Hang onto the world as it spins, around
Just don’t let the spin get you down
Things are moving fast
Hold on tight and you will last
Keep your self-respect, your manly pride
Get yourself in gear
Keep your stride
Never mind your fears
Brighter days will soon be here
Take it from me someday we’ll all be free (Yeah)
Keep on walking tall, hold your head up high
Lay your dreams right up to the sky
Sing your greatest song
And you’ll keep, going, going on
(Hey) Just wait and see someday we’ll all be free. (Yeah)
Take it from me, Someday we’ll all be free
(It won’t be long) Take it from me someday we’ll all be free
Take it from me, take it from me, take it from me
lyrics and performed by – the late great Donny Hathaway
Those that I envy the most are not the rich or the great or even the famous, the young or the beautiful but the souls who live spontaneously in non-metronomic rhythm; in step with the drum that calls a man to life and to live. I, on the other hand, feel mostly, girdled, girded round, encircled, a bone-dry mummy entombed in a crypt and sentenced to a display cage in a museum. What hell to be constrained within the prison cells of pragmatism and convention! It is as if the souls of the bodies that I see outside of me are actually inside of me; maggots wending a slimy pathway through my thoughts, giving the thumbs up to ideas that meet not the dictionary’s definition of common sense but the public interpretation of it and then shooting down all my attempts to escape and float upwards on the lofty air of rhapsodic discovery. Those souls out there, outside of my imagined reality, living erringly or truthfully but always spontaneously: surely they are my true brothers and sisters; my long lost aunts anxious to send me on my merry way laden with provisions of honey and ambrosia. My magic carpet is ready to fly.
“I’ve been everything. nothing’s worth the trouble”
– Emperor Severus
One of the better posts on FaceBook is Humans of New York, a delightful fest of New York’s finest pondering the great vanities of our age. Below is one of the best of recent. Ponder deeply.
Failure is not an option. That’s how my life looks right now as the days wind down to final exit from a 9-5 grind. The bugle calls: entrepreneurship!! Master of my own fate and captain of my own destiny. I’m no fool (I think). I am realistic and pragmatic but not necessarily practical. I know that I cannot do everything and anything. There are seven billion other buggers out there shuffling for space and recognition. Can I carve out a space where I can survive, succeed and be insatiably happy?
Failure is not an option. Hernan Cortes was said to have sunk (or burnt) his ships to give his army no escape options and thus no other option but fight to conquer Mexico. He did it for God and Spain. He wasn’t the first. Tariq ibn Ziyad is also said to have done the same eight hundred years earlier as he led his Islamic forces to conquer >> Spain/Iberia. It’s not unlikely that many others have tried this tactic unsuccessfully. Rather like the flightless birds of once uninhabited islands who cast off their flight skills only to face extinction at the arrival of a predator (most likely, man).
Failure is not an option. Who wants to be branded “loser”? The shame. Exclusion from the community. Being shunned and looked down upon. If you’re a loser you might as well forget about mating with desirable members of your species. Life for losers, if indeed one can call it that, can be grim. Life for losers can be fatal. Failure is not an option.
But failure is an option and if you think it through there really is no other option. Life throws so many curve balls that eventually we are bound to fail at something. Even the almighty Alexander the Great failed in his endeavour to conquer the world when his troops, homesick, finally had enough of fighting. He duly accepted that no man can conquer the world on his own and perhaps not at all. We can’t all be #1 at the same thing at the same time. Failure is very much an option. What is not an option is giving up.
Giving up is not an option. If you can’t be #1 or #2 (insert acceptable ranking) here you can be successful over there. You don’t have to bang your head against the same wall. If your dream is not working (say gold at the Olympics) then change direction, climb over the wall, dig under the obstruction or simply move to a different physical and/or mind space. These strategic options served our early ancestors well as they spread across the planet (destroying the local ecosystem) seeking new places where they could be independent of the old order they left behind. Moving is not always an option in our age when all the land’s taken and you need a passport to step across imaginary man-imposed borders. But in your mind you can always move.
Giving up is not an option because we can redefine our problems, reset our goals and sail in new directions. If we can’t have this then we will go for that. There’s no need to be stuck like a needle on a scratched vinyl record. You can’t go head-to-head with Microsoft in office software? Define a new market: creative software or games or something. You can’t go head-to-head with FaceBook in social networking? Create one for professionals or mums or [insert your passion]. You can’t get promoted at your current job? Move. Don’t die there. Move. You suck at maths but want to be an engineer? Can you code instead? Or are you good at drawing – you can be a designer! You hate your job but you love food? Cook but be creative about it and find a market you can shine in. You like beer? What about an independent brew? Your baby left you?
