Dear Mole, MY Brows

allan-sherman-my-son-the-celebrity-ab

My apologies for the late reply, but I spent the better part of Veterans Day partying large.

I’m afraid that’s where my contrition ends because contrary to your assertion that I went straight for the jugular, I intentionally led off with the God thing precisely because its origins and illusory psychological pacification are easily understood.  I say “illusory” because I have known some patently miserable people whose stated faith in God was ironically unshakeable.  Take my late mother, for instance.  Though you’d be hard pressed to find someone as obsessively and devoutly religious as she, the adjective “happy” was rarely if ever applicable to this long-suffering woman who, in retrospect, was simply a victim of bad ideas passed down through the ages.  The only other thing in her life to which she devoted an equally impressive amount of energy was house cleaning, something she did so obsessively in order to give herself the imagined feeling of control.  Now why would someone with such an iron-clad faith in “God’s plan” feel the anxious need to exert maximum control over her surroundings and pore desperately through her random thoughts for ones that might have originated with Satan (or as Mom so quaintly put it, “The Devil”)?  Because at a base and perhaps subconscious level, Mom, like everyone not suffering from a severe learning disability, knows the doctrine of monotheism to be patently ludicrous.  Not once did she ever consciously admit this to herself, mind you, but the primordial doubt existed in her just the same.

I’m sure you recall that in the past, this is where I would take this uncertainty and spin it into a very spiritual-sounding, pseudo-scientific metaphysical and holistic view or, as Alan Watts so frequently did, make the implication that each of us IS God.  While there is room enough for such a vague and non-dogmatic spiritual infusion into an otherwise science-based discussion, is there purpose enough?  Nihilists believe that experience and consciousness cease at the moment of death.  Curmudgeon of Old convinced himself to believe that only the ego or the personality/memories of the individual are extinguished at death but that an undefined karmic connection still ties what once constituted “me” into the larger cosmic dance.  Now think about the upshot of both of those theories and you’ll quickly understand that despite a vast difference in tone, they are identical.  Nothing is nothing no matter how poetically one attempts to describe it.  Thus I was presenting myself to the world as essentially a “spiritual nihilist” which isn’t just ludicrous, but laughably so.  Regardless, each time I did say such things, I did so within accepted societal, cultural and of course, WordPress parameters.  As you so astutely noted, I was working willingly within society’s rules in order to eviscerate society’s rules for the benefit of…society?  Whew…what a shit mound of nonsense to unload.  Since I’ve obviously decided to approach your question from an experiential standpoint, I will need a bit more time to ponder your query and perform a bit of self-psychoanalysis.

It is, of course, improbable that we won’t find a way to spin back around to the notion of God in our ongoing correspondence, but at least we dispensed of its overstated magnitude right off the bat.  I say “improbable” because if there is any commonality between us, it’s our shared disgust for the intellectually barren and the willfully ignorant.  And that was as fine a segue as any for my question to you: regardless that we both seem rather mired in existential exhaustion, why do you think we’re both still capable of being triggered by the stupidity of others?  Doesn’t such aggravation imply that we believe things could be different, that people really could collectively pull their heads out from betwixt their asses if we just whine about it loudly and persistently enough?  What do our reactions to stupidity and ignorance say about us?  If we were as jaded as we both claim to be, would either of us have the wherewithal or even the slightest desire to put pen to paper?  Am I getting close to what you meant by self-inflicted jadedness?

I originally planned to close out this letter with a profound quotation from Alan Watts, but then I realized that would be pathetically typical of me.  Instead, let’s ponder some deep thoughts from the late, great Alan Sherman:

Counting both feet, I have ten toes – they’re not lady toes, they’re men toes – and I keep them as momentoes, for I love them tenderly.  On my face, two eyebrows – they’re not your brows, they’re my brows.  Behind those eyebrows – that’s where you’ll find ME!”


11 responses to “Dear Mole, MY Brows

  • mydangblog

    I don’t feel like there’s much I can contribute here except to say this is a fascinating discussion!

    Liked by 1 person

  • Tom Being Tom

    As an upbeat spiritual nihilist with an obsession for cleaning and organizing I have to say that this post didn’t offend me at all. 😉

    Like

  • Phil Huston

    As regarding your written correspondence, one to another, speculating like a quad screen of depressingly fatalistic talking heads on CNN, I offer this as observation on the human condition – as dicotomy – hope vs despair, the nothingness of believing. justification as requirement. By someone far wiser than me. Presented in whole, not part. Less ieasily ignored than a link.

    God isn’t big enough for some people
    By Umberto Eco12:01AM GMT 27 Nov 2005

    We are now approaching the critical time of the year for shops and supermarkets: the month before Christmas is the four weeks when stores of all kinds sell their products fastest. Father Christmas means one thing to children: presents. He has no connection with the original St Nicholas, who performed a miracle in providing dowries for three poor sisters, thereby enabling them to marry and escape a life of prostitution.

    Human beings are religious animals. It is psychologically very hard to go through life without the justification, and the hope, provided by religion. You can see this in the positivist scientists of the 19th century.

