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An open letter to all my friends.
The place where Madam Bisone and I are currently staying is filled with ghosts of many species. Some are perhaps “stone tape” recordings of past wounds. Others are memories, or thoughtforms lighter than neutrino clouds. I detect the fingerprints of a few darker customers on these premises as well. I know that’s largely my fault. I’m learning to forgive myself for it. I’m only human, after all.
But the latter phrase is a weird one to ponder. To say that we are “only human” is like saying Michelangelo was “only” some guy who chiseled and colored stones. It is correct only in comparison to something higher, to a structure of being that is paradoxically both human and more than human.
The story of mankind is littered with such candidates, who typically take the shape of godlike heroes and the humanlike gods who favor them. Some of their tales are horror-comedies, such as the story of Hercules.I’ve said before that this is my favorite genre. But I also believe there is no such thing as a pure “horror” story, because every one of those has a seed of comedy at its core. This is particularly the case for tales of supernatural horror, in which we see a bunch of morons run away from demons and monsters. They tend to scream and cry at the sight of these strange beings, when they should be laughing their heads off.
In fact, they should be experiencing joy of the purest kind, because to bear witness to evil manifested in such direct and obvious forms is to know that their opposites also exist. If we could describe reality as having any inherent property at all, it would be symmetry. For every black, a white, for every wrong, a right. We know this truth in a deep place, beneath all theories and models. The portrait of reality is not so much binary as it is, by necessity, whole. Some would say ”by design.” I am one of them, but I’m sure some of you are not.
And that’s fine by me. As I mentioned to a very old and dear friend the other night, I have friends of all philosophical and religious backgrounds. That includes atheists, of course. I myself was raised half-atheist (and by multiple generations of half-atheists, at that, on both sides of my family). I never preach to these friends — at least, not about God; robots might be a different story.
There are probably many reasons for that. For one thing, I’m not a preacher. If that’s a real talent that some humans possess, I don't have it. For another, I know that preaching won’t work, particularly for atheists who come by their unbelief honestly.
What do I mean by that? Well, basically “Not Sam Harris” and “Not Richard Dawkins.” I know it’s not usually best practice to define terms by their negatives, but I also suspect my atheist friends know exactly what I mean. Both examples provided also happen to be preachers, though of the most ugly and wretched gospel ever devised. Proof of this can be found everywhere in their liturgy, but its most typical manifestation comes in either analogizing or directly advocating for the harming of children. Go figure.
But again, there’s a core of comedy even here, lurking deep in the cobwebbed crypts of their utilitarian horror shows. Whenever people like them begin yammering about the “delusions” of faith and God, they unknowingly beclown themselves with logical fallacies in their most juvenile forms. They make big and obvious mistakes, which they attempt to disguise in clouds of ever fancier words. In this way, they are essentially the Generative Pre-Trained Transformers of Bullshit (GPTB, which sounds like some exotic new identity group the courts will indemnify through Title IX abuse).recently wrote an excellent piece about “emergence,” which is one of the many elaborately stupid forms this bullshit takes.
As I noted in the comments:
(The author writes:) “Because the physical part of our brain is demonstrably the thing we use to make decisions…”
What is this "we" she speaks of?
Who is this "user" of brains?
The idea expressed isn’t just a minor blunder or a poor choice of words. These are elemental mistakes in logic and causality. That’s why they’re so easy to mock. Fun too.
But it isn’t all comedy. There is horror all around us, and it doesn’t require fangs and claws to horrify. The “natural” manifestations of evil are the Devil’s preferred weapons. He occasionally screws up, and accidentally gives some of us a peek behind the curtain. I have no idea why. Maybe he gets blackout drunk on a bender, and leaves his mask with the coat-check girl. Or maybe, like the heads of other evil enterprises, he sometimes hires or promotes the wrong staff based on attributes other than competence. The idea that demons who forget to wear their costumes is the result of some diabolical form of DEI is a tempting explanation.But like I said, demonstrations of supernatural evil aren't necessary, and because of reality's symmetry are more likely to be counterproductive.
The same can be said of the material evils that all of us can see. That’s not to say all will see them, for the obvious reason that people get tangled up in evil in the first place. Just as some clowns tell you that free will doesn’t exist (LOL), others will tell you that evil also doesn’t exist. Often they are the same clowns. No wonder kids are so afraid of those.
