. I tap you on the shoulder and ask you if you knew about the bird poop on your other shoulder.
If you believe me you look.
If you ‘know’ my political or religious views and they do not correlate with yours, do you still look? When you see the bird poop, will you tell me that, actually, you wanted the poop there all the time.
What happens when you are wrong? How do you escape this uneasy, unnatural state? What is the best route back to right? If you are possessed with a degree of charm you can always bullshit your way through life to maintain your self-righteous status, this does require a lack of compassion that comes with a good deal of sociopathy but it does seem to work for ‘Boris Johnson’. You can always live with and carry the burden of your guilt for being wrong or you can seek absolution and show a bit of contrition, maybe throw in a bit of penance.
One of the many psychological benefits for someone of faith, regardless of which brand of intersubjective reality they have signed up to, is that they can be wrong and then be right again with immediate access to forgiveness and other soul cleansing activities just by recognising that they are routinely wrong. My own ‘Catholic’ upbringing limits my frame of reference yet, in terms of day to day, ground level social cohesion any, moderate practising, religious group are enjoying ticking a multitude of boxes for what it takes to live a good and happy life. Sounds idyllic and yet we have actual ‘Midsummer Murders’ in the ‘every-village’ of England; ‘Amesbury’. Spare some sympathy for the beleaguered estate agent patter of,“Two bedrooms, one bathroom, one elaborately contrived poisoning.”
Why would you be an ‘atheist’?
Let’s weigh the odds; let’s say the, otherwise well behaved, nonbeliever is right; that’s ok, nothing happens after we die. Lets say the believer is right, depending on the believers beliefs, may or may not get to say I told you so, in a nice way and that’s all good too. The nonbeliever gets to say sorry for doubting and will have the opportunity to discuss options going forward, depending on which religion was right in the first place. The implied leveraging of a nonbeliever going definitely going to hell is distasteful; the ‘believe or else’ school where you can play your round of golf however you like, you can win the ‘Green Jacket’ but if you don’t pay your subs at every hole you are not coming in the clubhouse for drinks, you are going to spend eternity in damnation.
The only real difference in this life is the belief.
Imagine two identically good people in every way, one with faith and one without. During these two identically real lives, the one with belief that there will a prize at the end will, on average, be dispensing reward treats in the brain, just like the ding and the vibrate of scoring in ‘Candy Crush’ for the duration of that life. One will give money or time knowing that there is no reward for this but the act itself, one will have had years of dopamine tap-dancing on their amygdala, knowing that God is watching and giving thanks and praise. Who doesn’t like thanks and praise? In 2018 ‘Ohio State University’ published the results of an, admittedly limited, study, suggesting that people of faith, on average, live four years longer than atheists. What happens if a secret atheist goes to church every Sunday of their lives? Do they get the extra years or do they die earlier because of the lie the have lived?
Let’s take the sin of infidelity.
Person ‘A’ and person ‘B’ are in a committed relationship.
Person ‘A’ does the nasty with person ‘C’. Person ‘C’ may or may not be aware of the betrayal ‘A’ is committing.
Circumstance and environment have conspired to put ‘A’ and ‘C’ in a situation, for whatever reason, where the ‘Old Testament’ part of their brains is firmly overriding the ‘New Testament’ part in terms of decision making and has released the appropriate chemicals that agree that the propagation of the species needs to happen right fucking now; the old rush of blood to the genitals.
Person ‘A’ and ‘C’ are going to ‘smash’.
Person ‘C’ can go now.
Person ‘A’ has new, contradicting, evidence that person ‘A’, as right as person ‘A’ felt at the time, may not be a good person.
What does ‘A’ tell ‘B’? You would think that ‘A’ will have to tell ‘B’ something sooner or later, perhaps ‘A’ needs some counsel.
‘A’ decides to talk to person ‘D’, ‘A’s’ best friend outside of ‘A’s’ ‘committed’ relationship.
