Monday, 23 May 2011

Tomorrow's Promise was Yesterday's Failure

Yeah, that makes little to no sense, but I don't much care. Point is that this is a follow-up to Saturday's post.

Is anyone here a little disappointed?

I mean, I was at least HALF expecting SOMETHING from the Rapture, be it fire, brimstone and angels of death or just psychopathic fan-boys out to make it clear that everyone was going to hell. It would have made my evening that bit more interesting.

Not that it wasn't interesting, I ended up at the Stoke's Croft Street Festival, an annual event that, frankly, I am annoyed I'd never heard of before! For those of you who don't know, it is an annual gathering to the ends of celebrating Stoke's Croft (I'm assuming, its underlying tone was really just loud music and heavy drinking/drug abuse. Good times all round) and I have never seen the streets of Bristol so packed. I shan't relay my specific activities on the day, they were too numerous and wide-spread and (towards the end) a little fuzzy in my memory, all I can say is that it was a great day, one I shall be enjoying again upon its (hopeful) renewal next year, and I highly advise that any of you not from the area should drop by sometime and check it out.

The event from the day I shall recount, though, will be my own Rapture Redemption Attempt. In the ever-present wise-ness of a bunch of drunkards the topic wound up at the Rapture, the end of the world and what we can do to prevent ourselves from eternal damnation, should it all turn out to be real. The answer came in the revelation of my status as a Minister (I have been ordained by the Universal Life Church, and so have all the practising powers of a low-level minister, meaning I can conduct marriage, funeral and christening services, as well as organise, run and fund religious fetes and festivals), and through this we decided and impromptu sermon was required. I would find some sort of gathering (not hard, given the day's turnout) and would offer up my services as a last-chance minister, granting atonement to those who were willing to repent, and thus hopefully allow them access to the Kingdom of Heaven if the time arose.

Of course it was all largely a joke (though I can never escape that sliver of hope and expectation that I, as a writer and open-minded individual, constantly feel towards such supernatural events as Biblical days and so on) and when I was situation in King's Square my flowery speech went largely unheard. I had a brief shouting chat with one guy about his position as middle-management in the offices of Hell (with the possibility of promotion to some sort of CEO) and a resounding moment of clarity, wherein we all discovered that a. no one cared, and b. if it were real we were ALL going to Hell anyway.

So my friends, that was my Rapture: a street festival in which I was an honorary member of a large gathering of Lesbians (a story for another day, friends) and a failed Redemption Minister all within the space of an hour. Only in this world, our world, that magical, unexplainable and unpredictable place, can such bizarre dreams come true, whilst at the same time denying the dreams of the hopeful zealots who cannot see the world for what it is, but as what other, stuffier and more terrified men see it. (Had to get a brief message in there somehow)

Until next time, be well, eat lots of fruit and never stop questioning.

The Tent is always open; I hope you will join me

Friday, 20 May 2011

Tomorrow's Promise... Kept Today! Rapture

"There is no possibility that it will not happen because all of our information comes from the Bible,"  This is a direct quote from an interview with one Harold Camping, an 89 year old former engineer from California who has once again been stirring the hearts and souls of the God-fearing communities in the world with his latest calculation for the date of The Rapture, the day in which God will call all the good souls into His kingdom and smite those who don't fit into that category with global destruction, unbiased fun and a lot of the old stereotypical fire. But I'm sure you're all wondering:

"What is YOUR opinion of this? What do YOU think about the supposed beginning of the apocalypse?"

Well, I am very happy that you asked! I would love to dissect this in my manner and try to get to the bottom of exactly how I feel.

Firstly, where do I stand with religion in general?

Well, I am not what could be called "traditionally religious". I have been christened into the Church of England (which I can tear to pieces for hours on end) and I have been ordained into the Universal Life Church. I observe the many holidays and traditions in manners SIMILAR to the traditional, but not quite on par with the mass-marketing, buy-my-stuff insanity that it is approached with by the masses eager for another reason to take a day off and buy each other inordinately expensive gifts that have no real bearing upon their lives in spiritual, social or even personal ways. When pushed to pigeonhole myself into one specific religion (the favourite pastime of the ever-present Form-Compiler, that sadistic creature that spends its timing trying to decide upon the most invasive and random ways of getting into your life) I will unfailingly put "Writer" because I feel this covers me the easiest. I do not follow one specific doctrine of faith, I read widely, as one who wishes to be informed in their own writing will, of each and every religion, philosophy and general way-of-life I can come across, but I do not necessarily believe in them.

