14 July 2017

A sign or not

This image has zero to do with the text of this entry. The only reason it's here... actually, there is not even one single reason. But I'll explain its contents in the postscript.

Dear future self,

Don't make fun of me for updating this blog so often during these weeks of July 2017. When you think back, you'll remember that that was the time when I was trying to figure out how to turn my shack into a shanty; and all the labor of learning low-level carpentry, with the annoyance of constant booming bass-cars driving by, plus wild children screaming near the window like High-Speed World War, left me with stress that needed reduction. And the best way to reduce stress is to do some gardening. So that's why I've been blogging way too much: I don't have a garden; it's just four slabs of concrete. And writing gives me a weird other-stress that makes me forget about the first stress. That's the nice thing about the brain: it can only feel a limited amount of combinations of horror at a time.

Now the trouble is that I have nothing to say. I exhausted everything I like to talk about, in my posts from yesterday and the day before yesterday. I talked about movies, TV shows, novels, poetry, and visual art. That's all I care about. And I had to return my Robert Henri book. So now I'm left with three other books that I don't want to read. Why did I request these? (I must have asked for them sometime, since they showed up in my cubby-bin at the local branch via interlibrary loan.) The first two, I won't even mention their titles; I'll dip around in them, and if they entice me to go deeper, you'll be the first to know about it. Then I got this anthology called American Sermons: The Pilgrims to Martin Luther King Jr. Surely I'll read the two by King that are in there; but as for the rest? I already wrote my own "epic sermon": Save the Lord (which I canonized as part of my personal Bible); haven't I earned the right to ignore everyone else's spiritual ideas? No: we should never stop listening to each other preach. The problem is not that there are too many sermonizers but that there are not nearly enough. ("I wish to God that all people were prophets, and that the LORD would put his spirit upon them!" shouts Moses in Numbers 11:29.) Everyone should contribute to the endeavor: make it reach up into heaven. Who knows but the LORD himself might come down to see the new faiths that we have builded.

And God came down to see the wonders and marvels which the people had invented. And the LORD said, Behold, the people is manifold, and they have all diverse ideas; and this they begin to do: now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do! (Genesis 11:5-6)

We're unleashed, unshackled: This is very good. Now I like God for blessing our splendors. We bless you right back, God.

On a side note, I just thought of an alternative to carpeting: You could go purchase a truckload of welcome mats, and just positition them over every square inch of your floor. And all the mats would have friendly greetings on them; but then, right in the midst of the room, you could put one single mat, which, instead of a greeting, would have a warning printed in bright red letters:

Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.

That's a joke I stole from Exodus 3:5. And you could keep the mat aflame, if you really wanted to spice up your life.

The church that I used to attend... Have I ever told you about it? I don't like to talk about it; it's boring. I actually joined a church when I was in my late twenties. That was my second and last church. My first church was the one from my childhood years; I was born into it – my parents forced me to attend services there.

Poor people! They had tried to keep their ignorance of the world from themselves by calling it the pursuit of heavenly things, and then shutting their eyes to anything that might give them trouble. A son having been born to them they had shut his eyes also as far as was practicable. Who could blame them?

That's from The Way of All Flesh by Samuel Butler (Chapter LXIII).

As I was saying, that first church was not my fault: I was born into it – my parents forced me to attend its services. But their coercion didn't last past the age of fourteen, because my dad had more faith in conservative right-wing political dogma than in St. Paul's Christ. He (my earthly father) believed in the power of BUSINESS over PRAYER. So wherever your employer had his establishment, THAT was the Holy of Holies. So I was able to skip out of church whenever my manager at the fast food burger joint scheduled me to work. My manager's name was Cyndy, spelled with two 'Y's just like my name Bryan Ray. I remember asking Cyndy to schedule me every Sunday morning. I ran the drive-thru.

But I didn't want to talk about my first church today; I wanted to talk about the second one. That was a Baptist church (the first was self-styled "Reformed Protestant," whatever that means), and, like I said, I joined this latter congregation much later in my life. For the decade from about fourteen to twenty-four I was wholly churchless. During that time I went from ignorant infidel to biblical autodidact. Yes, I really went mad. So it was with firm intent that I stepped into that second church; I got no one to blame but myself. But I don't mean to make it sound like church is a bad thing: it's not... not necessarily. All the people I met at that second church (and also the first one, for that matter) are wonderful souls – I have not one problem with any of the churchgoers or any of the pastors or leadership – I'm only embarrassed that I trusted in another madman's system. That's like voluntarily jailing yourself. Like walking into the police station and exclaiming: Let me into cell seven, I'm feeling lucky today.

