God vs Human, in judgment

May 6, 2009

God vs. Human in judgment.

The atheist debates seem by and large to be rehashed arguments that all of us have heard or considered our whole lives. I’ve found some debates amusing, particularly Christopher Hitchens, who has a nice sharp sense of irony and a good sense of timing. Though, I have a hard time believing there are people swayed by these debates. Christianity has been built up to such a complex system of circular reasoning and non sequiturs that no amount of reasoning will convince a believer that they are completely misguided. Nor will any argument given with the authority of the bible sway an atheist or agnostic who has thought at all about these matters. However, there are a few questions which I have not heard posed to Christian apologists, and while I doubt they would hesitate to answer them, these questions are obvious to me and they do not seem amenable to simple answers.

1) What is Christianity without guilt? and how can a faith which demands guilt claim any worthwhile spiritual guidance.

I do not see how it can.

I find regrets in life, and frequently reflect on my shortcomings. I cannot say I live without guilt, though I try to. When I imagine an omniscient god who will judge me at the end of my life I imagine only a being which feels compassion. I can also imagine a malevolent deity, and I have no choice but to oppose such with what feeble might I have. But a god I trust in, a god who understands me inside and out, this god will not find evil in me that I myself cannot find, but to the contrary has felt each decision I have made and understands the reasons. No need for supernal lawyers, or a redeeming speech I might make soon after death. I have lived my own defense. I have worked with the scraps I’ve been given. So I picture myself taking the fifth amendment come judgment day, and I picture myself condemning any judge which does not understand me. This is my own circular reasoning which cannot be argued from me. To those of orthodox faith I suppose I damn myself with such self-righteousness. But I have never said “I am a sinner,” I have never excused a lifetime of gratifying myself against my better judgment to that ultimate cop out. I say, “if I am made, then I am how I was made; and if that creator does not have the highest compassion, then I will be righteous against it, for the sake of goodness, for the advocacy of myself who is innocent in the context of not-fully-compassionate gods.” In saying this, I can’t help but feel more devout than the majority of Christians. Not only am I allowing the possibility of an all-powerful deity but I am demanding it is on my side, in the deepest possible way. But what if it is not? What if it disapproves of me? What might it disapprove of? It could be a wholly alien entity to me, whereby it might disapprove of the clothes I wore or the structure of my face. It might loathe me for my adorning mixed fibers or eating shell-fish. It might have hatred for a single color of which I have worn, without scruples. What would I be to sympathize with such hatred for myself–such arbitrary hatred? Such a ridiculous scenario! What if its expectations came much closer to my own, for myself? Suppose god expected me to be ever the stronger in situations where I could exercise courage. What defense do I have then? None, we are in agreement, although we both know I was stronger than I might have been, if that is the issue.

I cannot understand a fear of judgment, and I go so far as to say those who fear judgment fear it because they judge themselves, and fail in their own eyes. Any god worth worshipping has the power to see not only from the outside but also from thine own eyes. If you fail in your own eyes, you fail in your creator’s eyes, no doubt. Although, in my religion, when I have this particular religion, my god forgives you with pity, compassion and understanding. The reasoning is circular, I admit: I expect from my god–per my image of godliness– total understanding. Could you worship a less pure god?

But I could not.

(more objections/questions to come…)

Art is Shit

February 17, 2009

This evening I came across a facebook group promoting recognition and discussion of Wikipedia Art, a self referencing work/Wikipedia page (notable because of the cultural significance of inviting the controversy it baits on wikipedia for not being notable or culturally significant) whose creators insist is conceptual art. Throughout the discussion is the tireless debate of what constitutes art. I was intrigued and even a little bothered by the undeniable assertion and the implication. (Maybe it is enough to admit it is “art,” but if that means anything, then some implication should follow: I should care; I should support funding for it; I should support recognizing it on par with any other work of art, etc). So I did what any good unwilling participant observer would do: I went to vandalize the page, to highjack the work and reclaim my agency in spite of (and in homage to (ah, the levels of irony!)) my being enlisted as participant. Alas, the page had been deleted without so much as an archive’s history of the deletes and debates that the artist cited to justify the work. I didn’t get to vandalize the page, but I had too much fun posting a response on the facebook group, which I’ll boastfully repeat for you:

Wikipedia Art

Demanding a contrapuntal dialog of vigorous affirmation and inherent denial, the artist insists on the de facto status of Wikipedia Art as conceptual artifact, creating a dissonant ontological reassignment from extinct referent to extant rhetoric. While indisputably manifesting itself, recursively, as Art, both in referencing itself and in referencing that which does not exist, the audience’s apathy is commandeered as medium. Where previous artists have relied only on the milieu of controversy to maintain a similar status, here, the indifferent critic is slightly uncomfortably forced to ask himself the question “why should I care?”

