Jesus Camp, the Harbinger

I re-watched the 2006 documentary, Jesus Camp the other day. It predicted Trump; not the who of Donald Trump, but the what of an evangelical-favored president. The fact that he is irreligious has no relevance to them. They indoctrinated their children into being voters for a Trump-like leader and it worked. They got what they asked for, emotionalism, nationalism and speaking/texting-in-tongues nonsense.

By the way, this is not what I meant by negative capability, which respects and honors reason and logic in collaborative harmony. This is intentional random illogic and unreasonable faith in anti-intellectualism with a nod to Evangelical Christian religiosity. The “Kids On Fire” summer campers of the film were old enough to vote in this past election. Like the students from any madrassa, they presumably did what they were taught to do.

I was saddened by this film when I first saw it ’07. But I’d regularly been saddened by the Anita Bryants and Jerry Falwells and Tammy Faye Bakers of the world since the 1970s. My expectation for the Evangelical’s dream candidate was more along the super intelligent con-man type, like the balloonish Ted Cruz. Instead we got the perfect blend of a capitalist oligarch salesman/conman who is the male version of Tammy Faye in terms of hair at least, and he organically speaks in tongues. He is neither the intellect nor the pious spiritualist; that born-again glaze in his eyes, as the Evangelicals perceive it, is just plain crazy to the rest of the world. He is more oligarch than evangelical and the religious crowd is happy with what they have got. This represents the Christian backlash that’s been predicted for years. Oddly, I expected to have more respect for it when it arrived.

Their prayers have been answered. By the time he is done the Christian version of Sharia law will give these wackos authority over an individual’s sexual, gender, and reproductive life. The non-productive capitalist theology/ buffoonery of a Trump and the oppressive dominionist theology of the evangelicals have given the Republican oligarchs two tigers to hold by the tail. Balancing oligarchy with theology was hard enough but Trump presents a wild-card they didn’t expect. The pie has to be gerrymandered so that all three major players get the piece they want.

From the distant devastation of my twice hurricane-struck island I am glad to be here, not there. With my brief internet connections, I feel like I am glimpsing an episode of the 1960s TV show Batman; an episode where all the colorful criminals, the jokers, penguins and cat persons have taken over the city while each of them makes up their own set of nonsensical rules and chaos prevails. Our democracy is now a failed camp farce. Will a bat-costumed billionaire save the day?

The teacher has left this USA classroom alone for far too long. Where is the adult? Or are we just waiting for Godot?

Perfect Love

The fairytale theme of every wedding is – perfect love. It is a good story that has little to do with reality: this combination of imperfect humans will somehow achieve perfection. Expecting perfection is a fiction. It doesn’t exist in reality.  But, what a great idea; it’s like adding two odd numbers together and making an even number, as if even numbers are the best numbers and odd numbers are, well, no offense, odd.

Can you imagine how difficult it would be for a mathematician to do their job if numbers were offended by being called odd, or an angle called obtuse? They’d all be grouching about the world being against them for being odd, or wide angle abuse or whatever. Fortunately, numbers are perfect; names aside, of course.

If humans were perfect they would be as boring as numbers. I mean really, what is 36 going to add to the conversation outside of 36 – nothing! A number is certain. They know their past and their future and to expect them to surprise you with something other than 36 gets a big red X on the test.

There is no perfect love, or lover, or spouse because we are not numbers. Our future is uncertain, our past may be hidden, our minds can change and the only sure thing is uncertainties, mysteries, and doubts. That is the world we live in.

Survival here means acquiring the skill-set known as negative capabilities. This is where we move forward in life knowing it to be an ever-changing mystery. This requires one to hold many conflicting thoughts in their head, yet remain comfortable with the inherent contradiction. Humans naturally seek order and harmony, they tease reason out of mystery. We study the processes of nature with analytical reasoning and objective measurement in hopes that knowledge will bring us peace and progress.

