I shut my eyes and step off the edge. There is no ill will in this, just questions. God knows how it will end.
But first me. Where to start? Perhaps in my last year of high school. It's religion class with Brother Williams. Believe it or not, there are Catholics who aren't hateful and I was fortunate enough to be educated by some of them for the greater part of secondary school. And what with religion class mostly consisting of philosophy it wasn't as bad as you might think. Hell, a lot of it was fun. But on this particular day I was most definitely staring out the window day-dreaming. Brother Williams is up the front rabbiting on about a particular essay that had been amongst the homework he'd marked and was handing back.
Apparently this one was brilliant, the best thing he'd ever read from a student. And whilst it was too long to read out he wanted the student who'd written it to say something about it. I sit there waiting for the name of the school captain or some other worthy.
"It was written by Nobody - Nobby, do you want to tell us about your essay?" The whole class turns to look at me as I stop staring out the window and suddenly pay attention.
"Um, what? I wrote it?"
"Yes, right, um, sorry Brother Williams but I can't remember what it was about. Can you remind me?" All I could recall was that it was meant to be 2000 words and I'd dashed off 1500 and hoped that I'd get away with it.
"It was about belief."
"Belief. Yes, er... " To be completely honest I don't remember what I said next except that I drew a blank, with Brother Williams somewhat deflated that the kid who'd written the best thing ever was completely unable to remember what it was.
Anyway he took over and told the class why it was great. Apparently what I'd written was a backwards confirmation of a phrase that had been tossed around that term The Answer is in the Question. I think that's what it was called. To be honest it didn't make much impression on me, ha ha.
Finally I got the essay back and read it again. It all came flooding back to me. Madly, what I'd written was an attack on belief. All I'd done was to sequentially list all the things that humans had once prayed to as gods and which we now knew were no such thing. I'd finished up at the end by declaring that since science was a perpetual catch-up game there'd always be things we didn't understand and that subsequently we'd always believe in supernatural answers to otherwise mundane questions. Simplistic stuff sure, but not bad for a sixteen year old. Oh, and Brother Williams? Lovely chap, but I'm thinking he took my essay as a mirror and saw what he wanted to see.
What next? Perhaps we can jump ten years to me deprogramming my mother and brother from the Catholic church. Me, I'd given the church up as a dead loss somewhere around the time I'd written the essay. As for the two of them, I had no great opinion if they wanted to keep going to church - no skin off my nose. But on this night my idiot brother refused to let the subject drop. He wanted to convince me of the rightness of him believing - as if I cared. It was all rather sordid what with his fits of sobbing etc, but in the end I guess I won since they both stopped going to church. Years later I found all the arguments I'd used that night neatly summarised in Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion. He's a curious cove, Richard Dawkins. Best I can make out he's transferred his faith from one religion to another, the latter being called 'science'.
Jump another ten years or so to me taking up Buddhism. Why did I pursue Buddhism? I'm struggling to think. Honestly, I don't know - it appealed, I guess. I read this-book/that-book, none of them quite what I was after, until eventually I arrived at Buddhism Plain And Simple by Steve Hagen. A bombshell in the head of yours truly. Here was a Buddhism that didn't require belief - no karma, no reincarnation, no demi-gods or demons, no heaven or hell, no nothing - just an unadorned philosophy from an ancient Indian who said (I paraphrase), 'Don't believe me or take my word for it. All I know is that this view of the world, and us in it, works for me and it can work for you.' And sure I became slightly untethered for a while (the Buddha will do that to you) but it all worked out in the end with me the pointless mad bastard you see today, ha ha. But never mind, the bird-watching is good and I make sense to myself.
Or did I get ahead of things there? Somewhere along the line, the disbelief that had been reserved for things religious I found could equally be applied to, I don't know... 'every goddamn thing'. Or everything in the media, that is. Once again, it wasn't my fault - all I knew was that they were lying about Iraq, and so badly that even a Time Magazine/Economist reading zombie like me was never going to swallow it. Honestly, Saddam in cahoots with Bin Laden was an insult to my intelligence. Fuck those lying sons of bitches. So! You pull on the thread, and once you start in on that, the whole damn thing unravels until there's very little left. I won't go into the details since there's too many, and besides if you're here reading this you know perfectly well what I'm talking about.
Finally I arrive at Les Visible's Smoking Mirrors. I don't know about anyone else but for me it was significant. If you asked people why they were fans you'd get a thousand different answers. But me, I was there for the writing. Imagine Hunter S Thompson acknowledging 911 - wow. In those terms, Smoking Mirrors was not only an inspiration but it also provided a template as to how a bloke like me might go about doing it himself. It may seem obvious now, but it wasn't then, at least not to me having walked away from the hateful zionist troll infested Indymedia. Long and short - without Les I wouldn't be here ...for what that's worth, ha ha.
