Friday, February 18, 2011

The Hero with a Thousand Capes

I intend to explode the myths about myself and get down to the real truth about the legend that is Batman.  Bob Kane (Creator of Batman)

We like Batman - we understand him, we suffer with him. On the other hand, we want to be Superman. But they're conflicting philosophies. Let's bring them together in one movie and see how we, as an audience, wrestle with our inner demons.  Wolfgang Petersen

Welcome, true believers.  Gregarious Pope Gregory here with another blog hot and bothered on the heels of my last one.  Trying to knock the rust off my knuckles here.  My last blog was dealing with a lot of heavy ideas all in the same place, compressing difficult ideas into a phone-booth while someone was already in there changing into their blue and red jammies.  What I want to bear down on in this blog is the concept of the modern superhero and how it relates to myth and why it is because we have both actually abandoned our old myths and realized they really can't speak to us today the way we need them to anyhow that we do have these modern heroes...and why specifically in Uhmurkah.

I can credit my conversion experience from the darkness of institutionalized Xianity partly to comic books.  They also helped build my vocabulary when I was developing because deity knows the Uhmurkan school system didn't (and doesn't) have any interest in doing that.  But what comic books provided, before I even realized it, was to give me heroes and stories that meant something.  Yes, when I read about Samson getting great strength by being bitten by a radioactive rhinoceros...I mean...being blessed by Yahweh...and performing great feats and such, that was the Word of Gawd...and when I read about Superman, Batman, Captain America, Spider-man, Iron Man, etc...those were just stories.  And yet, looking back, the realization for me and for millions in Uhmurkah like me, is that these stories provided the calories I needed that the bible stories weren't providing.  Because they are both stories, but Samson (a "Semitic" story, but like much of both the Old Test it has its origins in the pre-Hebrew settlement of Canaan.  His name means "Son of the Sun" and is one of these heroic characters from the ancient world like Hercules, Gilgamesh, Cuchulain, etc that you find as a repeating motif) is a hero from a people who I don't associate with and who lived thousands of years ago and Superman landed in Kansas just a few decades ago.

Just as radio and teevee came in, as I observed last episode, to help us find new myths and stories to replace the old, worn out ones once we unconsciously sensed that Xianity had finally breathed its last, so did comic books.  Before comic books were the adventures of certain heroic characters in literature.  Sherlock Holmes could arguably be the first "crime-fighter" hero presented as such.  He has qualities that set him apart from the rest of us.  He has gifts, but also worked hard at developing them, researched what he needed to, and had a drive for justice that often is like a force of nature.  We trust his judgment, even if he acts like an asshole a lot of the time, and when he lets the thief go in, for example, the Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle, we can understand.  He's a vigilante, in some respects, as he will indeed break the law in order for justice to be done.  Holmes, we often neglect, is also skilled in the martial arts and is proficient in boxing and wrestling and will use a gun when he must, but prefers to let Watson handle that.  (More on the subject of "the sidekick" as it applies to superheroes after the ads for the X-Ray Glasses.)

Now, does the above description remind you of a more modern superhero?  Well, it should because it describes Batman.  In fact, there was a portion of Batman's history in which he was called The Dark Knight Detective and is still called "The Detective" by one of his greatest arch-enemies, Ra's al Ghul...which is his Professor Moriarty.  Deadshot is his Col Moran, Catwoman is his Irene Adler, so forth.  So we see right away with Sherlock Holmes and the crimefighting heroes that followed, Doc Savage, The Shadow, The Green Hornet, The Lone Ranger and so forth from pulp novels and radio shows another realization...the difference between The Law and Justice.  Laws are arbitrary and often written by those in charge to make sure they are in charge and as all Uhmurkans and others in the world have seen post 9/11, laws have been put into place that are very cameras are all over the place and citizens are encouraged to report activity that may look suspicious and more and more we get the idea that we are deemed guilty and have to prove our innocence, not the other way around. 

But as the experiment of Uhmurkah was shown to have failed miserably, even as far back as the Civil War period where the South actually argued the Constitution protected slavery, even as waterheads in the South today argue the Constitution says Uhmurkah should be a  Xian nation run as a theocracy, so it was realized that the rule of law really didn't protect and that in many cases the criminal element was protected by the laws and the police were either hampered or crooked themselves.  Which is why we have characters like The Shadow and later Batman who devote themselves to making sure crooks pay for their crimes even if they have to break and enter and assault and batter and vandalize and litter and destroy personal property and break the speed limit to do it.

Comic books themselves didn't start right out of the gate with these sort of characters, but were collections of the color comic strips that were found in the newspapers, like the Sunday Funnies still are a separate section to this day.  The idea came up to collect these in a new format, put a staple in the middle of the pages, and lo and behold.  

Then Lee Falk created The Phantom, the first modern superhero as we recognize them today.  What Lee Falk did differently is he wanted to create a crimefighter like The Shadow, Doc Savage, etc.  One who used guns but had a personal presence that would inspire awe in both the bad guys but also with us, the readers who was looking and holding out for a hero, like that song goes.  We knew something wasn't right with the world, so we needed a hero, who was a human...but more than that, he was what we could aspire to, and his character would be flawless, an idealization of what a hero could we used to have back in the day with the Greek heroes and such from the myths of our ancestors, and which we had gone so long without.

