Sunday, 13 January 2019

Three Birthday Wishes

Today is my birthday and, for reasons I've not yet understood, as I was polishing my metal teapot earlier a genie appeared and granted me three wishes. Stunned as I was, having fallen onto my kitchen floor at the appearance of the genie, I struggled to think for a moment. Yet the genie was patient and waited without complaint as I composed myself and came up with the three wishes as requested.

For my first wish, I said, I would like to make mobile phones illegal and to have them all collected up and crushed.

For my second wish, I continued, I would like to have social media outlawed worldwide and abolished for the rest of human history.

For my third and final wish, I added, now getting into my stride, I would like all national borders and nationalities erased.

The genie smiled back at me and winked. You ask for a lot, she said. But I can see why you ask for that. Then she clicked her fingers and was gone.

And that was when I woke up for, of course, it had all been a dream.

Sunday, 30 December 2018

The Mirror and The Seashore

Thoughts. Mind. Thinking. No-thoughts. No-mind. No-thinking. 

Within Zen Buddhist and Taoist thought worlds there are two metaphors: these are those of the mirror and the seashore. They serve similar purposes: to promote ideas of non-attachment to thoughts and the refusal to be bound by any thoughts, ideas or narratives at all. This is not a vision of the mind which is about the attainment or collection of things and so the agglomeration of something denominated ‘knowledge’. Indeed, it is one which privileges the refusal to hold anything at all within something we might call our mind. The mirror, for example, is a reflecting surface. It does not hold what it captures. It simply reflects it back. In a similar way, the seashore is caressed by the sea which may, from time to time, deposit items upon it. But the seashore, in this case, is indifferent and unconcerned about this and is happy to let that which is left upon it stay indefinitely or be just as easily swept away again. The metaphors of mirror and seashore encourage non-attachment, being dispassionate and acting without action.

In his book Human, All Too Human: A Book for Free Spirits, towards the end, Friedrich Nietzsche has the following aphorism:

“Life as the yield of life. - No matter how far a man may extend himself with
his knowledge, no matter how objectively he may come to view himself,
in the end it can yield to him nothing but his own biography.”

I see in this thought a mentality compatible with that of the Zen Buddhists and Taoists above. For what is it to imagine that a path of life yields nothing but the tracings of where it has been, a biography? Is it not to look disapprovingly on the notion that one may have collected up things egotistically regarded as ‘knowledge’ or ‘truths’ and to count them all as vanity? In this aphorism Nietzsche is agreeing with the past, present and future versions of himself that human beings are prey to many powerful illusions and that they should regard them all as exactly that and treat them accordingly. Here it is noteworthy that Nietzsche, in general, did not so much think of thoughts in terms of true or false but in terms of therapeutic valuations: he wanted to know if such things promoted health or disease in the human being and in human culture generally. Already when Nietzsche had written this aphorism in the late 1870s he had written of the human being as that creature which is a matter of will and desire where, for such a being, it doesn’t matter much what illusion they become attached to so long as it gives them a feeling of power and of control.

Yet it is just such power and control that, it seems to me, the Zen Buddhists and the Taoists are looking to give up. They think these things to be some of the “illusions that we have forgotten are illusions” which is what Nietzsche calls those things we denominate truth in an essay he wrote earlier in the 1870s. Taoists, for example, speak of and value the idea of ‘wu wei’ a great deal. ‘Wu wei’ is best translated into English as ‘actionless action’ rather than the often common ‘non-action’ since, so I am led to understand, it is not a concept which means doing nothing. Instead, the Taoist practitioner is imagined as an active participant in the things of life - yet not as someone with micromanaged intentions. This is seen as a matter of genuineness or authenticity in a conception of the whole that is the existence of all things in which ‘emptiness’ is seen as the source of all possibility. From such a point of view desires, will, intentions, attachments, are all barriers to possibility and enemies of becoming because they impose upon people mental structures which limit their abilities to see, to imagine, to participate and to dream. In effect, the Taoist asks why we should put up mental walls or restrict ourselves by means of entirely thought-based schemes when nothing about our universe of experience itself imposes such things or presents them as inherent to life itself. The situation, whatever the situation is, is not limited to the things we immediately, or even reflectively, think about it. There is no equation of thought and reality. This is, in turn, to concede, as the theologian and philosopher Jack Caputo does, that there is nothing we think that is not an interpretation.

But if there is nothing we think that is not an interpretation then this surely also means that there is nothing that we think that is not partial - in at least two senses. First, an interpretation is our’s, and not someone else’s, and, second, because of the first reason it is also much, much less than the whole, the whole which would be all the possible interpretations. Realising this, we now see, once again, how becoming attached to things or desiring things is actually a restriction of possibility. In fact, it is the imposition of a fiction simply because we become attached to it, either because we want to be through desire or will or because we are not sufficiently detached from it to see it as simply an interpretation. It would be like trying to become like a mirror that wants to possess the image it reflects or like a seashore which wants to retain the items the sea spits out onto it. Yet such a seashore, if it did this in reality, would soon become cluttered. Over time, it would cease to be the empty expanse next to the sea upon which things might occasionally be washed and would, instead, become a dumping ground, a tip, a public dustbin. The seashore as mind would actually impair its own ability to be that which it is. In Nietzsche’s terms, we would then be able to diagnose the habits of attachment, will, intention and desire as unhealthy and disease-inducing habits. So, actually, refusing to hold onto things, taking a detached attitude to the action of the sea of life as it sweeps across our minds, turns out to be good for the seashore, the seashore that is mind. The thoughts may come and the thoughts may go, the actions of a mind that is thinking, but we do not need to accept them or be under their tyranny. We are not forced to hold onto them them or take them seriously anymore.

There is another saying that comes from these Eastern philosophies and it is the following: “the no-mind thinks no-thoughts about no-things”. It seems, to me at least, to be a riddle and yet I imagine that in this brief essay I might have had some thoughts which illuminate its meaning. Zen Buddhists and Taoists know well that we have minds and we think thoughts. The Buddha himself, in fact, is said to have said that “we are what we think”. (He also said ‘there is nothing to stick to’ which is relevant but a whole other story!) This, indeed, is why I imagine such philosophies are so concerned with thinking in the first place. But, that being the case, it suggests that mental hygiene and psychological health are of primary importance for these most therapeutic of spiritualities in which peace and enlightenment are the highest personal goods and the most valuable possessions. This saying, I think, encapsulates the lack of attachment and refusal of imposed narratives that I have already spoken about. It encourages actionless action and loss of intention and a ‘letting things be’ that is hard for people used to ‘gaining knowledge’ or ‘understanding things’ to accept. They only ever do these things to use them in accordance with their own intentions and desires and attachments in the pursuance of some imagined necessity they call “making sense”. Rarely, however, do they question the narrative, and the values, which have motivated them to imagine that this was the purpose of thinking or the mind in the first place. We have here, then, a completely different way to see the world. But you should not then think that this Eastern way is ‘the right way’ where the other, more Western, one was not. 

For then you will only have fallen into the same trap all over again.

Thursday, 13 December 2018

On Reconciling Bible Texts

In the New Testament the death of Judas Iscariot, the supposed betrayer of Jesus, is recorded more than once in differing books. The accounts differ in a way that is hard to reconcile. But should we be trying to reconcile them in the first place? And what can we say about this man and his death in terms of history anyway? Finding this discussed in an online blog, and reading the numerous comments below which fixated on the matter of reconciling biblical texts, I replied with my own answer which is reproduced below:

Having read the blog and the comments I see lots of chat about "reconciling accounts" - all as if Christian texts existed inside some historical bubble - but very, very little about two, to my mind, very much more important subjects. The first of these is that history is public and open not private and closed and the second is that accounts of the kind we find in the Gospels and Acts are, right down to the very soles of their boots, matters of interpretation.