The Bible, to me, as with any other religious text, is no different than Ram Dass' "Be Love Now", Bertrand Russel's "History of Western Philosophy" and Stephen King's "Rose Madder" (To name but three books in my immediate vicinity). It is a book. One filled with stories about people, either real, based on real, or entirely fictitious, doing the things people do and learning lessons from them, inspiring me in my own ways to go out and see the world from the same angle that they do. I have little-to-no doubt that 2000 years ago a man named Jesus (Joshua) wandered from his home in Nazareth, gathering followers and spreading life-affirming stories to those who felt spiritually lost during a time of great upheaval and oppression, but I do not believe that he performed miracles and I do not believe that the words he spread were about a celestial being that had a dedicated moral interest in our own souls, like some schizophrenic gambler in an ethereal casino wherein the Earth is his bucket of tokens, Hell is the vaults in which the fat cats store their gains and Heaven is the back pocket in which He stuffs his own winnings.

I believe it is all it is, a book designed to present you with an assuring story that will help you in getting over whatever wall your life has come across. It is not a manual for life, one that should be followed as strictly as, say, the how-to-use book of some Kenwood microwave, but perhaps closer to a spiritual TV Guide, designed to offer you a cursory title and brief synopsis of what is available to you over the large selection of (mostly repetitive and unoriginal) channels in life to allow you to choose what you wish to watch, and so it is with THIS in mind that I return to the quote I began with.

Harold Camping has made a name for himself before, when he predicted that The Rapture would occur in 1994, but alas the poor guy was proven incorrect as, lo and behold, here we stand, sit, dance and die 17 years later. This, of course, did not deter our erstwhile depicter of doom. He went back to his books, his Good Book, and his Best Casio and tried again, this time coming up with a new date 21/05/2011 (or 05/21/2011, for you American and other readers) to proclaim the coming of the Lord and all his little wizards to separate humanity into its little columns, take the good ones home and erase the mistakes (Or, to stick with the earlier Casino metaphor, God will cash in his remaining chips while the House will take its own winnings down into its vault).

Yes, as I write this (and I know I'm not on top of anything, not reporting the new or claiming any such nonsense) we are a mere 18 hours away from total destruction! (The actual time has also be deduced to be 6pm, worldwide (though I'm assuming he means East American Time)) And while looking into this marvellous piece of proposed doom I came across the quote that brought about a single response within me: Pure, loud, long and absolutely unexpected laughter.

Honestly, while reading into his work I took it with all the honesty I could, I was open and willing to believe anything and everything he had to say, his mathematical working is sound when compared to the required translations of dates and times found within the Bible but the MOMENT I saw those words I just couldn't keep it up anymore... EVERYTHING about his argument that had been both valid and believable dispersed quicker than a crowd of Goths in a music store as Justin Bieber comes onto the radio (terrible metaphor, but it IS late). I am all for figuring this stuff out, I think it’s a wonderful idea to attempt to liken these kinds of events from such books against our real timeline, but the moment people start taking it for absolute fact because of where it came from, in this case one of the most unreliable and imperfect tomes of calendar depiction ever written, is akin to swearing blind and on the lives of your very family that if you were to head to Kings Cross station on September 1st you'd be able to walk through a pillar onto a hidden platform. The fantasy is fun, whenever I'm there I like to give the old pillar a knock just for the hell of it, but I wouldn't dream of telling you it was fact. I won't say it’s impossible, if this world has proven anything to me beyond a shadow of a doubt it's that ANYTHING can happen, no matter how unpredictable or unexplainable, but please use humility! Don't go scaring the world into quitting their jobs, selling their possessions and bidding their nearest and dearest horrific farewells based upon the single most scrutinized and wholly un-provable text that humanity (and that is the key word, HUMANITY) has churned out.

Were the Bible a book written by God himself, or his angels, or perhaps a small gathering of clerics created specifically for the job of chronicling his life, then I would be less ready to spout these words, but since The Bible is and always will be written by men (and lately women) who have in themselves the same sense of all-empowering doctrinarian and dogma it can never be seen as an absolute fact, and so interesting dates and events of note derived from it should also never be seen in such a light.

Never stop doing it, drawing these ideas, these dates and times from it, because the world NEEDS it, I DO believe that, but DON'T take it as 100% literal, do not poison the lives of others with fear just because you believe in something. Do it yourself, by all means, if it is what you believe, that is what it’s there for, but don't use it as a tool, as a WEAPON to control the actions of those around you. It's not nice.

