Monday, July 30, 2007

Where Man Is Not. . .

One of my favorite lines from William Blake, of which there are many, is the following axiom:

"Where man is not, nature is barren."

I was explaining this to somebody the other day following her question of whether or not I was "concerned about environmental issues". To be sure, nature has always interested me on the very basic levels of aesthetic appreciation--the delicious solitude of the desert, the sanctuary of the Redwoods, the environmental lessons one can learn from a trip to the Monterey or Seattle aquariums. This is nothing, however, compared to the reverence I feel for the historical achievements of mankind. Blasphemy though it may be, I still find the Industrial Revolution infinitely more fascinating than the budding Green Earth Revolution. In much the same way I feel about the island of Manhattan compared to a Rainbow Gathering. New York is natural. A Rainbow Gathering or a Burning Man, on the other hand, is unnatural. One is a city that operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week--a natural outgrowth of the natural progress of human civilization. The other is a patch of desert that you have to pay a lot of money to get into so you can be natural for a prescribed amount of time until it's all over and you go back home to your "unnatural" cities and your "unnatural" jobs to make your "unnatural" money.

"Where man is not, nature is barren." Or where the principles of mankind are subjugated to the rules of "prescribed" nature, nature itself becomes a barren concept.

So this quote was met with a roll of the eyes and this rebuke: "Well, that sounds like ego."

It is ego. But it was ego with no shame. Blake believed in the preservation, not dissolution of the human ego, for he held that humans were indeed divine creatures; historically producing quantitatively and qualitatively more good than bad. In the culture of "ego death", ego becomes something almost sinful. Something that one is reluctantly holding on to--something that needs to be let go. And since ego is definitively a human concept, to be pro-ego is to be pro-human and to be pro-human is to be anti-earth. And to be anti-earth reflects a new immorality. The new morality is health, for who can argue against health? And the ultimate act of morality is to "save the earth" for the health of the planet and the health of the future.

But why should ego be relinquished? Your ego is what makes you an individual. Ego-death contributes to sameness, to a devolution of art and culture, to a prolonged retardation of our educational system. Education, art, culture: the signposts of human progress. Ego-death, like moral relativism, is the great leveler of standards and the promulgator of blandness. For example, let's say you have two authors: One is William Blake. The other is Judith Krantz.

Ego-death only helps one of these authors. Judith Krantz.

Judith Krantz is qualitatively not as good an author as William Blake, but under the rubric of ego-death, there is no qualitative difference between Blake and Krantz. So the lesser author rises up to meet the great author. The great author is the one that is brought down through ego-death to sit side by side with an inferior product, thus perpetuating the relativistic lie that one man's Judith Krantz is another man's William Blake. Not true. The writings of the dead white male William Blake are qualitatively more important than the writings of the living female Judith Krantz. This is a painful truth that is exposed when ego is allowed to live. Which is why ego is no longer allowed to live anymore. It hurts too many people's feelings, you see.

And it hurts the earth as well.

So what can replace individualistic ego? Communal ego. Like any cult, you check your own personality at the door and subscribe to the ego (or groupthink) of the larger community. Could be religion, could be politics. . .or it could be a little bit of both: the Green Earth Revolution being a prime example.

From the moment Michael Stipe first started doing PSAs for MTV back in the 80s, I thought the environmentalist movement was a bit messianic, not to mention classist. For example, flash forward twenty years. Nowadays, if you can afford a Hybrid automobile, you are communally doing something "healthy" for the environment and are therefore a "good" person who's "making a difference". But if you live somewhere out in the sticks where the need for a car is far greater (even more so than the resident of a green-friendly city like San Francisco whose public transit system conveniently shuts down at midnight) and you can only afford your neighbor's beat-up 1979 LTD, you are doing something "unhealthy" for the environment and are therefore, at best, an "ignorant" person and, at worst, a "bad" person.

That is to say, you are not individualistically trying to make ends meet the best you can. You are part of the evil mankind, the rapers of the earth, the ogres who aren't as "concerned about environmental issues" as you are about getting to and from work, putting food on a table, and raising a family.

I find more beauty than ugliness in what mankind has managed to accomplish (and still can) in his short time on earth. The imaginative creations of mankind, for Blake, were the highest expressions of natural progress. That is, since mankind itself is a byproduct of nature, the creative output of mankind is not only itself a byproduct of nature, but also has the dual privilege of being an objective work of art. Objective works of art do not reach downwards toward the earth from whence they were hatched, but aspire upwards to the cosmic unkwown, the enlightening universals, the Divine.

