Archive for September, 2011
I bow down your precious icon, deity of self-suppression
This effigy of flesh, corporeal christi, nailed
In submission to this false idol, seeking deliverance
From this spiritual hierarchy, downward spiraling, a corrupt throne
Of repression and guilt
Our will be done
Thy kingdom burn
On my knees, before this tormented flesh, in irreverence
In communion with this parasitic host of virtuous divinity
This imperious creed bears testament to the failures of our morality
Righteous durance is our cross we bear in stations
In stations of the lost
Our will be done
Thy kingdom burn – thy kingdom burn
Our will be done
From your knees arise
By your own hand, your god you scribe
The earth shall inherit the meek
Your god is dead
Bound down, in God we’re trussed, foul stature
Icons embodied in flesh, we nail
In servitude to deities fashioned in our self image
Shadows of eternal strife cast by those who serve
Serve a crown of pawns
If up until this point you weren’t sure how the band Carcass feels about religion, Embodiment states it completely and in no uncertain terms. The song is an outright renunciation of organized religion, Christianity in particular. The lyrics bubble with hatred and scorn for the self-annihilating principles that they believe mark the Christian outlook. I don’t share the disdain that the band feels for Christianity, but the force of the language used in their argument is highly compelling.
The song’s central argument is that Christianity is an advanced form of slavery. They make the case by dismissing the existence of any fathomable God and assuming that the goals of religion are to allow those who are in power to continue an unfettered hegemony over the practice of free will. Where some people see peace and comfort, Carcass perceives control and subjugation. Certainly, some of their argument is legitimate. There are plenty of historical examples of the misuse of religion to advance the selfish ends of a tyrannical elite. However, the song fails to address much of the comfort and solace that it has brought people for over 2000 years. Further, it would be facile minded to simply assume that the self-abnegation at the core of Christian thought is completely a bad thing. The giving up of one’s desires to benefit the community is on many occasions, inside or outside of a religious context, beneficial towards the human race as a whole.
In spite of the problems the argument presents, the language with which the case is made is striking. The core belief in the song is contained in the beautifully efficient and devastating pun “In God we’re trussed”. By taking an expression found on American money and perverting its message, Carcass is able to make several critical points. First, the use of a religious phrase in an economic context effectively links the agenda of today’s Christianity with the pursuit of financial gain. Then, they take the phrase and change trust (an act of faith) into trussed (to be tightly bound or in this case completely controlled). Essentially, they argue here that while you may choose to subvert your needs for the Church it will not extend you the same courtesy and, worse, it will take your belief and use it to hoodwink you into giving up your possessions and your liberty. In their eyes, it is the greatest hustle in human history.
What is truly lost for believers is contained in the heart-wrenching expression “the earth shall inherit the meek.” The original phrase “the meek shall inherit the earth” is an appeal to the Job-like masses that give so tirelessly but ask for little in return. They suffer in silence, but at the end of the day, they will be rewarded…or so the story goes. The good and humble people will come to control the earth and the wicked will be cast from it. The subversion of this expression contains allows for a very troubling message to be presented. If you suffer in silence and do the right thing your reward will be the grave. Death awaits us all and those who are pious and righteous are rewarded with the same eternal darkness that await those who pillage the world blind. There are no rewards in this life or any other for those who follow the words contained in the Bible. The meek will be buried right alongside those who engage in a Dionysian life of personal excess and unabated greed. The ground cannot tell the two apart.
If this argument is legitimate, it presents us with chilling questions about how we should live our lives that goes beyond religion. If there are truly no consequences for our actions, why not do whatever we want? Those with the most material, at the end of the day, are those who have benefitted most from a purely material world. If all that is promised to us for a good life is an eventual death, what is the motivation in living a justly?
I believe that the truth or untruth of God’s existence need not bear on whether someone acts morally. If every word of the Bible is true and God’s existence is exactly as portrayed in Christianity, we should act with as much kindness, patience and love to those around us as we are capable. If every word of the Bible is false and Christianity is an unholy scam perpetrated by on the masses by ruthless power mongers, we should act with as much kindness, patience and love to those around us as we are capable. The reward of living a just life is simply getting to live a just life. That’s all. The earth may inherit the meek, but at least the meek can lessen the suffering of those around them. Nothing else is promised and nothing else is certain. TS Eliot eloquently summarizes this principle in his poem “Choruses From The Rock”…..
