23 September 2015

Guessing about stuff

I don’t know why I always feel that I have to reach toward the lens like a zombie whenever I take a self-shot.


“What’s your career?” To me, that means: “What’s your pigeonhole?” I’m always a little dissatisfied when events are predictable. It would be far more interesting, if, when the neighboring city-state’s army invades my farm, instead of committing atrocities, they all begin performing magic tricks.

I almost ended the above thought by saying: I wouldn’t expect that. But, now that I’ve written it, I would expect it. Therefore the soldiers should just attack us as usual—it’s better to do what you’re good at: even if you find the job a bit dull, your customers will appreciate it.

I wonder if that’s why it’s so difficult to get hired as a fortuneteller. While interviewing for the position, we announce: “I predict that you will hire me.” And our interviewer thinks: “I’m not going to let this businessperson twist my arm—even though she’s obviously the most qualified applicant, I’ll now proceed to hire somebody else, just to spite her, and to flex the strength of my will.”

The temperament of the world itself, it seems to me, must have been patterned after the mind of a fortuneteller’s personnel manager; that is why I practice the superstition of saying things to keep them from happening. Whenever I visit my room at the bordello, I shout “It’s time to catch me some syphilis!” precisely because I hope to avoid that disease. Here’s my reasoning:

If the unwanted event fails to occur, I will be incorrect yet overjoyed; whereas, if my prediction comes to pass, it proves that I am a true prophet of God. And I’d rather be a true prophet than a false one; for the biblical book of Deuteronomy (18:20-22) commands all believers to kill false prophets; also, thankfully and usefully, it instructs them how to determine whether the prophet is false:

…the prophet, which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak… even that prophet shall die. And if thou say in thine heart, How shall we know the word which the LORD hath not spoken? When a prophet speaketh in the name of the LORD, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD hath not spoken…

I like this passage because it establishes, clear as a bell, the rules of prophecy: If a prediction fails to happen, the prophet who uttered it is fraudulent. I can’t imagine it being much simpler than that. The part about killing false prophets is stupid and wrong, as is much of the Bible, nevertheless it’s helpful because it sets a time limit for the content of any prediction:

The events that are forecast must fall within the frame of a human lifetime; otherwise, false prophets would be able to avoid God’s death penalty by simply claiming “I intended to speak of events far in the future—so, although currently my prophecies have not come true, you’ll remain unable to tell whether you’re supposed to kill me until long after I’m dead.” Isaiah, for instance, might prophesy that a virgin will bear the Christ; and then, year after year might pass without any virgin giving birth, and Christ might remain wholly absent during the life of Isaiah; yet no priest could approach with knife upheld and his King James Bible open to the relevant passage, because our prophet would have outsmarted his God.

My point is that Christianity and Deuteronomy can’t both be right; since the former (alas) built its house on a foundation of apocalyptic fortunetelling, which the latter prohibits. When the early churchmen chose to staple their own writings to the ancient and distinguished anthology of Hebrew Scriptures, they seem not to have counted on anyone reading the result.


I think of Armageddon as a slasher flick. (One encyclopedia defines that phenomenon as “a type of horror movie which typically involves a violent psychopath murdering several victims.”) Some churchgoers try desperately to prepare for Armageddon: I wonder why—do they truly want to survive? Sometimes a slasher flick’s initial victim gets dispatched immediately: that is to say, within the first reel. (One reel contains about ten minutes of film.) I’ve heard viewers remark, after that opening casualty, “I’m glad I’m not her.” But note the advantage this actor has over the audience: she doesn’t have to sit through the rest of the picture. Therefore I myself would much prefer to be the first victim slashed, when God returns mad as hell, at the end of the world. Let the churchgoers savor this pageant, if that’s their desire; to each his own. I’ll gladly leave work early, go home & watch a flick.

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