Monday, October 18, 2004

another damned cybersermon by Rev. Paul Mathers.

"Politics are like religion without the meditative part. Just thesermon." -Garrison Keillor
"It is sometimes an appropriate response to reality to go insane." -Philip K. Dick
"Sad, I must say,That beauty is skin deepand madness is catchingand love is a cheap thrill and some things never change. " -Nicki Jaine, "You're Nothing Short ofDisaster"

I went down to Orange County about a week ago. I go down to OrangeCounty every few months for a few reasons. The reason I give thegovernment is to get inventory for my business, which is true. I reallydo that down there and I make a lot of money doing it. Well, a lot ofmoney for me, which is barely livable by most other American's standards. The other, and I daresay the real reasons are to see my folks and myfriends. I've lived in Chico for eight months now and I still don'treally have any friends up here. I have a few people I can have politeconversations with when I see them, but nobody I could call late at nightin tears. Nobody I could call if I needed help moving furniture. Andcertainly nobody I could call to go see a movie with or walk with in thepark or do rubbings at the Centerville cemetary with. Nobody. Not one. People who live far away have all kinds of helpful suggestions about thisbut mainly they have no clue what they're talking about. Most of theiradvice boils down to "well then, find someone."One of my favorite graphic novels (yeah, I'm kind of a geek in case youdidn't know) is Warren Ellis' Transmetropolitan. It follows a characternamed Spider Jerusalem through a futuristic hell of a city. Spider iskind of a lonely rat bastard who drives everyone away from him by actinglike a gol' durned loon. He's a bit like me from a few years ago. Butin spite of his exterior he's loyal as a doberman to those who stickaround him and his life, as a journalist, revolves around seeking out thenaked, ugly, festering truth and slapping it on a plate in front of themasses. The journalist as artist.When I was in Orange County visiting my friend Bonnie, she told me thatit made her week when I would send off these sermons I used to write. Itmade me want to start writing them again. I hope they're still weekmaking. I know that my world view is a little darker than it used to be. I stopped writing them about the time my last relationship started to gosour, about two years ago now. About that time I went completelybugfuck. A lot of people around me didn't realize this because I playedit cool, but I had a breakdown. When my previous relationship before themore recent one, the one from my early 20s, ended I drank for about threeyears. Then I took a lot of pills, smoked a lot of cigarettes, drank alot of coffee. Then I stage managed a play that turned me into a octopusof stress and I broke out in painful hives. Then I quit the uppers andstarted taking Benedryl, thrice the recommended dosage, every night fortwo years. Then I dated and almost got married to a girl who fought withme constantly. Then she broke up with me. Then I went bugfuck. One of my favorite writers is named Caitlin Kiernan. You should all goout and buy her new book, Murder of Angels. It's the best description ofschizophrenic episodes I've ever read and it's one of the best novelsI've read in years. It's not really a sequel (meaning you don't have tohave read the first but some characters return) to her book called Silk. Silk revolves around a character named Spyder Baxter and some of thethemes deal with how insanity is contagious and the question "If somebodyis seeing things, does it mean those things aren't really there or doesit mean that they're just seeing things that are there but for someblessed reason you aren't seeing?" Often really unpleasant things.When I went bugfuck back in Orange County I remember one day my motherwas driving me to a mall and I thought I saw somebody lean out of thewindow of the car in front of us and point a gun at me. They didn't, butthat's what I saw and I swore loudly in front of my mother. She asked mewhat was wrong and I told her. She said there was nobody with a gun. Itold her that I had been feeling like something terrible was going tohappen for a long time, like any moment a big shoe was about to drop. Wedrove another block and a car on the other side of the street hit a palmtree and flipped over on its roof killing the driver and passenger. Spyder Baxter, in the book, keeps a lot of spiders around her house,mostly in jars and things. I keep a lot of spiders around my room up here. Spiders are a bookseller's best friend because they eat the insects that like to eat books. So my room looks kind of like a madman lives there because there arelots of spiders around the roof. Right now I'm looking at a daddy longlegs up in the corner. I hear that the venom in a daddy long legs is thedeadliest to humans out of all spider venoms but nature in her infinitemercies made the daddy long legs have wimpy jaws. They couldn't piercethe flesh of a human