Wednesday, 25 July 2012

The Cult of Life

I sometimes feel sorry for people of faith when I see the manner in which religion is depicted in the popular media in Britain. Invariably, Catholics are the target and they’re portrayed as insane, devil-worshipping paedophiles who’d be better off in a lunatic asylum. It’s unfair because of the 5 billion + of the world’s population who are religious, most practice their faith peacefully and just get on with their lives, but in the grubby old UK the media love jumping down the throat of anyone who professes a belief in anything other than money and soft-soap liberalism. Such baiting is also highly hypocrital because those who take the cheap shots belong to a far more dangerous and irrational cult: The Cult of Life.

This cult is distinguished by the following features:

It demands unquestioning obedience of its adherents.

Any members who come to their senses and speak out against Life are liable to vituperation, excommunication, social ostracisation and accusations of insanity.

Members of this cult (estimated to be around 7 billion) believe anyone who does not share their beliefs is mentally unbalanced and damned to unhappiness.

Criticism of the cult’s belief-system results in extremely emotional and aggressive responses; reason is generally disdained in favour of emotion and cliché, the following of which are typical:

‘You have to take the good with the bad’ (It is never specified why this is so. Why, for instance, Nothingness should not have been left in peace, when there was no need of good, bad or anything else.)

‘Can’t have an omelette without breaking some eggs’ (Generally, the broken eggs are not those of the speaker, are broken out of sight of said speaker, and speaker sits down at life’s table ready to tuck into omelette with a hearty appetite.)

‘But then the species would die out!’ (Everyone’s gotta go sometime, and the word ‘species’ is just an abstraction that deflects attention away from the real suffering of individuals.)

‘But things are getting better all the time’ (Wrong. The amount of real individual suffering is constantly increasing, contrary to what percentage merchants like Steven Pinker would like you to be believe with their finessing of statistics. Statement is also mere reflection of speaker feeling not-too-bad at moment of utterance; pronunciation may not occur when speaker is feeling bad.)

‘Get a life!’ (We have one, that’s the problem.)

‘Stop thinking so much!’ (A sad reflection on life is that as soon as you start to think about it, it becomes problematic. Advice essentially amounts to ‘become a satisfied pig, like everyone else’.)

‘The show must go on’ (Really? Must it? It didn’t go on for eons until biochemistry started its black magic, and if humanity ends the universe will roll on for eons more. What exactly is the show accomplishing? Who’s writing the script? And excuse me, but it seems that quite a lot of the extras, as in all of them, as well as the 'stars', are being killed.)

‘But we’re programmed to reproduce!’ (Speaker here is referring to DNA molecule, the insidious puppet-master of the Life Cult, a strange chemical agglomeration that manipulates its marionettes for its own mindless survival, with no concern whatsoever for welfare of said puppets. More dangerous than Great Cthulhu Himself. Do not approach.)

In conclusion, members of this cult can be quite dangerous, as they look and sound normal, may approach you in an affable manner, and generally claim to be concerned with your well-being. Do not give them money and do not let them into your home or, more importantly, your mind.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Monks and the Monastic Ideal

I love monks and monasticism. To me they are true revolutionaries, people who reject the world in favour of a purer lifestyle. Although some may see monasticism as self-indulgent, I see it as actually being extremely revolutionary. After all, what better gesture of defiance can one show the world than refusing its ways and retreating into the desert? In monasteries we see the creation in miniature of a new world, a form of communal life where the welfare of one’s fellow monks is the top priority, an aspiration toward an ideal of ego-less living and rejection of worldly vanity.

I came across the following similar sentiments in a book by Thomas Merton:

Father Paul Evdokimov, the Orthodox theologian, writes a splendid and challenging article on The Desert Fathers and on the radical tradition of monasticism, both Eastern and Western. He frankly regards monastic chastity as a refusal to procreate and to continue the existence of a society that has reached its term (a view which in modern Catholicism would shock even the most convinced of monks). This refusal is creative, not negative: those who claim to be so positive about the values of “the world” and our society are precisely the ones who are so busy building the bombs that are capable of destroying it...

Evdokimov demands a virile ascesis, not simply gentlemanly retirement into leisure. The monk does not build his monastic city on “the margin of the world”, but instead of it....Since the world presents a lying vision, the unworldliness of the monk must be not only nonconformist, but provocatively so. The monk is in revolt against the false claims of the world...

Similarly, here is Merton on The Shakers, the Christian group who practiced celibacy:

The Shakers now face extinction, without concern, convinced that they had not been a failure [...] I find this easy to believe. The Shakers have been something of a sign, a mystery, a strange attempt at utter honesty [...] which was nevertheless pure. They were absolutely loyal to a vision that led nowhere: but which to them seemed to point to a definite eschatological goal.