Now check out the below images:

The above pic is of The Phantom himself...the below is a Greek bronze sculpture...supposed to be Zeus or maybe Poseidon.  I lean toward Zeus as the right hand appears to be designed to hold something and I'm thinking 1000 watt thunderbolts.  Right away you see the similarities between the two, and Lee Falk knew exactly why he made The Phantom the way he did...that is, with a skin-tight outfit.  Because just as these Greek statues, along with other images on pots, jars, etc and such showed idealized human forms of gods and heroes to represent their perfection and that they were ideal paragons of a humanity that was maybe attainable, but reserved for the gods, so Falk knew that if he made his hero to have these classical forms, which required a costume that showed his musculature in detail, The Phantom would have already the charisma and impression such a hero should.

Notice also the eyes.  In classical sculpture like this, often the eyes are blanks.  Either there is a hollow space there now or they were just blank with no details of the eyes.  Falk was also struck by this image and The Phantom was the first hero to have eyes that were just white, thanks to his domino effect that is hard to get when you want to tell the story of such heroes like The Phantom and Batman and such in this modern age in live action.  In the Dark Knight, in the climatic scenes when Batman has to battle the police and the bad guys in order to get the job done, he uses a technology that involves these lenses coming over his eyes and for a few moments, we actually see Batman as he is intended.  The eyes are no longer human, he has become something else, a superhuman...he has crossed over to something other than else...he has become an archetype...a god.  Currently, the movie producers aren't getting this and they continually show the eyes of the actor with that silly black-face paint around them to bring out the eyes.  The effect will be much more dramatic if you just put while slits there.  These stark white eyes show that although Batman is a dark, menacing character whom everyone should fear, inside is light and we know that he is on our side and we no longer see the man wearing the costume, he becomes The Bat and to superstitious and cowardly Republicans, he is a symbol of fear.  A criminal should not be able to look into the "eyes" of Batman, but should see only the symbol he is.  A shaman wears a costume, often to imitate animals to invoke the qualities of that animal, thereby becoming, to the observer's eyes, no longer the man, but the symbol...the shaman becomes the god, becomes the bear/eagle/buffalo spirit.  Same bat-thing, same bat-channel.

And since then, heroes have been depicted more often than not with these white eyes, in skin-tight costumes, just as the pictures of humans in Grays Anatomy and in 5th Grade Biology class show an idealized human form, not your neighbor with the eczema, excessive body hair and Pabst Blue Ribbon Paunch.  These heroes and images show an idealized human form, just as your favorite movie or music star also keeps in shape and has these heroic proportions, which is why so much fuss was made over Susan Boyle...she doesn't look like any goddess we recognize, but she sure as Hell sings like one...but for every Susan Boyle, there is a hunnerd Beyonces or Lada Gagas who we do recognize from a Greek mosaic or amphora.  Comic book heroes and these other "heroes" are the new gods and demigods and heroes, they fulfill for us what we no longer get from the myths we still cling to, Xianity especially.  It is nothing for a devout Xian to also have an obsession with say, Johnny Depp or that guy from the Twilight movies, etc.  It's because they go to church and have bland oatmeal for their soul, empty hollow myths that no longer resonate and so something other has to replace that, so they eat their Wheaties by going to see the Dark Knight, or Iron Man 2 or the Green Hornet or etc etc etc.

The hero from myth as described by Joseph Campbell is taken from/has to leave behind the world of reality and the commonplace, as we see in Bruce Wayne.  Bruce Wayne had a stable life as a boy, security, great parents, a life ahead of luxury and privilege until crime took what really mattered away.  Something happened to Bruce Wayne then.  Maybe he realized it, maybe he didn't, but that was his shamanic initiation.  In the movie Batman Begins, Wayne is shown as lost for a the books, he is more driven even at that age.  He has anger in either case and he eventually gets to a point where he does not retreat into himself, but due to his empathy with others, he takes it upon himself to at least try the best he can to see to it that no one else has to suffer like he did and still does.  He has to remove himself from what other people know, how other people live, he has to become something other than a person, he has to become the symbol of wrath and judgment upon the wicked, he has to be the fear of the dark, the threat of getting caught and having to face the monster that the criminal knows in his heart eats and then damns the soul of such as he.

Batman is this character, as The Shadow and Zorro and Robin Hood before him, that bridges the simplistic, dualistic idea of good and evil, black and white, the rule of law and is more concerned with right and wrong and justice and therefore is prepared to do unlawful things, to make sure the right thing is done, and is prepared to sacrifice a normal life and themselves for The Greater Good.  To the Greeks and others, the Netherworld and the denizens and gods of it were not evil, there are rarely truly evil things in the old stories and often they are the monsters, which is why comic books have their share of them.  Sometimes the monsters are the heroic characters, like Thing, or the (Incredible) Hulk, or Swamp Thing, etc. further showing that often appearances are deceiving and there is more of a variance and a duality within one archetype and why, for the past couple decades there has been the phenomenon of the "anti-hero" who is still the hero, but whom we wouldn't invite over for dinner.  Marvel Comic's Wolverine and the Punisher and such are of this mold.  And then we have these figures that blur the line.

For example, in the Norse myths, we have Loki.  In the Marvel Comics series of The Mighty Thor, just about as obvious as you can get with trying to replace old myths with new ones by revisiting the old ones (Wonder Woman is another example, the archetypal warrior goddess with her heritage straight from the Greeks and Amazons).  In the Thor comics, Loki is purely a villain.  But in the old stories, Loki is less easy to define.  He is often used by Odin and the "straight gods" to do their dirty work because they know he has the cunning and guile and such to pull off incredible deeds because he is able to get his hands dirty and doesn't give a fuck.  Of course, he often ends up betraying the gods here and there, as he is forever outside that circle, being not born of a good enough pedigree.  He winds up finally being more harm than good, so he's eventually sentenced to being bound to a rock under the earth with the intestines of one of his sons while a snake drips venom in his eyes.  Which is exactly what needs to happen to Dick Cheney for his war crimes.