If one believes in God, "nature"--in the colloquial sense of trees and mountains and lakes and streams--is itself a work of art. This is how the ontological argument of teleology is defined: an argument for the existence of God based on the empirical presentation of nature. If one does not believe in God, however, nature is simply a de facto state of things. An atheist , for example, can acknowledge that nature is beautiful, is something that mankind should seek to preserve, and that there are many benefits behind getting in touch with nature.

Yet this is all too obvious. Like the question of "who can argue for disease?", the same can be said of the question, "who can argue for the destruction of the earth?" Enlightened individuals would not argue for either regardless of how devoted they are to the Green Earth campaign. The atheist differs from the theist on environmental issues in that ontologically, despite his reverence for the earth, the atheist is not entitled to argue that nature is a work of art. In an atheistic schemata, nature is a work of art that has no author. And if nature has no author, nature itself becomes God. Something that was not written, but rather wrote itself into being.

If nature, as science tells us, is the result of a series of random cosmic and biological accidents happening throughout the history of the universe, then nature cannot be considered a work of art any more than a patch of discoloration on a tortilla can be considered the manifestation of Christ. In this sense, nature is barren. Unfeeling, uncaring, and entirely neutral to any hypothetical desire to "save" it. If nature is God and God is to be defined as omnipotent and omnipresent, who are we to try and "save" it?

Moreover, if God (as nature) can be this seriously wounded by its progeny (mankind), well it isn't much of a God, is it? Conversely, a mankind that considers itself capable of saving God from destruction would have to be a bit messianic, no?

If there was an external Divinity, however, responsible for creating the known universe (nature), that known universe therefore becomes a work of art, for it now has an author. It was written, created, brought into existence as artistic progeny from the mind of God.

These ideas are troublesome to many in the postmodern environmental movement because nature becomes something less than a terminal theological outpost. If nature is not the de facto state of things (in other words, not "God"), then the Green Earth campaign is fighting for a false ending, a fictitious future utopia thousands of years away. Meanwhile, our present becomes saturated with tax initiatives, the supression of alternative scientific debate on the topic of global warming, Hollywood celebrities and well-intentioned politicians glomming on to "save the earth" refrains (culminating in bizarre and hypocritical scenarios where figurehead Al Gore is beamed into a Tokyo superdome as a hologram to lecture about the earth-saving powers of incandescent lightbulbs). If God is the final author of nature, the larger community is working merely to save one of God's creations and not creation itself. Consequently, the perceived nobility and magnanimity of this task is dwarfed in significance. The communal ego begins to die out and the individual ego is encouraged to emerge once again.

And with the re-emergence of the indivudal ego, practical questions also emerge. Away from the slogans and PSAs and sound bytes and Oscar presentations and all that comes from communal ego--the individual is free to think for himself once more. He can examine practical questions for himself, such as "How did all other major ice ages manage to end before mankind was even around to put his footprint in the snow?" "Is it fair to tell third-world African countries what they can and can't do with their own natural resources like coal and oil?" "Is it fair to instruct them to use solar paneling (for many the most expensive and least efficient form of energy) to run their already shabby medical clinics?" "Why did a founding member of Greenpeace, Patrick Moore, split from his own organization over the issue of global warming?" "What are we to make of the fact that in the 1970s, environmentalists were predicting a period of global cooling and the onset of a new ice age?"

Here's a doozy: The total concentration of carbon dioxide in the Earth's atmosphere is 0.054%. The human contribution to this number is much less than 1%. Volcanoes produce significantly more carbon dioxide per year than humans.

Is it accurate for Al Gore to point at a slide of "cracked earth" in the Darfur region of Sudan and imply that global warming is adding considerably to the "other numerous problems those people already have" without ever specifying what those "other numerous problems" might be? (Islamic-sponsored genocide of their own people, in case you didn't already know).

Let's say communally that we really did wish to "Save Darfur", for example. Does it help or hurt to imply at a mass-media level of publicity that global warming might be of equal concern to the people of Darfur as fears of having their heads chopped off while they sleep by Janjaweed terrorists? My hunch is that the people of Darfur don't really give a shit if Greenland melts in the year 5178 or that their children's children's children's. . .

children's children's children's. . .

children's children's children's children MIGHT have to deal with rising sea levels.