According to Wikipedia, as of January 2011, there were only five Shakers left in America. I salute them!

And, of course, there is Mount Athos, the Macedonian self-governed state of monks, quite an inspirational idea (women are banned from entering the territory!). I suggest this as being the ideal sunshine getaway spot for male Antinatalists:-)

Finally, A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller Jr. is one of favourite novels; it's a post-apocalytpic sci-fi story set around a monastery. Highly recommended

Monday, 9 July 2012

What the Fuck Are We Doing Here? (Higgs Boson, fuck off!)

Ok, it’s going to be an angry post. Angry, grrrrrrrrr. No particular reason, just woke up, it’s Monday, the skies are leaden-grey (Oh Summer, where art thou?), I don’t feel like doing anything, and I’m weary of existence. Definitely just one of those ‘What the fuck are we doing here?’ days.

Anyway, estnihil’s latest post features a heart-rending story about an acquaintance of his who committed suicide due to her inability to tolerate the suffering of the world and the general nature of existence:

A pen-pal (I think that's the word for e-mail friend) of mine recently committed suicide, and in her case she did not have a mental illness so much as an existential illness. While she was wide awake, performed excellently with a guitar and had long-distance running as a hobby, and most certainly felt pleasure in her life, she could not get past in life her insurmountable hatred for the way things are in the world. This is what I can glean from her past replies to my e-mails, in any case. Her problem was one that could never have been solved in the first place without either the power of a deity or an extremely realistic virtual reality machine. It was also an illness that was causing her quite a bit of suffering; she could not go through the day without hating the world more and more, without despising the desperate void of nothingness and the unthinking masses and the suffering all around us. If she was bad at anything, she was bad at self-delusion. And again, that is an insolvable problem for one whose values do not allow a change in this.

I felt real, hopeless anger when I read this. As someone who experiences the world more or less in identical terms to this girl, I despair. I mean, really, what the fuck are we doing here hanging around, hoping for who-knows-what? But, of course, life being what it is, there’s no way out (bar the pretty horrible recourse of committing a fatal assault on yourself) and no solution. You just have to wait, and wait, and wait, and wait and wait (What else is religion, ultimately, but waiting? Waiting for death, God, redemption, another dimension of existence and so on). And if you’re not good at delusion or distraction, time is going to hang heavy and I mean heavy.

And then, as commenters on the previous post were discussing, we have the usual moronic suspects peeing themselves over the Higgs-Boson particle. I mean SO FUCKING WHAT? The boffins have identified another element of matter, so fucking what? It doesn’t matter! Matter doesn’t matter! It’s just another cog in the great machine.  I mean, sure, intellectual satisfaction is nice and grand, but ultimately IT MAKES NO FUCKING DIFFERENCE TO LIFE AS LIVED. Does knowing how the physics of the guillotine operate make me feel better when I hear the whosh of the blade as it heads towards my neck? IDIOTS! ASSHOLES!

And to finish this rant, I’ve just been informed by someone in the PR business that a certain celeb has demanded 10,000 dollars to fly to and fro across the Atlantic to appear for 15 minutes on a London chat-show where they can spout on about themselves and generally masturbate on the moronic viewers. Yup, that’s the kind of world we live in, folks. Make the best of it!

Handan (estnihil’s deceased friend), RIP. You are truly in a better place.

Friday, 6 July 2012

The Natural Joy of Being

Sometimes when I reflect on the main difference between me and the majority I conclude that the nub of the issue is how at home in life most people appear to be. It seems that no matter what happens, no matter what vicissitudes must be endured, no matter how many disasters are threatened and befall, most humans take a natural pleasure in the mere state of being itself. Regardless of everything, most are glad to be alive; being is identified with goodness and death is most definitely not a consummation devoutly to be wished. (Not that I’ve ever particularly desired death, just a different form of being.) Perhaps a neologism is required: Ontophilia, a love of being. (Just googled this and discovered that the word has already been coined. Darn). 

Although I do appreciate the good things of life (sunshine, friendship, music and so on), and I’ve tried to train myself to be grateful for them rather than succumb to absolute despair, I am sad to report that the sheer natural joy in being that the majority possess, which enables them to frolic in the fields of life no matter how many wolves are lurking, does not appear to be a strong feature of my constitution. I’m too sceptical, too suspicious, too conscious of the misery and suffering of the world (I mean in an abstract sense; I’m no saint), and well aware that disaster can strike at any moment.  So I am sad to report that I am no ontophiliac; my loss, no doubt.