My fellow complex arrangement of stardust (you, reader), as I put down my ever receding friend, my C10H14N2 inhaler, my lovely glowing cigarette, and take the troubling love to think, I cannot still refrain from complex emotions. The wonder experienced from the process which this poison (nicotine is quite toxic - more than arsenic - 60 mg for a 70kg adult is lethal) of pleasure enters my bronchioles, alveoli, blood, brain; triggering a whitewash of dopamine to ensure my brief contentedness and to encourage more and more more more! The terrifying image in my mind of the tissue of my lungs literally blackening, and the surface area so necessary for the intake of oxygen slowly decreasing. Not to mention the increasing chance of a mutation in the tissue, commonly called, well, cancer. Also though, slight welling emotions as I remember some of the great smokers; Christopher Hitchens “There have been moments of reverie, wreathed in smoke and alone with a book, and moments of conversation, perfumed with ashtrays and cocktails and decent company, which I would not have exchanged for a year of ordinary existence.”, Oscar Wilde “A cigarette is the perfect type of perfect pleasure. It is exquisite, and it leaves one unsatisfied. What more can one want?”. Though, ofcourse, I recognise this as sentiment. My bias is personal, and I am not immune to it though I would never inflict it on others. Besides, to you it is probably just meaningless babble, unless ofcourse these roots of influence are as unwilling to be doused in pesticide and torn from your skull as mine seem. Not that I have tried. The constant and, I would add, necessary task of outgrowing illusions, or, such as free will, at least acknowledging them is lifelong and brings much pain aswell as enlightened doubt and engrossing curiosity and fascination. So I frustrate myself enough to know the research, the dangers and the inevitabilities of my very much ‘T-minus’ habit. And as I write that very statement I cannot help think of an anecdote involving Stephen Fry and Tom Stoppard at a dinner party where an American woman in disbelief of Stoppard’s rigorous habit of inhaling and chewing simultaneously, felt enough to say, “And you’re so intelligent!”, “Excuse me?”, “Knowing those things are going to kill you,” she said, “still you do it.” To which he replied, “How differently I might behave, if immortality were an option.” I think that that particular sentiment seems particularly fluent while my lungs are at this moment filled. I can’t write without an ashplant, I cannot read for very long without one either. Nor does scotch taste as good, conversation sound as interesting. Though much, I have read, is the same with all addiction and it is not always a pleasure to be always tied to a substance. I do not oppose any laws eradicating smoking in enclosed spaces, where the effect is mutual but the habit not. Nor, I think, would I recommend a life seen through smoke screens. This poison has been the love of my life, and I do not say that without at least a tinge of sincerity, myself and this tobacco plant, two distant cousins now tied in matrimony, products of evolution finding an accidental company, once again join forces, to clear thought, read read read! and the only fight I have ever known; the struggle with the illusory. My mind has bonded my secular nature and love for argument, literature, science and the curious with this very mortal compulsion and to light one, it has been, does tend to light the other.
Friday, 22 February 2013
I am losing a friend. To the mephitic and odious infection of evangelism, to the bloodless and sinister cult of ‘faith-healing’ and it’s leprous and wart smothered sister, ‘prophesying’. Practices still peppered with fakes and frauds, only too excited to steal advantage and rob the true believers of reason and scepticism of any kind. My friend is no fake. A few sinful years ago, it was drink and merry friends that gave meaning to his life, and it is no hollow rationalization of mine to assume this. It has been a snowball from the beginning, and it is reaching speeds and mass no reason can match. The snow, was provided by a visit to an eccentric church that ‘specialised’ in indoctrinating the young and aimless. Dragged along by a friend, he experienced what too many atheists and non-believers dismiss as hokum. A religious experience.
Churches such as these are constructed to provide a setting that makes such experiences happen. The structure of the service, a concert atmosphere followed by a hauntingly convincing preacher, of similar age and social status, soothing his audience with flowing tones and hypnotic prose. A thoughtless mass of susceptible minds, so ready and unconscious, so disgustingly manipulated, so the next, is just an inevitability. Some are homed in on - new faces, stand-alones, the disabled and the melancholic – and are told something about themselves, statements so weak and transparent to anyone who does not already ‘know’ and expect it to be true. But they do know, the whole service provides this knowledge, they have been told and suggested to by a seemingly trustworthy authority, and this knowledge sticks like a tape worm to the very intestines of their will. It takes only a touch or a shout that “Jesus, he knows and loves you, he has been with you and suffered all your sufferings, He Loves YOU.” The expectation does the rest, and they feel God, inhaled through their lungs, through every blood vessel down to their toes.
