Read "What comes after Trump?" by my altered-ego D.L. @ https://laskenlog.blogspot.com/
Thursday, April 16, 2020
If you've read to the end of this blog you've met 24 year old Gregory, leader of the activist group, "Army of the Young," who believes that technological changes impacting us will lead either to total submersion of humanity or to the creative blossoming our kind has longed for. I hadn't talked to Gregory since we met a few weeks ago at the Bakersfield Woolworth's, and I wanted to know what he thought about the global response to the coronavirus pandemic. I called him and suggested we meet again at the same Woolworth's, but Gregory has been doing his organizing on zoom, and he wanted to meet that way. I have an old Mac, and luckily it and I were able to handle the technology.
I was ready to scorn the zoom experience, but I was surprised and a little unsettled by how quickly I got used to the two-dimensional, fleshless image of Gregory. The only dimension we shared was time. Below is a transcript of our conversation.
Me: Hi Gregory! How are you doing?
I could see busy young people walking back and forth behind him, tending to fax machines and computers. Gregory wore an "Army of the Young" t-shirt. His hair was long, but he was shaven. He smiled disarmingly.
Gregory: Hello, Harry! I enjoy reading about your adventures with your spirit guides, Betty and Robert.
Me: You should make a trip out here and meet them. They could add some dimensions to your movement.
G: How so?
From a look that passed over Gregory's face I realized that he believed that Betty the Coyote Creator Goddess and Robert the Telepathic Gila Monster are fictional creations of mine.
Me: Gregory, you do know, I hope, that Betty and Robert are real?
Me: Betty is an incarnation of the Native American "Trickster Goddess," and Robert is a telepathic gila monster who, unlike most of his tribe, thinks I'm good conversation.
G: How about your treatment of Jesus then, and Gandalf, a fictional character?
Me: Well, they're real...in various senses.
Gregory looked at me through the non-judgemental zoom platform, but it was clear he was reassessing me as a nut. He has no problem accepting my telepathy, so it surprised me that he would doubt the reality of my desert companions. I was about to resign myself to losing an important friend, when Betty decided to pull a deus ex machina (literally). Her face appeared on the screen and howled mournfully.
G: Very funny, Harry!
And then Betty was standing on her hind paws next to Gregory, her front paws on his desk between the keyboard and mouse. She looked at him and smiled a coyote smile.
Gregory leaped out of his chair shouting, What the fuck!
Betty: Hello, Gregory!
And then she was gone. Gregory sat slowly back down in his chair. He seemed to be panting.
Me: Gregory, I'm sorry! She does things without warning me. You should take her revelation to you as an endorsement. She understands your movement and wants to support and influence it.
I let Gregory breathe for a while. Finally he spoke.
G: Harry, what does this mean? I am secular, as you know. I'm not an atheist, but I do like evidence for what I believe. Should I kill myself?
Me: No! Gregory, Jesus no! That would mean I should kill myself. But I feel lucky to have stumbled into these devine and exotic relationships. Forces like these don't mean that science is false...just that it's incomplete.
G: That's not the problem, Harry. My unease is not caused by the possibility of deities and intelligent non-humans.
Me: What is it then?
G: Have you heard of Epicurus?
Me: Is he the one who recommended eating and drinking all day?
G: No. That's the fake Epicurus created by Judeo/Christian authorities to weaken the huge following Epicurus had in the Greek and Roman worlds. The real Epicurus was a 4th Century BC Greek philosopher whose doctrines became anti-matter to the newly forming establishment religions.
Me: What were his doctrines?
G: Every book by him was destroyed, so we rely on the Roman writer Lucretius, who two centuries later recorded Epicurius' ideas in his work, "On the Nature of Things." Copies of this book too were destroyed and it was lost for centuries, until one copy was discovered in a German monastery in 1417. Just to get through this quickly, I'll put Epicurius' religious ideas in bullet points:
- Everything is made of tiny things called atoms (Greek for "thing that can't be cut"). Humans are made of atoms that are all tangled up in crap and nonsense.
- Gods exist. They inhabit peaceful, contemplative realms. Gods are made of atoms too, but their atoms are "fine," unencumbered with crap and nonsense, and they want to keep it that way.
- The gods don't care about us. If they perceive us at all we're an irritating static.
- We have souls, made of atoms. There is no afterlife. When a soul dies, it's gone.
By the way, Gregory continued, most adherents of Epicurus were aristocrats, which makes sense because they had enough comfort in life that they didn't need to believe it would come after they died.
More to the point, the gods, according to Epicurus, would just as soon flush us down the toilet if we get in their face. Unfortunately humans often end up on a collision course with a god's face, sometimes because of actions by philosophers, sometimes by scientists (once by a woman named Eve) and the toilet of history becomes a real possibility. There's a major collision brewing now because human physicists have found clever ways to peek into the divine sphere. Their data is refracted back in distorted, ambiguous form, with the net effect of forcing the scientists into embarrassing admissions of non-comprehension while still pissing off the gods.
