Thursday, January 16, 2014

Cleansing and Evil

As we wave goodbye to 2013 and move into 2014, there is a specific meme that cropped up within the past year that seems appropriate to invoke: cleanse.  Apparently it's a dieting term popularized at places like and; Dr. Oz has his own Detox Cleanse, even Seth Rogen lampooned the phenomenon in the opening scenes of This Is The End before lapsing into a cheeseburger/marijuana binge.  Personally, if you want to rid something from your diet/lifestyle, I prefer the old meme purge, but my guess is that this term is passe due to its vomit connotations.  Cleansing has a much more antiseptic sound, that is, if you're willing to overlook the genocide connotations.

But since our pop culture is currently willing to overlook those connotations, I'm willing to engage in my own cleanse to start the new year.  There certainly is quite a bit of cleansing to do after Christmas, and I'm not just referring to a gut swelling with my wife's spectacular rum cake.  I'm talking about an emotional, mental and spiritual cleansing from the commercialization of the holiday.  Don't get me wrong, I love and engage wholeheartedly in the culture, pageantry, songs and TV shows celebrating the event.  But there were moments I could do without, moments that screamed overkill.  One was the Hollywood Christmas Parade.  I love a good parade, but if you have to cut away from the parade every 5 seconds to a musical act, particularly someone as over-the-hill as Billy Ray Cyrus, that's not good.  It's cringe-worthy to the point of acid reflux; in the same way as those Honda holiday commercials desperately trying to revive Michael Bolton's career.

What a nice piece of subconscious synchronicity that I chose to start my New Year's Cleanse by selecting a CD playlist (yeah, I don't do ipod, I'm 80s old-school that way) consisting of voices designed to do just that with Bill Hicks' Rant in E Minor as the initial choice.  When Bill Hicks recorded this, he knew he had pancreatic cancer, but used his "final" performance as a means to a joke:

"Well folks, this is kind of a sentimental evening for me … this is my final performance ever I’ll ever do. No biggie, no, no, no, no, no hard feelings, No sour grapes whatsoever. I’ve been doing this sixteen years, enjoyed every second of it - every plane flight, every delay, every cancelled flight, every lost luggage, living in hotel rooms, every broken relationship, playing the Comedy Pouch in Possum Ridge, Arkansas, every fucking year. It’s been great don’t get me wrong.

But the fact of the matter is, the reason I’m gonna quit performing is I finally got my own TV show coming out next fall on CBS. So- thank you. I know. Its not a talk show. Dear God, thank you, thank Jesus, thank Buddha, thank Mohammed, thank Allah, thank Krishna, thank every fucking god in the book. No it’s not a talk show; it’s a half-hour weekly show that I will host, entitled ‘Lets Hunt and Kill Billy Ray Cyrus’.

So ya’ll be tuning in? Cool, it’s a fairly self-explanatory plot. Each week we let the hounds of hell loose and we chase that jar-head, no talent, cracker asshole all over the globe … ‘till I finally catch that fruity little pony tail of his in the back, pull him to his knees, put a shot-gun in his mouth like a big black cock of death and we’ll be back in ‘95 with ‘Lets Hunt and Kill Michael Bolton’. So …

Thank you very much. I’m just trying to rid the world of all these fevered egos that are tainting our collective unconscious and making us pay a higher cosmic price than we can imagine."

So what does it say about the fate, the destiny of our culture where almost 20 years after the death of Bill Hicks, the two "fevered egos" he singled out are still polluting my holiday season?!  Time to rehash the time-worn cliche "only the good die young"?  Hicks, of course, spoke of the larger truth: "All matter is merely energy condensed to a slow vibration ... we are all one consciousness experiencing itself subjectively. There is no such thing as death, life is only a dream, and we are the imagination of ourselves."  There is no such thing as death.  That truth might be comforting from a religious point of view or challenging from a scientific point of view.  I'll cover both points of view more in depth later, but for now, I'd like to try a more socially philosophical approach: if there's no such thing as death, why is murder evil?