Batman has the Joker, which is like Loki, but the Joker is evil, or better, an agent of Chaos.  Joker shows the duality because he is like a clown, and that makes him more terrible.  Batman is the agent of Order, but dresses like Dracula.  So we have these two opposing factors, neither is able to eliminate the other and we know if either Batman or Joker end up killing each other, the story is over.

But it is this duality and complexity and humanity of Batman which makes him more interesting than Superman...but we want to be Superman...we want to be Apollo or Hercules or Lugh Samildanach (look him up).  We don't want to be Bruce Banner who becomes the Hulk, changing into another form much like the Irish hero Cuchulain was said to have his body distorted when the battle rage came over him.  Superman is the super man...he is what we would like to be, and before I close this, I'll show what the phenomenon of the superhero is trying to tell us about ourselves.

But the hero can't do it alone, which comes to the "sidekick."  I know you were wondering as we've passed by the x-ray glasses ad some drivel back.  On the Hero's Journey, he invariably encounters these mentors and other people who support him.  In the old myths, the other folks are usually gods, spirits or shamanic-type characters.  King Arthur has his Merlin and his magic sword, Excaliber.  Aragorn goes to Rivendell after years of walking the earth as basically a hermit, like Jesus spending his 40 days in the wilderness, and receives his magical weapon, the physical metaphor for the coming of the kingdom.  You see, we know that Aragorn early one will become king, just as we know Luke Skywalker is going to blow up the friggin' Death Star (with help form his Merlin, Obi Wan, and his "sidekick" R2D2 and one of the knights he has hooked up with, Han Solo), it is only HOW he's going to do it that is of interest, the journey the hero takes to reach the goal.

Bruce Wayne, after years of traveling the earth and gaining earthly knowledge and physical skill, perfecting his body and mind, knows he needs a way of going about his terrible task.  In the Frank Miller book, Batman: Year One, Bruce Wayne arrives in Gotham ready to go, but he starts out without a definite angle for his mission, he just wears a disguise, goes out looking for trouble and scares nobody.  Then he goes home, bleeding to death, ashamed, thinking he had let his father's memory down then in comes a bat, crashing through the window.  The totem animal has come to the hero to show him the way...yes...bats scared him as a child, his mansion has a cave o' bats underneath it...yes...he must become a bat.  That'll make 'em poop their pantaloons.

But he needs Lucius Fox of Wayne Enterprises to get him the "wonderful toys" he needs and his butler Alfred Pennyworth to act as mentor and grounding influence.  And as King Arthur gathered about his knights of the round table, Batman as the years went on, gathered about first Robin, then Batgirl, then the Huntress, then Robin became Nightwing, then we have a new robin, now we have new Batgirls, a Batwoman (a lesbian who still makes me feel funny).  Superman has Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, etc as his friends, The Shadow had Margot Lane as his "friend and companion," the Green Hornet has Kato...etc...these other "sidekicks" are the mentors and helpers who assist the Hero as he goes on his quest.  And as the years go on, Batman and the other heroes joined together in pantheons...I mean Leagues and such.  But the sidekicks, like Dr. Watson...only serve to bring into sharp relief the real hero and more clearly define him.'s Batman and Robin...not Robin and Batman. 

Now today, these myths influence has been taken further, for the need is great, as we have teevee and movies and such based on these heroes and they are some of the most successful media going right now.  We can buy little statues and "action figures" of them, and as children we play with them and as adults we display them, like the Greeks displayed votive figurines of their heroes and gods.  So we see how these myths today speak to us again, and we have new myths that are trying to replace what we lost and which we can associate today with our current world.  Kids in Scandinavia no doubt played games where they took turns being Thor and today our children dress like Batman and Spider-man at Halloween. 

An example of a modern myth that we can especially relate to is where Robert Downey Jr makes a suit of high tech armor (and does a pretty decent Sherlock Holmes) as he is driven to be a difference in the world and he becomes Iron Man but we are reminded in Tony Stark that the man is a man, and has his problems and his demons.  Bruce Wayne is subsumed beneath Batman and has his issues, due to his quest, he cannot enjoy the things we do...he sacrifices himself for us, and Tony Stark is torn between these two realities...just as we are.  Iron Man is very much a hero who while using technology to be the hero, shows that science cannot change the human heart all that much, even his own.

Tony Stark and Bruce Wayne are called the "alter-egos" of the heroes.  The Shadow is "in reality" Lamont Cranston, wealthy young man-about-town.  But we really don't care about Cranston...the show is called "The Shadow" after all.  No...the real characters are Iron Man, Batman, etc. 

I believe what these modern superheroes are also trying to tell us is that we as humans can...well...let's put it this way...Samson didn't have another name...he was always Samson because he was this demigod type hero, like Hercules,  and like so many of the Greek heroes, he is part man, part god.  We cannot be Perseus, and Perseus doesn't stop being Perseus when he goes to the board meeting...but Batman and Bruce Wayne are two different things.  Currently in the "Batbooks" as they are called, there is this new concept of Batman Incorporated, in which Bruce Wayne has been missing about a year...he technically died, but that's a long story...and Dick Grayson, the first Robin, actually became Batman...showing how this symbol had taken on a life of it's own.  When Bruce Wayne returned (from the dead...resurrected like so many of those heroes do) he created Batman Incorporated, where Wayne gives a speech saying he has been the one secretly funding Batman all these years and that you're now going to see Batmen throughout the world, carrying out his mission.  So not only is Bruce Wayne able to be seen in the same square mile as Batman, we see "Batman" as this invincible symbol, represented by other heroes who are "taking on the mantle" like a shaman putting on a bear skin to be the great bear spirit.