When we seek facts and truth and certainty in a world that isn’t made for certitude we treat reason and logic as holy. But, negative capabilities are what allow us to use the mechanisms of reason and logic within the mysteriousness of our circumstance. All three must be considered foundational mechanisms for progress.

Religion tries to define and control our understanding of the mystery, yet they become certain of their fantasies. They make rules that solidify mystery into fact rather than letting it remain mysterious. That impetus to certify the “truth” of a moment in time, freezes them out of the ability to be present with negative capability as it exists at every new moment. The whole point is that the mystery is in eternal flux. Jesus may have been the savior of his time, but within an instant of time’s forward progress he stopped being that, no matter how many cathedrals continue to be built to celebrate that long-gone moment.

The ability to go with the flow, so to speak, illuminates the zeitgeist of the moment. Musicians and artists get this. Scientists, philosophers and other thoughtful folks ought to pay attention to it too. I make the case regularly that art does a better job of what religion presumes to do than religion does, without all the coercion and hoopla. For example, I wore out several copies of “Tommy” by the Who in my early days as a theatrical designer, listening to it while drawing and conceiving the scenery for other shows. Playing the Doors’ music helps with cleaning the house for some reason. Why? It’s a mystery. Become one with the Pin-ball Wizard and creativity flows through you into a set design for Talley’s Folly. The Lizard King has secret knowledge to help vacuum dust motes. Let It Be – it is a mystery!

Illusion Will Be My Epitaph

The title is a bastardization of a lyric from a King Crimson song which said, “Confusion will be my epitaph,” which is more or less true for anyone.  Confusion is an uncontrolled state of being, Illusion is a highly controlled state of being. Illusion is something used by a trickster, a magician, a stage performer.

Yes, I have tricks in my pocket, I have things up my sleeve. But I am the opposite of a stage magician. He gives you illusion that has the appearance of truth. I give you truth in the pleasant disguise of illusion.” ~ Tennessee Williams in The Glass Menagerie

Illusion comes in many forms with many purposes. Most of my early training in illusion came from going to church as a child. Conformity to the Presbyterian dress code for Sunday attire is the first lesson: “ You want to look like all the other children, don’t you?” Facade management is the essential component of being part of their group. Maintain the illusion and you fit in just fine. Don’t color outside the big thick black lines of the Presbyterian coloring book and you will make the picture they want you to make. The standards are their’s, your job is to follow them.

Illusion was my business as a theatrical designer and producer. I know how illusion works to a far greater extent than that basic Sunday School level. The art and craft of storytelling is a ‘pleasant disguise,’ while the conformity of theological illusion is a manipulation. In other words, Tennessee Williams is illustrating the truth for you to use as you see fit, while Presbyterians proclaim their truth and threaten you with hell if you color outside their lines.  People see merit in either approach: some prefer to deliberate and then make their own choices, while others prefer to follow guidelines of some sort. To a degree, the choice of one over the other is a matter of the  intellectual rigor you wish to contribute to the effort of living life.

In one sense it is the value you give to authority, ideology, and loyalty. What is my function? Where is my place within the group? If you give high value to these concepts your conception of the individual is less personal, an individual is but one of many that has an obligatory duty; a cog in the machine of humanity, a spoke on the wheel, one of many interchangeable parts. The machine of society works best when the hierarchy of authority is clear, when all parts are focused on the same goal, and when each part is committed to the goal. The machine is what matters most, but it is the leader who sets the goals.  Even though ironies abound, this describes the people who vote for Donald Trump, his rhetoric encourages authoritarian homogeneity. He gives you illusion that has the appearance of truth, but isn’t.

In contrast, liberal freethinkers put the individual first, not the machine. Fairness and self-determination are its defining values. This group constantly redesigns the machine, with the objective to make it better for each individual. Authority comes from the whole group, not one individual.  The purpose of their machine is to care for the needs of the individuals within the group. Who am I as an individual? How can I, the individual, serve the needs of the group? Free thought gives you truth in both reality and in the pleasant disguise of illusion and metaphor.