Me: Uh-oh, why are the gods pissed off?
G: If Epicurus was right that gods want to be left alone, we should be getting a lot of attention from gods now because of our intrusions. Your encounters with Betty and Jesus could be aspects of this. I'm sure a lot of people are having such encounters. It's bad news, Harry.
Me: Why? Why couldn't it be good news?
G: Because the "gods" or "celestial clouds of blissful atoms" or whatever we decide to call them are irritated by us. And why not? They were blissful before we blundered in.
Me: Gregory, "blunder" comes from a Scandinavian word meaning, "blind." It's not our fault. We don't know what we're doing. We should be forgiven. Although I see your point. We need to take a breath and think about things. What do you recommend? Should I apologize to Betty and Jesus and stay out of their desert?
G: Not necessarily, Harry. Why don't we try to find out what they want?
Me: I thought we knew that: They want us gone.
G: But...we might be able to negotiate how we go, how we become gone. After all, we don't even know where we are, or that we are someplace we haven't been before and maybe shouldn't be. Let's wait for some feedback.
Me: That's one of the elements of your movement, isn't it? We should stop dictating to the universe and have a conversation with it instead.
G: That's right Harry. If I didn't know you aren't a joiner, I'd invite you to join us.
Me: I'm honored to be invited! My purpose today was actually to ask you about the response to the coronavirus. The last time I saw you in Bakersfield we didn't know the whole world was about to change. How does the pandemic response fit into your movement?
G: The pandemic response and its aftermath will be a test of human governance. Everybody is talking now about how inefficient everything is, how uncoordinated, how unplanned. The cure for that is strong government, the very thing everyone loves to hate. Governance is in a bind because it is not trusted. We need it to be strong, but we don't trust it to be strong.
Me: Very true. What does your movement suggest?
G: We suggest that geographic areas be established (possibly, in our case, on the West Coast) where government can start from scratch, offering the security of scientific response in a realistic fashion, without bombast or pontification or any of the self-canonizations of the 2020 U.S. presidential campaign.
Me: How would you enforce your language requirements? Who would be in charge of monitoring political language?
G: We've identified a vast pool of qualified and willing candidates: retired English teachers.
G: They are already comfortable judging people's use of language. They tend to have sensitive ears for political nuances, since many are exiles from inhospitable political environments.
Me: I'll have to tell my buddy D.L.; he'll jump on it!
G: Send him to me. Harry, I need to get going now. To tell you the truth, I'm a bit shaken by Betty's visit. How do you handle it?
Me: With care. Good luck, Gregory!
G: Same to you, Harry!
I clicked a tab on the screen that said, "Leave meeting," then clicked another that said, "End meeting," and finally without clicking anything, I left the meeting.
When the protests and rioting resulting from George Floyd's killing started, I contacted Gregory again to see how the unrest was affecting his movement, since his followers tend to be in the same young demographic as the protestors. We set up another zoom meeting and had a short but revealing conversation:
Me: Have your young followers been swept up in the protests over police killings?
G: Many of them have, yes, but we have discussions in which we put current events into the perspective of the human transformation now underway. Part of that transformation entails a genetic refashioning of the traditional races. Whether our ancestors lost their skin pigmentation in the quest for vitamin D or not, our genetic codes will be mixed and matched.
Me: Are you predicting the disappearance of currently existing races?
G: Not the disappearance- the modification. There will be an element of self-determination as parents choose their children's physical, intellectual and emotional characteristics from the palette offered by science. After a few generations, the result will be artificial "races" that are physically soothing to each other across racial lines, avoiding the intense rivalry and historical baggage typical of today's racial mixing. Bioengineering will bring us harmonious diversity at last, but in the process it will destroy today's version of diversity.
Me: A lot of people will not like that.
G: No one will be able to stop it, but there will be instances of isolated groups who seek to retain their original genetic makeup. It will be a matter of great pride for them, but rivalries between extended genetic families will not have the force of "race war" that we verge on now.
Me: Do you advise your followers how to protest George Floyd's killing?
G: No, I don't tell my "followers" what to do. It's enough for me that they understand the context of the unrest- its context in human evolution.
G: In a nutshell.
[For more on Gregory's Army of the Young, keep reading here or go to http://www.gregorysarmyoftheyoung.com/]
Sunday, April 5, 2020
Shelter-in-place orders haven’t changed my life much. I live like that anyway, sometimes staying home in my desert shack all week until the Saturday trip to the Family Dollar Store. Now when I go there, the clerk is wearing a face mask and the customers stay the same 15-20 feet away from each other that they ever did.