C’mon there’s no such thing as “He(she) was meant for me”. Nobody created any person for you – move your mind space and position yourself for another baby. [There’s only one person in the world for you. Really? There’s a Power out there who is ignoring all the problems in the world just to make sure you find that soul mate. Really?] And if you’re in the sort of job that’s truly dead end (street cleaner comes to mind) you have work to do to get yourself educated or vocationally trained in something that is worthwhile. Life is too short to be sitting on one’s ass or cleaning the street. Be part of the revolution: become an engineer and design machines for that sort of job – if we can think of cars that drive themselves then we can make machines to auto-clean our streets.
Use your head. Learn from failure. Don’t just pick up the pieces; sweep them away instead and start over, wiser and better.
“The notion that truths external to the mind may be known by intuition or consciousness, independently of observation and experience, is, I am persuaded, in these times, the great intellectual support of false doctrines and bad institutions. By the aid of this theory, every inveterate belief and every intense feeling, of which the origin is not remembered, is enabled to dispense with the obligation of justifying itself by reason, and is erected into its own all-sufficient voucher and justification. There never was such an instrument devised for consecrating all deep seated prejudices.”
Autobiography, John Stuart Mill
To free the mind of a man who’s nailed himself fast to an idea or precept is probably the most impossible task that another person can undertake. If they are someone you love they may well be lost in hell’s inferno and that hurts. I have previously assumed that exposure to the refreshing effects of reason will undoubtedly free these lost souls, naively relying on Jesus’ words that Ye shall know the truth and the truth will set you free (John 8:32). However two incidents yesterday are working to shew me that Jesus may not always have known what he was talking about.
The first incident was at the abode of a friend with whom I was to sup. Somewhere during our meal the discussion drifted to religion. My friend is of the Church of England sleeve and from previous discussions I knew that his rampart fornication did not stand in the way of his held-fast beliefs. Sometime during our banter he morphed into the cat that no matter how hard you throw from a great height always lands on its feet. When I said Christianity just happened to be the lucky result of a Roman Emperor who believed God had helped him win a battle my friend replied that maybe Christianity is the summit of the natural evolution of religions. I reminded him Islam came later and he replied that maybe that is a false religion. When I said that other cultures had had their own gods, for example the Greeks, my friend countered that he had thought the Greeks did not really believe in their gods (news to me).
Yet I kept prodding. I pointed to the inconsistencies in the Bible or the fantastic miracles and he’d say oh that was meant to be metaphorical. How does he know which parts are real and which metaphorical? Oh people have to apply their brains. What convinced me that my mission was hopeless was when he linked belief to personal experience. His: he’d placed a copy of the Koran, the Bible and Richard Dawkins’ book ‘The God Delusion’ together and one day rain had slipped through the cracks and dripped onto one book – the Bible. His interpretation: that was God’s sign that the Bible is the real deal.
The second incident happened after I returned home to find a comment to one of my blog postings in which I had quoted John Stewart Mill who’d said that the idea of God is nonsense since if things were created by God then it begs the question who created God. A commenter started with the words “Since God existed before time and space …” therefore the question who created God is nonsense. My natural reaction was “whoa, wait a minute, where did this starting premise that God exists come from?’ I wrote a lengthy response to which the commenter came back that God exists as a matter of reason and that the proof of God is simple. What this simpleton failed to say was how it is that God exists as a matter of reason and if the proof is simple why not prove it?
What is beyond reason is that both my friend and the commenter had certainly not thought deeply or carefully about their faith. They had examined no alternate viewpoints nor had they read any history or philosophy nor understood the tenets of the scientific method nor had a sufficient appreciation of the workings of the human brain and its susceptibility to error and of the human capacity to fashion magical stories out of its nebulous imagination. They had been taught most probably by their parents that there is a God and that was that. Mind set in concrete and nothing short of dynamite will move that conviction.
While continuing to read the aforementioned J.S Mill, he commented on one of his acquaintances, Frederick Denison Maurice, who was one of the finest and best read intellects he’d come across. Maurice later became a religious minister and wrote extensively on religious matters. He was also the founder of a movement called Christian Socialism that fought against oppression and the conditions of the poor and underprivileged. Now that’s a christian I can respect; someone who retained his faith but at least had done his homework.
Unfortunately today’s Christians as a class (obviously not every individual) are the biggest hypocrites in the western world; preaching, from their terrible book, a divisive concoction of myth, lies, a smidgen of history and pure hatred (jealous God, Hell etc). If God exists He should be ashamed of Himself for the world He’s created and the children of hate He’s spawned. If God exists. But since God doesn’t exist what are we to do with religion?
The question ‘Who made me?’ cannot be answered, because we have no experience or authentic information from which to answer it; and that any answer only throws the difficulty a step further back, since the question immediately presents itself, Who made God?
– Autobiography, John Stuart Mill. First published 1873.