Now what should we take these points to mean? Well, firstly, on the history point, we should stop reading the Bible as if it acted as vouching for itself. This is cheating and giving it a pass you wouldn't give any other book you thought contained historical recitation. Its special pleading. History is public and open. If something happens its not only Christians who might see it or hear about it. Yet the fact of the matter is that whole swathes of the New Testament's reportage are only recorded in the New Testament. In other words, it lacks third party verification or even simple public verification. Did Jesus do A,B or C? Did he appear to 500 people at once, some of whom are still alive? Well, on the latter point, Paul might say so but no one else in the entirety of recorded public history does! This, I suggest, is a problem that needs to be taken seriously unless you want to be prey to the accusation of simply believing things because they got written in a book. In which case why not believe Heracles killed a Hydra or Odysseus tricked and blinded Polyphemus? History has exactly zero to do with what adjectival accolades you may want to accord the text of your special book and everything to do with public verification.

Second, interpretation goes all the way down, as Jack Caputo demonstrated most saliently in a book he published this year called "Hermeneutics" (which I heartily recommend). This might be as simple as thinking of yourself watching some public event and then being asked for your report of what happened. Ask nine other people and I think no one would be surprised to find that no two reports were the same. But, going deeper than that, ask those same ten people for the motivations of the people they observed and what they thought of the people they observed and, I imagine, no one would be too surprised if different opinions, perhaps even convictions, emerged again. These observers are interpreting events. Indeed, their ability to interpret is what is facilitating their ability to answer the questions they are being asked and to form opinions.

We see that in the Gospels too. Jesus asks the disciples in Mark who people think he is. They don't all give the same answer. Frankly, it would have been very suspect if they had because I doubt any of us reading this would find it realistic to think that absolutely everybody who ever encountered Jesus or who heard a story about him came to the same conclusions about him, took the same stance towards him or accorded him the same motives for what he was doing. People are interpreters. They cannot avoid being interpreters. Interpretation enables our ability to have opinions and express beliefs. And, what's more, none of us start off as blank slates for we all stand in traditions which inform our views. But now is not the time or place to get deeper into that. I recommend you check out Caputo's book though for more.

Where does this leave us? I'm not sure. But I think that if it leaves us relying on dogmas of Bible truth, or, worse, its inerrancy and infallibility, things which, all by themselves, absolutely and utterly mandate that we treat it like some sort of puzzle where we have to make all the pieces fit, then we are in a very bad place indeed. Its time to grow up from such ways of reading and be more adult about it. We have to be able to take on the chin ideas such as that a lot of the New Testament is straightforwardly, and for all time, historically unverifiable. We have to accept that some people see things this way and others see it another. Even within the covers of the same book. Better an attainable honesty than a duplicitous dogma.

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

Big Ass on The Bus

The video on the porn site was called "Big Ass on The Bus". In many respects it was quite nondescript, just one of thousands and thousands of videos on the site. I watched, a bit bored and not really interested in what was happening after my own annoying day. The scene was a woman on a bus, standing up. She was young and attractive. Beside her stood a man, openly slavering over her. The man spoke in words unrecognisable to me probably due to the video being of Japanese origin from what I could ascertain. At first the video started off with the girl being touched up by the man, brushing his hand against her bum as the bus rolled along. Then the man began to pester the girl, he clearly wanted more from her. He did not take her apparent protestations to the contrary as reason to stop. His pestering escalated to molestation as he pulled at the girl’s clothing and tried to force his hands into intimate places. He bared her bottom, invading her underwear with unwelcome hands. Inevitably, after a few minutes, molestation escalated further to rape as the girl, now less convincingly, mimed her protestations. All the while the camera had lingered and enjoyed her being forced and coerced. It seemed to have rooted her to the spot as well. The whole thing took eleven minutes, twenty four seconds of video. The rest of the passengers on the bus, most seated, had done nothing but be passive witnesses.

                            Opening shot of "Big Ass on The Bus"

I mention all this because, as the video unfolded, I had moments of realisation and revulsion. Here was a video in which the sexual assault and rape of a woman, in public, was being shown for entertainment. It doesn’t matter to me if you come at me now with arguments about it being a fantasy performed by consenting actors in which no one really got hurt. All that is likely true. But it doesn’t change the basic fact that that is what it was. And this time there was something deeply, seriously wrong with that. My mind went back to a blog I had read last year, written by my ex-girlfriend, about the then breaking phenomenon of #MeToo in which she wrote of random stray hands that would brush against her bum or her breasts when using public transport of different types. She told of how she struggled with this mentally, imagining it must be accidental in the cramped spaces such transportation sometimes provides. It came across as if she was trying really hard to convince herself it was accidental because she did not want to have to confront the reality that it might have been deliberate hands trying to steal their pleasure from her. She further mentioned incidents in clubs in which less than eloquent men would say her breasts (which are larger than those of many women) were making them hard which would make her feel sick and run away. Finally, and most distressingly, she told of an occasion when she got into a taxi and the driver, as the car was moving, reached across to squeeze those same breasts without warning as she returned home after a night out. As response, she had had to forcefully elbow him in the ribs which caused the car to swerve violently. I, in my privileged manhood, had always used to think that I didn’t know any women who had such experiences. I, thus, regarded them as distressing but comfortingly rare. Yet here I was reading them written by someone who had once been my own girlfriend. I felt sick and watching this video I had felt sick too that a woman’s assault and rape, even if acted out, was entertainment.

My girlfriend, in her own reasoned, polite way (she is now both a political activist and works as a political educator) had tried to minimise her own experiences in her blog. But I don’t think she should have. Here it is absolutely not a matter of “size matters”. Her own person had likely been assaulted on numerous occasions by any number of anonymous and not so anonymous men who, seeing her clothed body in numerous public scenarios, just thought it was theirs to enjoy vicariously. Without consent. Without even the most minimal amount of common human decency. But her blog wasn’t just about public humiliations. It also discussed private pressures women feel to give sex when it is requested, to not appear, in the context of a modern, highly sexualised society, as someone frigid or cold. There is pressure, so she related, to appear sexy and sexual, even if you don’t feel in the mood or you are not at all aroused and the sex hurts. Big Ass on The Bus comes to mind again, a woman minding her business yet who is wanted by a man for sexual gratification and so must comply, must be coerced to comply, must eventually be forced to comply. As we watch. For fun. Consent not required. The narrative in video after video like these is that women are available because they are there. To be present is to be available, willing or unwilling. As I watched, it struck home, getting through the blindness my maleness had imposed upon me. No one is ever likely to sexually harass me. No one will think I am a piece of meat to be pawed, someone to touch to get someone else hard. But my ex-girlfriend might be. Your wife, sister, daughter or mother might be. Because they are women too. That makes them available in the worldview of Big Ass on The Bus.

Under the video others were suggested. Big Ass on The Bus could be followed by Pretty Girl on The Bus, Oiled Ass on The Bus, Girl Molested on The Bus, Unwilling Girl Fucked Hard on The Bus and Girl Swallows My Cum on The Bus. All the videos were of the same kind and followed a similar script of sexual assault and violent, physical coercion. It is a trope. Then there was the one with the woman who forgot her bus ticket. Naturally, she was forced to give sex as recompense because in this kind of entertainment the punchline is always the woman losing her knickers and spreading her legs, forcibly if necessary. Sexual subjugation is the constant theme either by violence, trickery or manipulation. Women are always available even if they have to be made that way and their defences broken down. Without being prudish about it, I feel a bit ashamed about this. I feel ashamed that this is apparently what entertains men. I start to see it from the side of women on public transport who know these things exist and who feel hands touching them. They do not know why they have been touched, as my ex-girlfriend’s blog testified to. They do not know if they are being violated or if its an accident. They don’t know what pushing the hand away or moving to avoid being touched might lead to. Should they simply put up with it as the lesser evil so as not to provoke something worse? What a horrible position to be in.