So we see with Batman that not only has Bruce Wayne become the alter-ego of Batman, Batman himself has reached this realm of living legend and those who are worthy can represent this hero.  The question is...why do modern superheroes have to have alter egos at all?  What point is there for Superman to be Clark Kent?  Doesn't that complicate things?  Shouldn't Superman just be Superman all the time?  The point of alter egos is to show how a human, a person who appears to be a mere mortal can become a superhuman, can go from the mundane to the "magical."  Yes, Clark Kent has all the power of Superman...but it isn't until he changes form that he "transforms" into Superman and although he could fly so fast you'd never see him, Clark Kent has to go into the phonebooth and put on his red and blue jammies in order to keep that train from falling into the ravine.  It is as if his power has to come from the uniform, like a Maori shaman tattoos himself to transform himself.  (On a side note...tattooing today shows how people seek to transform themselves from normalcy into a more unique expression and tattooing previously had been solely for magical purposes.)  Bruce Wayne could stop a mugging in such a way that the bad guys need never actually see him, but he had to become the bat, he has to become the symbol, the image, the super-man for it to make sense.  So why bother being Bruce Wayne at all?

The reason, I this is trying to tell us to be more than we are that humankind can itself be elevated above just being a person, a victim to fate and the world, that we too can be something other than this.  The superhero, by taking on the persona of the hero, reveals his higher self, that super-entity that he truly is.  Bruce Wayne really doesn't exist...he is more like the mask Batman wears when Bruce Wayne is needed.  As I touched on last blog...what masks do we wear?  Are we hiding behind the idea we're just regular folks and we can't make a change in the world or are we able to become something greater...are we just a metaphysical change of clothes away from expanding ourselves and increasing ourselves to become something greater?  But we can also still be regular folks, too.  We do not have to be one or the other, but when we need to be more than just mortals, we can.

Maybe we can even look back to Jesus, bless his is a man who we figure was a lowly carpenter's son...but then something touches him, he realizes a great truth and he leaves behind the world he knew, leaves behind a stable job and a home, leaves his family, and goes on a mission to try and change the world, to show people also that what he learned is what they can also know and...if we follow the story further, he sacrifices himself for that truth and then becomes a deity...a superhuman, who can not only leap tall buildings with a single bound but says to his disciples, which means anyone who wants to follow his example, Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater [works] than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.  Bruce Wayne becomes the example, he dies and is resurrected, and afterward he creates Batman, Incorporated where he expands Batman as a legacy for others to also become, not just one Batman, but a League of Batmen, the group being greater than the one. 

Today, the teachings of Jesus are revealed to have been perverted to create Jesus, Incorporated which has as much to do with Jesus' teachings as the Joker has to do with Bozo the Clown.  But Jesus became more than human and then can do this too and you'll be greater than I was.

And this is why in Uhmurkah, a nation full of people who are almost entirely from somewhere else, people separated from their homelands and their traditions and their gods, we have these superheroes as this is a solely Uhmurkan phenomenon, superheroes.  Lip service to Xianity is given, and people are very fervent about it, but Uhmurkah is a nation of people displaced from their roots and from their myths...which is why the promise of this nation is so great...having disconnected ourselves from the Old World, what a Brave New World could there be?  Instead, Uhmurkah has become a bad thing, a paranoid, military-based world empire that not only eats more than anyone else, it also shits in your backyard.  The promise of the articles under which this nation was founded have been displaced by religious intolerance and temporal power and materialism...we have become the second coming of the Roman Empire and Jesus wouldn't touch it with a ten mile pole.

It is no mistake that Superman, Batman and the Phantom just to name a few were created by Jews.  These people, so distanced from not only their ancestral lands, but having spent nearly two thousand years without any viable myths, these are the folks who created  new myths because they recognized the need, even if they didn't say "I need to create new myths."  It is an unconscious drive that compels them...and us, that draws us to these heroes and myths because if you name one nation on this planet that completely severed itself from whatcamebefore, that is the United States of America.  So you have a country full of people from somewhere else, having forsaken their homeland, cut off from their mythic heritage and having Xianity forced upon them, thereby not having any real myths, and comic books provided new stories.  And that is not only why they are still popular, they are more popular than ever...because as we go forward into the next big change that is looming, we need to understand so much more than we do now...and we need to get smartened up soon.

Myths are and always have been, the stories that teach us how to be ourselves on so many levels, to teach us about our culture and our values and to help us deal with the mysteries of life, the unseen, invisible world our senses cannot grasp, but which we recognize all the same, whether you're a fundamentalist Xian or Atheist who thinks they've got it all figured out.  Truth comes to us from stories that appear to just be stories, because it is so is a mystery that we have to work out on a personal level and without myth, we have no foundation or structure and no hope because life does have meaning, does have a purpose and we as humans have to share this understanding that we are all humans and despite the uniqueness of your myths, there is really one big Truth permeating all, not to try and dictate to others that your myths (or opinion that myths are valueless) are superior and think your race or culture is superior due to that.  You can read DC comics or Marvel comics, your choice...these are our new stories.  If you don't like comic books, are your heroes James Bond or maybe Indiana Jones?  Or maybe you follow a particular teevee show and root for your favorite character.  Did you thank Jack Bauer today for saving your life?