These experiences do exist, it is real cognition, and you, reader, have heard many versions. It is obvious that they often lead to religious belief, though do not always happen in a church. The experience comes, and then the mind fills all the gaps with whatever religion that is most known or comforting or convenient. Instant faith. It is sinister. And there is absolutely not even one minute piece of evidence that it is supernatural. No evidence suggesting it is not just brain-function.
It makes nauseous to even ponder on these ‘stage-masters’, whether they manipulate knowingly or unconsciously, I will always hold them responsible for cultivating a distrust in scepticism and evidence.
So know, my friend, is a ‘faith-healer’, he walks the streets using techniques that psychics and astrologers have used for centuries. He ‘fixes’ broken thumbs, minor headaches and tobacco addiction, all miracles all Jesus, yes I know, yes whatever. “But what proof, what evidence do you have to reason that bone has grown instantaneously, that increased cranial blood-pressure has decreased, that it is not simply endorphins you supply, not simply illusions?”, I ask, “God told me.”
There is clear blockade, armed guards every twenty feet, ordered to kill any reason that should try meander through to consciousness. It is at best distressing. Argument is not useless, it is impossible. To approach any conversation with the expectation of coherence is idiocy on my part. He now considers moving to the middle-east on an evangelistic crusade, and my warnings of the violence and prosecution, maybe even death he feels compelled to subject himself to, are desperate and still unheard, unlistened, condemned and executed as reason by his minds zealot protectors, at the impenetrable blockade.
It is exponentially heartbreaking, to feel compelled to witness so much self-prosecution and self-disgust, so much damage and compulsory misery, -the will of god - which one can force on himself. To feel never once lost for words, when all words are so impenetrable.
Oh Vanity! You left me everytime curiosity became me. Everytime the books were open and the sun was set, the universe would be glimpsed without the selfish sun drowning out the cosmic echoes of its brothers and sisters, preoccupied in the distance. The silvery sheen on the speckled blackness, the sloshed luminous milk in a canyon of darkness, the devil scattering pearls to never be grasped, just glimpsed for half a life, so God can cackle at his insomniac creations trying to jump at them. Oh Misery. What woeful insomnia is this, to have to stare at something so wakeful? To be forced to dream without sleep? The smooth matte paint, punctured and torn from the restless seas of photons, attacking nothingness with unorganised and distressing delight! LET THERE BE LIGHT. A command only half obeyed. Or still does light do battle with the darkness, the stars it’s surrounded soldiers, living life under siege. Darkness is bliss, they are told, much like ignorance only less. Joseph Smith; an amoral fraudulent twat? The cleverest of the cons? Unending insecurity seeking unending love? IGNORE HIM! I can’t, he symbolises everything I despise. HE DOESN’T! His followers do. Manic and Depressive, together at last.
Being an atheist at Christmas, I thought, is a time when obligations that bind and torture the faithful could be thrown behind ones shoulder, to the wind, in the same guiltless pit where the illusions of one’s youth were cast without regret or sentiment. The sceptical brain in growth. Though now I have an unconsidered issue, the bonds are tied too tight between Christmas and family, to discard one would be to offend the other. Especially an extended Christian family containing a minister and his disciples, the warriors of the Almighty Lord, contain – to my knowledge – only one other than myself out nearly 30, that accepts Evolution by Natural Selection as anything other than the ramblings of the unsaved. I am not a closet atheist, my unbelief is well documented in their records, and I have experienced my share of shunning. But at Christmas, the masks come on (one practice I refuse to partake), and I am sincerely(?) welcome to attend and be merry. One practice that is not uncommon at such gatherings is for me to be slowly surrounded or cornered, where every torso is pointed at me, and beliefs discussed in an open and organised fashion. My contribution to this discussion is not wanted. These moments, for me, are thrilling. I enjoy argument to the point of obsession, and have become rather adept, if I do say so….. Idea are propelled in my direction, to here here’d, unconditionally by the rest. I take too much pride in subtle pointing out the differences in their personal beliefs, not to mention the contradictions. I enjoy this unholy tradition for it does have a propensity to sharpen ones wit, if not just scrape the rust from the blade. Some members do object, and their presence often means an end to such affairs, as does someone cursing my existence – “jesus you’re a fuckin’ asshole, mate” – my response was not well accepted by the crowd, “Blasphemy!” And yes, Christians can swear with as much prose and skill as the rest of us blasphemers. Though this is the one and only setting when religion is discussed. For the most part, banal politeness and intolerable niceties fill the air with a high enough concentration of carbon dioxide to send them all to heaven and me to hell. At least the company would be interesting, and I could smoke.