You will say that a video is a video, that its not real. But there are real women and real buses. There are real women and real trams. There are real women and real trains. There are, as my ex-girlfriend unfortunately had to find out, real women and real taxis. And there are real women who are touched, abused and violated. Is it ok? Should we brush over it? Does it matter if daily millions watch any number of videos in which women are coerced to sex? Does that make not the slightest dent on the ideology and psychology of those watching? Do sexual assaults, minor or major makes no difference, ever really occur? OF COURSE THEY DO. And, OF COURSE, so very, very much of mainstream pornography is violent coercion of women for sex. FOR ENTERTAINMENT PURPOSES. In an essay a year or two ago I even researched this and found across numerous of the most popular “free” porn sites that coercion of women, often violent, was the dominant theme of the majority of videos. All those in a taxi videos, fake this and that videos, pick up sex for money videos, etc., etc., etc. Its all about getting one over on a woman, dominating her and demonstrating her subjugation by penetration or worse. And it can get a lot worse. Doesn’t that make you feel just a little bit sick when you step back and realise what it is you are watching, when you watch it with the blinkers of fantasy removed? Can you, like I did, stand back and realise that here you are just casually watching the coercion of women as if it were like any other video?

Yet my argument here is not a moral one, at least in the sense that I am not here to tell you what you are or are not allowed to watch and enjoy. I do not think, like some, that my tastes should dictate your tastes. Instead, I ask for some self-awareness and some awareness of what it is you are watching in the context of wider society. I ask for an active personal responsibility. I want to ask if there is a problem with how heterosexual men see women. I want to ask if a tide of such pornography seeps into our social psychology and affects us accordingly. I have to say, somewhat to my embarrassed shame in the light of this essay, that I have some experience of this. My several years of research do not yield good or uplifting results. It is very easy, watching video after video, to assimilate the notion that women’s sexuality is something for men to control and to command at their whim. And, even if you may argue that in real life moral brakes are in place that are not necessary when watching a fantasy video, it is, I think, not so easy to separate fantasy from reality. In several essays in this book I have already made the point several times that fantasy and reality, the artificial and the real, fiction and truth, are not so completely separate as many people like to believe. Some may call such questions, and a desire for such a personal responsibility, naive. A tide of feminist led moral censoriousness does sometimes sweep the land. Perhaps they are right. But I don’t apologise for that. Policing ourselves and asking about the consequences of our own actions is, or should be, the first duty of any human being. It is certainly where I see any moral conversation beginning, with what our own personal ethics are. If we all did police ourselves appropriately then there would be no social problems. It is because we don’t that we have such things. 

Yet this particular short essay is only a personal view and I am not trying to tell others what I am sure has been obvious to them for a very long time. I suddenly saw a video I was watching from another, theoretically female, point of view and what i saw was completely different to what the man that is me normally sees. I had the privilege of imagining I was a woman and imagining how I would feel in that situation in distinction to actually being a woman who was in the position of realising that someone else might watch the same video and imagine it was them being molested and raped. And I saw, yes, that that is a matter of my male privilege in the feminist sense. I can view from the outside and think nothing of such a video because it is taking place from my point of view and for the gratification of people like me. It is people like me in such a video who are in control. But were I a woman would I feel the same way? No. I think I’d feel targeted and victimised. I’d wonder if people think of me that way. I’d worry about it happening if someone should brush past me and press on my breasts or my bum a little too much. I’d have the thoughts my ex-girlfriend actually reported having herself numerous times, the anxiety and worry that perhaps I was being targeted. That is because these are real world issues and not merely effete academic questions to be discussed in informal essays like this one. These are feelings, thoughts and situations real women have to negotiate every day.

In the end it all comes down to a very simple ethic for me, one that I feel will anticipate the message of the closing essay of this book that follows this one: love your neighbour as yourself. Here questions of the rights and wrongs of viewing pornography or the details of fantasy versus reality do not matter: love your neighbour as yourself. This not a difficult ethic to understand. Neither is it difficult to actualise for we can all put ourselves in another person’s shoes if we really choose to and imagine how we, and so they, would feel. I think that such an ethic is key to any society if it is to be based in communal good will and polity. Of course, we can always choose another path, one that is destructive and abusive, and the wreckage will be all around us accordingly. Too often and in too many ways people choose selfish, gratificatory paths and find that there is little stopping them. I must admit that this often seems to be true and it disturbs me considerably. But those of us who think differently must keep teaching and educating about a better way, a different way, one that revolves around respect of others and for self and that is fundamentally based in a cultured self-discipline. We must keep teaching the benefits of community and solidarity and good will towards others lest they permanently fall into disrepute and society finally shatters into the bellum omnium contra omnes.

The first draft of this essay finished there but I was disturbed by that because I felt like it was not enough. It felt like, as is the privilege of my gender, I could just briefly for a moment imagine what it was like for someone else and then go back to being myself, someone who didn’t have to worry about being touched up or worse on buses. But then I recalled yet another of these sorts of videos. It was still Japanese in origin but in this one the woman was white. Does that make a difference? Well, the ones with Japanese women in had hundreds of thousands of views and the one with the white woman being molested and raped (this time by multiple train passengers rather than just one) had over 23 million views. Even accounting for when these videos were put up that is a huge disparity and, whilst loathe to jump to too many conclusions, I did begin to wonder if most porn viewers are white and if there is some notion that most people watching want to see things done to people like them, people of their experience. Pornography is a hotch potch of unpalatable and disreputable ideas and it would not surprise me to learn that this was one of them. After all, this is why people watch porn and then imagine its somebody they know.

The further reason this essay didn’t stop two paragraphs back is that I became angry with myself overnight thinking about what I had written in the first draft. Where was the outrage, where was the anger, the disgust? This is a hallmark of some reaction to pornography, and to various types of it specifically, and I wanted to feel that way too. I was concerned that my maleness had blinded me to it and I didn’t like (or want) that. Now, writing again, I ask myself if a society that values women would allow millions of videos to be published openly and publicly which show their degradation, molestation, rape and all round coercion? It is, surely, a huge black mark against our “liberal” societies in general? Here I will brook no whataboutery about this, that there are other kinds of video too or that they are about people’s fantasies that they enjoy in private and that never break out into the real world. Even if it were true (which I doubt), its irrelevant. For as I made sure to document throughout this essay, this is something real world women have to walk the gauntlet of EVERY DAY. Women are attacked and assaulted on public transport all over the world all the time from the stray (but deliberate) touch of the bum or breasts to a more deliberate squeeze to things even more sinister. As much as you might want to, you can’t simply assign such things to videos and fantasy. Its reality.

