20 November 2016

Bitter thoughts aiming to be better

I’ve been told that the second Monday in October is a national Canadian holiday known as Thanksgiving. The U.S. uses a different date: the fourth Thursday of November. And then comes Christmas, which is a contraction of the phrase “Christ’s Mass.” That’s on December 25. When I was young, my parents dragged me with them to church, but it was a Protestant sect whose weekly meetings were called “services” not “masses”; so…

And my mom and sister came to my house last night: they normally don’t visit except on or around the major holidays, so it’s a big deal whenever I see them. They wanted to know if we could all get together next Sunday; that’s why I researched the facts about the official dates of this atrocious festival.

I am personally more comfortable complaining than giving thanks. What is there to be thankful for? I hate when people say: “I’m thankful to be alive.” I answer, with Whitman: “it is just as lucky to die, and I know it.” (‘Song of Myself’ sec. 7.) Also I think of Satan: “Which way I fly is hell; myself am hell…” (Paradise Lost, Book 4.) Imagine being half Whitman, half Satan—that’d be my dream job.

“And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31.) By the time I was seven, I saw all of reality as very bad. Everything is dismal to me. Yet I’ve not even suffered any misfortune (beyond birth) that would give me a right to be so rancorous. It just comes natural: I resent all the upkeep and requirements and demands of life. Why must even the healthiest body compulsively breathe, periodically eat, frequently drink – and not vodka but disgusting fresh water – plus exercise and tend some sort of social relation? Who signed up for this?

And if the U.S. Constitution is so darn perfect, then why did it ever have to be amended? At this moment in time, I count twenty-seven amendments. That’s exactly why it’s perfect: because it admits that it is flawed and in need of change. Why don’t we change it some more?

But let’s say that an amendment is ratified which says: “The right of the citizens of the United States to enter Heaven after death shall not be denied by God or his henchman Paul. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.” Would this improve our afterlife one iota? I guess it’s up to the courts.

Most optimistic people vex me, but I don’t like the version of self that I’ve given here… I want to brighten my mood…

Let me say one pleasant thing about gullible people. Their enthusiasm is sometimes infectious, which can be a good thing. You might meet a wide-eyed political hack this afternoon, and he might try to hard-sell you on his favored candidate. Sublimate your annoyance: the transfer of energy that occurred during this affront can be employed to power your body to vacuum your basement – that’s an uplifting thought.

But now let’s say that your boss tries to chat with you as a pal. Who cares whether or not you agree with her assertion? She claims that an ancient sage from her culture’s mythology got re-embodied today as a popular senator. This is not even her own idea: she admits that she was taught it by her yoga coach. You could say it’s true; you could say it’s untrue; you could hold your peace… Might any course matter? And isn’t there something beautiful about reaching an agreement?

If I were a religious leader, and I encountered a rival cult whose members pressured me to join them, I’d convert without a qualm. Even if their cult had the ugliest rituals and horribly worded scripture, I would embrace it: I’d set the example and tell my adherents to follow suit. Why would I do this? I don’t know – I hadn’t drawn up any plan: I just acted instinctively. I guess I’d like to set myself apart from the other religious leaders, who clutch to their convictions and refuse to meet new deities.

But how do you know whether I am sincere in my conversion? Maybe I am only pretending. For if you pay me to join your congregation, I’ll gladly accept. If I were attractive enough to be a church prostitute, I’d do that too. But I despise working for an honest day’s wages. I’m sick of all those biblical stories about workers in the field. It doesn’t make sense, in this day of computer phones and fake leather, to speak of angels as reapers. Who among the multitude can claim an expertise in agriculture?

Just think about the time when the huge machines appeared on the horizon and bamboozled the life of untold small-farm laborers.

And is it rude to consider that Jesus, like so many others, got killed unjustly; yet also, like so many others, he is still plain dead? I wish they’d had phone cameras back in the day. Yet I only desire that we dispense with the gospel of his resurrection because I admire the bulk of his teaching, the significance of which gets eclipsed if the event of prime importance is his death. I mean, if all that matters is that “he shed his blood for us,” then… (Haven’t I said all this before? It sounds like a familiar track on my broken record.)

And I’ve heard people refer to certain youths of the generation that’s currently entering the workforce as “millennials.” What a nice name. I hope this group has a pleasant life, and that they’re not bogged down with many problems.


M.P. Powers said...

"Who signed up for this?" ~ I was just asking myself the same thing this morning over coffee. Sometimes I think it's a mistake to make anything more of life than the effort it took to create it. It's a helpful thought. Tho I don't especially like thinking about what my parents got up to on their Sears mattress one night in late 1970. Who would've ever thought that night would've dragged on as long as it has? Nice essay, Sir.

Bryan Ray said...

Ah thanks man! for trekking out to the Blogger Desert to read this, and for giving a comment… I queued these words of yours into my quote diary: “it’s a mistake to make anything more of life than the effort it took to create it.” That’s a wise saying… O god yes and parents!! the primal scene: I can’t even process the thought: I deny it: I am a changeling.

P.S. Just now I was reading about the play King Lear, and the Wisdom of Solomon (from the Apocrypha in the Geneva Bible) was mentioned as a possible influence on Shakespeare — I couldn’t stop myself from copying this passage (7:1-6) because it fits well with our Anti-Thanksgiving Complaint Exchange:

I myself also am a mortal man, like to all, and the offspring of him that was first made of the earth,
And in my mother's womb was fashioned to be flesh in the time of ten months, being compacted in blood, of the seed of man, and the pleasure that came with sleep.
And when I was born, I drew in the common air, and fell upon the earth, which is of like nature, and the first voice which I uttered was crying, as all others do.
I was nursed in swaddling clothes, and that with cares.
For there is no king that had any other beginning of birth.
For all men have one entrance into life, and the like going out.


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