I do find my mind wandering during this period, probably for the same reason everyone’s mind is wandering: No one knows where this transformation of society is heading, other than that it’s got a distinct dystopian sheen.
Anyway, I was thinking about my two divine acquaintances, Betty the Coyote Creator Goddess and Jesus, and how easily I’m able to slide into conversation with them, as though they were kindly kindergarten teachers and I was a puzzled five year old.
And it occurred to me, maybe because of my recent conversations with Gregory (leader of the "Army of the Young") that I’ve never tried to take this to the next level, you know, by attempting to talk to Gxd. The weird spelling derives from irrational fears held by many Jews that Gxd is a sort of volcano deity, furious, ready to spew torrents of molten wrath should you stray one inch from Hxs will. Therefore you should not get too close to Hxm, which would happen if you used Hxs name.
I call that fear “irrational,” but it isn’t really. For one thing, the Torah, the foundational scripture of Jews (accepted by Christianity and Islam as the Old Testament), presents exactly that jealous, supreme, furious god, ready at any moment to torment and kill the disobedient.
Combine that with a universe- the one we inhabit- that a lot of the time does seem run by such a god, and you have a recipe for an irrational fear that is rational.
Nevertheless I sat on my front porch staring at non-indigenous shrubs in the sandy yard and wondered, “If I can talk to Betty the Coyote Goddess and Jesus, can I talk to Gxd?”
I continued to muse, “If Eastern thinkers are right, Betty and Jesus are faces of a central god, known by Hindus as Atman, 'the spiritual life principle of the universe' (Microsoft dictionary), that is in all likelihood the face or a face of our uppercase god, which means I’ve already talked to Gxd many times. In fact most people have probably talked to Gxd.”
“Still though," I continued to myself, “With Betty and Jesus I’m receiving a persona, anthropomorphized for me, or in the case of Betty mammalized, composed of particular aspects of Atman (or should I say Axxxn?). But if I commune with Gxd directly I might receive every aspect of Hxm at once. Would I short-circuit?”
Such cautionary thoughts did not dissuade me because, as research has shown, males are more drawn to risk than females, and older men with nothing to do but write their experiences are the most drawn, because they need things to write about.
I resolved then to go in search of Gxd. And since there is no better guide for finding a god than another god, I sought Betty.
It wasn't hard to find her. I just walked across the desert for a while and there she was, sitting beside a creosote bush. As usual she was way ahead of me.
"Hi Harry, " she murmured seductively, "Looking for Mr. Big?"
"Hi Harry, " she murmured seductively, "Looking for Mr. Big?"
"If that's sarcasm, Betty, I may or may not understand it. I'm guessing you don't appreciate being a lesser god to humankind's one and only."
"It's not like that, Harry," Betty thought to me (since her physical self can't say consonants, our communication is telepathic), "We are all aspects of X, including you. Do you like my new spelling?"
"Sure," I chuckled (adding a telepathic chuckle emoji), "you know, in human math, 'X' means 'unknown'."
"Sorry. Should I drop the idea?"
"I don't know."
"What? Did you say, 'I don't know'? Betty, you are a deity, maybe an aspect of X. How are you not going to know?"
"I don't know," she replied with a grin (FYI, coyotes can grin).
"If that don't beat all...." I offered.
"Go figure," Betty said, and continued, "Harry, close your eyes."
I did as instructed, though I recalled that Coyote, often in male form, was believed by many Native Americans to be a destructive trickster, sometimes even the source of evil. Betty noted my inner musings and replied:
"Harry, don't forget that many tribes depicted me as the creator of humanity, personally designing its mentality, bringing it the gift of fire and much more."
"Betty, did you do those things?"
"Honestly, I don't remember...." Betty seemed to drift off.
"Harry, sorry, I'm trying to concentrate here. Can we change the subject and set a course for your conscious soul?"
"My 'conscious soul'?"
"Yes. Your soul has several parts. One part we call 'conscious,' which is, for want of a better term, 'you'."
"What are the other parts? Do I want to know?"
"Apparently you do, Harry. I'm going to tell you a myth from the Mohave tribe, who lived around here. They believed that when you dream you travel back to the time of creation and directly witness the events of your mythology."
"Betty, I'm getting sleepy. Wait, revise that...I'm asleep! Wow, and this is a dream!"
"Calm down, Harry. Breathe deliberately and slowly, or dream that you are."
I tried to control my breathing and began to relax, my closed eyes settling on an evolving void of utter darkness and nothingness. It began to fold in on itself. A soft purplish glow appeared, which somehow I knew was self-awareness. I drifted closer to the glow and saw that it was as innocent as an infant's new mind.
Betty returned to my thoughts, "Yes Harry, we renew as helpless, unknowing infants. The lessons from our past lives, at least the ones that survive, come raining down on us."