All men are ready to invest their money
But most expect dividends
I say to you: Make perfect your will.
I say: take no thought of the harvest,
But only of proper sowing
It is our station to care for one another to the best of our abilities regardless what the truth of the universe is. To love without condition is the greatest gift we could bestow on our world no matter what the terms of our existence are. Any philosophy that brings us closer to that ability, be it religious or atheistic, is worthy of our respect and consideration.
Ending The Suffering In Style: Mets Promotions That Might Actually Get People To Citi Field in September
Sandy Alderson and I have been in a regular Friday night card game for the past three years. It’s a pretty low stakes game, but things got a bit out of hand last week. Sandy, or Santino as he likes to be called, went all in on a straight flush that never materialized. Long story short, Santino owes me 20 large. I know for a fact that he owes some very dangerous guys some serious coin, including an ungodly amount to a guy out in Staten Island that they call Joey The Lamppost. Anyway, I told Santino that if he lets me run the promotion side for the Mets for the last 6 games of the year, a god awfully unbearable home stand against two deeply disinterested teams, that I’d forgive what he owes me and talk to a few friends about allowing him to arrange a payment schedule that doesn’t involve forfeiting his kidneys. Basically, I get to create whatever promotions I want. I personally think this will be a good thing, because only a diehard baseball fans and flashers will be out for most of the games. These promotions might just get a few folks out to say farewell to another season of mind-numbingly awful baseball.
Friday Night vs. The Phillies
(Night of The Old Timers)
Most baseball teams have an old timers day, so this is not a new idea. However, few teams have actually ever had their old timers team play the actual game. The Phillies will have already clinched the division and will be resting everyone who is even marginally relevant to the team’s success. Why not have some fun? What could be more enjoyable than watching 66-year-old Eddie Kranepool trying to leg out an infield grounder or 67-year-old Ron Swoboda trying to hit a Brad Lidge slider? Imagine Cleon Jones trying to make a sliding catch and having to be revived by paramedics. Could 74 year old Choo-Choo Coleman throw out fleet-footed Catcher Brian Schneider as he was stealing 3rd base? Who knows? Who cares? They are 26 games out of first place for God sakes.
Saturday Afternoon vs. The Phillies
(Come, Come To The Sabbath Saturday)
Anyone who has spent more than 5 seconds on this site has to have figured out that I am completely obsessed with metal artist King Diamond. Imagine all the players dressed in King Diamond face paint reflecting the many eras of the King’s career. David Wright wearing the King’s Conspiracy look. Jose Reyes rocking The Puppet Master era top hat and backwards cross paint. Free orange sherbet to the first 500 fans (so, basically everybody who will be there). About two thirds of you just collectively said, “What on earth is this fool talking about?” They will probably stop reading at this point, thus depriving themselves of a golden opportunity to hear about Ruben Tejada fighting a bear.
Sunday Afternoon vs. The Phillies
(Ruben Tejada Fights A Bear Day)
I have yet to find a use for Ruben Tejada. People often tell me that he has a great deal of potential. He looks to me like a back-up middle infielder who, if everything goes perfectly and he manages to join a Santeria sect capable of utilizing functional spells, could one day hit .290. Why not have him fight a bear? Who wouldn’t love to watch little Ruben battle one of nature’s most terrifying beasts? Have the fight in the 5th inning and whoever wins gets to play second for the rest of the game. Imagine watching a bear, barely finished digesting Ruben Tejada trying to turn a double play. Some groups would call this cruelty to animals, but truthfully, unless there is a group that tries to prevent cruelty to moderately talented, light hitting second basemen, no one will complain too loudly.
Monday Night vs. The Reds
(Franz Kafka Night)
Imagine it…an entire baseball game dedicated to the demented mind of Franz Kafka. The game starts in the 4th inning. In the first inning, which follows the 8th, second base is removed mid-inning leaving the players to contemplate how to get to third. Pitchers refuse to pitch for hours cynically watching the batters prepare for a pitch that may never come. On a 3-2 fastball down the middle, the umpire randomly yells out “SQUID!” No one knows how to proceed. Jason Bay randomly turns into a giant turtle while running to first base after hitting a single. The game ends with both teams being swallowed by a choking fog that descends onto the field and the players disappearing into a vast and cruel nothingness.
