Ornary Journal Entries


December 8, 2007

Yesterday was that day which will live in infamy--just one of the many in human history which so richly deserve it. For me it is a reminder that I was about to be born in exactly a month from that infamous day. Hopefully a day more well remembered by at least a few people for at least a short while. Between the day of infamy and the day of my birth are thirtyone  days of total madness, with jinglebells galore and awfully fake looking Santa Clauses in every jampacked doorway leading to places where parents can purchase the most dangerous toys made in China for the apples of their eye. These coming weeks also contain the two possible birthdays of my late friend and partner Louis, Jewish Chanooka, African-American Kwanza, the Winter Solstice or Zonnewende in Dutch, my Oma Dora's birthday, the birthdays of my friends Brahm in the East Bay and John downstairs, and not to forget of course Christmas, the New Year's holiday and Epiphany.

With all that going on, and more, my head begins to spin and I wonder sometimes what life is all about. It used to be you could go to church to find out, twice on a Sunday, interrupted by those rainy afternoons of playing ping pong in the dining room or the basement. Those days are well in the past for me.  Of course I do still catch glimpses of shouting from pulpits and prancing around the altars of human sacrifice, but the fun is gone for me in attending church. If ever there was any joy in it at all. But I take that back--I always loved the music and the liturgy, the incense and the gowns--what self-respecting member of the gay culture wouldn't? And I still think Christian culture and many other religious cultures have produced great works of art that enrich the soul, by which I mean they enrich relationships and especially our relationship to the greater reality we are a portion and reflection of. 

But there seems to be this negative side to many conventional religions which tends to stick in my throat.

Not that Christian fish, for instance, couldn't taste great if well prepared and properly deboned--but the skill and willingness of the many Christian cooks seems to be less than what truly fine cuisine requires.  

I am talking of course of the theologians--when will they stop being theo-cons and really work out a way of looking at reality which includes the humble awareness that what we see is not what is really there?

Actually many theologians have tried, but conventional religion has always had to depend on the kindness of those for who it was designed to be of use--be that King or Emperor, aristocracy, or the ruling classes, the business community, the wealthy and powerful, or simply the many and undereducated.

Never does Real God truly come into the picture. Anyway, how could she, or he, or they or even it? The picture of the Divine Reality is not the same as the Divine Reality as such. It is a mask behind which the Divine Reality hides or is made to hide. Take that burning Bush for instance, I mean the one in the desert. No, not that desert, the Sinai desert. That was a mask. Take the Ark of the Covenant or the Cloud that guided the people of Israel through the desert--that was a mask. So was the Golden Calf--another mask.

In fact, the Divine Reality, the Unmanifest Reality, has an infinite number of masks. Come to think of it, everything in manifest reality is in fact a mask of the unmanifest reality, in other words, a mask of God, the persona through (per) which God may speak or sound (sona). The Christian Trinity, like the Hindu Trimurti, constitutes three masks which the theologians have selected out for us to worship.

But worshipping the masks of God is just like worshipping the Golden Calf--it's OK as long as it is done in the recognition that the masks stand for something we will never know--i.e. for the unknown God.

Real God cannot be known by anyone. What's there to know, ask your self.

Knowledge presumes boundaries, definitions, concepts, and relationships between them. Ask yourself--who are we, and who are those theologians, to define God? To put boundaries on the Unknown?

No artist in his right mind would ever assume that a painting of, say, a mountain really is the mountain.

No scientist in his right mind would ever assume that a scientific theory of reality is reality. Of course it is part of reality, it may be a functional approach to reality, but not reality itself. Niet de werkelijkheid zelf.

So why should any theologian in his right mind assume that any theological doctrine about God actually is an accurate description of God? That is preposterous on the face of it. Yet that's what is shouted from most pulpits. Why? Because the purpose of theology is not so much to teach us about God, but to guide our behavior in ways that suit those who support the theology--be that the rich and powerful rulers in oligarchies or aristocracies, even meritocracies, or the many and undereducated guided by unscrupulous demagogues--who often do seem to use religion to either sedate or excite the masses for their own ends.

Theology, like art and science can fulfill an important function in the evolutionary fabric of societies, if they remain humbly realistic about what that function is: and it is never to divulge absolute truth.

Churchill's adagio that 'democracy is the worst form of government--except for all the others that have been tried' is a truism we must take seriously--something not always done in this blessed country of America. In taking it seriously we must not necessarily abandon democracy and revert to a theocracy or oligarchy, or even to a meritocracy--although I tend to think that the latter deserves a second look.

But who is to determine who the most meritorious or deverving people are?  Perhaps a blend of democracy and meritocracy is the most promising way to go. In many ways it is the only way to go--in some ways we even already have that--for no pure democracy, if there ever was one, could be established in a society of several hundred million people. And such a mix of democracy and meritocracy must be based on trust

No town hall meeting of the entire electorate could be managed. We seem to have selected the states of New Hampshire and Iowa as the most representative places with a relatively well educated populace to stand in for a genuine townhall meeting of all Americans.

But a focus group of a small electorates or two does not a pure democracy make. Still, with the aid of cable and the internet most of us can feel somewhat represented in the town hall meetings of these two small states. We do get a glimpse of how the candidates behave in front of real people--even if sometimes the questions fielded are planted and camera's tend to put candidates on notice not to behave badly and shout makaka, or something stupid like that. Well, some do, of course, but they become history rather quickly.

If at this stage you think I am rambling on, it is because I am--and should stop before it gets worse. But remember that rambling can be done for a purpose--in letting the mind wander freely on a variety of topics, one can often discover what a more structured approach may leave unsaid. Besides, I have no one to be accountable to--not even you, dear reader--if you are still hanging on. The rambling approach also tends to include a certain amount of repetitiousness--but again that can be good or bad, all depending.

Repetition can be didactic, hence practical--or aesthetic and of an artistic nature. Or it can be neither and merely arthritic. You be the judge.  Old folks do tend to ramble on and on and I will gladly plead guilty.

But for now, I will conclude this journal entry and pick up my rambling in another entry some other time.

Have a wonderful weekend.