Miércoles con los Amigos Invisibles vol. 19: have a frank and productive Zaraday!

I have many things about which I wish to write. I will briefly name a few before getting on with this post: My new job as a part-time deli worker at Dominick's. (Back and feet very unhappy, brain very happy indeed.) These three posts at Bruce Droppings, wherein an ex-pastor talks about how the way Christianity is practiced in America today can exacerbate or even cause mental illness (with thanks to Geds for recommending them). A post at barkingreed which contains a wonderful, beautiful Wendell Berry poem, from which I selected my new "about me" quotation. It is a lengthy quote: originally I was torn between either the first two sentences or the last three. Since I think it is heinous, outside of strict academic writing, to post bits of a poem with "[...]" for a piece cut out, I included the whole section. And am quite pleased with it.

On with the post.

Earlier today Dave was asking me, "what do those letters in your blog subtitle stand for?" My answer--really the only sensible answer--is that "they are Discordian mumbo-jumbo which mean whatever a given individual takes them to mean, which more or less means that they mean nothing." More nothing, if one takes them to mean nothing, and less nothing if one takes them to mean something.

I did not go on to tell him that technically, they stand for "Paratheoanametamystikhood Of Eris Esoteric" and "Keeper of the Sacred Chao" (Chao is pronounced cow), respectively. I was quite pleased with myself for my restraint. Which of course now I have ruined, by going on to explain it anyway, in the less-useful literal way rather than the more-useful roundabout one. Alas.

On a whim arising from this exchange, I Googled Zarathud a few minutes ago and found that today is actually the holyday of Zarathud, patron saint of the season of Bureaucracy! Which, again, means more or less nothing. There are of course no hints anywhere as to how a dutiful student of a given Apostle is to celebrate said Apostle's day: this is only right and proper. My own view is that a ritual has value to oneself in direct proportion to the degree of participation one exerted in the design and execution of said ritual. By this measure, a ritual designed entirely by oneself but performed entirely by another is of the same value as a ritual designed entirely by another but peformed by oneself.

I feel I must mention a very important caveat, however. The "design" of a ritual includes not only the external components--words, gestures, costumes, props etc.--but also the psychological and emotional machinery by which one invests those components with the energy of one's will. So let's say that the outward plan for carrying out a ritual, as well as the symbol set in which it is framed, were authored by others. If a dutiful student were to design the whole internal part of this ritual for themselves and then perform the ritual themselves, it would have at least three-quarters as much value as a ritual of comparable potency which was that person's own creation from beginning to end.

When I use the word ritual above, the definition I have in mind is #8 on the dictionary.com list: "any practice or pattern of behavior regularly performed in a set manner." Yes, this can and does include rituals performed in a religious context. However, my remarks are meant to refer to ritual in the broadest possible sense, as it is my personal belief that all things are holy. Not all actions, thoughts or ideas are holy, but all things are holy. And persons are also things and thus holy in essence, though persons, by the power vested in them, may generate unholy actions and ideas from time to time.

Questions such as "what kind of 'value' should I take this to mean?" and "how am I meant to compare the 'potency' of one ritual to that of another?" are beyond my expertise to answer. If you are interested in how I came up with my own usable-but-incomplete answers to those questions, the story is almost certain to be longer than you would enjoy reading. Therefore I will not explore these matters further at the moment. For a similar reason I also will not, just now, undertake to answer the question "what do you mean by 'holy'?"

Instead, I will move on to another subject. No one is going to ask me about it, but I have thought about it carefully and have an answer prepared. Question in next paragraph, answer in the following paragraph, discussion to follow.

A quick read-about of the Discordian Saints, plus a more than passing acquaintance with yours truly, would seem to make it clear that the saint whose personality I most resemble is Sri Syadasti. This is the patron of the season of Confusion, whose full name is said to translate, "All affirmations are true in some sense, false in some sense, meaningless in some sense, true and false in some sense, true and meaningless in some sense, false and meaningless in some sense, and true and false and meaningless in some sense." The impression I have of myself is that I confuse as I breathe--constantly, with little effort and only occasional awareness. Confusion is natural and comfortable to me. It is my native habitat, the territory from which many of my perspectives on life and humanity arose.

Therefore it would be of very little use to me to consider myself a student of Sri Syadasti. We do not take the name of a religion in order to remain as we are. We take such names into our identities in order to become what we yearn to be. We do not, unless we are lazy to a truly unholy degree, become students of those who would teach us the things we already know.