Jeshua bar Joseph learned a great and mysterious secret in the Orient, for most of his life he was a mild-mannered carpenter, but he was bitten by a radioactive Truth and became The Christ...and so can you too, since you are already divine, you already have it within yourself to be the change you want in the world, that's what Jesus tried to say...and that's what comic books continue to is not our fate to be helpless victims, but to be greater than that, to become superhuman and move on to the next phase of human history, to be the hero of the human story, whether the continuity will continue indefinitely, or whether there will be that final issue, where we realize that these x-ray glasses are a fraud.  Comics prepare us for that day when we leave behind the status quo, are able to leave the system, devote ourselves to higher ideals, and then go into the phonebooth and pull our mortality down around our ankles and become just SUPER.


(and Selah)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Time for New Myths

The only reason for time is so that everything doesn't happen at once.  Albert Einstein

Old myths, old gods, old heroes have never died. They are only sleeping at the bottom of our mind, waiting for our call. We have need for them. They represent the wisdom of our race.”  Stanley Kunitz

Myths are a waste of time. They prevent progression.  Barbara Streisand

Woohoo and other exclamations!  Yes, the blog lives and I might be making another reg'lar go at this thing.  Dunno.  This side of the Winter Holidays, I've got lots to talk about, about how keeping those old traditions and observances means that there is hope for us yet, as the quote by Stan Kunitz above suggests...these are indicators of ideas and memories deep within ourselves, themes stronger than a few centuries of obfuscation and general error regarding the Answer(s) to the Great Question of Life, the Universe...y'know...EVERYTHING can totally erase from the basements of our subconsciousness.  You, yes, even you who go on about how Jesus has blessed you so much and are saving up for your mission trip so you can travel to Outer Mongolia to straighten out those heathens, yes even for you, there is hope.  HOWever, I'm not going to go to that particular place just today is my birthday and today, I have BECOME the answer to that Great Question...for today I AM FORTY-TWO.  

I'm available on (most) Thursdays from 7-9pm Central (Uhmurkah) for consultation, $25.00 an hour, plus expenses.  BYOBASFM.  (Bring your own beer and some for me.)

Douglas Adams in his Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy books made a bit of fun about those who seek after that great answer, because the whole Trooth is to know what the qwerstion is in the first place.  Adams is one of those atheists who, since he is now dead, now regrets not taking that next small he was so close to the Truth and, once he shuffled off that mortal coil got a face full of reality.  As Maxwell Smart said, "missed it by THAT much."  Even Adams, crippled as he was by his atheism, realized that the mystery is the most important thing, and being a philosopher or a Baptist preacher is a pretty good racket, but the jig is up if we get the Solution, the answer.  Even then, if say...I was to know the Answer to the Great Question of Life, the Universe and Everything, I couldn't tell it to you.  It would ruin the surprise.  I'm not saying I know it.  If I knew it, I'd deny it anyway.  As I may be doing now.  Eat your heart out.

So, in Adams' awesome books...a computer is designed to answer that Great Question is and a few million years later...the pyooter sez, "42."  Of course, to find out WHY that is the answer, you must figure out specifically what the question is.  That's the trick.  How many miles must a man walk down?  42, maybe?  But here Adams shows that he was pretty smart and showed signs of really understanding things.  Yet, he fell prey to the hypnotic affect of science and human progress and while pulling down the pants of human civilization and destroying the earth just to make sure we get the point, his stories are about people and all through his books you see the overlaying theme of a mythology that makes the rest of the universe run.  It may seem to atheists that life is random and such...but it is because life does have meaning, and our stories give it meaning, that life matters.  That is why we are so interested in what it all means.  Adams himself, a storyteller, because he was an atheist, completely misunderstands himself what he did and what he was about.  Doctor Who, which he was involved in as a writer, the creation of a new heroic cycle of myths, about a hero who overcomes trials and tribulations through cunning and through his specialness, and with a little help from his friends.   And because The Doctor "reincarnates" into new forms through this cycle of myths, eventually he may very well be "The Hero with a Thousand Faces."  More on myths a bit later on. 

Adams generally makes fun of humans for being pretty thick-headed creatures, but not without some redeeming virtues.  His "regular Joe," Arthur Dent is described as having a limited frame of reference composed of asking stupid questions and making stupid, obvious observances and an obsession with tea, and that is about it, however, as the story goes on, we see Dent may be the one sane character in the entire series.

One of the repetitive and humorous examples Adams gives of the oddness of humans is their fascination over digital watches.  Today we could say smartphones and such, but coming to the subject of digital watches brings me to the first subject in this one-two punch of a blog...TIME itself.

Which doesn't exist.  No, not really.  It could be described as a "field."  Yet, it doesn't really exist, it's an illusion.  Now that's hard to come to grips with, given our obsession with digital watches and such.

Sundials worked pretty well, back in the day when it didn't really matter exactly what time of day it was, there were no timeclocks or other artificial schedules back then.  Today of course, try showing up for work mid-morning, after breakfast but before second breakfast and certainly before elevenses when you are supposed to be at work exactly at nine "o'clock," meaning "of the clock," and see how soon this is met with disapproval by others.  Now imagine the sun didn't move in the sky and never did and it has been always mid-morning.  When are you supposed to do something?  How do you reckon time, then.  Well, the answer is you don't because you can't.  It is the rotation of the earth in contrast with things beyond the earth that "move" as we spin that first caused the first humans to say,  "this is what time of day it is, and my favorite show is coming on so SHH."  