Actually, if ‘A’ had any sense ‘A’ would just keep ‘A’s’ mouth shut and resist that need to confess… but the sex was banging or it was awful, doesn’t matter, ‘A’ still, for some reason, needs to tell someone, still needs affirmation or penitence or some kind of clemency.
The story ‘A’ tells ‘D’ will be a bit justification, a bit why ‘A’ did what ‘A’ did with a little bit of how good it was ‘getting busy’ with ‘C’.
If Person ‘A’ is a ‘Catholic’, ‘A’ also has Person ‘E’ available to confess to, person ‘E’ is a priest.
So with a bit of contrition, from this point on person ‘A’s’ conscience is clear, regardless of the consequences of ‘A’s’ actions.
Person ‘A’ is contrite, please go about your day, nothing to see here.
Anyone who has worked in bars or restaurants know that ‘Christmas’ parties are in January and are always spectacular in spirit. Working in an office where competition is part of the culture, like on a sales team or ‘Love Island’, the parties can feel a bit like a school disco for grown-ups. The people serving the people that have finished work, are part of a lightning quick occupation. A top bar runs with the camaraderie of the crew of a ship in an ocean of booze, cresting tidal waves of drunken boarders, it’s winning the gunfight at the O.K. Coral for twelve hours a day. Come that cold slow ‘Wednesday’ in ‘January’ for everyone else, where after working every weekend for a year, we’re going to party like it was four weeks ago for everyone normal who actually had a break over ‘Christmas’. Most of us will have to go right back to work within twenty-four hours anyway there is a tiny window where it really is ok to shit where you eat. Everyone will be too busy to care come the weekend. Once upon a time I was working at such a classy joint in the ‘City of London’, this ‘Christmas Party’ had been postponed until February and we were ready for it. For the meal I was sat next to a ‘Scandinavian’ waitress who, in the time that I had known her, had been very good at her job and that’s it.
I remember nothing after dinner.
The next day I woke up in her flat and some bits came back. We did it again, just so we could actually remember what we did, I mean, we had done it, we might as well… We went out on a date a week later. The next day, we woke up in her flat, we decided that we were good as friends and that’s ok. Then, with genuine sadness, she told told me, “Now I’m going to have to break up with my boyfriend, he can’t be the one for me.” Then we did it for the last time, I mean, we might as well.
No real need to bother ‘God’ with any of that, beside’s, doesn’t he already know?
Confession and gossip are two sides of a sticky coin in the psyche.
What has person ‘A’ got that I haven’t got apart from absolution?
“You chose you leaders and place your trust”
Paul Weller (1979)
Somebody has to be in charge. Better a Deity that you cannot see than the sociopath you can, right? You or I can’t be expected to be in charge of everything. We have what we are responsible for and we will tend our flock accordingly. The trick is determining what you are and what you are not responsible for. It is entirely natural to seek is to abdicate responsibility for the bad things. The implication remains then that you must abdicate responsibility to someone above you or below you. Whose fault is the bad things? I have been right and just to the best of my ability, I can justify what I have done. All of us passing around the hot potato of blame until some carries the can. Just like sugar and fat used to be essential for survival, believing in ‘God’ or in any way acknowledging the possibility of a higher power makes complete sense. Even if we are just playing video games of ourselves…why are we doing that? What are we playing for. This particular belief is still one of a higher power, conveniently, the higher power being ourselves. Did you ever consider that you might be the serpent eating your own tail?
We are all happy to take credit for responsibility of getting something right.
We are all just as quick to explain how something bad that has happened is not our fault.
In every scenario there is always a handing over to higher power.
Nothing is my fault any more and even if it is, I am forgiven because I have handed over responsibility of my soul to something I believe.
“There can be only one!”
‘Connor MacLeod’ of the ‘Clan MacLeod’ (1536)
The only other problem with ‘Atheism’ is if that is true then much of the world is being ruled by very bad people all across the board and I for one wished I believed in heaven right now.
“We think that a powerful and vigorous movement is impossible without differences – ‘true conformity’ is possible only in the cemetery.”