One impression I have of the five seasons*, the five apostles**, the five elements***, etc., is that they are symbolic depictions of how human beings react to change. Let me give you as quick rundown using the seasons:

1. Chaos. "This new thing is totally cool. It's, like, awesome. Everyone should have some. Here, try it. No, seriously! C'mooon, it'll be fun. Please? Just listen to me tell you about this thing for just a sec--"
2. Discord. "Hey, this is MY thing! UR DOIN IT WRONG! No one ever said there was more than one side to this thing, so my side is the only correct one! Gyaah!"
3. Confusion. "Wait, this thing isn't just your thing and my thing. It's, like, like a lot of different things. There's more to this thing than meets the eye, man. It's almost like it's a thing, but it's really not a thing, or else it is but not exactly, and it's all mysterious, or something..."
4. Bureaucracy. "This thing is a thing in the following ways. (List appended.) The number of ways may be subject to change without notice in the following circumstances, known and unknown. (See chart.) Persons with appropriate qualifications may pronounce expert opinions regarding the thingness of stuff when their opinion is called for, and even though experts disagree regarding which experts are experts, their opinions shall be recorded as fact."
5. Aftermath. "The experts have all become liars. The stuff doesn't really involve things anymore. The mysteries became puzzles whose answers some jerk scrawled in pen all over the front of the workbook. And their spelling was bad, so the answers didn't even make sense. This sucks. I'm outta here."

The idea I have about this is, if one is aware that this series of states is going to happen, one has a better chance to adequately prepare for them.

It is much like Douglas Adams' description of astrology. Picture the universe as a piece of blank paper with very slight grooves in its surface. These grooves are largely invisible to the naked eye, and to feel them with a fingertip would crinkle the paper and alter them. But if you sprinkle sand or iron filings or pepper on the paper and give it a little shake, the granules will settle into the grooves, making them visible. So if the universe is the paper, then the symbol set one chooses is the granulated substance. And the little shake is the application of thought and effort.

Thus, when I sprinkled the abovementioned symbol set and gave it that shake, a useful thought occurred to me. Since my experience of life in general tended to be characterized by one phase of the process more than any of the others--namely Confusion--it would be most beneficial for me to focus my efforts on learning the lessons of the next phase--namely Bureaucracy.

Of course, using different "granulated substances" produce different ways of describing the subjective life experiences I am trying to understand. One of the things I think it is important to be able to do is to filter the same data through many different symbol sets, many different perspectives. I'm pretty confident this skill is one of the things Discordians are rather encouraged to do, although given the nature of Discordianism, it isn't really possible to be certain.

Now, if one can enter into a given perspective with complete sincerity--believe in its principles and precepts honestly and with unambiguous favor--then the information one gets from its use will be of a much, much higher quality. (See the discussion of rituals above for my reasoning on this point.) This holds true, albeit in a lesser degree, even if the belief is entered into temporarily and for the sake of argument. Any way you go about it, the more of yourself you can put into a belief system, the more its recommendations for your life will prove useful and have personal significance for you. The more you are able believe, the better will be the results you get from believing.

So, by putting as much of myself as possible into a given filter while I am using it, I get the best results. The more filters I am able to use, the more information I can get on a particular issue.

And in my view, the best course of action on any given issue is an action which is recommended by every filter I am able to use. That happens when, no matter which perspective, which set of beliefs I enter into, a particular choice is always among those recommended. This is the situation I refer to as "turtles all the way down."

Edward Current, an extremely sarcastic and parodic fellow, has a video entitled "I've converted to every religion (just in case)". He came up with it as a way to mock Pascal's wager. But I would do it, I swear to dog I would, in all seriousness, just for the lovely lovely information. Mmm...information. And the turtles, oh yes. The pretty happy turtles, of whom there are more every time I turn around and all of whom say they will be my friends. Just like the rocks on the beaches of Santraginus V! My capacity for belief is getting bigger all the time, always just barely behind my capacity to suspend disbelief and just barely ahead of my capacity for disbelief. Someday, if these trends continue, someday I do so hope I can give even the mighty Gödel's theorem a run for its money.



* Chaos, Discord, Confusion, Bureaucracy, Aftermath.
** Hung Mung, Dr. Van Van Mojo / Patamunzo Lingananda, Sri Syadasti, Zarathud, Malaclypse the Elder.
*** Sweet, Boom, Pungent, Prickle, Orange -- or as they are known in the Kingdom of Loathing, Sleaze, Hot, Stench, Cold and Spooky.


