FULL FRONTAL LOBE

An uncontrollable pressure relief valve for the questionably sane.

WHO’S THE NEW BOSS?

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(WRITTEN A LONG TIME AGO)

(and yes, I’m posting a personal essay on religion as my third entry, might as well get the big stuff out of the way so we can start having a good time, thank you for your patience, dear reader.  The majority of swear words were omitted from the final draft per my wife’s recommendation , it wasn’t easy so I left a few, apologies to my fellow sensitives.)  –Lobe.

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God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?

– Freddy Nietzsche,  Thus Spake Zarathustra.  Published in single volume, 1887.  Investigated and popularized in the U.S.A. in Time Magazine’s cover article, April 8,  1966.  

God isn’t dead, we just realized we’ll never know what He really looks like, despite all those motherfuckers that have seen his face in a watermelon or piece of burnt toast.  

– Me, can’t remember when.

I went to a funeral this morning and got angry.  A new feeling for me.  I used to be sad and empathetic during a funeral, not lately, not anymore.  It wasn’t the death of my friend that irked me, it was the ceremony surrounding it and how the attendees chose to ritualistically mourn him.  I hadn’t spoken to him in years, and I wasn’t a member of his church.

Here’s my problem:  I’m not a Christian although I was raised Catholic.  I’m no atheist either–atheism is boring, and nothing gets my spikes up more than evangelical atheists that work just as hard as evangelical Christians to prove the superiority of their particular brand of metaphysics (or lack thereof, the pussies). The irony of it all is more than I can handle without drawing blood.

The quiet atheists and Christians I can handle; please stay silent unless you’re willing to conduct a friendly discourse–otherwise shut up.  Since I don’t consider myself Christian I felt the typical winces cross my face as the pastor went on and on about salvation through the blood of Christ, etc.  But that wasn’t it either, I’ve heard all that before.  And it wasn’t the fact that no one dressed up for the event. I didn’t even wear a tie but I felt overdressed. Overdressed at a funeral!  It’s not like there was an invitation but if there was it would have reminded us to dress less than business casual, preferably jeans.  Casual is my go-to style on any given day, but I dress appropriately for weddings, funerals, etc., out of respect to the family, the deceased, and the mourners.  As rebellious as I can be in attitude I hold on dearly to my sense of decorum.  I’m not old enough yet (I don’t think) to be pissed off at people for being too casual.  Sure the funeral was in a little town south of Atlanta, in summer, but it’s not Florida.  So have some respect, rube.

But that’s not quite it either, I can endure people’s fashion choices without frustration. I think it’s that I was realizing the majority of us are just waiting to be led–the masses are comprised of followers, not leaders.  Many cliches involving cooks and chiefs remind us that this is necessary and ultimately good for the sake of efficiency and civil balance.  So I think my problem with modern Christianity is that it’s inherently backward-looking, giving little weight to discoveries of the modern age.  Evolution?  No way, God created us in His own image and there’s no way I can accept coming from a monkey (this argument in particular kills me, mostly because if you believe in evolution you believe all life sprang forth from a series of single-celled organisms, comparing yourself to a monkey is flattering in this context).  The Big Bang?  Forget it, Earth was created first and everything else came after.  Can people of other religions get into Heaven?  Nope, you have to be saved by the blood of Jesus Christ, sorry Asia. These are the most common and admittedly base arguments Christians and non-Christians have all the time.  I’ve been involved in this debate or overheard it innumerable times since kindergarten. Perhaps this is because I was raised in the South, remember I’m not doing any hard research here.  I’m sure there are many enlightened, scholarly theists out there with whom I would have much in common.