One of the other roles an atheist must play when born in to Christian ceremonies, is to be impolite. The amount of times one must say ‘no thankyou’ in order to avoid hypocrisy.
‘Would you like to join us at the Christmas church service with the rest of the family?’
‘Would you like to join us in prayer?’
‘Would you like to accept Jesus Christ our Saviour into your life and be saved?’
‘No thankyou and please go away, swiftly, please’
‘Would you like to help us slaughter infidels to the god Ra?’
It may as well be. It is truly white noise topped with the feeling of a mosquito buzzing nearby. Though these family meetings happen rarely, and on some topics, the conversation can be delightful. The immense and invaluable awe and curiosity the true wondrousness of the universe and its complexity have been my life’s unmatched joy. To be trapped in this curiosity, my life’s unmatched obsession. There has been such beauty, love, sadness and doubt in this obsession. Though with my ceremonial and audaciously religious family, I feel guilty to say, this is all inaccessible. It is replaced by childish feelings of irrational guilt and hopeless annoyance and boredom. It may be that very guilt that keeps me coming to these moot gatherings. It is a common trade of Christianity (and maybe all monotheisms), guilt. Everything is taken personally and all is offensive. And with any person not related to me, I find it no great bother. Being offended is useless, it offers no argument and a shit is rarely given. But this one circumstance, the unconsidered circumstance, gives me more evidence for my distrust in religious practices. Objectively, it is no problem, aside the brush can swipe, but when it is the ones who were there from your first breath, who have such claims and holds on your psyche, to use guilt as a method of control deliberately is disgusting, to do it unknowingly is seeming more like the methods of religion.
Thursday, 21 February 2013
Black dogs are on my tail. Fear becomes gravity, as if the world is heavier, exponentially increased in mass. Depression is the proper term, but it is so contaminated and unsuitable. It does not convey the feeling, the pain, the way everything becomes black and lifeless, slow and shaded in misery. Exertion of any kind is pointless and excruciatingly difficult. Every food normally savoured turns to ash in my mouth. Sounds and colours lose their taste.
Thoughts of death are involuntary, they come and project themselves on the surrounding world. I do not want to kill myself, I just wouldn’t mind dying. My fear is lopsided; I fear almost everything but death. Un-life, the lack of complex chemistry, not the opposite of life, just the absence of it. It does not seem peaceful or desirable, awful or futile. But the human reaction, the fear of death so wonderfully drilled into us by Natural Selection, is gone. I can’t find it.
It is a sickness, not something that happens to the deserved or the inferior, the weak or the sensitive ones. It is chemistry. I am Chemistry. A factory error. IT IS NOT MY FAULT. But this rationality lacks influence. It FEELS my fault, I feel I AM a cunt. I know, at least I think, it is untrue, though I can’t shake the feeling that this is somehow a punishment. I take huge solace in the fact that I have no wish to pray, to ask a ‘higher-power’ to fix everything in exchange for my soul. Though it is irony that many do belittle themselves by asking for forgiveness. For to do so requires the admission that it is their fault are they are as pathetic as they feel.
I am Bi-Polar. And too many of us Manic-Depressives commit self-slaughter. I should never think I speak for all who suffer from Bi-Polar or indeed Uni-Polar Depression, but I will commit myself to honesty because of the taboo and the chest-crushing shame that surrounds a disease so common, and so lethal to not just those who suffer, but everyone around them. The taboo is silent persecution, it is a guilt-trip on those who aren’t as happy as the world wants to seem. It shouldn’t be so that the miserable should feel guilty for being miserable, and the happy are praised for being happy. It is entropy, not God or human will that guides (or un-guides) this universe, there is minute control, if any, over how we feel and the circumstances we live in.
I considered posting this anonymously, not realising the monumental hypocrisy in doing so. I still feel embarrassed and un-polite if I do not smile at a smiling face in public, and I am suspicious that many feel the same. The statistics so clearly show that the people that cover the skin of Earth are not nearly as put together as they seem. Though is an obvious usefulness of appearing well. Genetically inferior males of many species employ tactics to ‘fool’ a potential mate into choosing him (though many turn to rape, unfortunately).
I had hoped I would feel better after writing this – I don’t – but I am almost certain I would if someone felt better after reading this.