I saw this "rain" in many colors, filling the purple haze with language, history, perspective, personality. Then dozens of eyes appeared across the newly formed "body," looking all around, even, terrifyingly, at me. Betty stepped in again.
"It's alright, Harry, just a process. Newly established inborn knowledge is being infused with perception of current time. The mind of X is forming."
"How often does this process take place."
I let that stand, distracted as I was by the developing entity. Anxiety, fed no doubt by a dump truck of guilt, was growing within me.
"Betty," I had to restrain myself from shouting, "I don't know why, but I'm getting really scared. Can you get me out of here?"
"No, only you can get yourself out of here."
I knew that was true. The entity spread out to fill my entire visual field, appearing like a sphere around me. I was floating in the center. My heart started to pound.
"Betty, am I in the middle of X's mind?"
"Sure, Harry. Either that or you're confined in an institution, telling your therapist your latest delusion."
"Betty, stop joking!"
Betty's soft chuckle reassured me. "Harry, X has lost innocence now and has a mature form."
"Betty, is X male, as our mythology has it?"
"Talk to X and find out."
I stared at the inner wall of the sphere that surrounded me. It was full of morphing images, impossible to make sense of. Finally I spoke.
"Hello? Please forgive me for being blasphemous, if I am. To begin with, could Yxu please tell me what 'blasphemous' means? I would like to ask Yxu if Yxu have a gender, but not if it's a blasphemous question."
And just like that I heard a crisp, sweet voice, "Hello, Harry. It seems I created you."
"Oh, I guess you did, thank you. Betty, are you still here?" Betty did not respond. I wanted her advice on how, or whether to proceed, but she left me on my own.
"I mean," I sputtered to Gxd, "I'm confused. I just watched you be created, so I'm not sure how you created me. That sounded irreverent, please forgive me...!"
"Don't worry, Harry, we're communicating now. All I ask from humans is some introspection and responses that show evidence of critical thinking skills."
"Oh thank god, I mean, oh my god....!"
"Harry, relax. Remember, you're dreaming. If it's too much, just accept it as a dream."
"Ok, but how do I know if it's a nightmare or a, what's the opposite of a nightmare, 'good dream'?"
"'Good dream' will do, Harry. Anyway, back to your question, 'What is blasphemy?' It's from the Greek, meaning 'slander.' To blaspheme is to slander X, to say something about X that is not true. Since you know nothing of X, then whatever you say about Hxm is of unknown truth and thus is slander and blasphemy."
"Oh, ok...uh...sorry, I don't know how to refer to Yxu. Should I call you Gxd?"
"Don't refer to Mx as anything. To refer to Mx is to presuppose knowledge of Mx, which, as noted, is slander, and yes, it has been known to rile Mx."
"Ok! But, I'm getting lost here. If I'm communicating with Yxu now, doesn't that require referring to Yxu, and so blaspheming?"
"Harry, you're being literal and time based. This is a dream. We are both ending and becoming in every moment. You sin and blaspheme, you lose your innocence, I become angry and lose my innocence then regain it. Does that make sense, Grasshopper?"
"No! I'm losing my ability to know how words work! Oh my X! Yxu joked and made me feel like I am like Yxu, but I am lost and without understanding, so how could I be like Yxu?"
"Good question, Harry, you are an excellent student! Go ahead and ask your question about gender."
"Oh yes, sorry. Well, do Yxu have a gender? Are Yxu male or female?"
I should have expected that.
X continued: "We're reaching the end of this dream, Harry. Let me ask you what you learned from this encounter."
"What I've learned is...uhm... Lord, I have learned...damn! Sorry! Jesus, what the hell...."
I was really losing it, tangled in so many languages and perspectives.
"Try again, Harry."
The voice was kind, loving. It was a relief to feel a benevolent side of X.
"Ok, sorry for blaspheming!"
I calmed down then, my thoughts coming together in sensible form.
"Ok. Well, I think the lesson I've learned is that humankind's understanding is limited to a shell of constructs assembled by our five senses. Those senses are not designed to see beyond the shell. Thinking about X is an attempt to do just that. The sin is not that we try to see beyond the shell. It's that we can't admit that we don't know how to, that we haven't seen squat. We don't know anything at all beyond the shell. Nothing. The sin is pretending that we are able to see. What angers Yxu is dishonesty."
"Not bad, Harry," said Gxd.
Betty came floating into the visual field and spoke cheerfully:
"Say goodbye to Gxd, Harry. This dream is almost over."
"Goodbye, Gxd, and thank you!"
"Any time, Harry," said Gxd.
Betty gestured for me to get on her back, and she galloped across the renewing desert. It was dawn when I dismounted in my front yard. I bid farewell to Betty and went to bed, entering a dreamless sleep.