Ho Ho’s Role in Polytheistic Monotheism

Today while I was out doing battle with the string trimmer a brilliant thought occur to me. I was mauling the grass into submission due to the recent volume of rain here in the rain forest, I conceived of something I deemed to be of monumental importance. Previous to that, I had been lamenting the lack of HO HOs on the island of St. Croix. There I was, swinging the string trimmer back and forth – burrrrrump one direction and burrrrrrrump the other, when I caught sight of a glorious truth over by the banana trees. Inspiration struck fully formed then, as usual, it was gone. I suspected it had something to do with the 3rd or 4th centuries. But, why would I even think about stuff from way back then, and why now, I mean 2017? I had become dehydrated of course, this is a tropical island and I am retired so I required a fan and a bottle of water to restore my salinity, sanity, and dissipate my entropy. Then back to the chore at hand.

I did remember the HO HOs lament, so I had something to help reconstruct my train of thought. Wait a minute, “HOs” “polytheism” of course that’s what it’s about; how polytheism influenced Christianity, which presumably related to the TV show Mad Men, burrrrrrrump. You know, that TV show about, burrrrrrrump, the advertising business in the 1960s. Wait, this makes no sense! I doubt the women back then (third century-ish, maybe fourth), burrrrrrrump wore those pointy bras or heels, or even worked in ad agencies, burrrrrrrump, but it’s quite likely there were three (or more) wise-women hanging-out with their camels looking for a bright star in the East, burrrrrrrump, and a slew of female sheep herders hanging around the stalls awaiting the phenomena of a, burrrrrrrump, virgin birth. After all, it had happened before. A new thought occurred that brought a conclusion to this whole lawn trimming thing: If he is a shepherd wouldn’t she be a hepherd? I’m just asking. Time for another bottle of water and a nap.

 

Lets reconnoiter, Jesus is to HO HOs as polytheism is to the third century. That should make things clear. It may never be an analogy on the MCAT but it works for me. Let me explain in my own words: (That is what I have been doing so far and look where it’s gotten us!)

The original marketing plan in the early days of Christianity was great, remember: “Jesus actually exists, He’s not myth (like those other gods), he’s real”. This was the perfect marketing angle for its time. It was fresh, new, and exciting. It worked like gangbusters too, but after a century it started to lose its bang, the pizazz was gone. This is where the Mad Men ad agency would come in handy. What if Christians had those guys working for them way back then? How would a 1960’s ad firm sell that particular box-o-soap?

Well, assessing the situation, it looks like monotheistic Jews and a variety of polytheistic religions were the main competition. Christians would need to choose an ad campaign to counteract those problems. So, this is where the HO HO’s come in – “Three flavorful treats in one package!” TA-Da! Welcome to the age of the Trinity.  Reformatting that monotheistic God into three parts is shear genius. It’s monotheistic polytheism for the masses.

God the father could be the superhero, an all-powerful father figure with muscles like superman and a beard like well, Rembrandt’s version was just fine. His “real-life” blood soaked action-figure son, Jesus as second in command all Rambo-like with a sword in one hand and a massive wooden cross in the other sitting on God’s right hand. That leaves the
holy ghost – well we’ll just assume that back then they knew what a ghost actually does, or even looks like, cause I can’t imagine the purpose of having a ghost except to scare people. Maybe that’s what they mean by god-fearing Christians – they’re afraid of ghosts. Well, the new pitch includes, a progenitor fertility myth, a salvation/action hero, and a scary guy in a sheet. Put that in a HO HO wrapper and you can sell it in any gas station across the country.

So, what exactly would you be eating anyway? I mean you’ve got two men and a genderless spirit that are all supposed to be the same thing. What do you see when you open that package? Short stubby black tubes filled with a white creamy substance that squirts out its sugary goodness when you bite into it. You could try sucking on it but that usually makes a gooey mess. The point is, each snack is identical to all the other HO HOs.

Open up a package of Trinity and what do you see? Well, an old fuzzy-faced guy with big muscles holding a younger guy who’s got his hands full of big heavy chunks of timber and a sword. And then that ghost is hard to visualize. Is he like Casper? All friendly and such? I Googled it and found lots of bird pictures, some were on fire, some were dripping blood, one was a fish, and one included a bar tender pouring “holy spirits” into a shot glass, so who knows.

Back in the day, this Trinity thing was a great solution to competition from polytheism. Nowadays, the religious folks need help from the Mad Men again. They need to take the one armed Trinity (face it: God better be left handed because Jesus has both of his arms full and is sitting on God’s right hand. The ghost is a fire-y, bleeding, fishy, bird liquor). Any kid’ll tell you that ain’t a great image.