And we need to say it is reality. Women (and their family and friends and good citizens generally) need to make a fuss whenever such incidents occur, no matter how minor, because its not harmless and it won’t just go away for those suffering such assaults. Men who might act in such ways need to be challenged and reeducated no matter how minor it might be imagined their indiscretions have been. Society can allow no room for ideologies which victimize women or see them as random, gratificatory sex objects, those who can be made willing or used as real life sexbots if only we care to pester and harass them enough. We cannot accept such dehumanisation of half the human population. We also need to question the narrative of coercion that is broad and wide throughout pornography. Pornography is now a widely accepted phenomenon and its often not treated in a very sophisticated way. Consensual sex between two people is lumped in with forced gangrapes and all kinds of other pornographic extremities. On most porn sites things such as beastiality and pedophilia are completely banned and in many countries they are thoroughly illegal. But why is physical violence against women, in most countries also illegal, in that case acceptable in hundreds of thousands of videos? If you want to know the scale of the problem go to porn sites and look at the video listings. You’ll find multiple examples on the front page of any of the free tube sites. I guarantee it. So these problems are apparent, both in video and in society. They both, in my view, play into an oppressive view of women as sexual prey, fantasy or real doesn’t really matter if its going on in the head of a real person. They give rise to fallacious and degrading ideas such as that any woman is available for sex if only you will pay her enough or that if some man finds a woman attractive and wants to have sex with her then she should feel grateful. In fact, she should probably let him ejaculate into or onto her and be thankful that it was her the man found worthy of such a thing. Such pornography is usually given a free pass because “its just porn” but, having now seen as I do, I find that the excuse of someone who doesn’t want to see a problem. Yet while there are women in the world, and there always will be, society in general must stand up and combat narratives which denigrate, degrade and abuse them. 

In closing, I would say that my eyes are a little more open today. I don’t like what I see. But you can only change the world by acknowledging it as it is. And, if this is how the world is, then change it we must.

This essay is one of 21  from a soon to be published collection of blogs and essays I've written over the last two years called Sound and Fury. The book, which covers everything from suicide and truth to  justice and personality theory, will be out before the end of the year.

Thursday, 27 September 2018

Thirteen Keys to A New Vision of Life

Cultivate your cosmic lack of importance.
All is relationship, everything is interconnected.
Be content with what you have, the way things are.
Love your neighbour as yourself, do not do what you hate.
If you want to be rich do nothing for money.
Blessed are the poor. Do not distinguish between people.
Thoughts are fictions, thoughts are choices.
Nothing remains, everything must be let go.
Flow as the river, without thought; act non-action.
When you see the ordinary as sacred everything is in its place.
Peace is the highest good. The middle way leads to peace.
Now is the time, there is no other.
Know nothing.

These are all actions, how to live life, states of becoming. They are called ‘keys’ because I think each helps unlock something if we take them seriously.

Cultivate your cosmic lack of importance

It all begins with humility. But the first key is not “be humble”. Instead, I speak of a cultivation, a tending to, a concentration on, an ongoing process, something also relevant to every key here. I also speak of a context rather than an abstract. That context is the cosmos, the universe, everything we can imagine existing. In the context of that, what are we? To cultivate your cosmic lack of importance is to groom yourself into a non-egotistical state so that when various people tell you that you matter or that you are important you take it in a context in which it should be more properly set. So cultivating your cosmic lack of importance is not regarding yourself as the lowest of the low or the dregs of existence. Instead, it is an “everything in its place-ness” where that is just to co-exist with all things. It is an inability to concern yourself with status or rank or importance. It is a living, active humility, a non-egotistical becoming.

All is relationship, everything is interconnected

That all is relationship and everything is connected is to recognise and actively embrace that you are not the only thing that exists. Once that is realised, you begin to see things in the context of other things or as a set of interlocking relationships. It becomes the viewpoint of actions and consequences or non-actions and consequences, for, whether we act or don’t act, things must follow. This, then, becomes an existence which is about consequences, relation and interconnection. Since you are not all that exists and since things must inevitably affect other things, a more rounded view than “just me” becomes necessary. So this realisation is also a further example of a non-egotistical existence and a contextualisation of ourselves as a link in a chain or as a set of interlocking relationships. We surely cannot abstract ourselves from everything else for it is everything else, in its possibility, that gave us birth and enabled us to exist but, more than that, that enables existence at all. So such a view is the end of the abstraction or instrumentalisation of both people and things. Instead we think of their linkages, relationships and interconnections in non-egotistical ways.

Be content with what you have, the way things are

At first flush, this might sound cruel or harsh. We imagine any number of oppressive situations or contexts and we ask how the people in those situations could be “content” with them and so accepting of “the way things are”. Indeed, many in our society today preach the exact opposite to this third key that I am here putting forward. They speak of not being content with your lot and the way things are. But this key needs to be approached in the right way to understand what it means. It does not mean to be accepting of oppression or to explain away pain caused by others or the domination of one person over another. Instead, it means to cultivate (there is a lot of cultivation involved in these keys for it is not imagined these are qualities we necessarily have already) a principled indifference to circumstances, to see through the narratives humans impose upon life. It is also to accept that no one person, or group of people, control the way things are or what happens, both things far beyond the capabilities of either. In fact, it is a refusing to rush to settled conclusions about this time, this place, our life and its context. It can also be seen as a seeing things at their best possibility at all times and an acceptance that change is always going on. In fact, this key very much interacts with key seven in this respect. Yet there is also a sense of flexibility here, a privileging of flexibility over possession of something thought ideal which can easily lead to greed for more or an obsession with possession. Indeed, this key seems not to accept that an ideal ever exists to be possessed. Instead, we cultivate contentment in ongoing situations, a training of ourselves, a discipline, a meditation, regarding a process. We treat all circumstances as imposters just the same.

Love your neighbour as yourself, do not do what you hate

These two commandments compounded can be seen as a summary of the entirety of social morality and, indeed, the key to achieving it. The first is famously taken by Jesus as a summary of the Jewish law and exampled by the parable of the Good Samaritan in which he suggests that even your enemy in danger is your neighbour. He thus answers the obvious follow up question to “love your neighbour as yourself” which is ‘Who is my neighbour?’ Yet this is also a third key which focuses on the dissipation of ego. For in taking yourself as the measure and acting to others as you would hope you yourself receive there can be no ego. For here is recommended both an active “love” of neighbour rather than a mandated passive attitude if a neighbour should, by chance, come your way, and an active not acting towards others in ways you would hate, the negative form of “the golden rule” known in human societies since antiquity. In both cases activity, an active mentality, is envisaged. It is a way we are imagined to actively pursue, a path we choose to go down. If growing numbers of us acted this way human societies would be transformed.

If you want to be rich do nothing for money

No one ever suggested that these keys would leave the world as it is with just a little decoration around the edges, as if all that is needed is a few cosmetic changes to a world that is basically sound. On the contrary, that’s not my view at all. Instead of basically sound I see it as fundamentally flawed and one way it is fundamentally flawed is economically. This is far from simply a case of redistribution of wealth, however. Indeed, I seek to abolish wealth, eradicate money, and obliterate commerce. My fifth key takes this from the individual point of view by totally devaluing money and by asking each one of us to find wealth in other things. For the fact is that money is not the inherent way to wealth. Instead, money is a communal agreement to accord value to it from which imagined wealth springs measured by how much of it you have. But, that being the case, we can change our minds. We can choose to find wealth elsewhere. We can forget the dogmas of economics, devalue them and infuse other things with value instead… such as human life and dignity. Money is basically a system of valuations but, as can be clearly seen, it is not one without negative effects. An economic system requires losers and so creates them and holds them up as examples to the rest of what might happen to them if they aren’t careful.

So why do we live in a world where people starve because they cannot pay for food? Is an economic mantra more important than human life? Why do we live in a world where someone might die of a treatable medical condition because they can’t afford to pay for the treatment? Is an economic mantra more important than alleviation of human suffering? And the important thing here is this isn’t a given, an unavoidable fact of nature: its a human choice to value money and economy over living beings. I find that inhuman and I revolt accordingly from any kind of economic system which judges people according to ability to pay or financial means, something our current world does as a matter of course as it credit rates them and judges their current and future earnings ability. In my view, we need to free ourselves of this terrible burden and imagine a world without money, without finance and without commerce and it starts with each one of us forgetting the monetary motive in our daily lives. We could make money valueless and make caring for each other the supreme value if we wanted to. Its in our gift to decide how society should run. We should dare to dream of better rather than settle for worse or imagine that our course is set. For that, of course, is what the haves in an economic system will always want the have nots to think. But how about we remove such structural inequalities whole and entire? If you really want to be rich do nothing for money.