‘Joseph Stalin’ (1912)
To be ‘King’ is not necessarily to be admired. To believe in yourself is imperative, if your beliefs involve other people believing in you. You may see that as responsibility, you may see that as opportunity, either way your actions will have consequences beyond themselves. Your awareness of this must make your actions deliberate. If you enjoy this kind of thing you probably shouldn’t be in charge. Our lauded princes ‘Wills’ and ‘Harry’ have both publicly acknowledged the sheer bafflement to the psyche to be told from earliest memory that, simply by birth, ‘Wills’ is supposed to be in charge of millions of people, and for all the bullets ‘Harry’ dodged in’Afghanistan’ having an older brother was the biggest one for him. ‘Kim Jong Un’ apparently does not labour under that cognitive dissonance. ‘Vladimir Putin’ would argue that he put a lot of effort into getting to the top. One of the most precious things about democracy is having a judiciary system that you can have faith in. ‘Western’ democracy didn’t just show up, millions of people died for the privilege of me to drunkenly stumble through typing this out out over a period of days rather than fart it up on twitter every time I was drunk.
“We all need someone we can bleed on”
‘Mick Jagger’ (1969)
If you believe in ‘God’ how can you not believe in everything in between? If you believe in the infinite, what’s the problem with dinosaurs? If you believe in spirits and angels, what’s wrong with aliens or some other celestial middle management. If you put a gun to my head on my religious beliefs, I would go for omnipotent indifference. The practical, beneficial, day to day, enhancement of life by actively believing in a higher power that believes in you regardless of your station in life can only be good for the soul. If you find yourself a figure of power, whether by accident or design, it will have involved circumstance, luck and a consensus of conviction amongst your followers. If you are wondering what’s wrong with ‘followers’ ask Liam Gallagher why he follows nobody on ‘Twitter’.
“For the powerful, crimes are those that others commit.”
‘Noam Chomsky’ (2010)
If all you have to care for is yourself, you still have that responsibility. Whether you are part of a traditional family or a cult or entirely alone within society, you have set the parameters of what you are responsible for and what is someone else’s job. You’re doing what you’re supposed to and no one can tell you otherwise… is probably working out great for you but what about those around you?
“Wanna be in my gang, my gang, my gang? Wanna be in my gang? Oh yeah!”
‘Gary Glitter’ (1973)
The things we are prepared to do to be right.
The alcoholics belief of when is a good time to drink.
As with the as with the smoker thinks it is a good time to smoke.
As with the swimmer who thinks it a good time to swim
As with the diver who thinks it is a good time to dive
Said the ‘sciver’ with a twinkle in his eye
As he gave me a wink and a nod
As with ‘the carry in me hod’
As ‘with my back, who needs a rod?!’
Said the builder without a rope to tie.
As he prayed to his porcelain god.
As the good book says: ‘Eat, Pray, Rave, Love, Sleep, Repeat.’
“A person is smart, people are stupid.”
Think of alcoholic or drug induced annihilation and ask why someone would want to get so fucked to the point of loss of control of bodily functions from speech to toilet and back again. Not so much the rationales; the job, the divorce, the crash… Rather, what is the reward? What is the benefit of this trade?
Have a massage.
To get out of yourself?
You didn’t ask to be born, although in fairness, I didn’t ask you to be born either.
Yet the state of reverie is the unashamed goal. The forcible ejection of any and all traces of guilt or shame for all the poor life choices that led to this moment of liquid induced liberation.
Absolute dereliction or absolution?
The parallel in the reverie of worship, what makes them both feel so right is the total departure from ego. Just like the bounty of presents I got every ‘Christmas’ as a child of the fabulous eighties and a teenager of the ecstasy filled nineties, when I sobered up for my 40th birthday and looked at the mess I’d made. In the grand scheme of things, I found that what mattered to me barely mattered to anyone who ‘knew’ me. In the grand scheme of things going forward, I know I didn’t listen so why should you.Even after years of driving a thousand miles a day down the same straight road, we all suffer the urge to, simply, let go of the wheel just to find out what a car crash feels like.
