Shanghai Sunday, 7:30PM -- The epiphany of Tiffany...
Kind of an odd interstice at the moment – It’s Sunday evening, I’m alone in China the week before Christmas, and my thoughts turn to theology. Well, Crusader AXE of the Lost Causes is sort of an interstice as well, so perhaps it fits. As I write, I am musing on the latest offering from “Fuck the *” on the nature of Christmas. For several reasons...
On Friday evening, I was at a dinner in an upscale restaurant popular with White Devils and their ilk here in China. My Chinese hosts have the custom of constantly standing to offer toasts to each other, very complimentary toasts. One fellow, Jin, a senior faculty member at the University’s School of Maritime Trade, toasted me wishing me a “merry Christmas.” Cool as a moose; I thanked him and wished the table a “merry Christmas” thinking “merry Blue-eyed devil holiday…”
So, thinking about that, I recalled Fuck the *’s sermon on the Christmas Spirit. Certainly, the Nativity story is a rip off of Mithras and a lot of our symbols Druidic or Norse in nature. I seem to recall that St Boniface was martyred in Germany for cutting down a grove of fir trees sacred to Woden, who was obviously confused, not even knowing his own name of Odin. Of course, most of Christianity is a rip off. Jesus said “My Kingdom is not of this world,” but from the theme park that is the Vatican to Jerry Falwell-land, gotta think either he was wrong or they are. After life? Sort of a rip-off of Hades, only with better rides. (Although, not so great as the Islamic heaven…unless you’re a woman. What does a good woman get in Mohammed’s Paradise? A new broom?)
Still the Christian God was handy to have around.
I know. I had him hang around for over fifty years, and even at my most cynical and despairing, I knew he was there, somewhere. Well, how about that – he wasn’t. At one point, I realized that the efforts of Christianity are really a great way to oppress everyone. There is this all powerful, all loving, all knowing God named Santa Claus, err, Yahweh who has a son (where the hell is Mrs. God? Doesn’t God have family values?) and a pet bird they call Ghost. Hell, Reindeer are more useful than most birds, and there is a Mrs. Claus. But, the Claus’ haven’t got any kids, just elves, who act suspiciously like Hobbits. Hmm. Does the Claus family practice contraception? Where the hell are the televangelists on this issue?
Anyway, there is this schizophrenic God with three personalities (No, three separate and distinct beings! What are you, some kind of heretic, AXE? Well, yes, as a matter of fact, that’s probably what I am…) This three-headed all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving and eternal thing actually not only knows what is happening with everything, and everything that has happened, but also what is going to happen! Everything you do, he knows in advance. He just lets you do it! And, every one else do it too! Rape, murder, incest,, cavorting with demons. He’s down with that, although he’ll get you later. He’s making his list and checking it twice…damnit, that’s Santa again. Global warming – our fault; God was there, but he just let it happen; it wouldn’t be kosher to get involved. Earthquakes, AIDS, famine, pestilence, bird flu, George Steinbrenner – God is hanging around, letting it happen. That’s the rule. He made the rules, of course – he could change the rules if he wanted to, and does when it fits his mood. He just does it when it fits his/their mood. So, he’ll stop the sun and suspend the laws of physics; he’ll have T REX squashing around and stomping butterflies in Eden; he’ll let George Bush be re-elected; he’ll let Bill “Mephistoples” Clinton do his thing to the Democratic Party and rob it of relevance. He’s perfectly happy to have Karl Rove and Bill Frist and Tommy D from Beaumont use his name and style; he was OK with Hegel and Marx and all the rest of the sort of philosophical justifications for viciousness and insanity. No Hegel with the spirit unfolding through time and all that stuff, no Marx with the dictatorship of the proles and so on, ergo, no Lenin, no Stalin, no Mao – hey, there are unintended consequences, boys, but what the hell…not my business. If you were all knowing too, you wouldn’t fuck up so badly, but hell, that’s life in the big leagues...
Cancer? God put it there out of love. Birth defects? Yup, love. Brain-death – well, he’s been loving us too long to stop now, in the words of Otis Redding. Epilepsy? Hey, that’s a gift from the gods to mark you as a figure of…oh, wait, yeah, that was the Romans. (One of the few things I think that ROME got wrong on HBO – Caesar practically ran on the epilepsy ticket for public office, and he was the Pontifex Maximus, the TOP GUN Priest of the Republic. They omitted that, too – so the act of making the little guy a High Priest of Something was in fact a way of anointing him as his successor.) Flatulence? Yup, sign of God’s love. Same for dandruff, acid reflux disease, arthritis, frigidity and impotence. (Although the Levitra, tossing the old football through the tire commercial, that was God too...so, cut him some slack!)