I am today forty-two years of age.  Or, in the old way of speaking, I have "seen" 42 winters, although I don't have any memory of the first four or so.  I've been told they had winters in the years 1969-72, so I'm not going to dispute that, as all the years since have had winters, so I can take it on faith there have been winters prior to 1973.  I can count my rings without having to hack off a limb thanks to the movement of the earth around the sun, or at least by the tilting of the earth, which creates winter.  And I am aging.  But what is really happening is I am changing.  And it is the cycle of change, ever present change, that creates the illusion of Time (big T).  

What's the point?  Well, Einstein...among others...are right to say that the point of Time is to keep everything from happening at once.  There is no past, no future, only the present, and there really isn't any of that either, because as I'm writing this, I realize the "present moment" is not present because it is not fixed...I can't show it to you.  I can say "wait a moment" which means a certain amount of time, but the present moment doesn't exist.  If the present moment doesn't exist, what of the past, and the moments that are yet to come, which we call the future?  What Einstein was saying, is without the Field of Time, or our perception of Time, everything would be happening at once, which means there is only one moment, ever, and Time is not fixed and is an artificial idea, like putting boundaries on a map and saying this land is called Tennessee or giving a continent a name, or going even further, giving ourselves names and layering descriptive terms upon ourselves, most of which are given to us by others during our developmental years.  

The first clocks were sundials, we reckon.  Or stones put in circles or rows, something to allow the sun and/or moon to touch or create shadows with to more accurately mark what time of day it was.  To folks living more closely with nature, the time of day can be reckoned more simply as dawn, morning, mid-morning, noon, mid-afternoon, dusk, evening, night.  And that's really all you need to know.  These folks are those living in more agrarian cultures, concerned with either the raising of livestock or crops, or both.  Having lived on a farm, I see how these cycles are all you need, as my father got up early in the morning to bring the cows in, milked them, did other farmery things, then when the sun was highest in the sky, well, it's lunchtime as it's noon.  Easy peasy.  A farmer is his own village and his responsibilities are his own responsibility.  He's his own boss, but as he is disciplined in what is to be done, he does it and the cycles of sun and moon not only inform what his work day is, they also comes into play regarding other aspects of farming, when to allow the livestock to mate, when to plant, when to reap, when to sow...etc.  No timeclocks here, no need.  

It is no mistake that we see that the first real time-keeping arrives around 1 BCE or so.  As this is when, after some centuries of civilizations reaching the point of empire, that we begin to see the urbanization of civilizations and city-building and modern civilization is the new paradigm and we find those in control of the cities now in most cases dictated to the farmers, etc the concept of "this is how many hours you must work for me, now."  Gone in these areas is a self-sustaining village, minding it's own business with its own myths and traditions, etc...we see these cultures being subsumed into larger empires and in the case of Europe well on their way of being lost forever.  We also see about this time, a shift in culture and the first signs of the eroding of aboriginal cultures in the areas that these civilizations arose, many Europe.  Yes, we know there were civilizations of cities in other places of the world, but in speaking of the Western World, we know these ideas came from Europe and the world is still trying to escape that influence.  The culmination of this new shift was when the Roman Empire changed from a military empire that conquered other peoples but by and large let them keep their customs, to an empire that did have military power but used religion as a way of control and thereby sought to not only eradicate the culture and myths of those people, but replace their culture with a completely different one, from a foreign country, as different from their own as an apple is from an orange or Sonny is from Cher.  

Of course, that plan didn't work, right?  I mean, no way would entire populations of people allow another empire to not only rule over them, but also take away all their traditions and myths and cultures and submit to worshiping these new and strange gods that have nothing whatsoever to do with what they understood to be the Great Question of Life the Universe and Everything.  Right?  Wrong.  As we full well know.  The Roman Empire didn't, it re-invented itself and the 800 lb gorilla on this planet right now is Xianity.  And Islam wants that title.

And we see as people were forcibly removed from what they understood Life, the Universe and Everything to be, they lost track of the cycle of nature  and more and more became interested in a more exact keeping track of time and as the centuries go on, scientific pursuits and the "Age of Reason" come into play as we're trying to figure out what the heck is going on, as we no longer have myths that match our lifestyle, until we are now at an age where the world could arguably be broken down into two main groups.  Those who think some four thousand year old myths whom their ancestors were forced to accept are fact, and those who think that myths in general are just lies.  And we wonder why the world is the way it is.  

And today, what do we the Western World, whether you're clinging to myths that no longer make any sense or you're saying, because you see these failed myths, that myths are "just myths" a continued focus on trying to solidify physical reality.   Which is an illusion, just as time is...and we wonder why so many folks are one bad day away from bringing an Uzi into work...or voting Republican.