This is the essence of evolution; if you survive the car crash you evolve.
If not; dinosaur.
President ‘Xi’ of ‘China’ has had a look at his noisy neighbour ‘Vlad’ and, as I am not from ‘China’, can only paraphrase; “This guy is a prick. He’s gettin’ away with shit I couldn’t dream of. I’m not trying to teach the world ‘Chinese’… yet. Fair play for keeping his own bunch of nut-cases under wraps for so long but these clowns are all playing their music very loud all day and all night, right next door. No surprise he’s pissed of everyone down the street. I mean really, he’s kicking kings in the dick every chance he gets. Still, he does have to keep making up bullshit ‘Democracy’ reasons to be in charge. What a dickhead. I’ll just tell the billion and change of people I’m in charge of that I’ll be doing so for the rest of my life, enough generations have passed for everyone to forget about the whole ‘Mao’ thing… And ‘Winnie the Pooh’… Oh yes, by the time I’m done, there will be no ‘Pooh.'”
You can define the difference between ‘Eastern’ and ‘Wester’ culture in terms of what we did as a species when we found out that not all water was clean. The expression, ‘Wet the baby’s head’ comes from a time when, over here, we had discovered fermentation and the village brew was the safest thing for a baby to drink at birth. Over in ‘China’ they all went for boiling water and putting tea leaves in a pot. Perhaps this has made it biologically it is easier for the people of ‘China’ to better combine spiritualism, religion and politics. Perhaps because of centuries of achieving a comparable reverie without resorting to poisoning themselves has helped. Perhaps because all the old people are up doing ‘Tai Chi’ in the park for breakfast, they are not seeking followers on ‘Twitter’. Perhaps it doesn’t matter who you pray to as long as you pray.
It’s still all about belief and what that does to a brain.
What is the difference between what we need and what we think we need?
I think it’s time we had the talk about drugs and your brain.
Dopamine is the reward drug from the neurons in your brain which, from millennia ago until today, you get for building a fire or from winning a bet on a fixed odds betting machine, a self induced chemical treat for making your life better, however you perceive making your life better.
Serotonin was just supposed to be a chemical guide to how happy our distant ancestors were with the contents of their stomachs as in too much or not enough. It was not designed with ice cream or ‘L.S.D.’ in mind and yet both do havoc with it.
Amygdala, oh the Amygdala baby, that’s who you are, that’s who you think you are and how happy you are with being you. Alcoholism, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and other diseases of the memory all have their wires crossed in this part of the brain.
Cortisol is the chemical in caveman you that makes you get up when you hear a tiger roar. It tells your brain that you do not have time to enjoy the garden because someone is attacking the garden. Too much cortisol can make you forget that there was ever a garden there in the first place.
Endorphins, like dopamine, were originally caveman brain rewards for more immediate completion of survival tasks, letting your body know that you can stop escaping from the claws of a wild animal or making babies. Also, as with dopamine, the modern world has been a lot for endorphins to deal with.
“There is not a culture on earth, well one, that doesn’t make use of certain plants to change the contents of the mind whether as a matter of healing, habit or spiritual practice…That one exception that proves the rule are the ‘Inuit’ but only because nothing psychoactive grows where they live, at least not yet.”
Michael Pollan’ (2018)
The political debate on illegal drugs is as useful as having a political debate about bad fire. It’s never really the fault of the fire, there is always a cause of a fire. Drug use to drug abuse is as fire use to fire abuse. Like it or not, there are pegs in nature that fit into holes in our brains meant for drugs from our internal laboratory. Drugs, once demonised in the ‘Counter Culture’ era are being pulled up from the shame well. Cannabis, turned into a balm to be rubbed over the body of a child prone to up to a hundred epileptic fits a day otherwise, is, of course, a good idea. Guided ‘L.S.D.’ therapies are proving astonishingly effective at addressing the trauma part of ‘P.T.S.D.’ and the palliative care of terminally ill patients alike. If a drug can be used to treat a malady, isn’t that what it must be for?