The tent is always open, and your are welcome to join me.

(Note: For the record, the title of this piece comes from a poster I have hung on my bedroom wall as I type this, it seemed most apt considering everything!)

Monday, 2 May 2011

Would I sound paranoid if I said...

It has come to my attention, as of 11am this morning (02/05/2011) that the "mastermind of the attacks on New York and Washington on September 11 2001", Osama Bin Laden, has been killed during a fire fight in Abottabad, Pakistan, after which his body was "apprehended" by US troops and given a swift burial at sea. President Barak Obama has lauded this as a great achievement for the war, that it will be the beginning of the end for Al Qaeda and all the trouble experienced by the world since 2001.

I'm sorry, but so much of this seems so wrong... so incorrect...

I know I'm not going to be the first person to say this, but there are about a thousand little pock holes in this little piece of momentous news that I cannot help but draw vast amounts of fear and suspicion from. The whole 9/11 conspiracy thing aside, which I admit I totally agree with, we suddenly find ourselves, as a world community, confronted with a televised speech from President Obama declaring this news with all the sincerity and severity required, with all the pretty rhetoric designed to mould its listeners into whatever form his intentions require that he uses so brilliantly, but it all feels too neat, and yet at the same time far too unkempt.

First of all, I'm usually a man of fait when it comes to admission, if you want to tell me something and swear it's true, I'll believe you, so long as I don't have any knowledge or evidence to the contrary, but for news as ground-shaking as this I find myself asking the question "Where's the evidence?". The fact that such an event in the hands of American troops would go without SOME form of evidential material, be it a photograph of a cheering troop standing triumphantly over an inert body or video footage of such as meticulously planned and awe-inspiring assault, sets off alarms in my head so loud that I'm surprised Mr Obama himself cannot hear them across the gulf that stands between us.

Further, the so unmitigated handy resolution to the escapade, the highly provincial "burial at sea" is clearly an attempt at blockading any further investigation. News reports themselves state that this burial hasn't and can not be confirmed, but we're all just going to grin happily and pat each other on the back at the casual say-so of the man most capable of creating such a cover-up? In light of all the other things we find ourselves in the dark about concerning this never-ending saga of terrorism, death and subversion, I think it high-time we actually stand up and say:

"Hang on, prove it! You've been hunting this man, this man with only the VAGUEST of connections to the chaos of the last decade, and so far he has somehow eluded you every time, and suddenly, in the face of one morning's operation, you find yourself not only with the man you so want, the man you so hate, standing before you, but you have his CORPSE, his lifeless, unoffending body, and the first thing you're going to do with it, before letting the world SEE that the terror is over, or beginning to be over, the first thing you're going to do is to throw it in the ocean, without a single picture, or second of video footage, just the say-so of whoever you can find to say they were there, be that the case or not, to back you up?"

And, in light of this eloquent and long-winded rebuke of the claims presented to us, all he will say is "yes" and we, the clever sheep we are, will say "ok".

Then, to further this alright shining example of what it is to cover something up, he will proceed with the piece de resistance, the flower on the top of the cake, he will warn us that, with Bin Laden dead, Al Qaeda are likely to attempt further harm upon his people, upon us, the public, worldwide, not just America, but that it is ok, so long as we are vigilant, so long as we are careful here, in our homes and towns and cities, keeping a suspicious eye on anyone who looks shifty and mass-buying whatever they can supply us to aid us in the cause, while they go about clearing up the remaining mess that exists of there, once again putting this expense in the form of military action and the lives of the willing into the favourable eye of the common citizen.

You may not agree with me, and I admit I may just be a little paranoid, buying into the ideas of freedom and conspiracy, looking too deeply into a simple issue and asking questions, which is clearly what the bad people do, because no good person would DARE to ask questions of the beings that run their lives, but either way these questions have now been asked, possibly again, but still, reinforcement is just as good as agreement, the more of us who ASK, the more likely an ANSWER will appear.

My facts may not be straight, my evidence may not exist and I may be wrong, all these things I will keep in mind, but for the sake ASKING, for the sake of turning away from the IGNORANCE with which we are expected to live these days, I have written this all down and presented it to you. If I'm wrong I will apologise, I will smile happily and eat cake with you, I will even buy it and cut it myself, and admit my error, but if I'm wrong I want you to stand beside me, as willingly as I will, and turn with me to those who have alluded us and demand answers with me.

The tent is always open, and your are welcome to join me.