Monday, September 2, 2013

Eso’s Chronicles 209/ 1
Western Oasis (1)
© Eso A.B.

Yesterday I happened to look at a link where Christopher Hitchens, author and journalist , attempts to give a lecture on  ‘the origin of religion’ the origin of religion’ and fails miserably. Contrariness being my nature, I thought that I could do him better.

If you start watching the second link at 2:50, you will hear Hitchens tell that one of the statements that used to upset him as a little boy studying literature was the ‘biblical’: “Seek and you shall find.” He goes on to give an example of a primitive who sought to still a volcano by  throwing a couple of live babies into the crater, and concludes that this is where “…religion has just started….” The innuendo that accompanies the statement, as I understand it, is: “God does not exist,” and what a cruel way to create.

I do not much like the word ‘God’, because the word has been much overused in singular tense, and I have in my time seen too many portraits of Stalin, Hitler, Roosevelt, and many other rulers on the wall. I much prefer the word ‘Being’, because even when used in the singular, it encompasses the ‘cosmos’. The word may be in the singular or plural, i.e., God or Gods, even the ‘being’ of Nothing. Hitchen’s examples can be answered one by one, but it would take too much time and space here, therefore, I will keep to answering only the one mentioned.

Throwing live babies into the crater of a volcano does not begin ‘religion’, but it does begin a lifelong traumatic and painful ‘memory’. Why must it be a ‘painful memory’? Because we all know what pain is from personal experience, even if it comes from nothing more than falling off a bicycle. Still, our forebears valued pain and had rituals to experience it. The main reason to experience pain was to set something to memory, a memory that would stay with us a life time.

What is it that the pain seekers sought to remember?

The most common answer we are likely to hear is that it was to prove to themselves and to others their ‘bravery’, ‘ability to endure stresses, and to stand the test of ‘initiation’. Initiation: what for and by whom? Fraternities in college still use ‘initiation’, but in our day ‘pain’ is reduced to ‘ridicule’ and ‘humiliation’, which is believed, next to pain, to be a memorable phenomena.

Yet fraternities (brotherhoods) are all that we have left of the ancient and once universal tradition of community forming and bonding. One reason why ‘brotherhoods’ are the remaining institutions is, unfortunately, because they are gender segregated, and mostly limited to the male gender. Which brings us to of the most widely practiced ‘initiation’, re circumcision. As the picture in the link (above) indicates, the ritual of pushing a cactus thorn through one’s tongue is—in a hierarchy of pain--closely related, to pushing the same needle through the glans penis (though not the clitoris, which has its reasons); which may or may not have been done with the assist of an anesthetic—the smoke or incense of coca leaves or some other intoxicant.

However, when all is said and done, it is not pain that is of most value in the experience, but ‘memory’. Pain is an individual experience that cannot be transferred except by imitation and repetition of one and the same example. On the other hand, the ‘memory’ of pain is transferrable if the painful memory is experienced and witnessed by a group of people together and at the same time. This is where the sacrifice of live babies enters the picture: the killing of a child is one of those experiences that empathetically touches  everyone participating in the ritual with their presence.

Though many creation myths claim that it is the Gods who created the Earth and life on it, and thereafter wholly spent died (or rested), in reality it was children who ‘created and died’ if not by creating our planet and life, then by creating bonds for a yet disunited and haphazard group, which then through a common experience and memory became one Commons.

There is a close symbolic parallel between the community and the Aztec Sun, the latter which needs to be encouraged to rise and shine through the stimulus of becoming witness to a God’s (Nanahuatzin) willingness to die a self-sacrificial death. Interestingly, Nanahuatzin is described as a God “covered with sores”; some say that he suffered from venereal disease and was, thus, a God held in contempt. Be that as it may, Nanahuatzin knew the meaning of pain, not only in an experiential sense, but also in a psychological sense. Of all the Aztec Gods challenged to raise the Sun (i.e., the community), Nanahuatzin was the first willing to offer himself as self-sacrifice; and to rescue the yet unbonded Aztecs from non-being.

Make of the story what you will, but Hitchens dismissal of its complexity by giving the sacrifice of children as an example is hasty conclusion and shows a lack of imagination.

There are other reasons why I return to the theme of community and sacrifice as essential to Being. If self-sacrifice was needed to establish a community through means of all sharing in the same painful memories (these do not exclude happy memories, though happiness is easily forgotten), then surely the community can expect times, when for a number of reasons common memories pale, bonds unravel, and are replaced by wanton individualism.

Such a fading of communal memories has plagued Western societies for several centuries. The common memories that once bonded the Western people have been replaced by ‘democracy’, which in terms of Capitalist religion (which replaced the religions once imbedded in the languages and stories of the people) means ‘every man for himself’ and to the fortunate winner go the spoils, that is to say, he gets to become the Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank, which post officiates on behalf of the twin of God, Money or POTUS. As for the other ‘winners’, they will be called Oligarchs.

Today faded common memories have been replaced by hedonistic individualsm, which our God, POTUS, and the Oligarchs call ‘human rights’.

Along with the fading of common memories Nature has also faded: the forests have been cut down or burnt in gigantic conflagrations of fire, the forest animals have been killed for profit (an example being the killing of reindeer for pelts which was in lieu of taxes, the current killing of tigers, elephants, and hippopotami by profoundly impoverished people), in short, humans have not only been deprived of communities, but our planet has been turned into a desert.

Many ancient cultures were brought forward in time by close-knit and self-assured communities, but these have now been destroyed in the name of ‘democracies’ practicing--believe it or not--‘human rights’ on behalf of consumerism, which in its “I don’t give a shit” (about history) attitude has entered an era where ‘freedom’ for Big Powers is secured  with nerve gas attacks’. This is the logical result of having created living Being in a desert.

No comments:

Post a Comment