What do we need?
We need to eat, we need to poop. We need to sleep, we need to wake up. We need to consume but, for more of those, naturally occurring, happy bombs for the brain; we need to produce; as sure as your arse sends happy signals to the brain when you make a doody. The more we value what we produce, the more endorphins. The more affirmation for what we produce, the more endorphins, like when you go for a truly excellent dump and then an hour later you remember just how good that dump was. Imagine if we could all walk around all day with that small miracle feeling deep inside of us. You get the endorphins when you make, you get more when you make what you are making for someone other than yourself, more so again if that person is your progeny. That thing that you made that has set you up for a lifetime of evolutionary brain bombs, both good and bad, all designed to fill you with purpose.
I found a spider in the back of my van today, I slid a sheet of paper under it’s poor life choices, scooped it up and dumped it in a bush and I am patting myself on the back for that right now.
We need to play; Tennis, ‘Far-cry’, gardening, painting, playing an instrument bird watching. Any challenge that requires your full attention while meaning absolutely nothing to your immediate physical survival. Exercise, fucking exercise where for art thou exercise?! I wish I enjoyed exercise like I wish I believed in religion. All those happy brain bombs readily available to me and yet here I am tapping away on my keyboard. If we are being wildly vague, let’s thumb the principle of ‘you get out of it what you put into it’. To feel any kind of benefit from jogging, for example, like going to church every week, to experience the extra years of being alive I would have to spend about the same amount of time jogging and going to church. I would have to spend my time doing things I have no interest in so I can live longer doing things I am not interested in, and yet the brain chemistry evidence suggests that, whatever time allotted to my existence would be, on balance, an irrefutably happier one.
This must be what the ‘Americans’ call an ‘asshole’, not to be confused with the, entirely worse, British ‘Arsehole’, of which I may well be both. Whilst trying out the first year of my forties I went for a jog, I hated every second of it; the clothes, the bouncing up and down of my brain, the jogging past the people lying down in the park. I did a mile, I got home a bit sweaty and remembered the same rule from twenty years ago, unless I’m running for a bus of from a dog, I don’t need to do this. I have a van and really like dogs. If I had to do jogging, like, “JOG OR DIE NOW MUTHER-FUCKER” I’d have to have a ‘Doug Stanhope’ show on the go on my ‘Walk-man’, which should tell you roughly how long ago I last went for a jog. Nothing like some deliberately offensive comedy through the headphones to run through a perfectly decent public space laughing like a demon. My own manifestation of my insane alter ego that told me to go for a jog is waiting for me in the my afterlife. Why would heaven have a gym anyway?
Team sports are right enough for school days. I love a kick-about in the park but unless I’m being paid to kick a ball I’m not having some prick on a Sunday morning screaming in my face because my foot did the wrong thing while I’m having a hangover.
Having sex, biologically, probably the only reason to do exercise; the simple joy of playing with someone else’s private parts while they play with yours. Having sex with someone you have made a lifetime commitment to in front of ‘God’ and your peers, while going to church every week to teach your offspring right from wrong while playing in your squash league on a Tuesday and your Yoga class on a Thursday must be heaven on Earth. Although, the Amish have a stronger argument for living a little closer to heaven. If you are raised ‘Amish’ you are perfectly welcome to leave at any time without the fear of ‘Tom Cruise’ tracking you down.
At the start of ‘Cool Hand Luke’, our ‘anti-hero’ protagonist is found shearing off the heads of parking meters with a bolt cutter while completely drunk. After rousing the spirits of his comrades in chains for the greater part of the film, he is finally broken with two conflicting orders from two different guards; Dig the hole and fill the hole. A ‘Sysiphyan’ punishment, purposeless work with no end in site. Work with no reward with no end but death.
Consume produce, consume produce.
Just don’t shit where you eat… Unless it’s a ‘Christmas’ party in February.
So, for day to day well being; a good balanced diet, a little bit of exercise, a nice kiss and a cuddle and a good night’s sleep a day, nothing controversial there.