No. Because they're probably not going to have any children, because they'll be fucking dead. And not from global warming.

"Where man is not, nature is barren."

Mankind is not in Darfur right now. Animals are running the show in Darfur.

Nature in Darfur right now is barren. Bloody. Strewn with body parts.

So where is mankind? Mankind is here in the West, telling itself and the third-world that the cracked earth of Darfur is adding considerably to the numerous other problems those people already have.

I could be wrong, however. Maybe the communal ego is right. Maybe I should subjugate my own annoying "rain on the communal parade" individual ego to that of the larger community. What if we could talk to the Janjaweed terrorists about biodegradable green-friendly alternatives to sawing off heads and mowing down children with AK-47s? We might not have to fire a single shot.

"Where mankind has its head up its ass, nature is a hypothetical utopia and a practical nightmare."

Can we appreciate being human once more? Now that would be a revolution I just might join.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

A Letter To Before

Mr. Meltdown has come to correct a great wrong. . .
Mr. Meltdown, Mr. Meltdown.

Dear Sabrina,

Yesterday was the most blissful day in my life until today. Little was I to know that inside your heart resided not only 24, but 48 hours of interest in me. When I awoke a few seconds ago to find you still cuddled next to the heart shaped pillow the size of my kidney, I believed that I had truly reached my climax.

Until I climaxed. I hope I did not wake you. You are so beautiful when you sleep. Like a little angel.

But then I think, “what if all the angels are asleep right now?”

Who’s going to look after heaven?

So I woke you. Please forgive me, Sabrina. But angels have duties. What is there to believe in if angels shirk their duties and sleep all day? The world needs you for comfort right now. Listen, my darling Sabrina. Listen to the wind blowing through the great gaping wound at the core of the earth. . .

If it were up to me, Sabrina, I would let you sleep all day next to the stomach-shaped pillow the size of the word “love”. But I would be doing the universe a great disservice if I were to pilfer angels away from their flocks.

Who cares that I am a demon and you might contain the power to cure me of my diabolicism? So what that your purity could be mine for the taking on elopment to hell and damnation?

Sorry I awoke you. But I want to do right, Sabrina. My nature is wrong. What is it like to be a sleeping angel?



Wilhelm. . .

I had no idea I was sleeping until I awoke. There are ups and downs here in the waking world. There are none in the sleeping world.

Sabrina. . .


Got your e-mail about sleeping vs. waking worlds. Would you like to get a cup of coffee sometime?:)

Wilhelm. . .

Sure coffee sounds good--lol!


“Sabrina? Hey, it’s Will.”

Gulp. Swallow. Swallow.

“Oh, hey.”

Slightly lilting the words like a question.

“Yeah. . .I got your e-mail about coffee.”


“So. . .you said ‘lol’ at the end of the e-mail, do you remember?”


“So does that mean you don’t want coffee?”

“Yes. I hate coffee. Can’t you take a hint? I don’t like you! I’ve always hated you! I thought that was obvious!”

“Sure thing! Just wanted to clear up any confusion. Thanks a lot. You take care now. Bye-bye.”


My god, she’s a demon. And why? I’m such an angel.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Crusade Of The Knight

“Well,” she sighed, “I just don’t think it’s fair for you to poke fun at Islam.”

“But that’s what I don’t get,” he replied, “You’re saying it’s not fair to poke fun at Islam, so basically you’ve just made a value judgment about a single religion. You’ve decreed that Islam is off-limits to criticism. That’s a value judgment. And according to you, I should alter my current value judgment to fit your value judgment. Let me ask you--is that fair? I thought you didn’t believe in objective truth. So why are you trying to impose your opinion onto mine if everything is truly subjective? Can’t I have the choice of wanting to make fun of Islam or do I have to accept your understanding of Islam as something that can’t be ridiculed?”

“I just don’t think you know enough about it.”

“Have you read the Koran?”

“No. But I would argue that there’s probably just as much bad stuff in the Bible.”

“Have you read the Bible?”

“No. But I would argue--”

“By the way, if you haven’t read the Koran, how do you know there’s bad stuff in there?”

“I was. . .conditioned?”

“Oh that’s right,” he smiled, “I forgot. You’re a lump of clay.”

She stood upright for a brief second, “Hey! My mother was a lump of clay!”