It doesn’t matter how the truth gets told as long as it is the truth that is being told. If it isn’t the truth then we must reveal the illusion for what it is, a lie. The rapid-fire deceit upon deceit of the Trump administration is part of his bag of magic tricks; it confuses the audience into enjoying the blather rather than knowing truth. The key Trump illusion is his intent to confuse truth into irrelevancy. This leaves him free to drive his authoritarian machine toward whatever destination serves him best. We will watch him do it even as our complaints become part of the hubbub of distraction. He is the magician who converts all truth into his illusion. King Crimson got it right, “Confusion will be our democracy’s epitaph.”

What a piece of work

What a piece of work is man

How noble in reason

how infinite in faculties

in apprehension how like a swan

the beauty of the world

the paragon of animals

I have of late but wherefore I know not lost all my mirth

This goodly frame the earth seems to me a sterile promontory

this majestical roof the air look you

this brave o’re hanging firmament

threaded with golden fire

why it appears to me no other thing to me than a foul

and pestilent congregation of vapors

Now, before anyone complains, remember that I’ve just experienced 2 hurricanes and a tropical depression with 10” of rain in four hours, power has been out for almost six weeks and there is seldom an internet connection to be found. I’ve had to rely on memory to recreate this section of Hamlet [that may actually be the adaptation used in the rock musical, Hair or just plain wrong]. I can’t look it up, so I have to go from memory.

Anyway, the tropical rain forest I live in is turning green again. The fruit trees are lying horizontally across the property, trying to reach for the heavens again with remaining branches and the grass is tall as ever. The problem is that I, as a paragon of animals, seek order. My yard is supposed to be grass that can be cut with a lawnmower, and my trees should remain vertical. The fact they are content to lay there across the yard with their branches either happily sprouting leaves or dead and broken in the path of the mower disrupts my desired order. If I don’t do something about this soon, the forest will take back the yard. So, I can’t really say I know not wherefore I have lost my mirth, it greets me at the front door every morning.

I may have had infinite faculties when I was younger, but I’m older and health issues forced my early retirement. I can only work in tropical heat for twenty minute stretches with forty minutes of rest before trying again. I have no chain saw. If I rise at first light, I get more done until that oppressive golden fire bravely hangs itself in the firmament.

Things across the island seem like a foul and pestilent congregation of vapors, yet I am very lucky, I still have a roof and a house and cars and, my husband and I have our health. The U.S. Virgin Islands are trying to be noble in reason while we see our neighbor, Puerto Rico, get all of the attention. We are citizens of the United States and even though we are tiny, in contrast, we are a separate US territory and require the same aid. This isn’t a competition, but when our own President mistakes our Governor for president of some foreign country we have to stand up and say his apprehension is like a swan – a bit bird-brained. We deserve appropriate treatment.

A rational argument for the irrational

I have had to make a decision recently that is not the rational choice. Since I spend a fair amount of time advocating for rationality I was startled to see myself make this choice. This isn’t something minor like eating ice cream when I shouldn’t (a choice I often make); it is a significant financial choice.  I won’t describe the choice; you can’t judge me without the details. But, I confess this choice is pure emotion. I won’t lose any money because of it, just the annoyance of having to put more effort into the situation than I would like. So, I’m wondering if my irrational choice is a rational choice to make.

Rational means: based on, or in accordance with reason or logic, so my decision – based upon emotion, will become rational if there exists a logical reason to be irrational. I am free to construct an argument that justifies the irrational as being reasonable. This is the obvious foundation of religion: virgin births and once-dead, now-living 2017 year-old deities. These fantasies have no place in the world of rationality, yet the rational argument can be made that humanity requires some degree of fantasy in order to function rationally. Humans are like steam cookers that need to whistle away excess steam to efficiently accomplish the rational job of cooking. Excess steam is both the fantasy and the irrationality that is required to cook the meal but both are explosively harmful unless expelled in a moderate and controlled fashion.