In a lot of ways, the Romans got it right. They believed that the gods (none of this schizophrenic nonsense for them – there were lots of gods, household gods, gods of the city, gods of the underworld, earth mother gods, Jupiter and Juno, Mars and Mercury, and all the rest including Elvira, Elvis and Michael (Jordan and Jackson) and whomever else happened into the Pantheon) were arbitrary, self-absorbed and ultimately vicious bastards who needed to be placated, cajoled and bribed. So, placating, bribing and cajoling they went. Of course, the Romans were largely vicious bastards, and fairly sanctimonious too. It kind of fit – they saw the gods as manifestations of themselves. Who’d want to put condemned criminals into an arena to battle to the death for public edification today? Well, maybe some Republicans. (A Tom Delay – Bill Frist cage match might change my mind, but still…oh, criminals, right not politicians. Even an indicted, right-wing, gerrymandering creep and a politician-doctor who diagnoses patients by video feed for political purposes wouldn’t deserve that!)
Of course, God occasionally gets involved directly. Find three illiterate farm children, have his son’s Mom appear (but remember, Mom was not Mrs. God) and flip the sun around a few times to scare the yokels; find an illiterate peasant girl, have his Number 1 Enforcer Michael (Patron of soldiers, paratroopers and Crusader AXE) and Mom show up, and then go beat up the English; have Mom show up in a backwoods Irish town and show a Nativity show to astound the locals (the Irish actually tried to disprove this, by trying to project the show with a magic lantern…yeah, couldn’t be done. In much the same way that you can disprove that’s Jesus face in that fish stick…); have Mom show up and do some more tricks with another illiterate French girl and get a cathedral built and puff up the tourist industry. I don’t recall anything really bad happening to kids at Fatima; my Catholic education has some lacunae, and none of the folks at Knock got famous, just rich. But, it didn’t go well for Bernadette or for Joan either…unless you think that tuberculosis of the bone or rape or execution by fire is a good thing. And, let’s not get into that stigmata thing, that’s just spooky.
I managed to avoid Lourdes and Fatima in my European rambles; I have been to Knock and my parents took me to the Shrines of St Anne de Beaupre and St Michel in Canada when I was six. Still remember that trip.. Lots of crutches, walkers, canes, wheelchairs and freaking iron lungs for all I know as signs of miracle cures. Yeah, I’ll stipulate that some folks go to these places and get better; I seem to recall that Rasputin was able to get the Crown Prince to recover from his bouts of hemophilia too. All that was required was to believe…I do not condemn faith. I envy it; I admire it to a certain extent. I wish I had it; I also wish I could hit a big league curveball. I don’t, I can’t and I am probably the poorer for it. But, I don’t think so.
No Christianity, no American way of government! Huh? That was the Greeks, the Romans and the Iroquois confederation. Ok, no Bill of Rights, right? Yeah – that was the work of a couple of Deists trying to placate Thomas Jefferson whatever the hell he was – although anyone who would cut up a New Testament to try and save the parts that make sense from the rest could be a Tiffanyist if not a Defeatist...we’d lose interest halfway through Mark.
. . .
Ok, no Christianity, no Crusader AXE of the Lost Causes. Hmm…ok. Got me, huh?. I am the result of an illogical, inconsistent and fraudulent system of belief that enables oppression, hypocrisy and bad thought, public policy and action. I’m actually ok with that, by the way. I’m a Defeatist, not a millenialist, for the love of Tiffany! We can’t do a lot about history except try to understand it and not repeat the vicious parts...
However, I will say that no Christianity, no scientific method. Sure, Aristotelian logic and philosophy came from Athens, and while the Church suppressed it, the Muslims preserved it until it was brought back by the Crusades. So in a way, Aristotle came back to the west as loot. No Christianity, no Occam’s razor. No Crusades, no Thomas Aquinas. No Thomas Aquinas, no prime mover. No prime mover, no Roger Bacon, no Sir Francis Bacon. No Descartes, no Spinoza, no Newton. Now, none of these guys were unmitigated blessings, nor were they fully embraced by Christianity. Aquinas spent a lot of time dodging the Inquisition until he got accepted as the truth – which probably bummed him out. John of Occam had his problems as did Roger Bacon -- experimenting with re-animating dead frogs and blowing things up kind of bothered the abbot as well as the townspeople. Descartes was so popular in France he had to hid out in Holland; Spinoza was a recluse and a Jew; and Newton, sheesh…utter freak show. Alchemy, forgery, selling his niece to get a job, fighting with Leibniz over who discovered calculus first, and on and on and on – Newton was a helluva guy. So, we’ll grant Christianity that – they helped with the scientific method. Of course, so did Islam, and Aristotle – whose patron, you’ll recall, was Philip of Macedonia, a helluva guy.