Blessed are the poor. Do not distinguish between people.

I would describe this as a reversal of the current world order, a bottom up rather than top down ethic. “The poor” I regard as the ordinary mass of people, unassuming, perhaps existing from day to day, week to week, month to month, which is most of us. They are those you would not raise above others. They are not famous, they have no status, they are those who must be active to maintain their circumstances. But this ethic goes further than that. It is not just about treating these people, these ordinary, every day, regular people as blessed, and blessing them by your actions towards them everyday in friendship and community, but it is a refusal to admit notions of status, rank or standing to our social ethics and morality at all. People should not be compared and judged better or worse based on judgments about things like race, creed, colour, gender, physical and mental ability or sexuality. There should be no method or idea which splits people up along ideological lines in order to have “the better” and “the worse” or “my side” and “the other side”. Not distinguishing between people entails the abandonment of any and all partisanship. Instead, the prevalent creed here is one of common humanity, even common life if we see ourselves as living things like so many other things that are alive. And so this can also broaden to encompass an ecological dimension as well. But it is important we begin with those in the worst circumstances and work up rather than the other way around. In caring for the worst off we care for ourselves, for we are all the same. To add value to another’s life is to add value to our own. What you do to another, you do to yourself.

Thoughts are fictions, thoughts are choices

Everything you think is wrong. Everything you think is an imposition of thought, that is always related to the thinker, imposed on things outside that thinking. Thoughts are interpretations and interpretations are not inherent to things as essentials of the things. Instead, they are rhetoric about things, ways to explain things, possible descriptions, meaningful understandings. But in each case they could be different. Our thoughts about a thing or situation are not the thought or situation or even equivalent to the thought or situation. They are just one possible set of thoughts about it. So everything you think is wrong. But only because there is no right. So thoughts are both fictions, sometimes useful and sometimes not, and thoughts are choices, in the sense of things that didn’t have to be and in the sense of other options (redescriptions, reinterpretations) are available.

The consequences of this are huge. For example, if some thought is giving you a problem then rethink it in a different way for the first way was neither the only way nor the essential way. There is also the thought that we need not think at all, at least not in the way we have formerly been taught, as if life and truth and knowledge are about having the right thoughts and, having collected up all the right thoughts, thought itself then ceasing to be necessary. Taoism speaks of non-mind and non-thought and these are important concepts for this particular key. In thinking we are not seeking a thing called knowledge or truth which we can possess and thought itself is not about possession. Indeed, here we do not seek to wall ourselves in by the artificial boundaries of thought which lead to knowledge at all. We seek only an emptiness which is an openness. That which we “know” is accorded no status. It is not ranked in a hierarchy. Our minds should not hold onto things but, instead, let them go. This encourages becoming and avoids the ossifying lack of flexibility that “knowledge” or “truth” promote. In thinking, it should not be imagined we gather the essence of anything for our thoughts are merely temporary and ephemeral, impressions as we pass by. High understanding comes from not understanding at all.

Instead of knowledge as facts that can be possessed and may be accorded the supposed honour of “truth” this ethic valorises knowledge that is experience. It is an experience in the moment that we each can have. It is not based on academic learning or a canonical narrative. It is not about building up a collection of right thoughts you distinguish from the wrong thoughts. Here possession is loss, not gain. Here every moment has its own integrity simply because it became and it is about its own natural authenticity. Reality, imagined by scientists or philosophers, does not exist. It is artificial. What is real is what you experience as you experience it rather than how some commentary, any commentary, may describe it. Commentary is interpretation and interpretation is never foundational in any intrinsic sense. Commentary is boundary rather than openness to reality. There is no reason why reality need be, or could be, reflected in words. So there is no need to seek truth. Simply cease to cherish your own opinions, a further anti-egotistical move.

All you know is wrong. All you know is fiction. All you know is choice. Thinking can only ever imprison you in a room of your own creating. Freedom, and, ultimately, peace, is not-thinking not-thoughts with a not-mind. Here I promote mindfulness, the aware, balanced acceptance of present experience. Epistemology is abandoned in favour of possibility in which there is nothing to gain and nothing to know. Thoughts aren’t fixed realities but simply movements of a mind that is thinking and so we see thoughts for what they are: the passionate attachment to unreal and non-substantial things, the creation of fictional identities that fade so that only the energy remains. We must realise that nothing is as it seems, that what we think is not the same as what is.

Nothing remains, everything must be let go

This key is an observation, a context, one it is imagined the reader should take note of. This is that everything is moving, changing, passing away, in every moment of our lives. Of course, we are doing these things too and none of this has anything to do with how we feel about it, whether we believe it or whether we have knowledge of it. For this constant change is not something constrained by us or our thoughts. Rather, it is the other way around. The mountain range we observe may seem solid and eternal but over millennia it wears away to dust. It doesn’t just happen one day; it is always happening until it doesn’t exist as a mountain range anymore. So nothing remains and everything embodies change. But, that being the case, it is sensible to adjust ourselves to this situation by having minds appropriate to it. The things we hold in our heads, both as objects and ideas, must also be let go. For, just as we cannot stop the mountain range wearing away, so too these ideas and objects pass away as thought and language changes over time. Here we combat the conservative notion to freeze things in time and give them an eternity and a fixity which is strictly inappropriate to them. All conservation in the end is a wanting to have things forever as they are now or in some other imagined better state and this is always a fight against an unstoppable force, the force that is change. The issue is, however, that our nature, nature itself, is change and we must accept and internalise that fact if we do not wish to lead constantly dissonant lives. We must learn that nothing remains, all things must pass and so all things must be let go.

Flow as the river, without thought; act non-action

Here is a metaphor and a concept. The metaphor is the river. The river just flows. It goes wherever the water will go and adapts to circumstances as they are come upon. It has no purpose and does not want anything. It just flows, never holding on to the ground it flows over, always continuing on the way. The concept is non-action, wu wei in the original Chinese. This non-action, so I understand, is an active quality. It is not a doing nothing. That is why the second half of this key is to act non-action. In a way, the river is itself a good metaphor for this too. For the river acts, it flows. But none of this is deliberate. Flowing is what rivers do even as the flowing that is living is what human beings do. Yet do we live as the river flows, with non-action, an unintentioned lack of concern with where and how and why and what for? Non-action is lack of intention, lack of care or worried concern, but, more than that, an indifference to such things, a cultivated lack of intention. Should the river care if it flows this way or that, here or there? So within this key is also a hidden warning: beware the dangers of care, of desire and of intention which can lead us astray and disrupt our lives. Be as the river.

When you see the ordinary as sacred everything is in its place

The key here is to see every moment as a special moment, to fully inhabit and experience each of those moments. It is also not merely to see the ordinary as the sacred but to see the sacred as the ordinary, to not section off bits of life as special but to allow the special, the meaningful, the valuable, to infuse the whole of life. This then becomes a recontextualisation and reconstitution of life itself. Some bits aren’t more important than other bits; each bit just happens as it will in an ongoing process and each is indebted to what came before as will that be which comes after it. Sacred and ordinary therefore become synonyms rather than opposites.

Peace is the highest good. The middle way leads to peace.

This is a key that I have thought long and hard about. In fact, its not an exaggeration to say that my whole life has been spent thinking about it. The issue is “What is the highest good?” and my answer, after almost one half century, is that, in the end, it has to be peace, personal, social, planetary, cosmic. There are other values or qualities we might wish to take that place instead (like love or compassion) but, ultimately, these are things which lead to peace in themselves by their existence and their being in evidence. So, finally, it is peace I take as the goal and this goal is the unspoken goal when I speak about all of the other keys.

