A Ritual Deserving Greater Understanding and Acceptance

On a populous morning cotton balls flow around my feet. He asks for a lighter. Someone asks for a spare cigarette. He clasps his hands around the end, begging the flame to life. Is it lite yet? Lighter? Spare? How many will you smoke today? The liturgy of our simple scene is built around questions. The lighter is missing because it is hiding. We use its life blood to kill ourselves and it would be an irony if it was not so expected. Here’s a lighter. Here’s an extra. The smoke disappears into the morning.

Rituals surround us. I have my own: every day is another to resist an occasional positive thought. My coworkers have their own: smoking. To ridicule such rituals is easy; I seek to understand them. Each person deals with the ashes in their own way. Some take away the ash with an abstracted tap. Others take the time to roll the cigarette in the ash tray. The first is sloppy. The second is meticulous but hygiene becomes an egg broken in the name of a well manicured omelet. Some blow the smoke out with a long sigh. Others do it in short bursts punctuated by a laugh, a contemplative scratch or words.

If the tobacco is a burnt offering who is it going to? I refrain from speculating. They are our’s and only that I am sure of. The waft of smoke is the incense. Our church is the lawn and we, unintentionally, find ourselves recreating the early Christian Church where no one stood above anyone else. Christianity is an ordering of the world enigmatic. The Fathers built rituals to fit reality. What is the reality of Christianity? Some say the appearance of Jesus Christ. Our reality is less momentous and I refrain, again, from saying anything definitive. But I would like to play with it because our ritual is its own ordering.

Smoking tempts with the knowledge of good and evil. Smoking‘s original sin is its cunning, its patent insincerity. A single white stick, limping out of the corner of your mouth, implies a wordliness—perhaps outright bitterness—that is as useful for the local watering hole as it is for Hollywood. Is wordliness this ritual’s goal? If so Adam and Eve had a tree, we have a shrub and we need no other commentary on the degradation of modern life. It could be my own arrogance but I see something more. I see an intimacy that is out of step with the modern lives we all lead. When was the last time you offered a burnt offering in unison with another person, or several other people?

I cannot detect where the intimacy takes off when the wordliness ends, but I assume that it is roughly equal parts of both.

They are our sirens. If we breathe a little too deeply of their song we will die, if not by drowning but by sadder means.  In the Odyssey there is no description for the Sirens; Ovid described them as reddish-plumed birds with virginal faces; Apollonius of Rhodes described them as women from the waist up, the rest a bird, for Tirso de Molina „half women, half-fish.” For our purposes we must remember that the sirens attracted and led sailors astray and that Ulysses was tempted by promises of knowledge of all things in the world. Does a siren need to be a beast? I think not. We now know that sirens never were, there was only ourselves.

Cigarettes pretend to be our royal friends. They are clothed in gold, neatly packaged and trimmed. The only problem is that they are trying to kill us. Our desire is another siren. But, again, even as they chew a few cigarettes and suck the life out of lighters there is no expectation that they are living a healthy life. There is no irony and only sincerity. I think that is the building block of every religion and why, ultimately, that they are at a service. Not at a service to God but maybe to us, throughout the world, or other gods. Smoking saw the advent of Christianity and it will certainly see it off.  

Some Thoughts on Myths

The angels are two days and two nights older than we: the Lord created them on the fourth day, and from their high balcony between the recently invented sun and the first moon they scanned the infant earth, barely more than a few wheat fields and some orchards beside the waters. These primitive angels were stars. For the Hebrews, the concepts of angel and star merged effortlessly: I will select, from among many, the passage of the Book of Job (38:7) in which the Lord spoke out of the whirlwind and recalled the beginning of the world, “When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy.” Quite apparently, these sons of God and singing stars are the same as the angels. Isaiah, too (14:12), calls the fallen angel “the morning star.”

Borges incorporated countless myths into his writing: knowing old stories, and retrieving and reworking them, brought about conclusions radically different from rational inquiry. By that I mean there is nothing logically necessary about stars, Semitic myths and the Hebrew Bible in particular that creates his story. In that sense he is similar to Joyce rather than Kafka–he was the ultimate synthesizer. His labyrinths are borrowed from history. Kafka produced the motifs for our new age, Borges loved the last era’s. Our point of departure requires a few caveats. Myths are not lies or delusions: they are, in that glittering phrase of Roland Barthes’, inflections. Myths still exist all around us, and while many are antiquated the vast majority still have a vitality.

Yes, dear reader, we still have myths and we still have our cathedrals. I think that social media is almost the exact equivalent of the great Gothic cathedrals; I mean the supreme creation of an era, conceived with passion by unknown artists and consumed in image if not in usage by a whole population which appropriates them as a purely magical object. In those cathedrals instead of celebrating a child’s hand that does not know how to die or is forced to live (e.g. A Hand Grows from the Grave by A. Kuhn and W. Schwartz, A Hand Grows from the Grave: Three Legends from Mecklenburg  by Karl Bartsch ect) but something equally informative. Say, that if you are (1) unattractive, (2) stubborn, (3) egotistical and (4) nerdy you are automatically intelligent.

Look at how Steve Wozniak was fat and stubborn in his youth and how the casting in the Jobs movie was perfectly accurate for a computer nerd, which was sarcasm dear reader. Look at the chubby Bill Gates jumping over a chair, our contemporary construction of ‘nerd:’  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8TCxE0bWQeQ . Then there is this familiar television host. I cannot help but notice, especially in the case of Wozniak, how reality is bent to our myth. Wozniak, somehow, gains thirty pounds. Myths are still all around us. The only thing that has changed is that they are incorporated into shiny new cathedrals that are publicly traded.