Tuesday Night vs. The Reds
(Retiring Juan Samuel’s Jersey)
Do you remember the year that Juan Samuel led the Mets to the playoffs by hitting .400 down the stretch including a game winning homerun against the Cardinals to clinch the division? Or the time he picked up his third consecutive MVP award and led the Mets to back-to-back World Series victories? Of course you don’t. The Juan Samuel trade was a Hindenburg like catastrophe that managed to rip the heart and soul out of a once great team and all but ruin my childhood. Most teams retire player’s jersey because he performs at a high level. Listen, we are Mets fans. If there’s anything that epitomizes the franchise it is devastating trades that hamstring the organization for decades. Why not celebrate what we do best?!?!
I have no idea what his jersey number was. I don’t even think he remembers. We certainly could retire his batting average with the Mets in 1989. From this day forward, no one will be allowed to hit .228 again!
Wednesday Night vs. The Reds
(The Stoning of Mr. Met Night)
You know that Pepsi commercial they have now where all the great baseball players from different eras in a Field of Dreams type set up? While most clubs are represented by some great player like Randy Johnson or Dennis Eckersley, the Mets are represented by a dude with a baseball on his head. As if to say, the best thing that your storied franchise can produce is a silly mascot. Personally, I find the whole bit insulting. I have a deep hatred for mascots in general, but Mr. Met causes my heart to pump pure bile. The only way to truly end this fiasco of a season properly is by having Mr. Met pelted to death with stones. Thousands of them! It’s the only rational solution.
Wound him to the point that no thinking person will ever put a giant baseball on his head in the Tri-State area again. Make an example out of him! Send a message to baseball that goofy mascots will not be tolerated. Let’s remind America that we can again become the unruly demented mob that trashed Shea Stadium after clinching the division in 1986. Turn Mr. Met into a human piñata, then we’ll start winning some championships.
Being a parent of young children can be a frightening experience. You love them with all of your heart, but you eventually have to send them out into a challenging, scary world in which you are not always around. As a service to my readers, I’ve been collecting stories mailed in by parents who have had to deal with difficult parenting situations as their children first start school. Here are some powerful tales of parents who have looked difficult situations in the eye and said “Go away, Difficult Situation. I don’t like you. You are a jerk. I hate you, Difficult Situation, and I hope a plague descends on you and your family.” Hope these stories touch you as deeply as they have me….
My son’s first run in with a bully
The other day Bernie came home with a sad, scared look on his face. When I asked him why, he told me that another boy at the school named Jimmy was making fun of him. I felt so angry at Jimmy! How dare he do that to my boy! However, I am a parent now and sometimes it is important to be a rational adult. After all, I am a role model to Bernie and I want him to understand that simply responding emotionally to every challenge isn’t the right approach.
The next day as I was dropping him off, I had Bernie point the bully out to me. I made a note of what he looked like then drove home quickly. I got dressed up in a vampire costume that I had picked up at the local thrift store. Very frightening outfit! I covered my face in white paint and smeared fake blood on to my fake fangs. Then, I went to the school and hid behind a tree. When the Pre-K class came out for recess I leaped out from behind the tree and started running right after Jimmy. He began running away with tears streaming down his face. I chased him around for a while until I finally cornered him. As I looked into his terrified face, I said “Nobody messes with Bernie! No one!!!!” I think he got the message. My son has had several kids give him their cookies during snack time and has gotten to get on the swings first everyday since.
-Anna in Cell Block A
My daughter came home from school wanting a bizarre tattoo
Sure, young children pick up a lot of strange ideas from their friends. Peer pressure is a major issue that affects all kids, even the youngest among them. That being said, I was stunned when our 5 year-old daughter Bunny came home last Friday begging to get an inverted cross tattooed into her forehead. Personally, I’m very open-minded, but this simply was too much for me to handle. I immediately regretted letting my wife talk me into letting her join the afterschool satanic cult that was being offered at the school from 3 to 4 on Wednesdays. Clearly, young children should not be exposed to this sort of thing, whether it be at school or in some bizarre 16th Century French dungeon.
I knew that this was a trouble sign and I responded immediately. I went up stairs to her room and cast her copy of The Necronomicon into the fire. I took all of her Anton Lavey posters off the wall and made her put the heads back on her dolls. Then, I told her she was going to have to listen to records forwards from now on. Sometimes, being a good parent means having to put your foot down.