It scares the living fuck out of me to write this, tears are welling up as I type, but I've recently had a personal experience staring murder in the face.  Up close, I looked a murderer in the face.  I saw his cold, restless eyes, his agitated, aggressive demeanor.  He was no more than two feet away from me.  It could just as easily have been me that he chose as his victim.  I know he was looking at me at one point.  Then he walked away into a sea of people about 10 feet in front of me.  Moments later, I noticed that sea of people part in shock and horror and I watched a man bleed to death in front of me.

There are more details to this story that I can't go into right now.  I'll probably wait until the conclusion of the investigation and, hopefully, the trial before I divulge things like time, place and names.  All I can do right now is recount my subjective experience of murder: this is the face of evil.  It is a face devoid of empathy and as lucky as I feel to have stared in the face of evil and survived, I feel hollow and sick because I do have empathy.  Even if there's no such thing as death, every person has the right to have that subjective experience of consciousness we call human existence on their own terms.

I've written about murder on this blog before; the murder of JFK, the murder of thousands on 9/11, the murder of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, in Iraq.  Now that I've experienced murder up close and personal, you know what I think of it?  It's chickenshit.  That's my honest, gut reaction.  I can't think of anything more cowardly than killing someone and then running away to avoid responsibility.  The only thing morally worse than that is being sanctimonious enough to try to justify the act.  There is no justification for injustice.  And that is why murder is evil.

Interestingly, I don't believe that truth negates the larger philosophical points Bill Hicks made throughout his stand-up career.  Hicks was always a stalwart for standing up to injustice, calling out the hypocrisy of government and calling out the murderers regardless of party or ideological stripes.  He explained why on Rant in E Minor: “I’ll show you politics in America. Here it is, right here. ‘I think the puppet on the right shares my beliefs.’ ‘I think the puppet on the left is more to my liking.’ ‘Hey, wait a minute, there’s one guy holding out both puppets!’ ‘Shut up! Go back to bed, America.’”  Both Bush and Clinton were targets of his righteous condemnation where acts of evil are concerned.

Some intriguing synchronicities have cropped up in my life regarding the subject of evil.  My younger sister in Oregon, who happens to be a born-again Christian, mailed a gift to me, a book titled Epic by John Eldridge.  This book compares the Bible to a number of other cinematic epics: The Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, The Matrix.  It breaks down roughly into four acts: The "once upon a time" beginning where we are introduced to goodness, the entrance of evil, the battle for the heart and, finally, the kingdom restored.  Did this book reflect reality as I see it?  In large brushstrokes, yes.  For the sake of clarity, where religion is concerned, I think that every religion has its values and shortcomings.  That's the point I tried to get across in my stand-up comedy: all religions have value to the extent that they engender love and have shortcomings to the extent that they engender hate.

If there is one thing this book made me think about that might make me change my routine, it is the importance of the heart in spiritual matters.  I still believe what I said is true that if, as a Christian, you really want to practice what you preach, don't accept Jesus into your heart, accept him into your head.  In other words, commit the teachings and actions of Christ to memory and apply them to daily living if you truly strive to be Christ-like.  Otherwise you run the risk of becoming, as Barbara Lee put it, "the evil that we deplore."  But you shouldn't forget about your heart.  Instead, you allow the Holy Spirit into your heart.  I believe if you let the Holy Spirit guide your heart, your deeds will be borne out of empathy and compassion instead of apathy and sanctimony.  And I do believe in the Holy Spirit, as it is known in Christian religion, or Great Spirit, as it is known in Native American religion.  Different cultures express the same concept in different ways; I believe it is important to respect all cultural understandings of the spiritual dimension.