Irrationality is a tool. It is a measuring device with no standard incremental values. Each fantasy creates its own standards and units of measure. Star Trek can fly through space at warp speed. The father in a Mormon family gets his own planet when he dies, but travel between planets belonging to dead Mormons probably isn’t at warp speed, if they even bother to visit one another that is. Dionysus dies each fall and is re-born each spring; his unit of measure is seasonal, which gives it a time basis in observable reality. The Ho Ho of theology, Christianity, with its three-gods-in-one trinity has too many variants to use any particular measuring stick although sex seems to be a particular obsession.

Sex as a measuring stick brings up all sorts of imagery that befuddles the pious, but putting all  that prudishness aside and focusing on just the variety of measuring sticks used by each entity in society, it becomes clear that there is no standard common to all. Sex is the wrong tool to use to assess moral standards; there is no commonality of measurement between groups. The facade of piety is far different from the reality of behavior making most established codes invalid unto themselves much less in harmony with others.

We must now be distracted by the escaping steam of the Nashville Report, an Evangelical wet dream of sexual passions about LGBTQ folks. They don’t know us and yet they have fantasies about us and hire lawyers to make fancy legalistic rules to condemn us and that makes them happy, really happy, too happy to be rational. They get off imagining how we get off. They rebreathe the voluminous eruptions of steam escaping their noses and it’s clouding their vision. They claim themselves to be, but obviously can’t see, straight.

People who separate steam from reality are our allies.

The taste for mystery, magic, wonder and supernatural imagination is built-in to the mechanics of how our brain works. We can’t eliminate fantasy from thought, it is an integral part of creativity. Interest in the supernatural is as much a part of the human condition as is love. Belief in fantasy as truth, not metaphor, is the crux of the problem. In today’s world we’d do a paternity test to discover the parentage of Jesus, but some humans would rather enjoy, and many seem to require, the emotional zing of belief in impossibilities. When these fantasies build an infrastructure to promote, enhance and solidify their authenticity it is the beginning of a cult which morphs into a formal established religion.

A religion that lives within the realm of a reasonable society often has value and contributes to the betterment of that society. However, when they exceed the boundaries of their place in society they become dangerous. Evangelicals haven’t just crossed the line, they have launched an attack with the Nashville Report; they remove themselves from common decency. They ask to be ostracized from the civil community of humanity.

I will civilly accept your need to believe in your chosen fantasy if you civilly accept my need to love the persons I love. The Law of Reciprocity – The Golden Rule – is how we get along.

Hurricanes

Hi there, I’m somewhat back again. St. Croix got a big bruise from Irma and a knock-out from Maria.  I now know what it is to try and sleep while the eye-wall of a Category 5 hurricane moves directly overhead.  Anyway, we survived, our dogs and house and car and truck are a bit dented, but we are very lucky to still have them. All of our fruit trees are gone: 3 kinds of mangos, several varieties of bananas, white plumb, grapefruit, cashew, nonie, carambola (star fruit), pomegranate, and a bread-fruit like tree we could never identify. Most of the coconut palm trees are gone which is fine by me, they are hard to maintain, but the royal palms will probably survive. The island is a mess but getting better every day.

I found this internet hot spot near a medical clinic so this is the first time I could post anything. We run a gas generator long enough to keep the fridge up and running and sometimes watch a DVD. It will be months before we have power or regular internet. ATT is available but often slow which is not surprising given that someone keeps stealing the generator at their tower. The island has a goal of being ready for cruise ships again by Thanksgiving.

Path to Submission

I keep getting rejection emails from restricted Country Clubs that I have never even tried to join. Why do they always look like churches? I wish they’d take me off their lists.