-Not Satanic in New Hampshire
Living With Flippers One Day at a Time
At age 2, my son Barbara began to grow flippers in place of his hands. Flipperitis is a rare but common disease among young children who have eaten large amounts of tin foil from an early age. When Barbara was ready to start school, we were concerned the other students would make fun of him. In order to make sure that he was not teased, we spent several thousands of dollars to train him in several of the martial arts and get him certified in the use of firearms and small explosives. These weren’t easily skills to learn for a young man with flippers, but through dedication and the use of massive amounts of body altering steroids, Barbara became a threat to the lives of nearly anyone who came within 100 feet of him.
From Day One, Barbara was the most popular boy in his class. He is currently captain of the high school swim team and he is only six years old. Even when he sprouted horns over the Christmas break this year, we barely broke a sweat. Kids would have to be crazy to mess with him.
-Won’t Be Messed With In Winnepeg
When something terrible, something truly unforgivable occurs, we often look to the language for comfort. One readymade expression that is used to comfort us in times of genuine despair and confusion is “Never Forget”. This expression has become a part of our post-9/11 mourning process. The idea behind it is that if we don’t forget the horrors of that terrible day it will have some meaning for us. Then, maybe we can use those feelings of pain and grief in order to achieve some balance in the world. We can right the wrongs of that day, on some level, through an act of national collective memory.
As comforting as that idea may be, I wonder if it really has achieved what we’ve wanted from it. It has been 10 years since that day and few have forgotten. The test of an idea is its manifestation in the world we live in. Has clinging to the memory of 9/11 made the world a better place? Have we used our memories to heal the wounds of that day? Some would believe that we have. I do not. I look out into a world where we are mired in two of the longest wars in U.S. history, into a world consumed by turmoil, into a world where chaos and strife are commonplace, into a world where we have seemingly lost all faith in the systems that have been created to help us, into a world where the center surely has not held. We have remembered, but our memory has served us poorly.
Al-Queda has been weakened significantly. If that was the goal of not forgetting, then we can argue it has been effective. But, was that all we wanted? Was disrupting the actions of a small, but vicious terrorist group all we were hoping for after that terrible day? I believe that America saw the terror of that day and wanted desperately to be part of a world where that sort of thing could not happen again, not just here, but anywhere. For a brief and fleeting moment, we stood together. Ten years later, we are a deeply polarized nation, extended far beyond our means, spiraling from one catastrophe to the next without much hope for a better world. Ten years later, we may be safer from Al-Qaeda, but as a whole, our world is an unmitigated disaster.
There is no clear consensus on what 9/11 actually meant. Some people believe that its meaning is that we need to use all means at our disposal to crush anything that resembles a threat, some people have taken the message that we should curb our military adventurism, some people have taken the message that all Muslims are evil, some have taken the message that the world should come together in spite of religious and racial differences. It is even become relatively acceptable to question whether the U.S. government itself was complicit in the horrors of that day. We all remember, but our memories have led us to a very different place.
I’m going to suggest a radically different approach to how to cope with the anniversary of 9/11. It will probably be viewed in some circles as highly disrespectful, but I assure you that no disrespect is intended. I believe that the central lesson of 9/11 is that terrible things happen to innocent people for no reason whatsoever. It is an unjust world where some things can never be explained or properly understood. Life is filled with random and capricious acts of horror that take place everyday. Our responsibility is to lessen the suffering of the living, not to compensate for the horrors inflicted upon the dead. We have remembered, but we have not healed, we have not grown and we have not made a better world for our children. For those who lost loved ones, it will be impossible to forget that day, but for the rest of us it is time to move on. We cannot create a better world from our past, but we have a greater obligation to create a better future from the world around us today.
We have lived in the looming shadows of those buildings for ten years. Maybe it is time to forget. Not from a place of ignorance or disinterest, but from a need to build a healthier, safer world. Instead of remembering the violence of the past, we can renounce the use of violence in the present. Instead of thinking of the paradise that was lost to us, we can build a new, more beautiful world out of the tools of compassion and empathy. The past is over and that day can never be changed. The present and the future extend before us filled with promise and possibility. We have cried, we have mourned, we have prayed, and we have paid our debts to the dead. It is time to move on.