Regardless what either side thinks, I believe religion is a good thing.  In a macroscopic view religion can give us a framework from which we can learn to deal with and understand the painful realities in life we will never understand through science.  And without getting into a philosophic discussion on morality and ethics, religions give us guidance when we’re trying to figure out how to act.  A cosmic GPS if you will–when you find yourself at a frustrating moral crossroad, the religion sign lights up and points you down the appropriate fork.  I feel sorry for Nietzsche that his work has been so mishandled.  “God is dead” isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and if you do some cursory research on Wikipedia you’ll find that the great pessimist actually had a positive outlook about the death of God.  Fred merely understood that we had finally arrived at a point in time when we could no longer kid ourselves with the old stories. That doesn’t mean the stories aren’t important, on the contrary they’re some of  the most important stories on the planet.  It just means they should not be taken literally.  They will always be relevant, that’s why they’ve lasted millenia, but the time has come for redefining our beliefs and to stop gazing toward the supernatural for guidance in our earthly reality.  In a way, “God is dead” is an amazing and wondrous statement, letting us know that the time has come for us to put away childish things (refer to 1 Corinthians 13:11), and embrace the magnificent reality which we live in now.  So many grown children are afraid to put away the toys that have comforted them through their childhoods. This may be the crux of the problem, but I’m still not sure.

Nietzsche has been popular in Western culture for a long time. In a way he paved a road for modern spiritual gurus like Eckhart Tolle (I’m a big fan, even if he was endorsed by Oprah) who has taken it upon himself to spread the word of modern enlightenment through popular books such as The Power of Now and A New Earth.  I doubt I’ll ever know certainly if Tolle is attempting to give humans a modern framework from which we can get our GPS to work again, he might be, who knows? To not consider God is to be nonhuman.  Even atheists, by default, have considered the concept of God, if only so they could reject it.  I haven’t done extensive research on modern redefinitions of religion, Lord knows there are a lot of people out there trying to do their own thing, some crazy, some legitimate, all of them sincere.  But I’m curious as to why Christianity still seems to be such a powerful force in our country.  Is it merely tradition?  Are we just used to it all?  Are we afraid of challenging our elders?  I sympathize with anyone who has feelings like me but keeps trudging back to church on Sunday, seething with resentment at what should be an uplifting, illuminating experience.  The head-scratching moment for me comes when I consider the time-frame.  Nietzsche published his controversial works in the late nineteenth-century, well over 100 years ago.  God has been dead for more than 100 years!  It is a testament to the Christian infrastructure, whether Catholic, Protestant, or Baptist (no, the Baptists are not protestants) that we can gain such tremendous knowledge that challenges religious fundamentals and relatively little has changed.  Christianity took a few centuries to get going, maybe it will take a few more to incorporate itself into the bigger picture.  “But I don’t want to wait!”, says my instant-gratification-seeking-Generation-X conscience.  I have a kid to raise, I need a place to go, somewhere to enjoy the “sacred games” and “festivals of atonement.”   I have no such place, if you think you have one outside the context of modern Christianity and you’re not a total flake, please leave a comment.

So back to the funeral.  Granted, this was a church full of mourners, not all of them members of the congregation, I wouldn’t expect everyone to fall into step perfectly with one another.  But even considering that we weren’t all part of the same organization, I couldn’t help but notice the lack of cohesion, everyone wondering what to do or how to behave.  Hence all the jeans and shorts I suppose.  Just like most Sunday services, we lazily sang the hymns, bowed our head when the pastor asked us to pray, and filed out orderly when it was over.  Christianity has many lessons to teach us, I hope the tradition never perishes, but we need a big update to handle all the knowledge that’s been pouring into our consciousness for the last 100 years.  I never thought I’d understand why Sinead O’Connor ripped up that picture of the Pope, but now I do (I am old, if you don’t know who Sinead O’Connor is, that’s okay you’re not missing much, but she ripped up a picture of the Pope onstage during a performance on Saturday Night Live in 1992, people went dogshit crazy and she later publicly apologized to the Holy See).  I don’t have the kind of balls she does, but I get it.  It’s time to meet the new boss, but none of us know who he is.  The Church has a kind of control over us because we’re all too chickenshit to be creative, it’s been too strong for too long.  We’re afraid because of all the propaganda we’ve swallowed over the years; even as I write this I have a twinge of fear because this somehow might be a sin.  The fear is easily overcome, but it’s there nonetheless.

