Monday, August 17, 2015
Let us declare our independence from prophets!
I despise prophets and their prophecies. Moreover, I both loathe and fear all the sanctimonious exegetes who take it upon themselves to explicate such prophecies to "lesser" folk-- the profane and unenlightened masses. (Thomas Aquinas, John Calvin, Mike Huckabee--yes, I mean you.)
I have arrived at this conclusion only very gradually, after much emotional wrestling with all the biblical ghouls that haunt the recesses of my Sunday Schooled mind. It is this personal battle between what I know and what I have been taught to believe that at last convinced me to exorcise the ghosts and to acknowledge the historical evidence, i.e., that the prophets--Moses (or the writers of the Torah), Jesus (or the writers of the Gospels), Muhammad (or the writers of the Quran), St. Paul, Joseph Smith, Mary Baker Eddy--all these self-anointed dispensers of beatitude--are in fact the world's most notorious oppressors. Through the "holy" scriptures attributed to them--and, of course, through the "infallible" interpretations of their brown-nosing exegetical overseers, the masters of the Abrahamic faith-plantations have enslaved the minds of countless millions.
Even sadder, of course, is that--as Dostoyevsky's Grand Inquisitor saw--the subjugated millions seem actually to cherish their bondage to the hoary old myths and maxims. Yes, it appears that we (and I include myself, for most of my life) simply do not want to be liberated from the prophets: for wouldn't emancipation render us too uncomfortably free of facile, unreflective answers for all of life's uncertainties?
Wouldn't freedom make us die?
Well, we will die in any event--again all the historical evidence points to this inevitability--no matter how many blindfolds we fearfully and fretfully don. So freedom from the prophets would merely make us face that fact and see the world as it is. And, released from blindfolds and fetters imposed by the prophets, isn't there a chance (one that we could never have in bondage) that we might live more richly and humanely--fully aware of both our potentials and our limits, until we die? 'Tis a consummation devoutly to be wished.
Freedom, then, from prophets! This I maintain: they were fallible humans like us. Though they undoubtedly possessed charisma, self-confidence and persuasive skills, they were no more innately holy than we; they had no greater access to the divine than we; they were no more enlightened than we potentially can be. Thus, to rephrase a formula from the conclusion of the Mass, I urge us all to "go in peace to love (ourselves and others) and to serve NO lords!" And yes, Deo Gratias!
Friday, August 7, 2015
Quite by accident, while refreshing my memory about the plot of Racine's Britannicus, I discovered this photo--a bust of the emperor Nero (whom many, including Racine, blame for the untimely death of Britannicus, Nero's rival for the throne).
However, what struck me had nothing to do with Britannicus and everything to do with Donald Trump, who bears an astonishing physical resemblance to Nero, despite the latter's superior hair style. Then, as I read on about Nero's life and career, I realized that these two scowling, thick-necked politicos, from eras and empires vastly separated, also share a fascinating number of similarities in psychology, character, and life-events. For example:
•Nero (possibly) decreed that real estate in Rome be burned--the Great Fire of 64AD--in order to make way for his own grandiose building projects; Trump (possibly) engaged in dubious real estate transactions and four declared bankruptcies in order to acquire the wealth necessary for his grandiose building projects;
•Nero considered himself a great artist and not only fiddled (on a lyre) while Rome burned, but established and /or performed in theatrical festivals (the "Neronia," the Olympic Games); Trump, as everyone knows, relishes theatrics of all kinds (perhaps that is the principal reason that he is running for president)--with swellheaded roles in reality TV ("The Apprentice," "Miss USA Pageant") and, yes, even WWE wrestling!
•In other words, then, both Nero and Trump were/are unapologetic exhibitionists and certifiable narcissists!
•Nero married three women; Trump has also married three women (so far). Nero, however--at least according to Wikipedia--also married two male freedmen--first Pythagoras and, later, Sporus, whom he had castrated. Same-sex marriage and testicular dismemberment are areas which Trump has not yet explored, but given his predilection for wrestlers, who knows what the future holds?
•Once the Great Fire had cleared out inconveniently plebeian structures, Nero appropriated the liberated land for the edification of the great Domus Aurea, the Golden House, a gaudily tasteless monument to his supposed good taste. Similarly, on land wrested from "inferiors," Donald Trump has erected his very own ostentatious Domus Aurea in midtown Manhattan, modestly christened the Trump Tower, wherein he holds court--when he is in residence, of course.
•Nero's primary foreign war took place in Parthia, modern-day Iran. Though his armies were initially successful, Parthia eventually regained its autonomy and, after many unsuccessful bids to establish
hegemony, Rome ultimately withdrew from this area. Trump, in his newfound advocacy of confrontation with Iran, might well meditate on Rome's wasteful misadventures and failures in Parthia.
•Nero had his mother assassinated; Trump is merely a misogynist (women are "fat," "pigs," "ugly," etc.), so he gains a few points here.
•Nero committed suicide (or in any event ordered a servant to kill him); Trump's fate is yet to be seen, but it may not be pretty if his wacky, unorthodox version of Republicanism wins the enmity of both the Republican National Committee AND Fox News.
I'm quite certain, though, that when The Donald finally expires, as even the most imperious of mortals are wont to do--whether or not they have been president of the United States--he will utter something vaingloriously equivalent to Nero's dying words, "What an artist dies in me." Or at the very least, (castigating the Almighty for His unhelpful role in The Great Artist's Final Scene), "You're fired!"