“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 yet...as 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 step...as 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, etc...is 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 fall...no, 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 have...in 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 means...as 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 myth...you 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 some...my points are extra-pointy today...in 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, completely...as 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 story...one myth...and we don't really need to go looking for it...it's here all the time, just read Joseph Campbell, there it is...the native Americans understood it, the aborigines understand it...the Inuits understand it...it 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 feet...you 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 truths...as 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 is...as 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.