Christian Scripture teaches that there is but one God who alone is Creator and Lord of all. To him alone, every person owes glad- hearted [sic] thanksgiving, heart-felt praise, and total allegiance. This is the path not only of glorifying God, but of knowing ourselves.

This is from the Nashville Statement, signed by Evangelical people I never heard of except for Dobson somebody. If he’s who I think he is, he’s one sick puppy. I don’t want to be part of an exclusive club so proud of its restrictive qualities that I’m offended by the first paragraph of its advertising. They go not the way to persuade; they go out of their way to offend. They are just so mean and off-putting.

I only needed to skim the new rules to understand it, I’ve seen so many like it before. Nailing this manifesto to the doorway in Martin Luther’s day was a bold and daring thing to do, now it’s simply insulting. “Looky here, I got more ways to exclude normal people from our religion, Yeah!  It’s full of that sex stuff we so love to talk about and it’s God’s word all twisted around by lawyers to deal with the ’T’ part of LGBT, which is about time ‘cause it’s all so confusing!” These guys get so worked up over problems they have never had, it is really quite sad.

I know myself a little bit more each day. Why would I need a lawyer to make rules about knowing myself? Glorifying a leader and promising total allegiance is what Trump asked for in his inaugural speech. It’s fascism. If you do it, you may know their rules, but never yourself; it is the path to submission not personal growth.

Sorry for no posts recently, I’ve been on vacation.

 

The Carousel is Burning

Every time I type the word ‘bureaucracy,’ the spell-checker has to fix it. I don’t like the word or the thing itself. However, bureaucracies are necessary for the efficient management of large numbers of people; they are necessary in government and the government is only as good as the people running the bureaucracy. So, the distressing part of the article I mentioned yesterday (which is now missing from this site): Why The Scariest Nuclear Threat May Be Coming From Inside The White House by Michael Lewis at Vanity Fair, is the giant gap in the number and quality of employees left in the Dept. of Energy.

Trump, with his cartoon sycophant sidekick, Rick Perry, is going about the destruction of this department the wrong way. It needs to be dismantled piece by piece in a structured and cautious manner. If some parts need to be saved or protected or are dangerous then you can’t just blow the place up or let it rot away. A plan, based upon understanding of the bureaucratic structure and how it evolved into being will be the guide for how to go about dismantling it. So, whether the intent is to keep it going or to dismantle it, the person doing this must FIRST understand it.

The Education Department is being destroyed much more efficiently due to the theologically driven Betsy Devos. She may not understand what education is in the real world but she is confident of what she wants it to look like in the future. There is a plan and she seems to be methodical in her pursuit of that goal from what is being reported. I hate where she is taking her department, but she is doing a better job of transforming the place than Rick Perry is with his ignorance-based technique. Any damage she does will only harm this generation of students with little permanent damage (except for the children which is bad enough). Perry, the stock Comedia clown that he is, has the fate of the planet in his hands, with no plan nor comprehension of his responsibilities.

Long before I started blogging I predicted that the US would fail in the same manner as the Soviet Union. I attributed the USSR failure to its overwhelming bureaucracy that made tractors more valuable as scrap metal than functional machinery. I predicted that our fall would take longer, but that our bureaucracies are so overwhelmed and cumbersome that they needed some trimming down.

The choice to perform the task of destruction is based upon ideology. The task of destroying a bureaucracy (ideology aside), can be done with callous disregard of its purpose or with respect for its intent. Bureaucracies of all stripes have a natural tendency to feed on themselves and grow new appendages and form knots of intricacies around themselves. Governments have massive knots of intricacies tying one entity to another. A significant disruption in one can have unforeseen ramifications throughout the system. The haphazard circumstance of the Department of Energy is our equivalent to the fall of the USSR. The potential for total system collapse is upon us and we’ve got Sapino the clown running the thing!

So, I have major disagreements with the choice to destroy governmental bureaucracy rather than fixing it, but those objections become irrelevant when the process of destruction has so little regard for the safety of the world. Rick Perry obviously never read Spiderman, “With great power comes great responsibility”. Use it Rick, Use it. Become Responsible!