Anyway, what these clowns will describe in place of evil is something along the lines of cultural “programming,” “oppressive structures” and the like. They’re wrong about this, but not perfectly wrong. What they get right is that evil often gains an institutional form. It incorporates, and in doing so expands its power and reach. Much of this expansion is accomplished via the medium of egregores; gestalt entities composed of human agents who’ve been corrupted or compromised in a variety of different ways, yet appear to coordinate their destructive actions along mutual vectors.
For example, an empire can be described as the manifested form of an evil egregore. This is particularly the case when its rulers crank out rules that favor their own sinful desires or financial interests, or which are designed to jealously protect their grip on power at any cost. A tribe can also function this way. So can a religion. So can a mob.
This past Friday, Christians celebrated the story of a more-than human man who faced all of these egregious imperial, tribal and democratic structures simultaneously. The tribe bayed for his blood behind the mask of evil faith, while the mob demanded the release of one of their own revolutionaries in his stead. The empire’s interests were deemed to be served in fulfilling both requests, all ethics and virtues be damned. Like Julius Caesar, everyone had a knife that they were more than happy to stick into this man, even though their ulterior motives were at cross purposes. His enemies all hated and feared each other, but they hated and feared this one man even more.
It’s at the next point in this story where believers and non-believers often part ways. And it is here is where we must rejoin our ranks.
Even if we set aside the concept of Jesus Christ as the earthly manifestation of God who defeated Death, the cup still overflows with meaning. What we’re left with is not merely a gross miscarriage of justice against an innocent man, but against one who at had at his disposal many ways to escape it. Indeed, unlike Caesar, he saw this freight train coming down the tracks. To see it required no special powers of foresight; Jesus was obviously going to be seen as a major problem at some point, to both the Pharisees and to Rome. A person doesn’t say the kinds of things he said in public without threatening evil structures and their masters everywhere.
What could he have done? Fled, for one thing. He also could have fought his way out, as Peter fought with his sword on the night of the arrest.No matter what you personally believe, Peter and his fellow apostles believed they had seen this man perform impossible feats of magic with their own eyes. This being the case, I imagine they thought Jesus would not even require a sword to fight, or a horse to run.
The sight of his surrender must have bewildered and amazed those people even more than his healing of lepers or walking on water. I'm guessing at least a few of them held out hope it was some kind of trick, and that their teacher would either miraculously escape the clutches of his enemies, or defeat them all without even raising a hand.
In true more-than-human fashion, he did both. Just not in the forms or on the timetables their only-human minds expected.
But you don’t have to believe me. Because he also revealed a property of the human world for all to see, including those who see only the material nature of its contents.
When some atheists explain their version of the tale, it doubles as an accusation. Christ is accused of being a useful idiot, whose humble submission to the evil structures of power was retailed by those same, in order to promote servility and slavishness among the conquered masses. It’s the kind of upside-down reframing of the tale that strikes me as funny, because — like most material-reductionist theories — it makes several fundamental errors without even noticing.
The first is this: No one here gets out alive.
Not in the form of material, in any case. That is not just a consequence of being “only human,” but of being in possession of physical material at all. As users of this material, we try to improve and extend its function in many ways, just as a good carpenter would sharpen his tools. But even the best and sharpest tools eventually rust and decay. Every single man and woman at that show-trial in Judea is long dead. Any material in their possession they may have passed on through their children, holdings and works is also long gone, or has mutated into forms so radically different that they might as well be.
I will die. You will die.
But how will we die?
Will we die on the run, hunted down like dogs by our oppressors?
Will we die fighting, in service of our noblest principles? That’s said to be a much better way to die, and I agree. But that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily the best way. It depends on the circumstances, and the logical options that are available.
And that question leads us to the second error, which is hubris. I once developed a calculation which I nicknamed “The Law of More Meat.” I might elaborate on that in written form someday, but the basic idea is that — all else being equal — the odds of victory against multiple opponents slopes much more sharply upwards than most of us imagine. In fact I believe the curve becomes something like infinite after ten.
At this point, you not only can’t fight your way out of the situation, but you also cannot run (or, at least, not for long, unless the plane you run on is similarly infinite and flat). If ten people of equal size and ability decide to hunt you down, beat you to death, and roast what’s left of you on a open fire, that outcome is basically guaranteed.