Cf. Manzoni, Piero “Merda d’Artista” (1961) ; Tetazoo, James “No Knife. A study in mixed media earth tones, number three.” (1984)

See, I don’t mind. I’m having fun. Denying meaning is a meaningful way to engage with a piece. So I am guilty of justifying this work as I mock it, fine. As much as the view that criticism is part of art preempts serious criticism and absolves artist, it can also liberate me as critic and justify my objections. I just need to play by the rules, such as admitting it is art and I am a part of it. And in admitting this, I stretch the boundaries of what is art, because now art is a cheap laugh, a strawman soaked in fuel, a can of shit. Art is that which invites the novice to momentarily pontificate and jeer and ultimately something that he can forget. I’m okay with that. I understand that people will always highjack the symbols of virtue for cheap gain. But the symbols can’t keep themselves up. They sink down, to the low down things they are stuck to.

(See Christianity, peace, the swastika, art, Country music).

Film Stock of Life (FSL)

January 26, 2009

Andrew Marshall on Religion:

“For me, the ideas in orthodox religion were something to celebrate; to play with and to subvert and to own. For most of my life I have considered the great questions about deities and afterlife to be beyond the jurisdiction of logic and sense. Instead of calling this out-of-bounds, as many do, I’ve welcomed the freedom. One can invent a different religion for every day of their life and never be wrong. So I have done this.”

-Fictional interview, ca. 2020

To make a great work of art one has to make a great mess. The intricate configuration that is left, after the mess has been cleaned up, is some fraction of the materials used. The rest goes to the scrap bin: ruined canvases, over exposed negatives, shreds of paper, 6 months of writer’s block, the lives of 99 out of 100 people, or 9999 out of 10,000, if we can be so crass. (I mean only to distinguish the gems, not to deny the value of human life). I have often found myself scripting and acting out the film of my life and though it is bound to be an entertaining feature-length production, the majority of it is spent on film stock destined for the incinerator, or more likely the dust covered catacombs beneath some Heavenly library.

The artists who print, control the number and quality of each edition. They have the ability to run unlimited editions, or offer blemished prints at discount prices, so that the poor can furnish their homes with the same artwork as the rich. But they do not do this, and when they do their work loses its value. I would not mind putting a director in charge of editing my life, but it would have to be one whose skill was undoubtedly better than my own. I’m tempted to allow for an immaculate director, the one who crafts the perfect film from the footage offered. But the more reasonable side of me acknowledges the impossibility of such a craftsman, so I begin to wonder if we can’t just keep all the stock around, and invite a new director every few decades, to make their own story from it.

Film Stock of Life (FSL) is quite different than actual film stock, of course. The primary difference is that FSL does not record a specific point of view. To illustrate this point: the difference between a film about person A and one about person B is a difference only in what is done with the footage. This is the difference between 2 points in a continuum. Many decades from now stories with no central characters may come into vogue and these will be examples along some such continuum. However, today there is still an appreciation for the hero narrative, and its many variations, and of the films which involve me, I am most interested in those that feature me as (at least) a central character.

In the afterlife I would like to be a director. I could spend as long as necessary learning the techniques, say a few years or perhaps a few decades. At some point I’d be ready to market my product. My chief export would be interesting and flattering biographical films, and I would sell them to the citizens of Heaven. But I would also work for the judicial system and probably also make films that would end up on the black markets of Hell. The judicial system pieces would be indictments against those I find reprehensible. I would juxtapose the most despicable aspects of the defendant’s life. I could get most of these down to 30 minutes or so, just a series of outtakes. A few confessional speeches, a few short actions of cruelty or cowardice. The Hell-bound films would be similar, but ridiculous, full-length features with narrative and plot and lots of antiheroes. A lot of John Waters, a bit of Todd Solondz. The audience would find the characters enjoyably loathsome or hilariously pathetic.

Documentaries would be very enjoyable to make, as well. “Origins in Technology,” stories of firsts from the rising civilization of mankind. I’d include the first fire deliberately built, the first seed deliberately sowed, discoveries of electricity, radiation, irrational numbers. It would have to be a series, there are a lot of firsts.

That’s all I have now, though I will keep planning for eternity. It’s not the kind of thing you want to just happen to you one day, before you’ve thoroughly prepared for it.