So now a word on sin.  The actual word itself, according to linguists and experts on Yahoo! Answers and some universities, is derived from the Greek word “hamartia,” which translates literally as “to miss the mark.”  I’ll spare you a lengthy argument on the origins of the word, but I think it’s apparent that our current and common Christian connotation of the word is drastically different than its original meaning.  Biblical literalists are rarely well read, this is why they have such a terrible time with metaphor.  If you read, and particularly if you’ve read the Bible, you understand how powerful metaphor can be.  A metaphor is a symbol, a good metaphor was worth 1,000 words before photography was invented, it’s how we crammed a ton of meaning into a simple phrase–remember, paper and pen weren’t easy to come by thousands of years ago.    I’m not about to get deep into any specific Biblical interpretations, I don’t have the time or inclination.  To take a specific verse from the bible and interpret it literally is in my mind is a great sin, to truly “miss the mark.” So often commando Christians wield literal interpretation against “sinners” when so often the literal interpretation itself is the sin.   Again the irony overwhelms me.

Any fire-and-brimstone Christian that has read this far has probably condemned me to burn already.  I can live with that.  But I would like to make clear that I feel churches, synagogues, mosques, temples, pagodas, sacred caves, etc. are necessary and good for a functional civilization, be that civilization a small tribe or 7 billion souls.  I’m still looking for a comfortable place to belong.  So please don’t think I’m criticizing the devout, I’m primarily commenting on the disconnect between the modern church and our day-to-day realities.  Sincere congratulations to anyone who finds love and comfort in their church.

I don’t know the statistics, but The Church seems to be hanging on fairly well, despite its numerous challenges (by The Church I mean Christianity, not just the Vatican).  Our civilization has changed at such a rapid pace that The Church has found itself in strange and unnavigable waters, just like the rest of us.  Take a look at a bird’s-eye view of any significant city built before 1850.  Chances are the largest, most central building in town was a church or cathedral, all the major roads leading to it.  That was the central unifying force of the populace. If you take a look at a modern city, the financial center will be the largest most dominating structure on the skyline, if not several competing financial towers reaching heavenward, each of them a monument to financial strength.  This is why The World Trade Center towers were targeted by Al-Qaida—the towers were our greatest monument at the center of the Western world, they represent what we “worship.”  The terrorists could have done a lot more physical damage if they wanted to, it seems anyone can get a hold of a nuke these days, but there’s no way they could have done greater psycological damage to our nation than destroying those two monuments.  I point this out because it demonstrates the disharmony between religious ideals and our modern lives.  We need accord, and we need it soon.

So who’s the new boss?  Not sure really.  If you’ve read this far through the essay you’ve probably had a lot of these thoughts, or you’re just preparing material to send me some hate mail.  But I have a feeling the new boss is us.  Each one of us.  We’re walking around in heaven right now, and it’s time we started acting like it.

-Lobe

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Written by billlobe

June 16, 2011 at 1:26 pm

The Fear

with 3 comments

An Exercise in Catharsis

I don’t know if it’s coming from outside or inside, but I’m riddled with anxiety.  I hope it all comes from external stimuli, but I admit perspective contributes largely to the problem.  I wrote this in a fit of anxiety, some might call it a panic attack, I call it “that time of the day.”  I don’t necessarily believe everything on the list, but all the ideas affect me, right or wrong it’s a search for truth. It’s an ongoing work-in-progress, although I’ve only worked on it one time. Compare notes with me and feel free to add or subtract to the list for you personal enjoyment.  If you’ve got any good ones let me know what I missed:

Written 5/11/2011:

If I could give everyone a piece of advice it would be “Calm the Fuck Down!”  I say this lovingly. This is not advice I personally follow as much as I’d like.  I’m riddled with anxiety at any given time of day, particularly the mornings before 11 o’clock or so.  I don’t know the actual reasons, I merely have fleeting glimpses and intuition.