What if they devise a reformulated trinity of just three school friends? Two guys and a girl who spend part of their lives living as everyday normal kids and part of it living in the Dreamworld. Many events occur while in the Dreamworld that are parables of real life existence. What if it became very popular to read the stories and watch cinematic versions of the parables. I have been saying for some time now that art serves as a better conduit to the Dreamworld than ancient religions, frozen in time. Harry Potter with its trinity of protagonists rearranges the Dreamworld of theological entities with a consistent, valid, moral formula for existence in this world.

Harry Potter novels teach the importance of love and loyalty. It says: if you need help ask for it. It hates bureaucracies, but sees them as part of life that works as well as the people operating them. It speaks to every individual’s validity in the world and that all people have value. It speaks to the authenticity of an individual’s own thoughts and the “reality” of those thoughts. The school diagnoses and sorts into houses individuals according to personality traits that are sometimes unknown to the individual themselves. Each house has its own defining motto such as: “Do what is right” for the brave-hearted and those willing to stand up for others; “Do what is wise” for the deliberative thinkers; “Do what is nice” for the hard working and fair; and “Do what is necessary” for the prideful, cunning, ambitious. These assigned “families” help reinforce the students where they already have strength and potential.

Evil seems more prevalent in the ‘do what is necessary’ house while the others have a moral sense built into their philosophy. ‘Necessary’ overrides questions of right or wrong.  But, those who consider ‘doing the right thing’ to be necessary can also be part of that group. Just as in the final battle when good people used the techniques of evil to protect and defend themselves.

Some moral lessons of the series include:

1. Love ultimately wins. (all kinds: family, friends, society, as well as romantic)

2. Evil requires desire: “You’ve got to really want it” in order for evil ‘magic’ to work.

3. Bureaucratic structures don’t work well, but aren’t inherently good or bad. Treat them with caution. Don’t automatically trust the system, including its rules. Think for your self.

4. Strategic vulnerability can be a defense or used offensively too: face your fears.

5. Treat all people with the same respect irrespective of their status in society.

6. There is light and darkness in everyone.

7. Anything is possible.

8. There is often a cost to doing the right thing.

9. Loyalty is earned.

10.Morality requires no church or religion or ritual.

11.Expect trustworthiness in others until it is proven otherwise.

My point is that even though HO HOs would melt instantly on this island they still have relevance here. Drink plenty of fluids when cutting grass. The Dreamworld exists everywhere, and can be accessed through many portals. You should read, or re-read the Harry Potter Books. It won’t solve your problems but it puts you in the Dreamworld where you too might spy a glorious truth by the banana trees.

Illud Tempus Dreamworld

 

This post is going to be a little happier than the last few have been. We’re going to find the Dreamworld. This portly dazed and red-nosed game character from Operation will assist us in this endeavor. Let’s call him ‘Duh’ it seems appropriate, I haven’t played the game since childhood and don’t know his name. The parts of the body have changed a little too, we can ignore the arrows and whatever beer mugs and stuff cause we’re looking for something more esoteric.

I’ve used this other image in the past to illustrate the Dreamworld. It, is my own composition which  has no inherent meaning other than my attempt to express my impression of the Dreamworld. It is a rectangle simply because that happens to be a default size I use on Photoshop. It could be any size or shape as far as that is concerned.It has some recognizable elements such as the blue grid and the interior frame within the un-framed illustration. Shapes may not make sense or seem to have a real purpose. When I made it I may have used 18 layers or so. I would rather discuss the qualities of the elements within the illustration rather than creative technique. By ‘qualities’ I don’t mean anyone’s opinion about whether things are good or bad, more the component’s reason for being a part of the composition, their position within the border, color, texture, relationship, balance, etc. This wasn’t just random stuff thrown together, it has purpose and intent and a reason to be what and where it is. Sometimes, the explanation may be simply that it looked good. At other times there is a real important purpose. Did you notice every shape has a texture? Some shapes are used only once while others are repeated often. Colors are bizarre but fit together comfortably. The grid fills up a third of the page but is also barely noticeable. Does the interior frame actually ‘frame’ anything in particular? Why so? Why is it there, instead of the edge where a frame could, as usual, contain the total illustration? Could the frame have been a little bit smaller than it is? What is its message? A philosopher could spend a whole day finding meanings for just the frame alone if he had nothing else to do. And was really bored.