    They insisted that they were describing the universe in rigorously materialistic terms – yet at night they attended seances and tried to summon up the spirits of the dead. Even today, I frequently meet scientists who, outside their own narrow discipline, are superstitious – to such an extent that it sometimes seems to me that to be a rigorous unbeliever today, you have to be a philosopher. Or perhaps a priest.

    And we need to justify our lives to ourselves and to other people. Money is an instrument. It is not a value – but we need values as well as instruments, ends as well as means. The great problem faced by human beings is finding a way to accept the fact that each of us will die.

    Money can do a lot of things – but it cannot help reconcile you to your own death. It can sometimes help you postpone your own death: a man who can spend a million pounds on personal physicians will usually live longer than someone who cannot. But he can’t make himself live much longer than the average life-span of affluent people in the developed world.

    And if you believe in money alone, then sooner or later, you discover money’s great limitation: it is unable to justify the fact that you are a mortal animal. Indeed, the more you try escape that fact, the more you are forced to realise that your possessions can’t make sense of your death.

    It is the role of religion to provide that justification. Religions are systems of belief that enable human beings to justify their existence and which reconcile us to death. We in Europe have faced a fading of organised religion in recent years. Faith in the Christian churches has been declining.

    The ideologies such as communism that promised to supplant religion have failed in spectacular and very public fashion. So we’re all still looking for something that will reconcile each of us to the inevitability of our own death.

    G K Chesterton is often credited with observing: “When a man ceases to believe in God, he doesn’t believe in nothing. He believes in anything.” Whoever said it – he was right. We are supposed to live in a sceptical age. In fact, we live in an age of outrageous credulity.

    The “death of God”, or at least the dying of the Christian God, has been accompanied by the birth of a plethora of new idols. They have multiplied like bacteria on the corpse of the Christian Church — from strange pagan cults and sects to the silly, sub-Christian superstitions of The Da Vinci Code.

    It is amazing how many people take that book literally, and think it is true. Admittedly, Dan Brown, its author, has created a legion of zealous followers who believe that Jesus wasn’t crucified: he married Mary Magdalene, became the King of France, and started his own version of the order of Freemasons. Many of the people who now go to the Louvre are there only to look at the Mona Lisa, solely and simply because it is at the centre of Dan Brown’s book.

    The pianist Arthur Rubinstein was once asked if he believed in God. He said: “No. I don’t believe in God. I believe in something greater.” Our culture suffers from the same inflationary tendency. The existing religions just aren’t big enough: we demand something more from God than the existing depictions in the Christian faith can provide. So we revert to the occult. The so-called occult sciences do not ever reveal any genuine secret: they only promise that there is something secret that explains and justifies everything. The great advantage of this is that it allows each person to fill up the empty secret “container” with his or her own fears and hopes.

    As a child of the Enlightenment, and a believer in the Enlightenment values of truth, open inquiry, and freedom, I am depressed by that tendency. This is not just because of the association between the occult and fascism and Nazism – although that association was very strong. Himmler and many of Hitler’s henchmen were devotees of the most infantile occult fantasies.

    The same was true of some of the fascist gurus in Italy – Julius Evola is one example – who continue to fascinate the neo-fascists in my country. And today, if you browse the shelves of any bookshop specialising in the occult, you will find not only the usual tomes on the Templars, Rosicrucians, pseudo-Kabbalists, and of course The Da Vinci Code, but also anti-semitic tracts such as the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

    I was raised as a Catholic, and although I have abandoned the Church, this December, as usual, I will be putting together a Christmas crib for my grandson. We’ll construct it together – as my father did with me when I was a boy. I have profound respect for the Christian traditions – which, as rituals for coping with death, still make more sense than their purely commercial alternatives.

    I think I agree with Joyce’s lapsed Catholic hero in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man: “What kind of liberation would that be to forsake an absurdity which is logical and coherent and to embrace one which is illogical and incoherent?” The religious celebration of Christmas is at least a clear and coherent absurdity. The commercial celebration is not even that.

    Liked by 3 people

    • desertcurmudgeon

      Superb points. Oddly, it is precisely because I concur with your assertion that man is a religious animal that I find myself so devoid of motivation and a sense of belonging. I sometimes suspect that I am a defective model of Homo Sapiens because religion has always been for me something culturally quaint and begging to be logically disputed, if only so that we can get on with our lives having at least dispensed of our biggest self-made wrench in the machine.

      Liked by 4 people

      • Phil Huston

        Were we to “follow” religious precepts instead of making prophets and saviors of those dispensing “wisdom”. Example – spend all that “church” time attempting heal one another, if possible. Be kind. Spend all that time worrying about “de Debil” doing something tangible about the darkness. I agree. De-mythologize the gods, stop the stupidity.

        Liked by 3 people

  • Duke Miller

    All of your ideas are insightful. Why are reasonable thoughts futile? I once told another very reasonable person that if she and I were in control of the world, we could set things right in a week or so, tops. She asked me how many people would have to die? That gave me pause and then I realized I was probably not up for the job as Absolute Co-Dictator of the Planet. Also, I believe that in the end, nothing will prove to be the key to reality. We haven’t figured it out yet and probably never will, but never knowing something doesn’t make it untrue. This kind of thinking is what made the song “Feelings” a top ten hit and caused me to win more money than I should have. Thanks. Duke

    Liked by 3 people

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