But if peace is the goal how is it achieved? The answer seems to be that it is by avoiding extremes and hence the preference for the middle way devoid of intention, desire, care, concern, worry. In ancient Greek thought there was sometimes a dichotomy presented between reason and passion, logic and feeling. But I reject this bifurcation as inaccurate and misleading. There is no such thing as a passionless reason or as a reasonless passion. When operating by logic, so it is imagined, we have not then turned off our feeling, as if it was something we could ever turn off in the first place. What we are is organisms, holisms, that include both reason and passion, feeling and forms of logic, at all times. There is no turning these off. They are always there. So the peace that we seek must always appeal to both or neither equally for there can be no one without the other. Here too we must follow a middle way rather than appeal to one thing at the expense of another.

No doubt this involves appealing to more than yourself for even a person who has isolated themselves still has surroundings. So there is an element of co-existence to this, a sense in which peace is about more than simply your own, settled state. Can one be at peace if elsewhere others are not? This is an important ethical question that we should be concerned with. For myself, I imagine that the more people who are at peace, the more they will be able to share that peace with others - and so increase their own. Peace, then, involves fraternity, co-existence, holistic thinking, a “middle way”, that is in the midst of everyone and all things.

Now is the time, there is no other

Existence is always in the now, this present moment. We never exist in the past we imagine or the future we expect or hope for. We live in an ever present that rolls on. When we die and our identity fades our matter will still exist (some think our consciousness will as well) in that ever present but we will not. This key is really nothing more than a fresh realisation and emphasis of this, that now is the only time we ever exist in, the only time we can ever influence or experience. So we should enjoy and experience each moment of now for there will never be another time. Whatever you’re doing, you’re doing it now.

Know nothing

It is a long held insight of philosophy that wisdom is not knowledge and knowledge is not wisdom. The keys I offer here, especially this thirteenth and last, are broadly anti-epistemic but not anti-wisdom. They take a dim view of knowledge as it has been valorised and rhetoricized in the Western tradition, they see through its puffed up, egotistical claims of insight and importance. This key challenges us to take the same attitude and do the same thing, to throw off canonical narratives and fictions imposed by personal and organisational authorities, to see that life is not something we need a set of hard and fixed rules for. Understanding, might I suggest, is not something that anybody needs to have. Bean-counting up the universe and writing the complete set of facts in a book that we can call “The Book of Knowledge” is literally an unachievable aim. One can be happy, or at peace, without reason. As the Buddha once claimed, “There is nothing to stick to.” (He said this because “Everything changes”, by the way.) “If you understand,” runs the proverb, “things are just as they are. And if you do not understand, things are just as they are.” So what is the difference?

The issue is that knowledge as a general category is very prone to being used egotistically. This key, by the way, is nothing to do with knowing how to do things. When I say “know nothing” I do not mean “do not know how to do anything”. On the contrary, this key is about how we view knowing and knowledge philosophically, what place we give to them, what stature we imagine they have. Enlightenment here is regarded as knowing what you do not know rather than counting up all the things you suppose you do. Knowledge, under this rubric, is never a cause for pride. Indeed, often knowledge is regarded as a trap or a blind or a stumbling block. So sure are we of what we know that this knowledge becomes a bind and a stumbling block that has been self-imposed. Better than knowing, then, is an empty openness to all things. Here the ethic is that if you change how you see you will be able to see how you change. Knowledge, on the contrary, is not about change at all. It is about setting in stone. But in a world of change can that ever lead to peace… or only to ever increasing dissonance? So this key is to see knowledge more as experience than collected facts and to see this insight itself as a piece of wisdom. What you possess, you lose.


These thirteen keys should not be read separately as if they were distinct items. Instead they should be read interactively and in relationship with one another, holistically. Then one can, hopefully, see the consequences of one for another. It is the thirteen keys together which unlock a new vision of life, the world and existence.

Sunday, 9 September 2018

Rich Hall, Stewart Lee, Louis CK, Diogenes and Two Jesuses

The American comedian, Rich Hall, had a show in 2009 called “Hell No, I Ain’t Happy”. I mention it because, hell no, I ain’t happy. In fact, I find it hard to believe I’ll ever be happy and, up until this point at which, as I write, I am approaching the age of one half century old, I never have been happy as a settled state. I’ve been concentrating on trying to stay sane although I’m not sure why as being insane would at least relieve me of the burden of being concerned about it either way. In fact, were it not for brief moments of happiness that had strayed way off course and found themselves populating my hellhole of an existence, I would easily be able to believe that happiness is a myth told to to keep us compliant and hopeful.

The British comedian, Stewart Lee, likes to play a character on stage that he refers to in mock interviews and real ones as “the comedian Stewart Lee” and this character is a version of Stewart Lee himself yet, in Lee’s mind, at least, a rhetorically distinguishable version. This version of Lee does comedy exclusively for “an insular cadre of socially challenged, middle aged men” although, as Lee notes as part of his act, to laughter, not as exclusively as he’d like. Indeed, in a more recent show than the one from which this anecdote is taken, the comedian Stewart Lee goes on to say that his ideal room is a completely sold out empty room. He’s got the money, because people have bought the tickets, but he doesn’t have to do the work of bringing them round or appealing to their comedy sensitivities.

I wonder how the American comedian, Louis CK, feels about this. CK is now most famous for deciding it would be a good idea to masturbate in front of women, sometimes asking permission and sometimes not. It seems it never occurred to him to say that it was “the comedian Louis CK” doing these things. As I write, he recently made what is being reported as a come back appearance at a New York comedy venue only for lots of women to complain in public on the Internet that the disgraced Mexican-American should actually have just disappeared forever. These women, it seems, do not believe that CK has yet suffered enough for the crime of exposing a few inches of flesh in the wrong circumstances. The thought begins to dawn on me that, perhaps, they wish he would just go and hide in a corner and, to all intents and purposes, cease to exist as a public individual.

One wonders how the fourth century BCE Cynic, Diogenes of Sinope, would feel about this. Diogenes, so we learn from historical anecdotes, would masturbate openly in public and then remark that he wished it was so easy to fulfill l the desire of hunger as it was to fulfill the sexual desire. A little rub and its gone away until next time. Yet Diogenes would be in jail if he were here today, a pariah and a target of outraged feminist critique, and all because he was dealing as simply as possible with the sexual urge where someone else might see it. But what else could he do, masturbate furiously in his barrel? Diogenes, of course, might have replied to the effect that it is no big deal. Sex is natural and not shameful. Seeing an animal ejaculate is nothing to be frightened of or outraged about just like when your dog licks its embarrassing erection yet, strangely, does not appear remotely embarrassed. At best, it is perhaps something to laugh at, dismissively. Diogenes was a Cynic which means that he thought nothing natural could be a source of shame. His enemy was culture, the artificiality of human beings who codify and make rules for things that take human society away from living “according to nature” in general.

And now, in my fifth paragraph, I come to my fifth man. That man is Jesus, alternatively known as Christ, Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the Lord, Jesus of Galilee, Jesus of Nazareth, Jesus H Christ and Jesus, the carpenter’s son. There is no record of the King of Kings ever having masturbated in public, although it seems he did get heckled from time to time, and there is that one saying about chopping your balls off if you are up to it. Yet he did not speak about “the religious figure, Jesus Christ” and neither did he ever say he was happy. But this, it turns out, is not something he could have done anyway because Jesus was not a writer. He did not write and perhaps, most likely, could not have written if he had wanted to anyway. Jesus was almost certainly illiterate. When we bring together the notions of Jesus and writing it is always someone else’s writing about Jesus and never Jesus’ writing about Jesus. Jesus, most likely, did not have the ability or the will to present himself in writing and so it was left up to others, often people Jesus didn’t even know, to write about him instead. Which of us would be happy with that? The religious figure, Jesus Christ, might be happy with that. He has gone on to have the biggest career of all time. But what about Jesus of Nazareth, the destitute, illiterate Galilean?