I would call it a better piece of art than Duh, but the purpose is different, and I made it;) Duh is meant to be whimsical and funny, but not very serious piece of graphic illustration; it is well crafted for that purpose. Dreamworld has richness and depth and sophistication. It has humor and sadness and seriousness and plenty of wry whimsy. Duh makes the viewer ask: “Why is there a hammer in his leg?” and other obvious game-like stuff while Dreamworld poses more esoteric questions. The meaning/purpose of Duh is readily obvious. The Dreamworld illustration is never clear, nor are the questions it brings up answered. You, as the observer of each piece, gets to choose what kind of time and thought you give to each observation. I’m going to ask you to give some thought to Dreamworld because I have the expectation that it will illustrate its name. At the same time we will look at our ‘everyman’–  Duh, to discover where inside each person the Dreamworld exists.

In the process of creating Dreamworld I had the goal: “to express my impression of the Dreamworld.” I made thousands of choices and used hours of intense concentration to make the picture. I also drove to work, taught classes, advised students, designed, rehearsed, and opened plays, shoveled alpaca poo, put feed out for the chickens, fish and hay for the alpacas, mowed the grass, read books and watched TV. All of those things contributed to the end result. See the correlation?

“to express my impression of the Dreamworld” means I had an idea of the Dreamworld which came originally from an article I read in the early 1980s, Illud Tempus, a latin phrase meaning roughly ‘now and always.’ It suggests an atemporal dream or dreamlike state where past, present, and future coincide. In this Illud Tempus, boundaries, time, and consciousness are freed from normal constraints and possibilities abound. It is a place, of sorts, where god lives. It is also where our fears, worries, and concerns live too. It frequently reveals itself to those who have made the effort to understand it. All people experience the dream world in their own personal way, and find it with their own solitary journey. It plays a part in every person’s daily choices and it is influenced by the experiences of life: a book, a movie, a religious experience, tripping on the sidewalk, or any other life experience.

So, a person who spends time attempting to understand the Dreamworld has many paths open to them. Some are well-worn highways where perceptions of its many ephemeral components are codified and taught to others of a particular group or religion. There are often shaman, learned individuals of a particular religion, who teach and guide folks through its labyrinth path to the dreamworld.

But what about Duh? The dreamworld exists for him and is part of him. If we wanted to give Duh another hidy-hole like the beer mug and the hammer where would we place it on Duh’s body? Without a shape or depth or time or particular sound it will be hard to figure out the appropriate placement. Is there any form of logic that could answer this question? I mean the heart seems logical, but the brain does too. The stomach and other organs that produce chemicals and proteans necessary for life are needed as are the sensory parts of your feet and legs to keep you standing upright. The whole body is where the dreamworld lives.

It  would be wonderful if we could understand the dreamworld the way we understand our feet and legs and can control them with precision. Our dreamworlds are all of Duh – his whole body and beyond. It includes the smell of the bakery, the view of the lake, the feel of the PJ’s and the emotional states of those nearby. It is the sum and total of each moment of your life. Yet, we can’t grasp any more than a tiny part of it. Most of us don’t conceive of it at all; we call it God and rely on the shaman and the secrets, revelations, scriptures paths of those who have sought to understand it before. As humans we give it familiar trappings to pretend we understand but they are only metaphor. Their influence and continuity give them a sense of false credibility.

All Duh has to do is look inside himself and make an effort to understand by asking a question. When you ask the Illud Tempus for answers you communicate with the divine within. Keep asking questions and have a conversation. You will have done all that is necessary; no cathedrals, symbols, statues, rituals or prayers are required. No holy book can contain it. The dreamworld is the experience of being you.

You don’t need an inverted pyramid to give credence to the experience of being you. If you like and wish to use a pyramid’s features it will also become the experience of being you. It may take you on a long journey back to where you started. If that has value to you or not it is now the experience of being you. Many people are drawn to the inverted pyramid, they find the prepared, organized, well-trod path comforting. I don’t, I left my inverted pyramid for being gay and I am a better person for the experience of being me.

You will see many versions and variations of the pyramid and they all are designed to include some and exclude others on the journey to find themselves – the experience of being you. Passions will be raised and lowered by these attempts. The end result is the experience of being you. The search for god leads right back to the experience of being you. Do you prefer the long arduous journey of organized religion or simply looking  inside yourself? Either choice ends up at the same place: your Dreamworld.

Trump v. Serendipity

Let’s remove the crudeness of reality by taking the topic of: art as a spark plug for finding moral solutions, and give it some application in the real world, Trump’s world. I have been preaching the benefits of art as a catalyst toward finding solutions to moral dilemmas. The actual process may seem a little non-specific (or downright goofy) since we are relying upon serendipity to send us in the right direction.