if they wanted to. If they could they'd surely killus. What a spider's venom does to the animals that are effected by it isit paralyzes them.I'm better now than I was about a year and a half ago. The inside of myhead is a much more pleasant place to live. Now I'm about as sane asanybody I know. Well, I'm saner than I was anyway. I went to acounselor for a while and that helped. I quit all drugs, started workingout and lost about thirty pounds and that really really helped. Then Imoved up to Chico, far away from all of those memories (even though I goback every few months) and that helped too. But what really helped methe most was writing another play.I just finished writing my second play. When I was in college I took aShakespeare intensive course (in which I also went completely bugfuck)and the instructor commented on how theraputic making art can be. Hereminded us all that it's a pleasant side effect to creating art that weget to work through all kinds of heady personal issues. He told us ourfirst responsibility, however, is to serve the art. Otherwise we shouldjust go into therapy and leave art alone. I think that was a good thingto tell college students because they desperately need to hear that. Andwe all need to pretend that's true in order for art to move forward andkeep from being masterbatory. It's not true of course. I believe anyhonest, self aware artist would tell you that deep down below theideaologies and hard work, the real reason they make art is because theybelieve it can help them or cure them or because some weird part of theirbrain makes them do it or they'll go completely bugfuck. Attention tothe form and serving the art are the guidelines though. Seeking the artover one's self is necissary to actually benefit from it because it isthe only way to actually make art. Otherwise you are just in therapy. But I don't think anybody gets into it for the noble pursuit of pushingthe art forward just as I don't think deep down anybody gets intoreligion to glorify a deity (they do it in hopes of saving themselves) oranybody gets into politics to make our nation a better place (they do itto serve themselves.)It's presidential election year here in America and I really shouldn't betalking about it because I'm bound to offend people. In fact, theelection is in a few weeks. I was talking to my friend Charles and oneof us said that the main problem with our system is that it's set up insuch a way that the type of people who have the drive and the money andwant to get elected are exactly the type of people who should never bepresident. I think I said that. It sounds like Charles but I know he'sa Kerry supporter and I don't think he would say that in this electionyear.I already voted. I'm a bad citizen and didn't re-register in ButteCounty where we have an intiative on the ballot to make our county a GMOfree county. It's a bitter battle because we're the biggest rice farmingcounty on the west coast. On one hand, from the point of view of thefarmers, if we were law bound to go all organic in our farming the pricesof produce in Butte County would go through the roof and many many farmswould be run under sending our local economy into the crapper. On theside of the people who put the intiative on the ballot, if we go organicit will send a very powerful message to the rest of the farms on ourcoast and many would not only want to follow suit, but many would haveto, moving us closer to a GMO free nation and causing the multi-nationalcorporations to rethink how they screw everybody out of both good healthand money.I'm kind of glad I didn't reregister up here because, as you can see, Ican see the point of both sides.I'm also a bad Reverend because this sermon is now talking aboutpolitics, which is the first no no of sermons. But stick with me. I'mgoing somewhere with this.I voted for John Kerry and let me say right off that this is not by anymeans an endorsement on my part. This is the first time the lesser oftwo evils argument has worked on me and, frankly, it makes me think twiceabout what to do with my razorblade when I'm shaving in the morning. It's pretty freakin' grim. He's a career poltician and I wouldn't lethim step foot on my property. But the military, the economy,international relations, and constitutional rights have, frankly, gonecompletely bugfuck so it behooved my to vote for "the other guy" (i.e.the guy who hasn't had a chance to screw up all those things yet.) Ifully expect, if he wins, to spend the next four years feeling like I'm aterrible human being for having had a hand for putting that rich scumbaginto office, but it's down to him or the incumbent and, in spite of allI've said above, readily I chose him. Maybe I'll be wrong. I've beenwrong before. Maybe he'll turn out to be something wonderful. I oftenthink I'm going to hate things and I turn out to love them. Like sushi,or Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, or the post-Jim output ofHenson Productions.So where am I going with this?My brother and I were