For the rest of the waking hours, equal portions of the following are recommended;
Meaningful work with a tangible reward.
Meaningful play where the experiment is the reward.
Indulgence of the reward. The fruits of the labour.
Once you have finished the gardening you can put your feet up in your garden.
And you will no longer need faith or prayer.
Unless you’re still alive and evolution keeps tickling the soles of your feet.
If so, then there is the other spoke in the wheel of good fortune; incorporating the complete dissolution of your own ego at least once a day might be just as valuable as eating and sleeping. This state can be achieved in a number of ways but fundamentally, it’s the meditation thing. It is also the drinking to oblivion thing, not the too much on a Saturday night drinking, more the daily ‘White Lightning’ rollercoaster to nowhere. Alcoholism can be cured just by convincing the victim that they can achieve the same state with water and the tiniest bit of bread and whine. Give yourself a thumbs up and a high five every day because you are sure you got everything right, ‘God’ told you you were right all along, even when you were wrong, it was all part of ‘His’ plan. Remember ‘Babel’?
Who is ‘God’ again?
Take a moment every day to believe in your own fallibilities and remember that we are all arsehole’s, sinners and spell checkers. Yet that same negation of ego is practised in; ‘Buddhism’, ‘Hinduism’, ‘Yoga’, throughout the martial arts, from native American culture to ‘Seventies hippy’ culture, to any other commune cult, anywhere with low lit rooms and candles. Dress it how you want, they all have the same medicine for the soul with the routine activity built in. Somewhere the abdication of responsibility, or rather, the freeing embracement that you are truly insignificant becomes something we can all believe. The first time you try anything new you must surely be prepared to feel a bit silly, that’s just your downstairs brain looking out for you. The first steps into meditation, considering the goal, it is impossible not to feel silly or self conscious, that is the ego talking. That is precisely the bit that you are trying to turn off, ego is, of course, trying to protest. Yet within the context of a church there is nothing unreasonable about submitting yourself to a state of reverie along with the rest of the congregation. For thousands of years people have been getting up every morning and getting on with their chores because an omnipotent giver of life after life is making his list and checking it twice, he already knows who’s naughty and nice. Quite the social motivator. Anyone religious who might be contemplating suicide, for example, has the whole extra eternal damnation thing to put in the reasons against column.
This growing age of secularism and modern enlightenment is where the faith gap is occurring.
What has replaced this etherial carrot and stick system? What is giving me the impetus to better myself? Where is my affirmation? How do I judge myself without consequence? Do I give myself a pass every time? How can I tell if I am a worthy human being?
The new appendage to our souls; ‘social media’.
The shifting sands of truth.
1 And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech.
2 And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there.
3 And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them throughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for morter.
4 And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.
5And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded.
6 And the LORD said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.
7 Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.
8 So the LORD scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city.
9 Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the LORD did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the LORD scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth.
So after the great flood that He sent to get shot of all the non-believers, the LORD saw what was left of humanity working together towards the common goal of enlightenment and thought, “there is no way this works out well for ME” and invented all the languages of the world to confound our progression towards a world of harmony. A complete dick move on the part of the LORD if you ask me. Divide and conquer; not even the oldest trick in the ‘Bible’.
Don’t get me wrong, this may well be the golden age of humanity, from petrol to penicillin, our little species has had it great since the industrial revolution. The ‘Stone Age’ was about three and a half million years, the ‘Bronze Age’ only a couple of thousand, the ‘Iron Age’ maybe, eight hundred years. Empires come and go, new tools change life. Barely a century between the advent of ‘Industrial’ and ‘Digital’ age and it is all being run by primates with upgrades. As a primate you basic operating system is getting of for fifty million years old and up until three million years ago, grandma and grandpa were picking bugs off each others backs and that’s about it.