Can you talk your way out of it? Maybe, but I believe that tactic also slopes more sharply than most think, and contains other weird curves within it. Can one man talk ten bloodthirsty foes out of murdering him? Perhaps. A hundred? Unlikely. Ten thousand? Oddly I think that’s more likely than a hundred, because the capacity to communicate to that many souls at once suggests power of a kind that may enhance self-preservation in general. Or, at least, it used to suggest that, in the time before the rise of global communications networks. Perhaps it will again, if the evil powers are able to seize full control and censor us.
The point is, eventually you will run out of tactics of any kind. This is true even if you are the wealthiest person on Earth, or hide from all risk in the safety of your bedroom. Death will eventually hunt you down and eat you, in one form or another.
The man whose inexplicable defeat of Death we celebrated yesterday wasn’t submitting to the horror of evil authorities, but demonstrating their weakness for all to see. All the evil machinery of the world — be it that of Church, State, revolutionary gang or blood-and-soil tribe — feared one man so much that they saw fit to murder him. And only because he allowed them to.
To stand before the kangaroo court without complaint was his penultimate lesson. If you are like me and accept the grand finale of the resurrection, there was one more lesson to be learned. But even those who can’t make it there might notice that his “final” acts were those of strength, not weakness.
He didn’t run and hide, because no only-human being could do that, especially with that much heat on his trail. He didn’t stand and fight, because — Bruce Lee and John Wick notwithstanding — none of us could successfully do that either. He spoke when spoken to, but not in a strategic way, as some slick attempt to talk himself out of the jam he was in. He wouldn’t give his enemies one iota of satisfaction that day, but especially not in that regard.
He was demonstrating what it really meant to be like us. He was also showing how best to greet Death when it inevitably arrives, when all options for survival have been swept from the board. He showed how our deaths can have a meaning that extends well past its material borders, particularly when our evil enemies care about nothing except saving their own skin, for as long as only-humanly possible.
In other words, Jesus of Nazareth showed us how to be unconquerable. For generations afterward, Christian martyrs were tortured and slain, made examples of by the same hubristic villains who murdered Christ. As you know, we are up against a similar tide of evil these days, of a format which seems to have been coordinated for maximum misery and destruction.
SPOILERS: We are going to win. But we’re not all going to “make it,” in the material sense of that phrase. Many of us will not live long enough to see that victory. At least, not the way many material-reductionists formulate the concepts of “seeing” and “living.”
Instead, we will die as well as we can. Some of us will even die laughing, because we have seen the Enemy behind its many disguises. Even the scariest clown looks funny when he’s putting his makeup on backstage.
In that light, the same could be said of their human minions and egregores. Allow me to ask the dust of their bones about their great victories.
To the revolutionaries of the mob: You demanded of your enemy’s court to free your champion, Barrabus. And so it did! How sweet was your victory when he subsequently led you into battle, and toppled all those fascists and structural oppressions of Rome?
To the Pharisees: You demanded of your enemy’s court to slay your heretical rival. How well did the outcome benefit your tribe? Did you also topple Rome, or free yourself from her corrupted, grasping hands? Sing to me of the boundless glories of your people in all the centuries since then, who would never again in history have murderous slander and wrath visited upon them!
To Rome: You capitulated to the bloodthirsty mob and tribe, who hated you to your very core. They even hated those parts of you which were actually just and noble, and which you sacrificed in a heartbeat for the low, low price of one man’s blood. Now recount for me the strength of your triumvirate of gods, of Jupiter and Mars and Janus, and how you conquered all the world with the advantage of their favor!
Please speak to me, all you great and terrifying rulers, who proved you can kill an honest man with dishonest laws. Tell me ghosts of Rome: who conquered whom in the end? Most importantly, tell us all how well your final battle with Death panned out. Don’t be shy.
I don’t hear much in reply. In fact, even those whispers I do hear may be nothing but magnets and memories.
I’d ask them to pipe down, but for some reason I’m enjoying them today. It makes me think I might be onto something.
Happy Easter, everybody.
P.S. If you found any of this valuable (and can spare any change), consider dropping a tip in the cup for ya boy. I’ll try to figure out something I can give you back. Thanks in advance.
His tale isn’t typically thought of this way, but give it some thought
Okay, more diabolical.
As many who dismiss Christians as cheese-eating surrender-monkeys seem to forget (or perhaps never knew), Jesus didn’t admonish his apostles against carrying weapons. Though I bet he found it a little funny that they thought they needed those, with him around.