Speaking of dimensions, the other intriguing synchronicity was reading and participating in a thread on Rigorous Intuition started by slimmouse titled Food for "the Gods"? about extra-dimensional entities.  If extra-dimensional entities exist, are they good?  Are they evil?  Rather than approach the subject by imagining fictional scenarios, I decided to approach it via scientific theory: quantum mechanics.  Within the study of theoretical physics, there is an extension of string theory called M-theory, which posits that there are 11 dimensions of spacetime.  (Yes Nigel, this one does go to eleven!)  What sort of entities might exist within these dimensions?  A poster named Nordic put a couple links on the thread that suggests an answer: we do.  First, here is a link discussing the intriguing theory of biocentrism:

Quantum physics proves that death is an illusion

Is death an illusion?

Most scientists would probably say that the concept of an afterlife is either nonsense, or at the very least unprovable.

Yet one expert claims he has evidence to confirm an existence beyond the grave – and it lies in quantum physics.

Professor Robert Lanza claims the theory of biocentrism teaches that death as we know it is an illusion created by our consciousness.
death is an illusion 1
Robert Lanza claims the theory of biocentrism says death is an illusion. He said life creates the universe, and not the other way around. This means space and time don’t exist in the linear fashion we think it does.
He uses the famous double-split experiment to illustrate his point. And if space and time aren’t linear, then death can’t exist in ‘any real sense’ either.
‘We think life is just the activity of carbon and an admixture of molecules – we live a while and then rot into the ground,’ said the scientist on his website.

Lanza, from Wake Forest University School of Medicine in North Carolina, continued that as humans we believe in death because ‘we’ve been taught we die’, or more specifically, our consciousness associates life with bodies and we know that bodies die.

His theory of biocentrism, however, explains that death may not be as terminal as we think it is.

Biocentrism is classed as the theory of everything and comes from the Greek for ‘life centre’.

It is the believe that life and biology are central to reality and that life creates the universe, not the other way round.

This suggests a person’s consciousness determines the shape and size of objects in the universe.

Lanza uses the example of the way we perceive the world around us. A person sees a blue sky, and is told that the colour they are seeing is blue, but the cells in a person’s brain could be changed to make the sky look green or red.
Biocentrism is classed as the Theory of Everything and comes from the Greek for ‘life centre’.

It is the belief that life and biology are central to reality and that life creates the universe, not the other way round. 

Lanza uses the example of the way we perceive the world around us.

A person sees a blue sky, and is told that the colour they are seeing is blue, but the cells in a person’s brain could be changed to make the sky look green or red. 

Our consciousness makes sense of the world, and can be altered to change this interpretation.
death is an illusion 3
By looking at the universe from a biocentric’s point of view, this also means space and time don’t behave in the hard and fast ways our consciousness tell us it does.

In summary, space and time are ‘simply tools of our mind.’

Once this theory about space and time being mental constructs is accepted, it means death and the idea of immortality exist in a world without spatial or linear boundaries.

Theoretical physicists believe that there is infinite number of universes with different variations of people, and situations taking place, simultaneously.

Lanza added that everything which can possibly happen is occurring at some point across these multiverses and this means death can’t exist in ‘any real sense’ either. 
Lanza, instead, said that when we die our life becomes a ‘perennial flower that returns to bloom in the multiverse.’

Wow, sounds like science and religion are one and the same!  Or to use a more current pop culture reference from the movie Thor, science and magic are "one and the same thing."  (Although Thor speaks of nine realms, not eleven)  But what I find particularly moving is this possible eyewitness account.  This is coming from Roger Ebert's wife regarding the Pulitzer Prize-winning film critic's departure from this dimension:

The one thing people might be surprised about—Roger said that he didn't know if he could believe in God. He had his doubts. But toward the end, something really interesting happened. That week before Roger passed away, I would see him and he would talk about having visited this other place. I thought he was hallucinating. I thought they were giving him too much medication. But the day before he passed away, he wrote me a note: "This is all an elaborate hoax." I asked him, "What's a hoax?" And he was talking about this world, this place. He said it was all an illusion. I thought he was just confused. But he was not confused. He wasn't visiting heaven, not the way we think of heaven. He described it as a vastness that you can't even imagine. It was a place where the past, present, and future were happening all at once.