Trump’s behaviors and policies are immoral. People are being harmed. The language is being abused with alternate facts, of all things. Trust is a fading concept. Trump’s malevolence is, obviously, much more serious than what an individual painting or song might teach us. Art itself doesn’t solve anything; its success rate on that score is about the same as prayer. Communing with thought-provoking ideas is what directs you to a solution. Engaging with art is a conversation with universal ideas. Art is not limited to your own experiences as prayer is, it encompasses the whole world of ideas.

You could seek out specific artworks to solve a specific problem I suppose. Go see Death of A Salesman if you are having troubles relating to your father’s bad choices. Read From The Mississippi Delta if you are a smart young black woman struggling to become educated in an environment of prejudice and poverty. Go see Angels in America to reflect upon your own behaviors back in the late 1980’s.  Go see the new King Kong movie if you are in the mood. It does not matter much whether the story shares an identical problem with yours or not. Although, look at all the people flocking to re-read George Orwell’s 1984 because of Donald Trump.1984

Re-reading 1984 or Animal Farm could be a wise thing to do for any number of reasons. It is part of our shared history. It provides parallels to the current situation. It is fiction, yet speaks of real-world truths. It helps us remember the emotions of people in our circumstance which provides tremendous value. One of the edifying benefits of art is emotional intelligence. If all we needed was information – Wikipedia would provide that with more efficiency. True facts require interpretation; alternate facts already are propaganda. Orwell’s novels provide an interpretation we seek to understand.

Another profitable choice is going to an art museum or gallery (or skim through an art history book). Walk around, view the pictures on walls and sculptures on plinths. Allow the environment to provide a space of inspirational possibilities. Creativity is contagious, it makes the thoughts in our minds race to a solution. The ‘use’ of another artist’s visual products to design scenery for theatre is similar to a sound designer’s use of music. The creative products of others are re-purposed to assist in storytelling. A certain era can be quickly re-established with music and amplified with fashion and architecture. The evocation of emotions can be accomplished in the same way. So can a solution to a moral dilemma.

st matthewArt is a path to the Dreamworld. The Dreamworld is a resident of our hearts and minds. A glance at Caravaggio’s “The Calling of St. Mathew” is like a mirror reflecting our own conscience. We don’t even need to be Christian to gain the benefit. Inside that glance may be the solution we have been searching for. Art reveals clarity. Why that painting? Why that moment in time? Why that song in our earbuds? Does the subject of this painting, a deity picking an apostle, have any bearing on our personal revelation? Possibly not, the subject of the painting is not necessarily relevant to the creative spark – the atmosphere of proximity to art. Art is, once again, the catalyst to inspiration. Solutions are revealed to your mind when opportunity is ripe. Art makes opportunity ripe.

So, our moral dilemma involves discovering a way to deal with the moral disaster that is Trump and his republican cohorts. Normally, this would be just a political issue but he is damaging the lives of too many people in our country and elsewhere to pretend there is no moral problem. His unstable behavior along side the nuclear buttons makes this a moral problem. Do we, as regular citizens, have an obligation to do something? Of course we do – the obligation of citizenship.

So, how will serendipity best Trump? Well, it’s not like we are going to sit around waiting for chance to throw a better fate at us. Nor are we all going to march out to the local Museum of Art with a mass expectation of grand revelationsdreamworld. Art doesn’t work like a church where the sanctuary fills with people seeking comfort from life’s hard knocks. Church is a place to commune with the Dreamworld filtered through an intercessional deity. The Dreamworld exists inside you so art helps you see yourself directly. It is the catalyst, the prime mover of change, but not change itself. You change because art, the path to yourself, reveals your Dreamworld. Religion gives you a super-natural artifice, a fantasy of gods and angels, a detour along the path to your internal Dreamworld that steals focus and delays finding the solution within. It strains your integrity through a sieve of dogma. It takes credit for what is already yours.

Through art, our mind is amassing a series of value decisions. Most are insubstantial on their own, but the cumulative results of all of them within the context of the main question are gradually putting pieces of the puzzle together. One choice becomes associated with another in a thoughtful order. Connections are being made. The part of our brain that is organizing all this is a different operating system than the conscious brain. We don’t realize this process is going on until we choose to revisit the question. Our conscious brain sees all those new connections made while it was busy cooking dinner or what ever, resulting in a “realization” or “idea” or “solution”.

If you are hoping for a solution to the Trump problem you are going to have to wrestle with art for yourself. I don’t know the answer. For now, my solution is writing this blog. A blog that is being read by perhaps 150 people. I don’t seem to be a mass market type of blogger. My blog is a broom; one person with a broom might inspire other people with rakes or vacuum cleaners, shovels or backhoes to start cleaning too.