I strikes me that Jesus of Nazareth, the destitute, illiterate Galilean might be mortified by the career that the religious figure, Jesus Christ, is having. He would, it seems to me, more than likely be banging his head against the wall of his carpenter’s shop shouting “Make it stop!” if it weren’t for the unfortunate fact that he is dead. Jesus of Nazareth, the destitute, illiterate Galilean, did not ask to be brought into the White House, the seat of American presidential power, and used as a totem or a proxy for policies of any kind of modern partisanship. Jesus of Nazareth, the destitute, illiterate Galilean, did not share some bread and fish with some people so that guys wearing pillow cases on their heads could express their hatred for Jews. Jesus of Nazareth, the destitute, illiterate Galilean was a Jew, unlike the religious figure, Jesus Christ, who was a white European-looking fellow and so obviously not a Jew. The religious figure, Jesus Christ, was more the Jesus who would be happy to be at a right wing rally where the supremacy of the white race could be reasonably discussed. As the whitest person in history, the religious figure, Jesus Christ, fits right in there. But not Jesus of Nazareth, the destitute, illiterate Galilean. Stupid Jew. Literally.

Jesus of Nazareth, the destitute, illiterate Galilean was not a modern, white, evangelical businessman. He did not have family values. Jesus of Nazareth, the destitute, illiterate Galilean said, “The person who does not hate father and mother cannot become a disciple of mine.” He also said, “If you have money, do not give it at interest. Instead, give it to someone from whom you won’t get it back.” He said that people have nowhere to lay their heads and that people should “Become passersby”. Jesus of Nazareth, the destitute, illiterate Galilean was fucking insane. He would not have been accepted into your cosy, well-funded church on Sunday. He would have been chased from the door had he even showed up. He had literally nothing to say about homosexuality, abortion clinics or making America great, either again or at all. He would wonder why there were bishops who had thrones in cathedrals and lived in palaces. But not the religious figure, Jesus Christ. He gets that. In fact, he wants you to hang his portrait up in the palace and have a statue of him in the cathedral. And please use his name as much as possible to justify whatever it is you want to do today.

At this point I should apologise to any female readers because even though Jesus of Nazareth, the destitute, illiterate Galilean may have recommended chopping off your balls for the kingdom of God he was still a man. Very much a man. You don’t see any female carpenters now do you? And the religious figure, Jesus Christ, is basically a huge, shiny penis being waved in your face, Louis CK stylee. The religious figure, Jesus Christ, is the very appendage of life. He wants you to eat him. He insists. So this is a very man-centred essay about a very manly subject. God is not a woman, Ok? That’s just a fact you’ll have to get used to down at the Women’s Rights Centre as you discuss the tax on tampons and misogyny in the computer games industry. So, ladies, if you please, the men are talking about men here. It would serve you well to watch, listen, learn and, fundamentally, know your place. Oh, I know that some churches have female priests and even bishops now but, come on, all the proper churches don’t, the ones that actually have eaten the big, shiny dick of the religious figure, Jesus Christ.

Now Jesus of Nazareth, the destitute, illiterate Galilean, was a poor man. I mean really poor. Destitute, in fact. And he really disliked people who weren’t poor. He would have hated rich men in suits crowdfunding their campaigns to be congressmen and senators whilst greedily snuffling at the trough of corporate endorsement. (You may wonder why I keep referring this essay to American things when I am British but this is obviously because America is the most important country in the world in every respect…. For those reading this who are unaware of the British comedian, Stewart Lee, I don’t think that. I think the opposite of that.) He would have despised CEOs of multi-national companies outsourcing their work to some third world cesspool where people work knee deep in their own excrement for 22 hours a day, not allowed to even go and relieve themselves elsewhere because it might slow down production and reduce the profit margin by 0.0000000000001%. So, this being true, isn’t it somewhat perverse that the religious figure, Jesus Christ, is exactly a friend of all the slimy sons of bitches that Jesus of Nazareth, the destitute, illiterate Galilean never would be? How the hell did that happen?

It turns out that this is what happens when Jesus of Nazareth, the destitute, illiterate Galilean does not write his own PR material. Then what happens is that bozos turn up later who don’t particularly see the advantages of Jesus of Nazareth, the destitute, illiterate Galilean, who likes the poor and encourages everyone else to become it by giving all their money away, but do see the advantages of someone called the religious figure, Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ, as British motoring buffoon, Jeremy Clarkson, likes to call himself (shouldn’t that be “JC”?) is many times more preferable because, since he never actually ever existed, much like “the comedian, Stewart Lee,” you can actually say pretty much anything you like about him. He is what feminists like to call “a rhetorical construct” and so is very much like “toxic masculinity”. The best thing about being a rhetorical construct is that you can get away with saying anything because you will always be able to fall back on the notion that what you are talking about never really existed. Of course, you should never actually say that because the whole point of the religious figure, Jesus Christ, is that you maintain to the utmost of your ability that he does exist. But, of course, he doesn't really. Just never say that out loud.

All this would have flown over the head of Jesus of Nazareth, the destitute, illiterate Galilean though. He was not up on feminist discourse. He wasn’t interested in corporate endorsements. He couldn’t even write his name. And he didn’t want to. He just got his hammer and chisel and chopped at bits of wood. Sometimes he wandered about and ate food with people. Like a mug. He talked about the kingdom of God and said it was like a weed that infests your garden and draws in birds who will eat all your seed. Then he said it was like mould you put in bread that infects all the bread and makes it rise. Was he off his nut? What is this gibberish? No wonder you never find his picture in palaces or his statue in cathedrals. The religious figure, Jesus Christ, is much more suitable to the task of being our cultural battering ram for all the things that we think but that we can say that he really stood for. Rhetorical construct, remember that.

The religious figure, Jesus Christ, does not mind this because he gets a throne at God’s right hand and he appreciates that kinda thing. Jesus of Nazareth, the destitute, illiterate Galilean, said he had nowhere to lay his head and, apparently, wandered about the countryside like some kind of tramp. That message will not play well with the upwardly mobile demographic that we are aiming for as they try to not default on their mortgages and upgrade to the next model of car whilst saving for the newest iPhone. We do not want people to find nobility and blessing in their pathetic lives, much less meaning. We want them to imagine that they can have something better… but not right now. After death. Right now you have to give us all of your money and suffer. Suffering is good. Look, the religious figure, Jesus Christ, suffered. He was crucified, for God’s sake. (Yes, literally.) But he has a throne now. Geddit? Suffer now, throne later. Right now you have to hate homos, baby killers, people who vote left and anyone who hasn’t got a gun. Its what the religious figure, Jesus Christ, would have wanted. You know he’s in charge upstairs, right? How do you think things will work out for you if you get there and you have all the wrong views? “No one comes to the Father except through me,” Ok?

So forget this dope Jesus of Nazareth, the destitute, illiterate Galilean. Forget the poor. Forget giving all your money away, hating mom and dad, loving your enemies, being merciful, not judging, taking the log out of your own eye, and that parable where the king invites everyone to the banquet, “both good and bad alike”. As if! That is all terrible stuff, literally the opposite of the good life in today’s world. If you want a good life then you need the religious figure, Jesus Christ. He hates immoral people and is going to burn them all… and you need never look in the mirror with him. He only cares about the bad people and not us good ones. And remember, Jesus of Nazareth, the destitute, illiterate Galilean was a vagrant and can you trust vagrants? No, you can’t. We arrest vagrants. Just for being vagrants! Vagrants are morally culpable simply for their vagrancy which is a kind of social marker for immorality. Any decent person has their own home. Diogenes was a vagrant and he masturbated in public. Like Louis CK. But the religious figure, Jesus Christ, never once so much as touched his own penis. In fact, he was asexual. Never had a single sexual thought. His mind was pure. He never even had an erection because he was too busy thinking about being good and burning the immoral who have far too many erections. And that’s just the feminist lesbians! So would you really choose Jesus of Nazareth, the destitute, illiterate Galilean over the religious figure, Jesus Christ? Its your ass on the line here.