Amber E said...

Begging your pardon, I see the logic that if one, for whatever reasons not implying my personal endorsement for those reasons chooses to embrace Discordianism working on Bureaucracy if you feel that you have achieved Confusion.

Your ultimate journey would then lead to Aftermath? "The experts have all become liars. The stuff doesn't really involve things anymore. The mysteries became puzzles whose answers some jerk scrawled in pen all over the front of the workbook. And their spelling was bad, so the answers didn't even make sense. This sucks. I'm outta here."

Um, this is the plan, the hope? Okay I get that Discordianism has a cheeky humor. But seriously?

With Christianity I embrace the joy that the Creator loves me (yes God loves you too but I'm focusing on my spiritual relationship here) I have the love now. I have the salvation now. I have this from a Person whom I am learning to have a relationship with, nice moral precepts and life guidance are just fringe benefits. This good, I understand why this matters to me.

Help me understand your interests. I can appreciate the humor of Discordianism and p'rhaps your mentions of it over the years are all tongue in cheek but they do not come off that way. Help me understand what is the joy, what is the reason to embrace this. What do you get out of this? I really do not get it.

Yes I saw the bit about 'temporarily for the sake of argument' but I think you first told me about this years and years ago. Since it has not been a passing fad it appears to be a more long term experiment perhaps? Of course for science we like experiments but to experiment with one's life, personality etc. I am just surprised you would choose this given what all you wrote. Unless, again the amusement factor overrode all other priorities.

That being said your descriptions of the five things are really funny, you have skills, love the descriptions.

Fiat Lex said...

Ah, you see it as a set of states with an endpoint. This is understandable, as Christianity views time as a set of states with an endpoint: the Eschaton. When Christ will return as a conqueror and make the outward appearance of all things match their inward essence. Truly, this is a joyous event to which to be able to look forward.

In Discordianism, in my understanding at least, the five states are a spiral. That is, a person reacts to each new thing by passing through the five states, yes, then moves on from them to the next new thing. Note my description of Aftermath does not say "there is no thing", but rather "this stuff no longer involves things." The thing, whatever it is, still exists--merely the structures which have evolved to define it have mutated into some strange thing which no longer has any relation to the original thing.

It is important for a student of bureaucracy, such as myself, to understand that a bureaucratic ordering of experience must always fall short of the experience itself. That a codification, howsoever pure, will never attain the authenticity of the chaotic, discordant, confused real-time experience which preceded the capacity to codify. Aftermath comes after bureaucracy; the breakdown of any logically defined system is inevitable following the perfection of said system. This is a thing to be rejoiced over, not mourned. It means reality is always bigger than the cages I can build for it.

I am glad that you love the descriptions, and am truly grateful that you appreciate the tension here between tongue-in-cheek and deadly earnest! Unless both exist simultaneously, neither has meaning! Few have such appreciation. Well is it said that Discordia is both "a joke disguised as a religion, and a religion disguised as a joke." Taking of course Dad's very broad definition of religion as one's "chosen things", res legiones, the filters of belief through which one views all other experience. For one must have such filters, else there is no order to perception. There must be something sacred, even if it is not explicitly so named, in order for all else to be profane.

Even within the Christian frame, there is precedent for this. Satan cannot bear to be ridiculed--it is an entity both potent and pathetic, which cannot bear to be mocked and seeks to avoid laughter at all costs.

Yet scripture tells us "God is not mocked". Not "God ought not be mocked" or even "thou shalt not mock God", no. God is not mocked. Meaning, whoever sets out to mock God makes a fool of themselves. (Though it is not such a terrible thing to be a fool, if the occasion warrants it.) God invites argument, haggling, berating, back-talk of all kinds. He tolerates and even encourages such behavior from his prophets and saints in the bible. My theory is, that God hates bullshit. He hates bullshit so much that he is willing to put up with a nigh-endless amount of sass. God would rather be called upon to wade out from under a mountain of good, clean, honest sass that came from the heart, than have to deal with even a teaspoonful of bullshit that did nothing but drive a wedge between him and whomever chose to dish it out.

Amber E said...