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Today I Noticed: Criticism

The times that I have heard ‘anyone can criticize, only a special few can create,’ or some other deformed relation to the sentence, cannot be counted. I’m not sure if it’s a devastating commentary about myself. It probably is. I should find other worlds to read and exist in. Others, terribly unaware of their own irony, choose to regurgitate Benjamin Franklin’s (apocryphal?) quote “Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain, and most fools do.” Some, marginally more learned, will turn to Diderot. “What a dull and dreary trade is that of critic, it is so difficult to create a thing, even a mediocre thing; it is so easy to detect mediocrity.” I’ll give Diderot a pass because, unlike Franklin, he never touched these American shores. Shores that disprove his epigram because if there is any constant to modern American life it is the absence of good criticism while absolute nonsense is pandered about with a recklessness whose only redeeming quality is its honesty. It’s honestly bad. In the land of (I hope you hear the capital letters) Special Snowflakes filled with Serious Ideas about Serious Topics the one person whose skepticism gets the better of him or her is the Know-Nothing. He, or she, is the slammer of doors on the precious idealists filled with all sorts of imaginative (read: peculiar) ideas.

Gore Vidal once identified poor work’s defining trait as requiring “Our memories” to round the “flat portraits; our prejudices do the author’s work.” How often do you, dear reader, find your memory and prejudices doing the work for the writer? When the French New Novelists yearned for the day when the author would be joined in creation by the reader I hope, even pray, that they did not mean the flow that we all see around us. I have spent too long looking for that shy aphorism. The scarab in the desert is priceless because it is a gem and the desert is vast. The lone and level sands stretch far away. The sentences become more and more complex as the ideas (‘privilege’) become simpler. I spend a few moments looking through some of the choicer topics on tumblr, on WordPress, on news aggregators and especially those sites where fairness is ritually praised but not learned. I realize with a sinking suspicion that there is not one pen in the world that is willing to be a little biting. The internet is a democracy and every person, every sentence, is alike. Sadly, however, that is not reflective of reality. It is not a window to the world outside but it is a depressing mirror. Mistaking one for the other is an understandable mistake.

If you, dear reader, are feeling an ounce of fortitude I urge you to look around WordPress. Look at those who are putting effort into their Unique Ideas (unique, not in the classic sense but in the more modern sense where everything is ‘a little’ unique) ideas. It’s not pleasant. Some of you dear readers create and create well enough. You know who you are.

Today I Noticed

Drone, n. An unmanned aircraft or ship guided by remote control. 2. Vice President Biden.

Problematic, adj. Used by sloppy thinking.

Change, n. First term: change. Second term: a marginally higher minimum wage for some federal and state employees.

Pininterest was made by guys. The site’s purpose is to raise the interest level of significant others in interior decorating, getting fit and cooking food.

How peculiar is it that the only people unafraid to be politically correct are old-line liberals.

Bitcoin, n. A way for older generations to show that they’re still ‘with it.’

Today I Noticed

The truth of H. L. Mencken’s aphorism that “An egotist is a person of low taste-more interested in himself than in me.”

There is one rule for semi-colons. First, remove them all. Then insert into your Foreword “I, also, lived through a few English classes.” The effect for the reader will be the same but you’ll get points for honesty in the case of the latter.

People who argue about punctuation are looking for things to argue about.

Zimmerman, n. An indication that the person in question does not participate in the legal field.



Today I Noticed

Judicial activism, n: the result of a decision that contradicts one’s own beliefs.

I have heard that social sciences are not sciences, they’re humanities. If that’s the case then the sciences must be the inhumanities.

“Forward!” The current administration’s admonition that reflects their awareness that we do not like what they have done previously and we like less what they are doing right now.

Privileged, adj. A signpost used to indicate the end of calm, reasonable discussion. “You are privileged, thus!” Alternatively, “I am less privileged, so.”

Atheists, n. The most oppressed people on the internet. Go ahead. Ask them about it.

Literature, n. A manuscript where the editor doesn’t know three or more words.

Myriad, n. Used too often.



Today I Noticed

“Skepticism” in a blog title only highlights a blog’s arbitrary, unskeptically held, assumptions.

Transgender, adjective. A word used to indicate the opposite. Ex., “I am transgender, so the last thing I’ll consider doing is transcend my gender.”

Activism, noun. An appellation used to connotate the logical sequence of not doing anything.

Academic ‘freedom’ is a common, if odd, mispelling of academic conformity. “The Professor wanted to teach religion, but I believe in academic freedom.”

Today I Noticed

Today I noticed the true value of what I have been taught. No one needs the bravery to challenge the world’s ideas. No one needs the panche to challenge other people’s views. We all have that. What we do not have is the vitality to contest our own. Those assumptions, above all else, are sacred. Some bloggers need to understand this.

Tonight on WordPress

I joined WordPress to have interesting things to read and discuss. Instead, all I’ve discovered is a weird self-parody. No one, it seems, has the time to write a full sentence. Words and sentences and ideas and dreams and nonsense all tumble out in one wave of droll insincerity.

Today I Noticed

“Musings” in a blog title is a euphemism for ‘unemployed.’ 

The last thing twenty-something blogs consider is that they’re twenty-something blogs. 

Feminist blogs talk about every problem but a problem. 

Blogs that have found the ‘epitome’ haven’t.

Relevance, noun. A word used in artsy blogs to indicate the opposite. Ex., “The Relevance of My Musings.”