Perhaps that's all "death" is: a gateway to the Infinite.  A connection with the multiplicity of dimensions within our universe.  (Or could it be the universality of dimensions within the multiverse?)  But it's not the only gateway.  Which brings us back to Bill Hicks.  Long before he took the permanent gateway on February 26, 1994, Hicks found another way to experience it, which he talked about on Rant in E Minor:

"Three weeks ago two of my friends and I went to a ranch in Fredericksburg, Texas, and took what Terence McKenna calls "a heroic dose." Five dried grams. Let me tell you, our third eye was squeegeed quite cleanly. Wow! And I'm glad they're against the law, 'cause you know what happened when I took 'em? I laid in a field of green grass for four hours, going "My God, I love everything." The heavens parted, God looked down and rained gifts of forgiveness onto my being, healing me on every level, psychically, physically, emotionally. And I realized our true nature is spirit, not body, that we are eternal beings, and God's love is unconditional and there's nothing we can ever do to change that. It is only our illusion that we are separate from God, or that we are alone. In fact the reality is we are one with God and He loves us. Now, if that isn't a hazard to this country... Do you see my point? How are we gonna keep building nuclear weapons, you know what I mean? What's gonna happen to the arms industry when we realize we're all one. Ha ha ha ha ha! It's gonna fuck up the economy! The economy that's fake anyway! Ha ha ha! Which would be a real bummer. You know. You can see why the government's cracking down on idea of feeling unconditional love."

Maybe that's why they call them magic mushrooms!  Not that I need mushrooms, but after the horror I've experienced confronting evil this week, I need good comedy.  I need good music.  Not to distract me from reality, but to clarify it.  Bill Hicks, Phil Ochs, George Carlin, John Lennon, Richard Pryor, Elliott Smith, Lenny Bruce, Paul Simon, Arthur Lee, Bob Dylan, Jim Morrison, George Harrison.  To illuminate, to comfort, to heal.  What you pop culture addicts call Cleansing.  Bring it on.


Eric Frost-Barnes said...

Holy-Mary-Mother-of-Zod! This post had me both giggling AND teary-eyed! Sooooo very glad you're all right, brother, but equally sickened by what you encountered. Kant comes to mind whenever someone effectively writes about good and evil (as you have here) and how it is Our Choice, Our Intent to either help or inflict upon whomever it is we're focusing our words or actions on. You're one of the good guys, RP. Just as we've both seen sinister forces up close and personal, we've also recognized good when it is happening, and seen it in the eyes of the people doing good. Never forget, RP, that regardless of your religion (including the religion of not believing) we all can make choices to help and show compassion rather than the opposite. And it is almost always the braver, more wise, choice.

Robert Paulsen said...

Thanks Eric, I am doing my best to deal with everything. Great synopsis of Kant, that's one philosopher I haven't read, but I agree with that dichotomy as you lay it out. I think it's an extremely important point you make that the choice to help and show compassion is not contingent on "believing" in God (or Zod). Too many fundamentalists seem to forget that when Thomas doubted Jesus rose from the dead, Jesus didn't freak out and shout, "Blaspheming unbeliever! Father, damn this skeptical shit to the fires of hell!" No, instead of banishing Thomas like a petulant prick, Jesus went up to him and said, "G'head, touch me, I'm real, k?" I don't know, maybe it's just me, but if Jesus was that cool, maybe our place in the next dimension isn't dependent on what we believe in this dimension? Just a thought.

songstarter71 said...

Thank you for this wonderful post. You touch on all the issues that am trying to processs in my head and heart and I am glad you are alive and writing for all of us to benefit.

Robert Paulsen said...

Thank you for your words of encouragement, songstarter71! I hope to stay alive, keep writing and keep exploring!