You never realised all this was at stake really, did you? But there is a reason that God speaks through the religious figure, Jesus Christ, and not the leftist conspiracy fabrication that is Jesus of Nazareth, the destitute, illiterate Galilean. That reason is that God has moral values. God, who is white, knows the value and righteousness of good, white values, of making money, looking after yourself, your family and friends to the detriment of all others whilst bearing arms as a God-given right. That’s why we know that the Jews who killed Jesus are not going to heaven, because the religious figure, Jesus Christ, says so. Remember, the religious figure, Jesus Christ, is alive. He rose from the dead on the third day just like the four holy gospels (who were written by four trustworthy white men) say. But this Jesus of Nazareth, the destitute, illiterate Galilean, he died. He died like a dog on a cross and no one knows what they did to him. Probably eaten by dogs or dumped in a pile of bodies with his face in someone’s ass. Do you want to be associated with that? Do you want to follow assface and wonder around like a tramp spouting parables about seeds or do you want a throne in heaven whilst all the bad people get the hellfire they deserve?

Hell no, you ain’t happy now, are you? Jesus of Nazareth, the destitute, illiterate Galilean isn’t looking so good now. He’s almost a masturbator, that vagrant bastard. You can’t trust anyone who hasn’t got a home, right. They are dangerous. Their vagrancy might be catching. Do you know, he even advised his followers to go knocking on doors so that they might get food? This is why the religious figure, Jesus Christ, asks us to live in gated communities so that we can keep scum like that out. You never know where the hand that knocks on your door might have been. Best to see them stopped at the gate. By the security guard. Let them wipe the dust from their feet. See if I care. We don’t need your fake news kingdom of God communist Jesus of Nazareth, the destitute, illiterate Galilean. The religious figure, Jesus Christ, who is white unlike you, has our thrones ready for us in heaven. Which is also white. What’s that? “Everyone who glorifies himself will be humiliated, and the one who humbles himself will be praised?” Listen, Jesus of Nazareth, the destitute, illiterate Galilean. I am white, the religious figure, Jesus Christ, is white and God is white. If you think I’m living like a tramp in the dirt, relying on whatever I can find to eat and mixing with those who can, at best, be described as immoral undesirables, then you are much mistaken.

Jesus of Nazareth, the destitute, illiterate Galilean made a mistake. He left his PR to other people and now other people prefer the religious figure, Jesus Christ. Jesus of Nazareth, the destitute, illiterate Galilean is now fake news, a commie Christ, a socialist masturbator’s wet dream. Jesus of Nazareth, the destitute, illiterate Galilean wishes now that he had learnt to write as he lies, mouldering, in an unmarked grave with his denuded face in someone’s bony ass. He cannot believe that he left the job to the four white guys, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. They seemed trustworthy at the time but instead of repeating what he said they made up stories and sexed it up until they had the religious figure, Jesus Christ, instead. Weren’t they listening? Which bit of “blessed are the poor” did they not get? Instead, they went with the whole “son of God” angle as if Jesus was a white guy. They went chasing after Roman approval as if pleasing those in charge was what mattered most. Jesus of Nazareth, the destitute, illiterate Galilean never said that big organisations should be created with people living in palaces. He never endorsed telethons to fund churches or expected the pastor to live in a mansion. Which bit of “Whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant and whoever wishes to be first among you must become slave of all” did they not get? Jesus of Nazareth, the destitute, illiterate Galilean hunkered down in his unmarked grave, depressed. He wished he had learnt to write.

Saturday, 1 September 2018

Trump and Jesus? Do Me A Fucking Favour!

Only a day after I write my first blog in months I find myself back on the computer writing a second. What reason could there be for this hasty return? The reason is a video that was retweeted by someone on my Twitter feed which reported on US President, Donald Trump, receiving several senior Evangelical Christians at an event in his honour. At this event, it was reported, Trump was presented with a Bible "to commemorate his greatness". The video I saw and subsequently retweeted along with my disbelief was inter cut with some of the statements of those Trump was receiving. As you might expect, these were a mish mash of homophobia, Islamophobia and even some passive antisemitism.  The whole thing, to my eyes was a total mess. In fact, it vindicates the fact that on my Twitter feed I actually have the word "Trump" filtered out. I do not what my existence daily sullied with a knowledge of his. However, thanks to a new tablet I was recently in receipt of, Trump is not filtered out if I check Twitter on there and so this abomination confronted me.

"Well what's the problem?" you might now be thinking. The problem, the thing that has annoyed me all morning, is that anyone might think to associate Trump with Jesus, the nominal founder of Christianity (he wasn't, but that's another story), in the first place. Even if we step away from an historical appreciation of Jesus and simply approach the question at the level of acknowledged Christian texts then Trump is the last person to be associated with such things. Let's look at some evidence:

"You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart." (Matthew 5:27-28)

"As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments:  You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honour your father and mother.’” He said to him, “Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.” Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions." (Mark 10: 17-22)

"Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God." (Luke 6:20b)

"I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another." (John 13:34)

There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28)

Tell me, are these the kind of sentiments, found in the four Christian gospels of the New Testament and the writings of Paul, those we might associate with Donald Trump? Is Trump, factually a serial adulterer with every wife he's ever had, factually a very rich man who builds huge towers he then puts his name on in capital letters, factually a despiser and disregarder of the poor, factually a man who does not love others but demonises them and incarcerates their children, factually a man who preys on differences between people and uses them to stir up enmity between people,  someone we should even rhetorically dare to associate with Jesus in any way? Is he remotely a Christian person by any Christian textual definition of this term, even as we find in the New Testament? To me, it simply beggars belief.  In the text of John's gospel before the words I have quoted above Jesus, thought of most highly by the text of John as a pre-existing son of God, is to be found washing the feet of his disciples and teaching that even the greater should humble himself to perform service for the lesser. Could we imagine Trump performing such a deed or even performing a selfless act for someone else at all?

To be honest, the whole scene sickens me. Its not just about Trump, of course. The Evangelicals reflect nothing of Jesus of Nazareth either. What does it say about people who use the memory of a person to build kingdoms for themselves and cultural empires over which they rule oh and, by the way, please keep on sending in those dollars? Who, reading the text of the gospels, or even of the New Testament, could get from this the notion that what Jesus really wants is for you to become as rich as possible and to pontificate to people in general about issues most of which Jesus himself never even reportedly had a single word to say? (For, of course, not a single word of the New Testament was actually written by Jesus.) Who, reading the New Testament, thinks that what we need to do is not help hurricane victims in Puerto Rico, imprison children, fan the flames of white supremacist hate and utilise the presidency of the United States for their own personal enrichment and aggrandisement? I can tell you without fear of contradiction that it is not people who have taken the canonical texts of that religion seriously. It is, however, people with at least two faces.

So, by all means, be the vile, self-serving, hate-filled, despicable and disingenuous people that you are. But not in the name of Jesus. Not even in the name of those who claim to be his followers (of which i am not one). Your lives and the lack of morals by which you guide them are nothing to do with the man from Galilee. They are your own artificial creations, a travesty of anything the Galilean stood for. On your own heads be it. You are responsible not him.