Here we go again, goddamn it, tap tap tap like a blind man here at the keyboard instead of picking up the phone and being in contact with other humans, like my wonderful nephew or my very cool niece, instead of going visiting, renewing ties with living, breathing creatures.
Although here on the blank page, things can be set out and pondered in a way that is rare when we sit with others, listening, waiting, thinking we know what they are not hearing, hearing what they are, possibly, not saying.
“I thought that piece about the ticking time bomb was another screed against Dick Cheney, the personification of evil, I just couldn’t take another one….”
“Was it about Cheney?”
“No, not really, but the opening made me think it would be.”
Expectations. There is what there is and what we think there is. More precisely, what we feel there is. Our thoughts and expectations are influenced by our emotions, obviously. There is no truth-based reason for general optimism or general pessimism, these are features of general mood. Genetic, perhaps, a tendency toward the major key or the minor key. Me, I steeped myself in the blues, a five note minor key, that music is in my soul. The major key, often considered happy and optimistic, set against the sadder minor scales, always gave me an uncomfortable shudder of church.
The church, to me, in the abstract, an institution that long sanctioned the mistreatment of my kind. Bad-smelling incense, a super-wealthy institution that tolerates terrible crimes against the most helpless of its own innocents, using shameless threats about God to shame the victims into silence. And let us not mention the swords wielded and oceans of blood spilled in the name of the Prince of Peace. “What you do to the least of us you do to ME!” warned Jesus. The fighting popes had infallible reasons why Jesus didn’t really mean this, skewering the least of us, disemboweling and plundering in the name of Christendom.
“You mean, I’m sure, to exempt from this merciless portrait of Christianity hundreds of millions of good, kind, generous Christians who take the proper lesson from the life and teachings of Jesus.”
Yes, thank you, of course. I certainly do– along with a few billion fine Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists too, and everyone else who practices their religion for the right reasons. The righteous of all nations have a share of the world to come, no doubt. I’m painting with a broad, savage brush today, but it doesn’t change the larger truth. Most people in the world are decent people, most religious people are humble and good in their practice.
The hellishness of the world was set out brilliantly in Catch 22, the concept of Catch 22. You can get out of the army if you’re crazy. Plain, clear, merciful. There is one small caveat, Catch 22. If you can prove that you actually are crazy — wanting to leave the army shows that you are actually not crazy, therefore, in the army you will stay. Catch-uh 22! This merciless catch sums up the world of men as well as any single concept.
The precepts of the church are mercy, charity, peace, gentle practices, service, devotion, loving our neighbors, even our enemies, but those precepts do not always translate into following the way of Jesus. Unscrupulous religious demagogues have always carved out exceptions to Jesus’s love edict for those neighbors who hate our freedom, disagree on any significant aspect of our Christian belief (a sect of religious Christians once fought a hundred year war against another over whose love of Jesus was set out the right way), for people who insist they were born homosexual, or those who shrilly try to hold the church accountable for life-altering crimes against children, or blah blah blah.
“Oh! Taking a stand against the institutionalized hypocrisy of the worst of the Church on a Sunday! Very bold.”
No, that’s not my goal today. I give the example to show how mood colors our interpretation of the world. Everything I’ve written above is true, even if not the entire picture. Does it cancel out the comfort widows and orphans have always taken from the church? The deep Christian faith that sustained American slaves generation after generation?
“Why do you have to bring slavery into it, pantload?”
Because Christianity was indispensable to ‘the Peculiar Institution’, as you know.
“Jeez, you’re in a mood today….”
One slave ship captain had a revelation as he was steering another ship full of captured Africans across the murderous Middle Passage to lives of almost unceasing torment. According to the story he turned the boat around, released all the prisoners, got out of the human trafficking business. He wrote Amazing Grace, the hymn about God saving a wretch like him. One of the most popular hymns around, they probably sang it at Klan rallies too.
“They didn’t sing it at fucking Klan rallies! Have you no decency?! What the hell are you on about?”
“The thing you need to do is shave, shower, go outside and visit a sick person. Put on a clown nose and cheer up a dying child in a cancer ward. Go find homes for one or two of those adorable, doomed little kittens. Spread some goddamned joy, instead of ruminating on the horrors of the church. The horrors of the church, the horrors of the church… Jesus, how goddamned original….”
Catch-22– the things that would help my mood the most today, my mood prevents me from doing.
Suddenly, in my head is the Temptations great version of “I Can’t Get Next to You”, one of the greatest tracks ever spun on a piece of vinyl. I can turn the grey sky blue-uh, I can make it rain, whenever I want it to… but the things I want to do the most, I’m unable to do.
“Unable, or unwilling?”
You clearly know nothing of my work.