The writing is one thing and then there's the old disbelief chestnut. In Les' case I'd previousy kicked it into abeyance. Hunter S Thompson had always had an obsession with the Book of Revelations, and Les' writing was like that, only more so. And that was fine for a while but lately the millenarian vibe over at, well, all of Les' blogs has kicked into some kind of messianic exponential. Who can tell his temporal blog from his spiritual one? Not me. Somewhere along the line Les became his own Book of Revelations. In his latest technicolour armageddon meltdown there was time travel, UFO's, messages from the gods, public nudity, every goddamn thing. It was a grab bag for everyone who ever said I want to believe and The truth is out there.
Now I admit that Les has been good to me. He put me on his blogroll and said some nice things about me. But the catholic church did nice things for me too, and my parents likewise, but that didn't stop me from pulling that thread, you know what I mean? Okay, so that thread is just sitting there, and what's a feller to do?
Back to Les - says he, it's the end of the goddamn world and here is what the gods have told me. Deep breath, ask the question- How is this different to every other end-of-the-world, as described by whomever was in touch with those gods? Gee whiz, I'm back in high school: will I spiel off a list of millenarian cults for us all? There's any number merely amongst Buddhists beating each other with sticks over Maitreya.
That aside, we think these times are bad, yes? I mean really super-double-bad, like no 'bad' that's ever occurred before? For whom? For white people who think that 'bad' means running out of coffee? Do we want another historical list? Perhaps we'd call it, Coloured people who'd roll their eyes at the magnitude of our suffering if only they hadn't all been genocided to complete extinction. It seems the gods slept through all those other genocides but now that the Anglo Saxons are to suffer: Enough's Enough! The Gods Awaken!
Back to the expressions of supernature now - Les' gods differ from every other false idol in the history of the world, how, exactly? And what of their alleged omnipotence? Given that nothing happens without them, that is. For them to appear before us and convince us utterly of their existence would surely be the merest blink of their omnipotent eye, no? And yet they never do. It's poor of me, but I have to shake my head. It seems that these supernatural beings never cut to the fucking chase. A click of the fingers is all it would take.
I will admit that spooky preternatural shit does take place. At Fatima in Portugal in 1917, an entity whispered in the ears of three children and then when 70,000 people had gathered, a silver disk flew around the sky. What the hell was that? Beats me, but if it was an omnipotent god keen to impress us all with his unambiguous reality you'd have to call him out as an incompetent, surely? If on the other hand, the whisperer/UFO pilot's job description was that of 'trickster', who could argue? But then, I never heard of anyone keen to tell us that they were visited by tricksters. It's like bragging that you slept with Amy Winehouse. Shudder... best keep that one under your hat. Or declare that it was actually Angelina Jolie - it's not like anyone could prove you wrong.
But forget the tricksters, we're talking about full-tilterama e-ticket gods. But big-timers or no, they seem to be uneasy Gods who feel unfulfilled, or something. Insecurity is their middle name. Wait, do gods have a first name? Or a last name? Whatever. Says these gods, or rather their earthly representatives, it's very important that we acknowledge them, and specifically their omnipotence. And God forbid anyone not do this because it's this acknowledgement by His subjects that will separate the sheep from the goats. And Les is no different. Says he, nothing counts apart from us attempting to commune with the gods. A life spent in selfless giving (er... by better people than me, sure enough) would, were these gods not sought out along the way, count for nothing.
High school again: aren't these yet more in a loooong line of insecure gods who, say the priests, demand that we love them? Actually when I say long line of gods, wouldn't it be more correct to say every god ever posited? Perhaps God is Gloria Swanson from Sunset Boulevard - a hollow shell who needs the adulation of millions to be real. What was her line again? "I'm ready for my close-up Mr De Mille." Ha ha ha - spooky!
What the hell would I know? I'm just wide-eyed high school kid who doesn't know what all the fuss is about. Or I'm a dry-eyed nobody who does - it's one of those two things. If there's a proper god out who thinks I'm worth the effort, I'd be happy to ask him what he wants of me. But that insecure god who demands my love and yet madly refuses to ask for it in person, who otherwise saves his favours for those who could most accurately be described as 'the credulous': I don't know what his problem is, but he can just leave me out of it. I expect that that will piss him off but, gee whiz... he needs to get over it.
This is the first part of two. The second part follows immediately below.