We need a structure.  Time is not it.  Because we "lose track of time."  Or "wonder where the time went."  Or "Fuck, is it twelve o'clock already?"  Myth is a structure...but if you deny yourself that, you are also lost.  Science is an attempt to create structure by taking apart physical reality and trying to find out how it works, but as it doesn't tell you what it it doesn't even ask the Question, it is a failure.  The bible is a collection of myths, composed by a certain people during a certain time and is unique to the point in time and the people in time who made it.  It only speaks to us today as any sacred text should.  But only a very few individuals on this planet still have the ancestry to say, this book contains my myths.  Take the Jews, (please).  As I have already pointed out in a prior blog, their myths went POOF August 70 AD when their temple was destroyed and they were run out of town.  They've been making it up as they go along since, but had to abandon their own myths and went with Judaism 2.0, which keeps them a cohesive cultural group, but which no longer gives them any connection with Yahweh, which is why he's currently employed doing the landscaping and pool-cleaning over at Allah's place.   And even if you cling to old myths that you THINK are working and should be regarded as "the gospel truth," thanks to science, trying to say, for example, that the earth is only six thousand years old and misunderstanding that myths are symbols and sacred texts are full of mysteries and questions, not facts and figgers, means your myths are no longer valid...if you cling to them in this way, you are lost, you missed the bus, and you're zigging while the world just goes on zagging.

In other words, if you are using a passage in the Old Test to try to determine when Jesus' Second Coming(tm) is going to happen and one of the verses you're using is:  Genesis 7:11 In the six hundredth year of Noah's life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, the same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened...

...and you don't stop at the "In the six hundredth year of Noah's Life" part and realize this is a might need a liedown.  For about six hundred years.  In fact, given that people think Noah lived not only six hundred years but even older than that (hope he saved up for retirement) I am now definitely claiming that there were no winters prior to 1973, when I remember my first one.  So there.  I'm also 420 years old.  Neener neener.

But back to my point(s), and I do have points are extra-pointy modern life, we keep track of time as much as we are able to keep track of something that doesn't exist, with machines that keep time and we see how this is a burden, for our lives to be controlled by the expectation that we need to be somewhere doing something at a certain time.  It is trying, feebly, to layer a certainty onto something that is continually in a state of flux.  Living more in harmony with nature will erase this burden...and reduce stress...and put a lot of philosophers, preachers and psychiatrists out of work, as we don't find these P-People in the Amazon River civilizations or among the Australian aborigines, etc.  Because they not only know what the answer to the Great Question to Life, the Universe and Everything is...they know what the question is.  They don't wonder about it, it's simply how life is, and their myths are relevant to themselves as they are local, personal, intimate. And they know fuck all what time it is, and they're not ashamed of that.

However, we in the Western World, having had our ancestral traditions torn from us and replaced by strange gods with personality disorders and unkempt beards are currently lost and we see many very damaged Xians desperately trying to keep their religion going, as it is all they have, their whole identity is wrapped up in this.  It's like an actor who can't come out of character, like that bit from Monty Python where actors playing Long John Silver or Richard III have become lost in their role and have to go to be taken care of.  They were over-acting, they went too far and took their roles too seriously.  And taking ourselves and our current circumstances seriously is a grievous mistake and we owe Douglas Adams and such folks a debt for making fun of us.

A mask has been placed on these people.  A mask without proper eyeholes, and they have to be led around by others continually.  And every Sunday morning, they know they must go to have the mask maintained.  Meanwhile, there are all these other folks who not only have taken off their mask...but a few have gone further to realize their own face is a mask that the higher, invisible self is temporarily wearing, while it is currently stabilized in the fields of time and space.  And this is why these folks would not hesitate to make the USA a theocracy where you would be forced to live as them.  Why in one US state, I forget which one, doesn't matter...a Republican wants to make it legal to kill abortion doctors.  Because his beliefs are so strong and he's trying to preserve an empty myth to such an extent, he wants to go to those extremes.  Meanwhile of course blaspheming the same god, Jesus, he claims to follow and only giving Atheists more ammunition.  

Meanwhile, without even realizing it...we are creating myths now to replace these old, cob-webbed ones.  We can't go back there...we have moved on although those old gods may still be around.  I'll spare you my personal experiences on this matter.  Some of them may be a bit different, but some of them will have been replaced altogether, or just put on a new set of clothes.

Take the Amazing Spider-man for example.  He is the new interpretation of the old trickster spider gods and stories we find from cultures around the world, especially Africa.  He, through his "medicine," meaning his magical powers is a hero that overcomes the monsters and makes jokes while doing so...what Doctor Doom called his "ceaseless jocularity."  Only a world-beater like Doc Doom takes himself seriously and so it is the weirder heroes of comics that also appear to have a great sense of humor, like The Thing, a man who is made out of rock, a symbol of the power and strength of the earth.  Yes, these comic-book heroes are just one of the evidences of the New Myths.  It is no mistake that as the 20th century came, with the fulfillment of the Industrial Revolution, and the concern with materialism, that our hunger for stories and new myths arrived, the Monkey Trials forever put the nail in the coffin of the idea that America was a free nation founded on Freedom of Religion and that the government is forbidden to respect religion in its laws.  So also Xianity, at that point is shown to fail, it also takes itself too seriously, as it is a world-beater, too...and is shown to be about political control over others into scaring people into certain modes of behavior for the benefit of the state...which means those running the state...which today in American and the Western World in general...are the Corporations...which make sure you know what time you are to come into work, when your next break is, when lunch is, when your second break is, and when you are to not work anymore.  And most likely, your job has some sort of system, be it a punch-card or something more computerized, that keeps track of this to the second, and how good you are at your job depends on several factors, but also includes you being in synch with the timekeeping devices.