  • Maybe it’s all the clocks and phones around me, just waiting to go off
  • Maybe it’s because I spend too much time staring at multiple monitors throughout the day.  Maybe it’s because I can’t see the stars at night, the city lights choke them out.
  • Maybe I need more exercise even though I exercise four or five times a week
  • Maybe I need to meditate more
  • Maybe it’s the consistent low-level anxiety caused from having a young child
  • Maybe it’s because I watch or read the news.
  • Maybe it’s because I don’t have a real job and everyone thinks you’re supposed to.
  • Maybe my meds need to be recalibrated
  • Maybe  it’s because I’m prescribed meds that I don’t really need
  • Maybe it’s peak oil.
  • Maybe I’m afraid that I’m afraid for no reason
  • Maybe it’s only my perspective and everything’s fine
  • Maybe it’s all the conspiracy shows I watch streaming into my Playstation at night.
  • Maybe it’s the hormones in the beef or the BPA in my plastic drinking bottles.
  • Maybe it’s all those pesky pesticides sneaking into my diet from so-called “organic” vegetables.
  • Maybe it’s because the brake light just came on in my truck and I don’t feel like paying for another repair.
  • Maybe it’s the dropping barometric pressure that affects my arthritis (I’m only 33-years-old).  Maybe it’s all the sugar I ate as a kid.
  • Maybe it’s hydrogenated oil.
  • Maybe it’s the fluctuating global financial crisis and I’m worried the typically stalwart American Dollar will fail, and all the work we’ve put into saving money will have been for naught.
  • Maybe it’s rising gas prices
  • Maybe it’s the extra billion bourgeois that just popped out of China
  • Maybe it’s the extra billion bourgeois that just popped out of India
  • Maybe it’s Tsunamis.  Or Earthquakes.
  • Maybe it’s because I haven’t read enough.
  • Maybe it’s because I read too much.
  • Maybe it’s because I just got an IPhone and I don’t care about it’s amazing utilitarian functionality because it will be useless once our power grid fails.  That or because my face looked terrible on it’s camera.
  • Maybe it’s  the faltering American infrastructure
  • Maybe it’s because Warren Buffet is investing in the railroads
  • Maybe it’s because Rome fell
  • Maybe it’s because Greece fell.  They seemed nicer, generally, although I never knew them.
  • Maybe it’s because the government inflicted the AIDS virus on Africa
  • Maybe it’s because of the Bay of Tonkin
  • Maybe it’s the Fed
  • Maybe it’s the Rockefellers, or the Queen, The Pope, or Colonel Sanders
  • Maybe it’s because I don’t know who to trust anymore
  • Maybe it’s because my Spanish is lousy and I’m gonna need it soon
  • Maybe it’s because I smoke too much weed (not lately, unfortunately)
  • Maybe it’s because I drink too much (not lately, unfortunately)
  • Maybe it’s because I took some mushrooms and now I’m legally crazy
  • Maybe it’s because I don’t get out enough
  • Maybe it’s because I still like books and everyone else is buying Kindles
  • Maybe it’s because I don’t get enough sex
  • Maybe it’s because I get plenty, even though I’ve never even had a threesome.
  • Maybe it’s because people work their asses off to be more productive for people who don’t care about them only so they can buy crap they don’t need and then throw it away so they can upgrade their crap with bigger, shinier, new crap.
  • Maybe it’s because Starbucks denied my application to open a micro-location in my anus.
  • Maybe it’s because I need new clothes but I hate shopping
  • Maybe it’s because my feet hurt all the time, and we all know sore feet make people grumpy
  • Maybe it’s because I’m six feet tall instead of six-one.
  • Maybe it’s because my Body Mass Index doesn’t seem to add up
  • Maybe it’s because I inherited thick ankles
  • Maybe it’s because time travel hasn’t been invented yet (that I know of)
  • Maybe it’s because I can’t decide if I need quiet-alone-time or a party
  • Maybe it’s because the moon is waning instead of waxing
  • Maybe it’s because my pillow isn’t firm enough
  • Maybe my pillow’s too lumpy
  • Maybe it’s because I consume products like everyone else but can’t tolerate automated customer service 800-numbers
  • Maybe it’s because I can’t drink out of the stream
  • Maybe it’s because it’s nearly impossible to homestead in America
  • Maybe it’s because packs of genetically modified seeds cost $3.00 but I can buy 3 bunches of cilantro for $1.00.
  • Maybe it’s because Kanye thinks George Bush hates black people.
  • Maybe it’s because George Bush hates black people.
  • Maybe it’s because people hate George Bush.
  • Maybe it’s because Obama is in over his head and inherited a nation in crisis, he could really fuck us up.
  • Maybe it’s because I sometimes have trouble remembering lessons from 10th grade Civics class
  • Maybe it’s because I started school a year early and wasn’t developed enough to play football
  • Maybe it’s because I never really wanted to play sports
  • Maybe it’s all those Dungeons & Dragons kids I used to hang out with
  • Maybe it’s because comic book nerds are winning Pulitzer Prizes
  • Maybe it’s because I’m not a comic book nerd any more
  • Maybe it’s………….
  • …plenty more where that came from