And the funny thing about religion is that you can leave anytime you want, but you stay for years and endure spiritual agonies and soul-hangups of every kind.

A very effective weapon is social pressure.

It's mostly our parental guardians' fault, isn't it? our teachers, our upbringing – what control do we have over THAT? Adults fill our mind with their preferred phantasms before we even know how to think: so the skew is lodged there, immovable like a turkey bone in cement. If only this bone were a lever that we could pull, like the "Man in the Planet" from Eraserhead (1977), to select our destiny. If only we could choose our great grandparents, or their grandparents' grandparents. (Perhaps we do? Perhaps we forget?) If only one could will one's whole preceding history...

Here's another passage from the same chapter (which I happened to read last night, that's why it's on my mind) of Butler's good book:

Accidents which happen to a man before he is born, in the persons of his ancestors, will, if he remembers them at all, leave an indelible impression on him; they will have moulded his character so that, do what he will, it is hardly possible for him to escape their consequences. If a man is to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven, he must do so, not only as a little child, but as a little embryo, or rather as a little zoosperm—and not only this, but as one that has come of zoosperms which have entered into the Kingdom of Heaven before him for many generations. Accidents which occur for the first time, and belong to the period since a man's last birth, are not, as a general rule, so permanent in their effects, though of course they may sometimes be so.

I keep sliding into diversions: religion's a slippery slope to me – all I wanted is to mention that Church 2's head pastor once informed me that his idol is the preacher Billy Sunday. Or he probably did not use the term "idol," as God don't take kindly to idols; but you get the point. Now I've never in my life read a word from or about Mr. Sunday, but this didn't stop me from giving him a role in my "ecclesiastical plagiarization of Shakespeare's Comedy of Errors" which I re-christened A Terrible Misunderstanding (also available in my Collected Self-Amusements); so—I now leave off sighing over my own publications and return to the topic of the library book that I was vacillating about attending to in the beginning—since I never knew the man, but he was presented to me as a paragon, it intrigues me to open the cover of this anthology of American Sermons and find that it has one from Mr. Sunday, titled "Food for a Hungry World." I wonder if my old pastor knows that one. I bet he does; Billy Sunday was his idol. —Now since it's getting late, and any minute now I expect my lab partner to come bounding in through the doors of this moon base with a kiss for me and a fresh bouquet of space-flowers, I'll try the experiment of reading as much as I can of old B.S.'s masterwork for the first time right here; and I'll try to react to it as I go. And my goal will be to listen, accept, and be positive, because I've had enough of my antichristian attitude. I'm serious. Now let's begin...

O! could this be a sign from Sunday's deity? Just as I opened the text, my sweetheart came home! ...So I'll put this entry to sleep without its dinner ("Food for a Hungry Weblog"); HOWEVER I really like the idea of attempting to record my initial impression, so I'll try to remember to read plus write about or with or against the sermon next time.

I'll paste the postscript now; I had already finished writing it earlier: I copied it to my clipboard and was saving it for this instant, which has come like a thief in the night.

(About the image)

As promised, I will now explain this entry's obligatory image, which, I repeat, has nothing to do with the text above.

At top left is a cutout from a genuine newspaper, from back in the days when they were made with real news and real paper: it's an ad for David Lynch's movie Lost Highway (1997), which I saved because I'm a fanatic. I saw that film on opening night in the theater; and the same for every Lynch film after that.

On the right are two membership cards for dead video rental stores. I used to go to Hollywood Video every Tuesday and take advantage of this deal that they had, where you could rent five movies for just two U.S. dollars, and they'd let you keep them till the next Tuesday. So I'd be able to watch a film every night of the week. And then on the weekends, I'd go to Blockbuster downtown (or was it uptown?) in what my suburban mind considered "the scary metropolis" because they had a better foreign film selection than our local store: more Godard films and Luis Buñuel movies. (Why do city folk dally with art more than country folk?) Other favorites were Fellini, Ingmar Bergman, Michelangelo Antonioni...

Lastly, in the lower left is a plain rubber band. The story behind this item is that it was holding together the crumbling covers of The Art Spirit.

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