Today we have reaped so many benefits from our ever increasing evolution. The ability to send a direct message from one human to another by an electronic device is a marvel of modernity. A permanent record of undiluted streams of consciousness, however, has proven time and again to be problematic at best. No matter how much goes into our thoughts of the day, once we ‘post’ them they become the worst misappropriation of the word. Children of all ages are blabbermouths and should truly understand the word publish before they are allowed online. The infinite one point perspectives of a toxic bubble bath where one ‘Tweet’ from a Kardashian can wipe out a company, where all the sweets in the toyshop come with too many flavours, millions of dollars and all those other intersubjective realities can to and fro from pot to pot at the speed of an algorithm, where things you wouldn’t dare to say to another persons face are catalogued in your digital profile, where your sense of self, your ideas, your convictions are given the same amount of consideration as cooking popcorn.
Rollercoasters are fun because you know that it’s only for a few minutes, then you get off, you return to stability. In less than a decade a limitless source of fuel to fire any clamour to increase social status has been unleashed. We are toddlers strapped to the back of a wild horse that has barely had it’s first buck. Millions of ego dinghies in a stream that has become a river with rapids and waterfalls leading to an ocean of tidal waves.
Gossip is the grease on the wheel of humanity, the double edged sword of truth and bullshit. If you ever find yourself talking about what a bitch Janice from accounting is, this has nothing to do with Janice. You are perfectly entitled to your opinion of Janice, however, if you are talking about Janice when she is not in the room you are fluffing your own ego at her expense.
Person ‘A’ says something shitty about person ‘B’ about person ‘C’ to make person ‘A’ look better to person ‘B’.
And that is gossip!
What if Janice just isn’t the type of person to talk shit about someone behind their back just to boost her own self-esteem. What if Janice is just not fussed about being in your gang. What if Janice is not stupid and has heard how you talk about everyone else behind their backs and has correctly guessed what you say about her. What if Janice just thinks you are a blabbermouth and should have a bit more dignity.
As social animals we seek to be part of a pack. We have different language patterns for different social groups, using profanity being one of the most obvious. If you are waiting for a bus and the person next to you turns to you and says, “How the fuck are you?” Even with the best intentions, this conversation is off to a bad start if it is three in the afternoon outside ‘Tesco’s’. If both parties are drunk and waiting for a night-bus at three in the morning outside ‘McDonalds’, different story.
When a dog lies on it’s back and lets you rub it’s belly, it has decided that you are a trusted member of it’s pack and, as well as a belly rub, there is no fear that you might rip its throat out. What we have is ‘Phatic Language’; the bullshit, “How’s the weather?” conversations. If you are prepared to indulge the most inane, dull garbage someone has to come out with, chances are, that person is your friend. That person is probably equally able to entertain your inane, dull garbage.
In the workplace there is a formal structure of hierarchy and, in general, is full of people who are there for the money. There is an implicit social contract where everyone agrees to tolerate each others bit of bum grease for the duration. Why would you assume that because at some point in the past you and I both sought employment within the same entity, that would corollate that I am, in any way, interested in over a hundred pictures of your children? Now hand me that knife.
Office work feels like classrooms for grown-ups where, instead of constantly learning and evolving, everyone is in detention doing lines for money. Depending on the dynamics of the group, status within the group can still manifest the most playground of behaviours. As much as we are prepared to endure the most whimsical of mind farts for the good of the group. We can all indulge in a bit of virtue signalling and, deep down, we all know how to talk shit about people behind their back. How many sharks are in the social shoal you swim in?
Social media timelines update like diary entries where everyone can read your diary. IF you kept a diary as a child and read it today you would be entirely entitled to laugh at what you thought you knew back then. Yet even though you have matured and reflected, someone has found that shitty thing you did years ago, made a bunch of photocopies and plastered it all over the school, on every desk, on every notice board, all across the playground.
Today we call that a ‘Retweet’.
What are you doing when you post your little social status wank?
I have no problem with masturbation. We all need to rub one out every now and then. The last time I had an office job I used to show up fifteen minutes early every day, head straight to the toilet, do the ‘sixty flick shuffle with the sticky tissue parachute’ in the hope that when I did walk in to the office I could briefly mask my seething contempt and loathing for my colleagues, do the “Good mornings”, holding my vacant smile long enough to get to my desk.
