Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Believing in something for once

There's this scene in Syriana, where a Muslim cleric is talking about the cure for the modern condition. And he lists these things that have failed to make us whole: capitalism, liberal democracy, Christianity. And he's right in some ways. The modern condition, the modern disconnect that we see all around us -- in our advertising and our transactions and our jobs and our lifestyles -- it's not going away; and it's not being soothed by our current understanding of God or democracy or the Koran or whatever else it is we put our faith in. We're still disconnected. We still don't get our place in this new world.

Before Europeans set foot upon the New World, there was no poverty on this continent. There was a multitude of cultures we lump together as "Native Americans," who lived in the bronze age or the stone age or however it is we describe primitive cultures these days, and who worshipped gods we'd never heard of, and had ways of life that seemed strange and alien to us, and took care of their people, and shared their land and their goods and their resources amongst their tribes. And life for them was good, and they understood their relationship to their clan and to their ancestors and to their land.

And it wasn't communism. And it wasn't proto-communism. It had nothing to do with our childish Western ideas of labor and capital and free enterprise and centralized planning. Disregarding everything we learned in social studies and western civ and econ 101, it was their way. And it worked for them. And Adam Smith and Karl Marx could go screw each other for all they cared.

Over the last three centuries, we've learned how to harness steam and electricity and coal and gas and nuclear power. We've built waterways and railroads and highways and transcontinental airlines. We've stretched our imaginations across the frontiers of the West and the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Tranquility. We wondered what was on the dark side of the Moon -- and then we found out. We built bombs to safeguard our way of life, and sent soldiers around the globe to introduce it to others. We invented computers and fast food. ATMs and the auto industry. People Magazine pop culture and Wysteria Lane suburbia.

But we can't figure out how to live with it all. We drink and do drugs in greater numbers than ever before. We kill ourselves with knives and pills and oncoming traffic. We work and we work and we work, then we retire and long for the days when we worked and we worked and we worked. We go to church more often than ever before. We elect presidents who sound more like pastors than politicians. But nothing does the trick. We still send our kids to crappy schools. We still distrust our elected officials. We still spend our money like there's no tomorrow. And then we wake up, and realize that tomorrow is here, and that it scares the living shit out of us.

But the Native Americans, whose land we've turned into a giant strip mall, can't save us now. And the Muslim cleric, who realizes that we're up to our necks in the problems of modernism, doesn't have anything better to offer us -- unless you count blowing up shit as a reasonable solution. The Wealth of Nations and Das Kapital and The Descent of Man offer us little more than platitudes. They can't tell us how to fix our broken hearts and our addled minds.

And our understanding of God -- our understanding of God is so warped and wrapped up in the modern condition that it does nothing for us. Our modern God either loves the free market or hates private property. He lives on in our freedom of speech and dies for our right to bear arms. He offers his grace to suburbia and turns his back on the coasts of southwest Asia. In other words, he's just another capricious son of a bitch sky-god we use to justify whatever it is we need justified in order to sooth our guilty conscience.

That's the kind of God that couldn't find his way out of a wet paper bag, let alone solve the modern condition. He's a paper tiger and a dog with no bite. There's a whole lot of people who're gonna be waiting a very long time for him to answer their prayers. And there's a whole lot of people who're gonna be extremely let down in the end. We reap what we sow, and when we put our faith in a supersized George Bush or Michael ain't gonna end up roses. Mostly, we'll just curse God and die.

Somedays, I just don't know if I'm built for this world. I just want to have calloused hands and a plump wife and a passion for the earth. Concrete jungles and UPCs and Hugo Chavez scare the hell out of me. I don't feel like I'm enough for the 21st century --that there's some part of me that somehow got left on the assembly line, and no one bothered to let me know how to get replacement. I sit up at night and wonder what in the world is going on around me. If any of this makes a lick of sense to the people I pass on my way to work in the morning. Because if it does, throw me a bone here. Cause I've got nothing.

Under the weight of so much bullshit, I just want to crumble. I'm not enough for this world. It makes so little sense that what little sense it does make seems more like fiction than reality. This is more than simply finding my path or my passion or my calling. It's finding a way to function that doesn't make me want to slash my wrists every time I pull into a gas station or send an email or buy a hamburger.

In my heart of hearts, I want to fight crime and have kids and broker peace in the Middle East. I want to plant churches and root up oppression. I want to tie the world's pain to a big fucking boulder and send it hurlting into outer space. Just to be done with it. Once and for all.

I want Jesus to come back and give me that new body he promised me ages and ages ago.

Instead, I keep trudging, figuring out the smaller problems one at a time, hoping that something will start to snowball eventually, all the way to the eschaton.

Or something like that.

And who knows, maybe I'll find my wife and my kids and my farm one of these days. And cake my fingernails with the dust of God's own country. And live life like it was meant to be lived.

And, in my spare time, blow some shit up every once in while.

You know, just for fun.


Jamie said...

i believe...that i feel the same way.

Jeff BBz said...

1. You're right. Shit's fucked up. and its continuous in its fuckocity.

2. You always talk about doing big things, sometimes big things don't matter, sometimes they do. If you want to do some big things then do them dammit. If you want to do them together, I'm your man. I've got some ideas, you've got some ideas. "We can work it out." I'm serious.

3. While we screwed the Native Americans bad, I don't know that they were some kind of utopian society. Many of them fought and killed each other. And while I don't have any research to back it up I imagine there were poor indians. could be wrong on that one though.

4. Tillin' the land is real nice and all, except that its damn hard work. excpecially in the cold winter mountains. And it makes you work as a child and later die young. Plus I don't know if you've ever washed dishes at below zero with a lot of wind, but your hands go numb for about an hour. no doubt i frequently think that my life is better than everyone elses, but there are things I unapoligetically miss from both capitalism and america and technology. And many of the kids here are not particularly intersted in spending 12-14 hours a day making carpets and farming or tending goats or going to the mountain to get firewood.

5. Even when you're whining you can write a damn fine peice of work.