Look, We can fight about ideology another day if we survive. Go ahead, destroy the Department of Energy. Just do it responsibly, with integrity, use common sense. Hire the experts necessary to dismantle the bombs and the grid and the materials that will kill us, safely. There is way too much at stake to play silly clown-games with this stuff.

Send in the clowns: Scaramucci

When I saw the addition of Anthony Scaramucci to the cast of characters already playing at the White House I was dumfounded. This guy is his name. He is a stock character from the history of performing arts going back to the 16th century. He is the personification of his name!

Trump is truly running a Reality TV Show in the White House, but the most recent addition to his cast is an archetypical character with a long history. Commedia dell’arte in Italy and France was a popular performing art style with companies that traveled from city to city performing stock stories using stock characters each having a stock of “bits” associated with their character known as “lazzi”. We still use these characters today such as “Harlequin” and “Pantalone,” but Scaramouche is the same name you hear in Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen. It is still a familiar character ‘type.’

The stock character from Commedia dell’arte with the name Scaramouche (with guitar above) is known for certain traits. Scaramuccia, or Scaramouch are other spellings of the character’s name which means “little skirmisher.” His character evolved out of Commedia’s ‘Braggart Soldier’ character known as “Capitano” and is a stock ‘clown’ character as well as a ‘masked henchman’ and sometimes a ‘servant.’ He is portrayed as sly, adroit, supple, and conceited. This character migrated over time from Comedia into the Punch and Judy puppet shows. Punch would regularly punch Scaramouche’s pet dog so the dog puppet’s head could come springing off his body.

The purpose of the “fool” or “clown” character archetype in storytelling has evolved out of older Commedia traditions into a character who provides a foil for the actions or comments of the protagonist or other powerful characters in the story. The king has his jester who is vulnerable to abuse but often provides depth and understanding due to his presumed inferior position. The Shakespearian character ‘Bottom’ from A Midsummer Night’s Dream is even named for his lowly status. The clown called Feste in Twelfth Night is one of my favorites. He sings this mockingly somber ode to encourage sexual promiscuity amongst the youth:

What is love? ’tis not hereafter;

Present mirth hath present laughter;

What’s to come is still unsure:

In delay there lies no plenty;

Then come kiss me, sweet and twenty,

Youth’s a stuff will not endure.

The drunken companions he sings to respond:

SIR ANDREW

A mellifluous voice, as I am true knight.

SIR TOBY BELCH

A contagious breath.

SIR ANDREW

Very sweet and contagious, i’ faith.

What is a contagious breath? It is meant to be funny because the fool’s song is a woeful tune with lyrics ignored by the characters listening to the song. The meaning is masked by the style of delivery, but the audience gets it. Who is the real fool here?

Shakespeare made use of historical character types and improved their use in storytelling, they may still seem to be the stock ‘type’ at first but he makes them deeper and more fully realized. This evolutionary advancement of character in storytelling continues to this day. Unfortunately, Trump is playing to the Commedia-Style Reality TV audience who want simple, easy to understand, stock types without subtlety. Anthony Scaramucci is the contemporary blunt character modeled upon his sly, conceited, historical character’s theatrical name. 

By casting his office with ‘types’ instead of professionals Trump shows us a warped agenda. He was upset that Reince Priebus didn’t fight back. He wants a show, man, send in the clowns! Make them laugh, make them gasp, but be sure to distract. The meaning is supposed to be masked by the style of delivery, and the audience is not supposed to get it this time. ‘Dis ain’t no Shakspeer yous know.’

I question the intelligence behind the deception. Sure, the show is being ingeniously cast, toward what end we aren’t told. Stock shtick gets tiresome quickly and it certainly is not the way to lead a country. The novelty of a foul-mouthed clown is short lived; expect it to get real ugly real soon.