First impressions count, right?!
They were probably all calling me a wanker behind my back.
Currently, it is not commonplace to find ‘posts’ of what my nuts have just spewed into my sock on ‘Instagram’, yet how far away is that from publishing a pic of your pudding at the table of a restaurant? Shouldn’t you be concentrating on the person you are eating the meal with? Shouldn’t you be letting one important person know that you exist instead of letting everyone know that it is a good thing that you exist? Like a toddler with a crayon on the wall. Our infant Information Age. Building our own little towers of babble. Blowing our trouble bath of conflicting facts. Floating in our own lather of little lies.
We are about as close to govern by consent as we have ever been. A brief shining moment in history where the idea that we, the people, vote you, the elected official, to do right by us and we had it there for about a minute and while social media is proving to be as corrosive to older society norms as it is cohesive to new conventions, no one is taking responsibility for this life on earth changing tool, least of all government. Grandpa can only kick the ball around with little Timmy in the garden for so long before Grandpa needs a lie down, meanwhile, little Timmy is setting up his own ‘You Tube’ channel. Democratically elected governments, like kings and queens of old are feeling a slip on the grip on their idea of power. Legislation, regulation and enforcement take time in a democracy because we have to come to a consensus of and I’m already falling asleep. Maybe we do need a bit of authoritarianism in our lives?
No one ever considers the view point of the ‘One Percent’. So much of our society is bubble blowing, not just housing, our whole economic system and, in turn, humanity is one bubble after another popping on the pot. When money changed from being just a tool into a product, it became a bubble. Both Israelis and Palestinians feel that there are too many Palestinians and Israelis. In the best interest of the survival of the species a world wide cull does have its merits, I mean, if only one percent of humanity survived that it is still the survival of humanity.
When ‘Google Contact’ is launched and you simply must stick this modern miracle to your eyeball because everyone else is doing it, it will just be better, the benefits will outweigh the disillusion of church and state because of how easy everything is now, blink once to accept all the terms and conditions.
You will have everything you want immediately.
We will shoot ‘VR’ imagery of you running through the ‘Elysian Fields’ straight into your eyeballs without you having to leave your sofa. You may have to leave the sofa when you throw up on yourself, you may not.
Why try to remember?
What was it you wanted?
Have you seen our suggestions?
Do you remember our terms and conditions?
This is all sounding very tempting.
Wasn’t there something in the ‘Bible’ about this.
There is a plague coming.
‘The Great Fire of London’ put a start to the end of the ‘Black Death’ as well as making way for some great new architecture. ‘John Snow’, (neither the newsreader or the ‘Game of Thrones’ contender who’s shagging his auntie or something?) figured out ‘Cholera’ was something to do with water almost 200 years ago. Everyone likes water. No one likes rats it their water.
In their own way, all three of these ‘Snows’ are changers of belief.
‘Mark Zuckerberg’, ‘Elon Musk’ and ‘George Zazoz’ are head and shoulders in front of their beliefs, who the fuck are ‘Google’?
In ‘Back to the Future II’ ‘Marty’ had the futuristic house with the big screen window and he got fired. Amongst all the screaming, he still had the anomalous concept of a futuristic fax machine that printed out, “YOU’RE FIRED”. Even in your driverless car, when your boss appears in your eyeball and fires you, your reality will have changed.
You will not have to look at the weeds in your garden, you will have a filter for that.
And when the big change comes, the great mowing of the lawn.
Your race, colour or creed will not matter.
It will come down to whether or not you can afford a berth on ‘Elon’s Ark’.
And when your name is not on the list.
And your children’s names are not on the list.
And all you have left is your belief in salvation.
I hope it gives you comfort
I pray you are right
I fear it will not matter.
I fear the game will already be over.
“Oh My God. I’m home. All the time, it was… we finally really did it. You Maniacs! You blew it up! Ah damn you! God damn you all to hell!
George Taylor (3978)