It’s sad to be part of the last generation to get its history largely from books as opposed to the current one which will get whatever history it gets from the History Network (the 24 hour Hitler-was-a-transvestite channel) movies, DVDs and fantasies on CNN and Fox News. But, if you caught King Arthur, the stuff about Pelagius was right. He did preach free will, freedom and equality for all – which in Rome was not a real good thing to be hanging out for. It may well be that the greatest contribution of Christianity to mankind lies in its unsuccessful heresies…I need to be careful, if Mel Gibson hears of that, he’ll make another movie about it. (By the way, I thought that was a fantastic movie, and don’t think it got enough credit. Ian Gyuuidtithford whatever the hell his name is was fantastic as Lancelot – he looked to be having more fun killing that Saxon creep who looked like Brad Pitt on a bad hair day while dying than Arthur had sleeping with Guinevere. But then, the dude playing Arthur got it right, stiff that he was. Even his funny lines were so deadpan as to be deadpan. Virtuous Roman Generals were like that.)
Ok, so what has this all to do with Tiffany? Well, a while back, the AXE was thinking about God, death, life and theology a while back and came to a conclusion. Theology is an attempt to explain that which, if we understood it, would drive us insane; death is real but so what, so are the Red Sox; life is confusing. God isn’t dead – he’s insane, locked in a cosmic loony bin. . Hmm. Now, that was an insight...God didn’t die of pity for mankind (Thus Spoke Zarathustra for whoever cares about that stuff) but we drove him insane.
Now, that was worth another cup of coffee. The AXE continued to ruminate – anything to avoid preparing to teach economics to graduate students. Really – philosophical speculation is far better than work. If God has been driven insane by mankind, well, what about the all-knowing, all loving, all powerful stuff? Not true. I thought my dad was all knowing, all powerful and all loving. Not guilty on all counts, although the old bastard came close on the all loving part, else he’d have staked me out for the wolves for all the questions I asked him. Dad’s gone now, and God’s in the loony bin, eating mashed carrots and doing finger painting...so, who’s in charge, the son, or the bird?
Well, that route was obviously closed. God, if God, couldn’t be driven insane. Logically compelling as the argument was, we get back to theorems at some point. God can’t be insane. (Unless God is Alanis Morrisette, but let’s not go there. That was just wrong.) God is AWOL, and since there’s no sign of an all knowing, all loving, all powerful being in the universe, what the hell is going on here? Who’s in charge here? In my Aristotelian, Thomistic, Existentialist, post-modern, deconstructionist, militaristic universe, somebody better be in charge or by god, I’m going to be pissed! Err, by god? By God? Hell.
Aquinas provided me with the answer, in his argument that there had to be a prime mover. Somebody had to start the whole thing...but who are we looking for? ( I think it’s supposed to be whom, by the way, by Microsoft has postmodern grammatical tendencies, and the little red lines irk me. Can’t be Microsoft…the ultimate triumph of the Hobbits.)
Argument: There is no sign of a compassionate, loving and all powerful force in the universe.
Question: So, who started it?
Argument: Hmm. There had to be a singularity, to start it all.
Question: The all powerful, all loving, all knowing insane schizoid?
Argument: Ah, no. No indication of anything like that operating in the universe.
Question: Then, who.
Argument: There was a singularity, damn it. That’s all.
Ok, I’ll stipulate that’s kind of unsatisfactory. Consistent with our experience, but it lacks something. Of course, we do have a human tendency to want to see things as being anthropomorphic, seeing the universe in our own image. So, we are now in the realm of myth. Here goes my mythical explanation.
This is the way I heard it. Once upon a time, there was a teenage girl named Tiffany. Tiffany was ignorant, ugly, fat and driven by weird hormonal rages, although she just thought she was special, and that her Mom kept buying her clothes that made her ass look fat. If her Mom would get her some cool hip huggers and short sweaters, she’d be hot. Not warm hot but HOT! Anyway, one day, out of spite at her girlfriend Eve, who got all the boys because she got to wear fig leaves, she blew up everything, starting the universe. Cool, she thought. And, every now and then, for no good reason except that she’s bored, and her vibrator is out of batteries, she gets involved in our world. We are better off when she leaves us alone, but that isn’t about to happen with any consistency. Thus, in so far as there is a god, it’s a vicious teenage girl with a crush on Justin Timberlake.
There. Feel better? Good. Thank Tiffany...