This reminds me of a personal experience.  Are you folks still with me...this is going on a bit, eh?  Didja pack a lunch?  I lived in Fort Lauderdale, Fl for about 3 years and in my last few months there, I was technically the manager of the Fine Arts Department in an arts 'n' crafts store.  Which is a bit like putting Bugs Bunny in charge of the Produce Department of your local grocery store.  Well, "manager" is a bit much.  I was the main guy there and there were a couple or so people, usually a college student, usually an art major, who worked with me and I did scheduling and ordering stock and stufflikethatthere.  But I was "in charge" so to speak, although there was precious little managing.  Well...we had this new girl, an art major, who was in it for the wages, but mainly in it for the 10% discount on stuff.  A couple-three weeks go by and she's doing a fine job, knows her stuff, very easy-going and pleasant with the customers and doesn't need to be told to be busy, she's doing just fine, you just have to point her in what direction you want her to go in, and she's good to go.  Unbeknown-st to me...she apparently came in late all the time.  I didn't know this.  I wasn't hovering around the timeclock and was busy anyway when it was time for her to be working, so she was there during that time, doing a great job.  So the manager of the store advised me of this, and that we'd have to let her go.  No warning, no nothing...and because I was the immediate manager of the Fine Arts Dept she was working in, I'd have to be in on the "Exit Interview."  I said little, as I had no real control.  This meeting did not go well...the girl was in tears most of the time.  The meeting lingered until she realized she was fired, really, no kidding.  

So, just because she wasn't in a certain place at a certain time, she was let go...whereas someone who was always punctual but was a gold-bricker and didn't know alizarin crimson from carmine would have been kept around and tolerated if he did a good enough job.  And I had no knowledge of this, to me, she was a model employee.  But because she just couldn't conform to an arbitrary system of time, determined by a machine, both she and the store missed out.

Sad, really...but you see how much we are slaves to a system that is anathema to how we actually live.  We can often no longer eat when we are hungry, it must be dictated.  "Let's take a bathroom break...instead of being in harmony with our bodies and going when we actually need to."  Etc etc etc.

Getting back to Spidey.  Because his is a modern myth for our post-Xian, scientific time...he does not have magical powers, but receives his powers through science.  He is a shaman, who putting on his special clothes, becomes someone else, becomes a hero, becomes The Amazing Spider-man. 

Don't like comic books?  Reading about The Mighty Thor in Marvel Comics...or going to see the upcoming movie too obvious for you?  How about radio?  When did that come around...right after the Industrial Revolution and this post-Xian shift.  Radio wasn't enough, with it's stories and dramas...the Green Hornet, The Shadow, the Lone Ranger, etc etc etc...pulp novels weren't enough...we need teevee, so we can be told stories just like the old days when we'd gather around a fire and watch the shaman tell the stories, hear the druids recite the sagas, when we sat around the old negro talking about Br'er Rabbit, another trickster hero.  Yes, now we could see the person telling the story, see the stories play out, see the actors assume the archetypes in this desperate need to find a new story, a new myth to replace the old worn out ones, even if you thought on Sunday Morning, you were getting all the myth you needed.  No, the church just required you to go, and you needed to have your sense of community reinforced and the rest of the congregation needed that too...and then you left church and went back to your funny books and teevee and movies.

But as we are humans...there should be only one myth...and we don't really need to go looking for's here all the time, just read Joseph Campbell, there it is...the native Americans understood it, the aborigines understand it...the Inuits understand is only modern life, separated as we are from our homelands and from living in harmony with nature and understanding the connection we have with it, being a part of it, not the masters of the world...that has complicated the human experience and this system benefits the few privileged, powerful, wealthy people who want to make sure you do not have a myth that resonates, that galvanizes you.  Which is why we move from teevee show to teevee show, why new movies are constantly being produced, why we regard musicians in such high regard...these actors and artists are the new shamans who seem like demi-gods to us.  And it is nothing to say now that, f'rinstance, the drummer for Rush, Neil Peart, is a God.  All he does is play the drums with a level of skill most humans cannot attain to.  Is that all you need to be a god these days?  Are we so starved for deity...or are we just spiritually incompetent?  And did you see Barbara Streisand's quote?  She herself is revered and has reached mythic status.  Only someone who has reached that level would poo poo the whole idea.  She has reached her apotheosis in the minds of many, and will, like Elvis, Judy Garland, Michael Jackson and others, still resonate and will be worshiped by whose hearts she touched with her art.  She is a replacement myth for many, until the next and best thing comes along.  When it's not only in your can see it in the mirror...if you can only look past your own face/mask.

So why do we look to others to shape this god shaped hole?  Why do we seek after these stories and other entertainments?  Because we've been tricked into thinking either an old, withered myth is still relevant or that myths are just "fairy stories" and have no real value.  Douglas Adams, an atheist, himself took up the mantle of myth-teller, one who creates these stories for a public hungry for them, hungry for Truth, but so addled by materialism and yoked by Time and he didn't even realize what he was doing.  He was a shaman, he was a Rabbi, standing on the mount, telling parables that teach us how to be ourselves, to reveal who we are, to allow us to share in the divine we are ourselves divine.  Even if we think we're smarter than dolphins or laboratory mice.  And we also keep glancing nervously at the clock, because we've been conditioned to do so until we actually began strapping clocks to our arms and hanging them all around us until we now feel we cannot escape the cage of time when we would like to really just spend an afternoon somewhere (between noon and dusk) and just go hug a tree, which doesn't care what time it long as it's not winter.

The answer to the Great Question of the Life, Universe and Everything?  It is not 42, even though I am now that age.  We know the answer and the question, it's part of us as sure as nose-hairs are.  And it's time for us to realize that it is time for the sleeper to awaken, even if the sundial is on the fritz.