“I’m sorry," he stroked her tear-stained cheek, "You see, the reason I do what I do is simple. Ever since I was a little child, I’ve always loved European culture, European history, European art, European music. In particular, I was obsessed with Britain--it’s literary--especially satiric--tradition: Alexander Pope, P.G. Wodehouse, Monty Python. I used to fantasize that one day I’d be allowed to become a subject of Her Majesty’s queendom and, who knows, perhaps be knighted for some unspecified heroic deed. To this day, I get chills when I hear a Winston Churchill speech or the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards' bagpipes playing “Amazing Grace” or side two of Abbey Road. I went to London for the first time this last February and attended a Sunday morning C of E service at the Church of the Royal Air Force at St. Clement-Danes and was surrounded on all sides by those very same men that Churchill spoke of when he said “never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few”. And the following Monday evening at Westminster Abbey, before the glorious Evensong began, the vicar offered up a prayer to 'all the victims of terrorism worldwide'. . ."

He paused to light a cigar and take a sip of brandy.

Then he continued, “. . .And with that prayer, there it was. I heard it loud and clear in the Abbey: It was the sound of moral clarity. Because, you see, I know what a terrorist is. A terrorist is somebody who gets angry because they don’t get their way and they blow up beautiful shit--like statues of the Buddha in Afghanistan. . .”

“Well,” she sneered, “Radical Buddhism is just as bad as radical Islam.”

“Why in God’s name are we never allowed to focus on any one thing anymore? What’s with all the qualifiers? You never offered qualifications when I used to complain about America and Jesus.”

“Because I’m scared Islam’s going to hear me.”

“All right,” he patted the bed, “get under the covers.”

She did as she was told.

“You see, my dear,” he said as he adjusted his RAF-issued cufflinks “I was born and raised in Missouri. But I dreamed about Britain. And now that I live in San Francisco, I dream of Missouri--because at least there I was allowed to dream about Britain. Here, I have to feel guilty for dreaming about Britain, dreaming about preserving Britain, dreaming about preserving Britain’s identity as a nation, as a place in history, as a mover and shaker in the building of Western Civilization. Because when religious bigot assholes arrive in droves across the English Channel from shitty third-world countries and start to preach to thousands in Hyde Park about uniting the grand 'ummah' to 're-establish the Islamic caliphate across Europe' by 'beheading those who insult Islam' all the while receiving state assistance as culturally-suicidal MPs and space-cadets like London Mayor Ken Livingstone mouth empty platitudes about a 'new, multicultural Britain' and 'the beauty of a diverse and ever-changing UK'--I want to fucking vomit. I mean, Britain’s another culture different from mine. Why can’t I celebrate and strive to preserve British culture? Why do you get to pick which cultures get ridiculed and which cultures get special hands-off treatment? Why can’t I raise awareness about the ongoing compromise of British national identity under the handshake of global economics and global utopianism? Why can’t that be MY good deed?”

He adjusted his epaulets and clicked his Wellingtons.

“Unfortunately, my dear, YOUR good deed and MY good deed can’t co-exist ideologically. So I ask you once again. . .will you join me in the trenches and fight the good fight? Will you join in the fight for the liberation of speech, press, and religion once more? Will you stand with the Cambridge students now in hiding for reprinting the Mohammed cartoons? Will you stand with Denmark? Will you stand with Salman Rushdie? Will you stand in remembrance of murdered film director Theo Van Gogh? Will you truly stand in solidarity with the victims of Darfur by acknowledging the hideous religious ideology behind the genocide? Will you fight for freedom from--and not for--theocracy? Will you speak out for the jailed political dissidents in Iran and Syria? Will you join in the cause of worldwide literacy and speak out against those who would impose the Koran as the only fount of wisdom? Will you fight for the good of womanhood worldwide? Will you stand with truly brave women, outspoken critics of Islamic sharia law like Wafa Sultan and Aayan Hirsi Ali? Will you speak out for the rape victim who must produce four male witnesses to testify on her behalf or risk being stoned? Will you fight for gay rights (including the basic one of survival) globally or only locally here in the Bay Area? Will you fight against illegal guns and a culture that would supply AK-47s to 12-year olds for propaganda photo-ops? Will you fight against the barbarity of beheading and bombing? Will you fight against the sociopathology of using civilians as shields and using suicide explosions to maximize civilian casualties? Most importantly, will you stand against the idea of an Islamic regime like Iran obtaining access to a nuclear weapon given their celebratory attitude towards something as grisly as suicide bombings? Or will you continue to classify it all as ‘desperate acts caused by economic and educational deficiencies. . .'?”