"Ah, you see it as a set of states with an endpoint. " no. I am not particularly interested in Discordianism. I find it to be trivial and unimportant but mildly amusing. I only care because it seems important to someone close to me and does not seem to be worth the attention she is paying to it. OR perhaps another way of phrasing it would be that I wonder why you choose such an inferior lens to see through....even as a spiral it does not appear desirable.

Anyways, I agree with you about God IS not mocked etc. and think that was a very thoughtful paragraph.

Remember what we discussed earlier? When you casually start the post with, oh here are three blog posts about how Christianity hurts mental health I am like again with the relentless Christian bashing. While you may not personally be spiteful you seem to pass on spiteful things like that automatically without further research or providing balance. :sigh: I hope you realize it. Anyway it was great to see you and I hope work went well. love ya, Amber

Anonymous said...

I am not into philosophy, so I will discuss the part of your post that appealed to me.

it is my personal belief that all things are holy. Not all actions, thoughts or ideas are holy, but all things are holy.

I think that if I respected all living things the way I respected God when I was a Christian, I would have a much easier life. For I would be in touch with the sum of all things holy that have an impact in my life. I would be connected to what really matters: my natural surroundings. In fact, I think I will start living my life that way. I will try to respect all life with reverence. I know it will only lead to self-respect and there is nothing wrong with that.

Amber E said...

Lorena said some positive things about self-respect that I appreciate.

Okay Viz, it is not about mental health but here is a physician's blog with the description "a physician looks at medicine, religion, politics, pets, & passion in life" that you might want to check out to have at least one Christian perspective on health care that is not irrationally aggressively anti-christian.

Amber E said...

Oops here is the address of that blog:


Fiat Lex said...


"perhaps another way of phrasing it would be that I wonder why you choose such an inferior lens to see through....even as a spiral it does not appear desirable."

To answer your question very briefly, I chose it because:
a) as 'religion disguised as a joke disguised as a religion' it is very DIY. So apart from a sketchy sort of frame, mostly it just gives me encouragement to re-look at everything, especially other frames, very very carefully and devise my own responses with a fresh perspective each time. Instead of just reacting with my habitual responses which I'm not inclined to trust.
b) it IS very silly. Since I have a natural tendency to take things way too seriously I get bogged down in emotions and what-ifs, it's useful for me to have a frame available which pulls me away from that over-serious mode.

I am sorry Bruce's posts were over-snarky to you--he as an ex-pastor has a lot more issues derived from humans "doing it wrong" to work through than myself as a mere ex-layperson. As for positive perspectives on Christianity, did you catch barkingreed's A tale of two circles and slacktivist's Charity, conclusions and cake, which I'd linked to a couple posts back? I have been trying to balance out my sidebar a bit more! Slacktivist is a Christian and also quite a liberal--his ongoing project is the deconstruction of Left Behind books--and I barkingreed is a Christian too, though I haven't figure out his politics beyond liking Wendell Berry. Who is awesome.

My worry with the mental health stuff (which maybe I'm paying too much attention to people who have an axe to grind about) is that there are lots of folks out there who want to use their pet ideas about the Bible instead of proper health treatment, rather than as an integrated perspective-giver within proper mental health treatment.

I will check out doctor's blog to which you link and perhaps add him to my sidebar etc. after next post! (Next post will be a life & content update.)

Love to you!

Lorena -

Yes indeed! The end of religious fervor does not mean the end of reverence, not only for that which lives, but also for everything that exists. Whether you regard the universe as the breath of a deity or the stupendously improbable outgrowth of swirling patterns in quantum chaos, it is mysterious and lovely and worthy of reverence. I recommend anything written by Gary Zukav. He's a bit of a hippy in terms of the not-quite-religious spiritual stuff, but The Seat of the Soul has a whole chapter on reverence, and how a reverent attitude towards life and the living of it is A Good Thing regardless of one's spiritual views. (Seriously, though. Under the smarts, he's a fluffy hippy and it's freakin obvious. I like him anyway, but I had to wait a bit between starting and finishing his book because at times it seemed laid on a bit thick.)

But reverence does not only lead to self-respect--though that is an extremely good thing in moderation! It also leasd to expanded awareness. If when you pick up a paperclip or bit of string, you have trained your emotional reflex to feel the tiny thrum of holiness in the paperclip or bit of string, you get that little jolt of fellow-feeling which reaffirms your own existence and makes life seem wider and better. And you pay more attention to how you use everything and what you do with it. Very very good things, those.