talking about politics and I was going on about howI didn't want to vote for either of the major league swine this electionand the third party route is still such a pipe dream that they'reprobably right in saying that it's like throwing your vote down arathole. Pat, my brother, thought for a minute and said, "You know, Ithink you just said what your major problem is. You've been hurt so manytimes in the past by polticians that you don't trust any of them and youhave no hope. And you know, that's how you are with a lot of things. That's how you are with churches and new friends and women. You've beenhurt and instead of moving forward you're completely paralyzed."Jerry Garcia, the dead junkie guitarist from the Grateful Dead, used tosay that the politics of the sixties was for suckers. Protesting, theanger, the marches, all that was for suckers. He said that the bestthing to come out of the sixties (presumably after the Grateful Dead) wasthe spirituality. He would point to the world that surrounded theGrateful Dead. You know, it wasn't just a band at all. It was really awhole other underground nation with its own politics, economy, education,international relations, and philosophy all revolving around the concertsof a bunch of guys playing electrified bluegrass music. And Jerry Garciawould point to that as his example of how people can overcome the greatevils of the world. Some might scoff at such an idea until you point outthat this worked really well for over thirty years and in 1995 theGrateful Dead made more money than IBM. I wonder what the world would belike if the Grateful Dead had never existed. Or if Pigpen had survivedback then and Jerry had died early on.One of my other favorite writers is Hakim Bey, who is also completelybugfuck. He has a concept called Temporary Autonomous Zones. Theconcept (as much as I can decypher from his ravings) seems to be thatunderground groups could create environments where one can completelyescape from the tyranny of everyday life for a short time in a certainplace, pulling up stakes before the heat shows up to close it down. Kindof like the Grateful Dead's tours but with autonomy instead of music oralong with music.My new play (which if you'd like a copy of, drop me a line and I'll behappy to send you one as I doubt it will be produced anywhere) is about aguy who can't get over a girl who he almost married until she broke upwith him over a year ago. He goes into a fantasy world and hasmisadventures. He learns that he's being attacked by the bad memories ofthe relationship but the good memories keep their distance. He learnsthat he gives the bad memories more power than he gives his currentrelationship. In the manner that comedies have, he ends up in a betterperson than he begins. One of my friends, who is an editor, looked over my script and told me toread some Joseph Campbell and strengthen my archetypes in themythological characters. He wanted me to write Parsifal, which hasnothing to do with what I was writing about (and which was written byRichard Wagner over a hundred years ago based on a myth that was evenseveral hundred years older.) I was writing to cure myself, to makemyself trust things and fall in love with things and get over myparalysis. And when I thought about what he suggested to me it hit mewhat the difference is between hiding in fantasy and creating new worldsthat are better to live in in hopes that some of that better world willspill over into our reality. For the first time in years I felt a strongsense of focus.It's a difficult web we have to weave, but then it's a overly complexsystem we live in. Complexity seems to demand complexity. Or maybe it'ssimplicity masquerading as complexity. I find myself in need of seekingthe truth, seeking mental stability, disassociating myself from the evilsystem we live in by creating postive alternatives while still keeping anactive hand in the affairs of this reality, finding and creatingtemporary autonomous zones, keeping myself in check to find the bits ofparalysis that seep in from hidden beliefs that the current system stillhas anything good to offer, losing myself completely in beauty, servingthe art instead of serving myself or at least maintaining the appearanceof serving the art in case anybody's looking, and forgiving the thingsthat turned me into a cornered, wounded, wild animal even if those thingshave no desire, in fact quite the opposite, of being forgiven. I findmyself needing to constantly find new ways to unhinge myself before thereality police come and bust me, like a sort of existential floating crapgame. Sort of a reality creation game. Paralyze the opposition with myvenom before they can paralyze me.I'm in my late 20s now and I often feel the draw to stop growing. Thatseems to be one of the expectations of adulthood. You're supposed tohave "grown up" and be done with growing. The last two years have taughtme that if I'd listened to that draw... I'd go completely bugfuck.

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