He knelt and kissed her hand.

“Listen to me, honey. I’m from Missouri. I know what it’s like to be poor. I know what it’s like to go without. I know what it’s like to want more. I know what it’s like to feel less than. I’ve been up and I’ve been down. I’ve had good times and I’ve had bad times. But I ain’t never--and I mean never--had no inkling to strap no explosives to myself and walk into a pizza parlor. Now, goddamnit, honey--use your brain.”

And she did. And there it was. Suddenly, a flash of moral clarity. They had a connection.

They made love all night long. . .

And love reigned o'er all again. And there was faith and courage once more. And the past and the present were no longer shamed and reviled and a beautiful future. . .a new Renaissance. . .a rebirth of basic freedoms. . .an awareness of the stars in the heavens and not on the screens. . .was erected in place of a rotted urbanity strewn with body parts and devalued standards, a hypothetical future devoid of beauty, romance and chivalrous love built on the crumbling utopian foundation of good intentions. There was knighthood once more. King Arthur would have been proud.

And so would Winston.

Let her sun never set.

Monday, July 16, 2007

San Francisco Encounters

52-year old male vicar of the Church Of England looking for attractive female, 18-35 years of age, believer in objective truth and universal artistic and moral standards for outdoors fun and periodic cultural elevation from relativistic multicultural morass into reverance for a bygone era where faith and courage still mean something.

18-year old boy/girl/trans Chomsky reader looking for transfat/girl-boy/boyboy Ward Churchill reader for mutual masturbation session where everything equals everything else.

22-year old female keffiyah-wearing Mission district hipster looking for 20-30 year old male Palestinian suicide bomber for harsh dose of reality.


"Why do we have to have borders to be a nation?"
"I don't know. . .let's get a fucking dictionary. I mean, why do we have to have three sides to make a triangle?"



"Man, did you hear about these assholes in Iraq that stoned this little 17-year old girl to death because she married outside of her religion?"

The relativistic answer:

"Well, you have to ask yourself how much of that America had a hand in."


"Man, I hate this fucking country--we cause so much bad shit to happen!"

The non-relativistic answer:

"Fucking A. Nice keffiyah, Carol."


"You see, the reason that there are terrorists is because America is creating them by their presence in the Middle East."

One direction, you see. Now try it the other way around--

"You see, the reason for the American presence in the Middle East is because there are all these terrorists."

Not quite.

I've given up on trying to convince people that right and wrong are objective moral truths. Why bother in a world where it doesn't matter anymore that Winston Churchill saved Western Civilization from Jew-murdering fascists? All that matters anymore is that Winston Churchill was an imperialist. You see, minorities will always be historical victims and therefore have NO CHOICE WHATSOEVER ABOUT ANYTHING. And although Churchill was a product of his time as well--born into the Victorian age where Queen and Country were revered above all else--there is no absolution in this regard. Churchill cannot be forgiven. Cannot be forgiven primarily because he succeeded. And even more so because he did not apologize for succeeding. Churchill would have stood a better chance at surviving into popular culture had he flagellated himself upon achieving victory in WWII.

I can imagine the rewrites: "This is your victory," says morally-relativistic Churchill, "it's important to remember that this might not have been entirely just and we may have inflicted just as much damage on the Nazis in a lot of ways and so this day isn't really a day of celebration, but a day of sadness, because whenever one life is lost--that's just a sad day. You see, I was going to raise my fingers in a "V" for victory, but now I realize that's just my own white privilege telling me to do that and I think what we need most of all right now as a nation that's just been through a horrible war is a day of healing. . ."

The sexiest picture ever? VJ day, Times Square. The vet and the nurse.

The babies in their diapers want the balls of the heroes on a platter. That way they don't have to aspire to anything. That way, they don't have to feel conflicted as they groove to their iPod and rail against the "corporate machine". That way, they don't have to feel bad about not knowing a fucking thing about historical fact because facts hurt. Feelings, not facts. History is one big feeling. . .one big emotion. . .whining. . .mewing. . .

"Cut your balls off and throw them in the dumpster. . ."

Right and Wrong are gone. Good and Bad are defunct.

Perhaps we still have a chance to save Better and Worse.

There is a cancer in the ideology.

Objective truth? Relativism needs to be phased out. We need a pulse again.