Written by billlobe

June 8, 2011 at 3:44 pm

Posted in Essays and Rants

HoneyBaked Salt Pork–

with one comment

Food, the original product

I must have eaten six pounds of HoneyBaked Ham over the Easter weekend, and I am sincerely regretting it. Naturally I’m familiar with the enemies of pork products, yet I pay them no heed.  They say pigs are filthy animals, you shouldn’t consume too much of it, the fat will clog your arteries, it gives you body odor, it makes you go to hell, blah blah blah.  I don’t eat as much as I used to because of this damnable arthritis, so my overall intake isn’t my worry.  And in case you didn’t pick up my hyperbole, I didn’t actually eat six pounds of ham, it was probably more like a half pound, a reasonable yet man-sized serving.   But truth be told I can feel whatever garbage they pump into that hyper-processed meat.  The sodium level has to be off the charts, I haven’t been able to get my wedding ring off in over 24 hours (the official and highly accurate Wedding-Ring- Sodium test).  And who knows what other crap is in there?  Salt is the least of my worries.  I’m sure it’s listed somewhere, and one of these nap times I’ll undertake the effort of actually finding out specifics, but I know they used more than smoke, water, and honey to make that damn ham.  My unquenchable thirst at 2:30 a.m.  is another testament to the crazy amount of salt in there, many desperate single-handed slurps from the sink awoke my 23-month-old son, but that’s not the salt’s fault, I should have closed the bathroom door.

That it has additives in it isn’t what bothers me.  It’s the bigger picture: the fact that there’s a lot of less-than-healthy additives and we’re either being duped or under-informed about it.  To take it a step further, I think the illustrious HoneyBaked Ham company shouldn’t change anything about their recipe, it’s beloved by millions.  Nor do I think they should be regulated and forced to stamp “Full of Fucking Sodium” on their company’s beautiful pig asses.  I’m more upset that we’ve arrived at a point in time where something as simple as meat is harming our health and we’re too stupid to realize it.  Nothin’ wrong with pork, I worship at the temple of pig, just like every other fucking hipster Food Network groupie in Western Civilization.  However, so much of our food supply is optimized for our convenient consumption while maximizing said food supply’s corporate profit margin.  Sounds great, right? Everybody gets convenient amounts of affordable food and someone makes a buck off it.  Perfect.  Except that our beloved HoneyBaked Hams probably don’t fall into the “good for you” category the way a less monkeyed-with ham would.  The marketing is such that we think we’re buying a delicious ham encrusted with that desirable, crunchy, honey glaze.  We think it’s just a simple piece of nutritious meat, while it’s actually a factory-raised, genetically modified piece of pork product laden with countless corporate-engineered additives of dubious nutritional value.  It’s not “meat,” it’s a “product” that’s been analyzed and modified, probably patented, and has more relevance as a line item on a profit-and-loss statement than as sustenance.

