On those long walks home – when I weave into dark alleys and shadowy paths, purposely chasing after danger and death by misadventure – and when I’m not otherwise occupied by audial bliss of an escapist nature (yes, even the strident tones of Rammstein or Slayer are an escape into something, be it love, happiness… or misery), I wax philosophical. I ask the very important question that most people do ask themselves in a usually ignominious, or insincere, or indirect way, and over which old men and women write heavy tomes, propagate religious dictums and otherwise determine an elusively permanent and malleable structure for ordered human thought and society: what exactly do I live for?
My inspiration, albeit extremely negative in some sense, comes from the core maxim of a 1938 novel by Vladimir Bartol. Nothing is true, everything is permitted. While the exact phrasing is not factually derived from the historical account or sayings (though interpreting his teachings may lead to that conclusion) of Hasan-i-Sabah, erstwhile leader of the merry band of Hashashin that plagued the Seljuk Empire in the 11th century, it is a nihilistic truth that both upends the common moral and religious strictures that governs and creates manageable human societies, and replaces it with another. One that more keenly ennervates and encourages our most primitive setting: he who wins, lives.
Not that I actually prescribe to a life dictated by the need to show that I, by the sum total of my positively gargantuan efforts to remain in such a position (which must be patently false since I don’t seem to be stressing too much about the basic issues inherent in the life of your average caveman of the Tertiary period), am at the top of some imaginary evolutionary chain – even though humans are still routinely eaten by sharks, lions, elephants… even other humans. What it does show me is that we are indeed insignificant in a universe that is expanding (and also retracting, according to your neighborhood astrophysicist) beyond our ability to reasonably comprehend, and thus anything that is true for us cannot mean so much to, well, everything else in this vast expanse of space. I can very well imagine myself as a speck of dust, completely impossible to find, in some existential miasma: exempli gratia, some unexplainable interstellar phenomena like the giant green gas blob near galaxy IC2497 in the constellation Leo Minor that eats planets. Which, despite being the material from which C-list scifi movies are made, does exist.
It’s coming to get you.
Any discussion on the place of man in this state of being (in comparison with his fellow man or with nature, since “being” is always in relation to something else) must always include the status and location of religion in such a conceptualization. In a grand general sense, religion is just a set of beliefs that promote ways for individuals to live in a mutually beneficial way with other believers in the faith. How? By providing a sense of belonging, an absolute sense of product placement in the store window that is this planet, and finally, a way in which one is not continually afeared of death due to the presence of others that, colloquially, “watch your back.”
In my present incarnation on this plane (not a reincarnation, as I do not believe that I was made into flesh, again, from some previous existence as… the mind boggles, though if I happened to be Casanova or Admiral Horatio Nelson or my namesake, Lord George Gordon Byron, bleeding to death a hero at Lepanto and refused a burial at Westminster Abbey due to “questionable morality”… “and all that’s best of dark and bright/ Meets in her aspect and her eyes“… I should not mind), I happen to be a believer in my own peculiar version of Christianity. One in which the individual can commune with God, separate from institutions which are not absolutely necessary but are beneficial in spreading the word. One in which the truths of our physical world, or what we can most closely discover to be the truth using our limited human understandings and experiences, are completely compatible with being a believer – I could not believe in a theory unjustified by the facts. One in which the believer can understand that the religion itself is fallible without disbelieving. One in which inconsequentiality is a possibility, and there exists no confirmation of man as a god above all things (yet somehow below the God of all things).
Oh Captain, my Captain (Nelson). Who here read Whitman? Who here watched Dead Poets Society? Who here read Whitman before watching Dead Poets Society?
What do I believe? That God made all things… by making it possible for all things to develop, given time. That God is a passive god, letting us make our own mistakes and discovering our limitations: disease, eventual feebleness, and worst of all, a paradoxical unlimited capacity for arrogance. What does this mean, and what does this have to do with an anarchical saying from a Middle Eastern potboiler (of the 11th or 20th century)?
To be continued…