Song Of The Day 2/11/2017: Earth, Wind & Fire – “That’s the Way of the World”
The Final 47
Oops!Hey guys! I just got a new computer so my notes and outlines are all over the damn place, and I’m going ka-razee—I know, technology, right?—so I just wanted to check:
Have I mentioned the faceless men lurking in sinister shadows in a brick fortress 3,000 miles away who were trying to program me into a network of crude mental reflexivity that would do their bidding without question?
OK then. Pull up a floor mat. To tell this story, we’re gonna have to go all the way back to the 1870s.
GodspillThere was this guy in Pittsburgh. He sold clothes.
He also read the Bible a lot. He decided the Bible told him the Rapture was coming in 1878, so he sold all his clothing stores. When the Rapture failed to materialize he laughed it off. Bad math, he decided.
He went into publishing. He moved to Brooklyn, like many writers do, and started some informal discussion groups. Nobody thought anything of it. People started calling him “Pastor” and he wrote more articles, pamphlets and books. The content of his sermons is not important since many of its predictions failed to come true.
After a shift in focus, his business grew into a wider religious movement. It got so big that he had to hire some staffers to help him out with organizational paperwork and maybe chip in on some new dogmas every now and then. Then he died. He left instructions on the top five people he wanted to succeed him as the leaders of the movement.
There was another guy who wasn’t on that list, but somehow he managed to get himself elected to the presidency. People said it was God’s will. I think it was because he was a lawyer.
He decided the movement wasn’t going hard enough. So he went full-on autocrat. He started making up new stuff, like forcing everyone to go preaching, placing personal restrictions on the group, coming up with punishment structures and currying hate against Catholics, Communism, the military—basically, anybody that wasn’t in his group. He extended the animosity to other religions, deciding that all of them were heaping piles of Satan pulp.
He was a walking spittoon of sulfuric spite, cut-rate nihilism, flapping bigotry and American fuck-you. He drank like a sailor and wrote long books about his drunken thoughts. Then he died.
The remaining officers decided more codification was in order. They reasoned a familiar solo figurehead wasn’t the way to go, especially since Second Lieutenant Dickhead had pissed off everybody. So they shifted to a power-balance model and became almost anonymous.
They needed to keep the mystique of an all-knowing, loving but sociopathic deity uppermost in their members’ minds. Figuring out what that God was telling them was the elite group’s job. They relied on negative word association games and hacked-up doomsday scenarios to determine what they were going to tell their followers not to do. Their followers needed fear and hostility if they were going to feel any better about themselves.
So the officers (from here on out I’m calling them “the guys” for short) came up with more things not to do, and more people not to associate with, and more religions to label as mere planks in a great Satanic conspiracy.
The flock responded with wild favor to these hot new prohibitions. They felt great that they were the actual chosen people, became really happy, and when people are really happy they’re much more likely to give away their money to the people they thought were making them happy, and that’s what they did, and the guys bought shiny new wristwatches with diamonds on the minute hands.
Noticing the improvement, the guys kept the show rolling, coming up with more new things and people to despise on a dependable schedule. Professional football was competitive, and competition erodes your meekness, so that was bad. Disco had rhythms that sounded like some tribal witch doctor shit, Satan’s got to be behind that one too. So that was bad. Also, saying “shit” was bad. R-rated movies had a whole lot of people saying bad things like “shit,” and sometimes sex and violence too. So those were bad.
The guys (there were no women, because women in leaderships positions were, you guessed it, bad) decided everything in the world was a salacious plot to drive their flock and their money away from them.
Every single worldly institution was created by demons with quotas to fill. Everything was bad.
And to reinforce that doing all these bad things were not good for them, they brought back the end-of-the-world jive, so that not doing all those bad things would eventually result in some sort of tangible payoff.
It worked brilliantly until the pedophile coverup scandal, but someone else can tell that story.
The Guys in BrooklynI've talked about the religion for a long time. From every angle. To anyone who'd read about it. Truth is, I've finally talked myself out of it. It's not a component of my definition anymore. The only time the elephant in the room kicks down its fence is when I'm talking about the past.
Inconveniently, that's what this whole series is about. God, I have got to spend more hours in pre-production triage.
I'm not going to pretend I don't wish my upbringing was like a lot of my best friends'. Without that built-in isolation from the rest of society. Without the baseless hope/fear that the destruction of the world was imminent. Without being taught to stay away from the rest of the world who were all under Satan's power, while being told to favor and listen to the arrogant dipshit at the Hall who beat his wife and stepdaughter.
All for of the promise of living in an eternal Bora Bora with people who seemed content to accept boredom as relief from apprehension.
From the beginning I was instructed to approach certain issues, aspects of society, with hate. I'm lucky that I wasn't taught to hate on the basis of other people's race. At least that's a positive.
But how much of an improvement is it that I was taught to hate other religions? Governments? Birthdays, for crap's sake? Holidays? Heavy metal and disco? A satanic existence that never even existed?
You can't calculate the impeded emotional development, the slow awakening, that I feel I've nurtured. One guy in LA (a very sweet guy) once said he admired my childlike wonder at the world. I appreciated the compliment.
But my naiveté has held me back in life. I know this. I’m terrified of being naive.
My professional failures—which’ll be up here for posterity eventually—have a lot to do with this too, and I hate it. When you’re raised under the tenet that the world is bad, its fruits are poison, and everyone in it is going to be incinerated except for the segment that hated most successfully, well, that just wreaks havoc on your aspirations, doesn’t it? It’s hard to recover from that. It gets in the way of your ambition.
If there’s one thing you need to take away from knowing me, one central dominant theme in my existence, it’s this:
I was not raised to win. Neither was I raised to martyrize myself after losing. I was raised to wait patiently in the foyer until all the commotion died down.
The fact that I didn’t go crazy is because after I was done in the religion I was rewarded with the best friends a person could have, and I still keep getting them today. This despite the fact that nine or ten mostly white guys in Brooklyn were hell-bent on keeping control of about 8,000,000 people who don’t know, and probably don’t care, that that’s these guys’ main motivation.
Since that's the reality, that's who I've decided to credit/blame for the misinformation and depleted motivation I’ve had to chip my way out of: The guys in Brooklyn.
I can’t tell you how liberating that feels.
Incidentally We Have a Song TodayToday’s song is by Earth, Wind & Fire. It’s a beautiful song I first heard as a kid.
For those of you who are wondering about that piano, take the rest of the day off, ‘cause we’re finally getting around to it. Tomorrow.