Like I said, the problem isn’t actually the ham, not its grotesque existence per se, it’s the fact that we got to a point where we can’t distinguish the difference between an unprocessed piece of meat and one that looks like a Christmas decoration.   There is a frightening gap between the reality we perceive and the actual reality of life (all metaphysics aside, please, for the sake of argument).  Look, I get it, it’s great to have so much convenience that it breeds naiveté, it’s one of the benefits of civilized society.  We can have our hydrogenated-oil-laden cake and eat it too.  Being fat used to signify someone with status; poor people used to be skinny. We can afford to be stupid because the superstructure is in place; all of us standing on the shoulders of giants.  And finally, finally, there seems to be a sincere contingent of people who are starting to wonder what happens when the giant dies.  I used to think I was alone, but now I see it everywhere.

Although I’m technically alone with most of these thoughts, I know there are others out there like me because of the suggestions Netflix gives me. I know, I know, the conspiracy theorists among you feel more comfortable with the idea that there’s a man behind the curtain intentionally homogenizing and streamlining our tastes for the sake of driving an oligarchical society fueled by corporate profit, but I don’t buy it when it comes to Netflix.  They are, however, somehow linked to my brain, allowing them to (benevolently, I pray) suggest spot-on videos for my particular tastes (Ok, maybe not spot-on, more like decent enough). Like most middle-class American bourgeois, it’s easy to figure out my personality type by visiting my Netflix queue.  Meyers-Briggs ain’t got shit on the Netflix personality test.  Talk about peeking behind the curtain! If you really want to understand someone, take five minutes and review their past six months of Netflix activity.  Mine, if it isn’t already obvious, is littered with conspiracy and food documentaries.  I know how it looks, but you’ve got to believe me when I say I’m not a total nutjob.  I’ve kept my mouth shut for so long because I have fear of being judged as a whacko, someone who doesn’t deserve to live in our wonderful land because I don’t “appreciate” it.  But at the end of the day I’m just a man observing the world around me and I can’t help seeing what I see.  Sure, my perspective is a subjective one, but aren’t they all?  I think my point is that even the nutcases are going mainstream, and we’re all watching the same stuff.  Then we post our self-indulgent reviews online so we can recruit more nutcases.  So, I wonder when is the dam going to break?  When will we all wonder if we’re the nutcases, are they the nutcases, or are all of us fucking crazy?

Soon, I fear, we will have incrementally convinced ourselves that the rotten tripe we’ve been propagandized  (i.e. advertised) to buy is not only delicious, but necessary for our health and survival.  The giant only has to decide what they want to print on the label to convince us of its legitimacy. Now I know some of you are going the Soylent Green route of thinking, but just hold on for a sec (For all you little kids out there that haven’t seen the movie, it’s a terrible film with a decent idea, like many, many Charlton Heston projects.  The plot takes place in a dystopian future and they don’t have any food.  The the powers-that-be install a program of euthanizing the elderly and processing their carcasses for resale back to the public as little green squares of crunchy “nutritious” food called Soylent Green) .  Cannibalism is grody and generally frowned upon in our modern society, but it’s not the human ingredient in Soylent Green that disgusts me, it’s the processing of a piece of living flesh into a perfectly symmetrical green wafer.  I hope I never have to eat one of my fellow humans, mostly because we’re disgusting, foul beasts ourselves and I’d have an impossible time not wondering if they had any weird hygiene hang-ups like me.  But if I ever do, I hope it’s around a campfire–I hope I get to put a juicy athletic calf on a spit myself, braise it for a few hours, let it rest, and chomp into it with a greasy grin, because if I’m starving and someone hands me a flaky green wafer, I’ll only eat it after trying to hold off as long as I can.  Might as well go out with some verve.

Do yourself a favor next time you’re eating something from the interior aisles of your local grocery megaplex, try to read between the lines on the label.  Because it’s only a matter of time until the giant learns how to make turds taste delicious, and we all know turds are loaded with fiber.

Written by billlobe

June 6, 2011 at 8:30 pm