Let’s Celebrate!

Before I begin the celebrations, though, I would like to take off my writer’s hat and offer a big bow to the wonderful writer Cat Valente, who recently wrote a blog about the importance of ritual in our lives. It was her generous, open heart that made mine flutter.

Why is it that a part of our humanity wishes to deny others the chance to love?

We do it by refusing to let gay couples marry. We do it when we become sanctimonious and moralizing and snigger at holidays like  St. Valentine’s Day or Christmas or even St. Patrick’s Day — although you will generally never hear these same people criticizing Flag Day or the Fourth of July. I guess patriotism is above ridicule and well below any honest ritual.

That’s why this whole mass of inertia against gay marriage will not win in the end. (And isn’t that what damn Christianity is based on, Love and Forgiveness?)

Do we really think in our arrogance that we can deny people the chance to love?

Thing is, why do any of us have to agree to do what others do? Is it just so we can get along? But here lies the irony: we actually don’t get along with each other (look at wars, look at violent crimes, look at the blatant bigotry and racism that surrounds us in this bleak and awful and also wonderful world).

Okay, let’s consider Valentine’s Day. My wife and I celebrate this holiday with slices of neapolitan cake (ah, that marzipan and cake is like love’s “ever-fixed mark”). If someone else wants to get a Hallmark card, okay, do it, that’s their way of honouring the day. I don’t want to do that (it’s not me), but why should I stomp on their way?

Plus, that kind of ego-driven desire to squash another person, to make them feel like their choices in life are worthless and petty and risible, simply misses the whole point of ritual and celebration. The most important thing is that we celebrate the sacred that allows us to transcend the monotony of the every day. It’s our way to stay human and not become machines. And we also connect with the past and the future this way, and can for a brief time sense everything that has come before, making it special, making the past not dead, but alive, making it a living presence that was once full of people so much like us who lived and suffered, too.

If we deny rituals and holidays, we just cut off the past, which is a bad thing. We won’t even recognize the others who came before us also had great ideas, imagination, and invented and loved and married and celebrated and died.

Contrary to common belief: We are not the only century with the greatest inventions, the greatest stories to tell, the greatest achievements, the greatest visions, the greatest lifestyles, the greatest ad infinitum.

If the past tells us anything, it is to continually remind us to stay humble. Death is coming for me, I always hear the past whisper. I am not a monument. I am a life. And lives pass — which is our burden and our lightness of being. We inherit death from others. Why, then, do we think we can deny anyone anything? We cannot deny. Death teaches us this. Life, too, if we look at it with our doors of perception cleansed, as the great Poet Blake wisely tells us to do.

That is why it is so important for us to celebrate, to revel in the fleeting, mutable world that rushes on even though we try to keep it with us. Even at our most intimate moments (sex, sharing a meal together, and reading a book, being three), we are reminded that tempus fugit; and the world comes in like a giant with a bone to pick.

Do away with our celebratory nature and we might as well do away with our hearts. Pickle them in jars and hide them away all winter long and bring them out only in summer, when times are good, when there is harvest and bounty, and show them off to the world. But how will we know that summer is upon is if we refuse to celebrate?

Refusing to mark off time is like refusing to signpost a road. If we did that, then all roads would lead nowhere and all would be the same. It would be like saying we should all just exist as DNA, since this is what carries all our genetic make-up and makes us who we are. Great. But where would we be without a heart and a mind? And what room does that leave for the soul?

So go and buy the person you love a box of chocolates if it makes you feel alive, if it makes you feel like love is a living not dead emotion within you. Like the great poet Rilke has written: “To love is also good, for love is hard. Love between one person and another: that is perhaps the hardest thing it is laid on us to do, the utmost, the ultimate trial and test, the work for which all other work is just preparation.” I would add to celebrate is also hard, but it is needed if we hope to have any chance at leading tragic and comedic lives.

And if we want to romance the naysayers back into love with St. Valentine’s Day, let’s reinvigorate it. Let’s make it into a contemporary Lupercalia festival of fertility and purification with milk and blood and wool.

What full-blooded modern man or woman wouldn’t like to strip naked and spank each other with strips of goat flesh?


At the Birth of Light

I love Christmas. The celebratory aspect, the cheer, the merriment, the baubles on the tree, the sparkling lights, the awareness of certain gifts that have come my way by no will of my own. Blessings, I suppose you could call them.

And I love the books, especially A Child’s Christmas in Wales and Briggs’ The Snowman and Winterson’s The Lion, the Unicorn, and Me.

And I love the movies — It’s A Wonderful Life, A Christmas Carol (from the Muppets to Scrooged), A Christmas Story, to all the Rankin Bass holiday specials, especially Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town.

And then there is the music: the Choir of King’s College, Handel, Tchaikovsky, Sting’s If On A Winter’s Night…, and the duet of Bowie and Bing’s Little Drummer Boy.

But I’m not religious.  I don’t go in for all this immaculate conception and the swaddling Jesus as the light of the world. Lovely metaphors. But still I doubt.

And it’s annoying how Christianity has claimed this season as its own creation when it is obvious to any human being that Christianity stole from the pagan winter solstice celebration. Nabbed nature’s unknowable and enigmatic power of giving us more light in this dark season. I understand how easy the heist must have been: it’s not too much of a creative leap to transform light into a symbolic and divine gift. In fact, as a writer, I respect the kind of imagination that made such a connection: the sun growing to its zenith; the birth of the son of God bringing new light.

It’s just frustrating how Christianity in its ignorance decided to stamp out the untamed pagan wisdom and replace it with a certain domestic piousness. Refused to acknowledge the source of its inspiration. (In writing, nobody likes a writer who refuses to pay at least some homage to the others writers and books that have got the fever of creativity going.)

To my mind, the pagans celebrated the wild, unkowable, unhuman, unpredicatable, chaotic, frenetic, passionate, and primal element in the universe that they saw the sun representing. This probably needed a change when viewed from human existence since it leaves us all just a little bit insignificant and trivial compared to such a mind-boggling power like nature, the universe, the great unknown. And what better way to battle this ambivalent universe than by creating a baby born in a manger. That act so quickly grabs our attention and places existence so firmly and materially and spiritually back in the human. I have no problem with this, I am human after all and need to be reminded of it.

It is the divine nature of this birth that has always bothered me. Why the desperate need to transcend this human existence? Isn’t this what divinity offers, a sense of getting as far away from the human as possible? But why? Why not celebrate our humanity?

In fact, if we want to really celebrate anything, then let’s celebrate our creativity this time of the year, and not some unknowable god. We are the ones who create. Not gods. The light comes back for us in so many ways. Why limit it to one baby in one manger?

That’s why I enjoy this time of the year; it makes me celebrate the best in us with the hope to transform the worst.

But not through divinity. Through a wild imaginative act!

This is what I want to celebrate: that metaphor can transform life from a sense of darkness to one of more light. This is worth celebrating. This is worth living for. Not piety, the holy, the divine, worship. Not even the bleak reality that the economic crisis has created because bankers decided to sheepshag us and bag us, the other 99, and then try to sell us as mutton. But the act of creative transformation.

That’s where the light resides this time of the year.

“Swift as a spirit hastening to his task
Of glory & of good, the Sun sprang forth
Rejoicing in his splendour, & the mask
Of darkness fell from the awakened Earth.” Shelley, “The Triumph of Life”

Planet of the Apes

I just read an interview with Paul Bettany in the Guardian (www.guardian.co.uk/science/2009/feb/12/charles-darwin-rutherford) about his new role as Darwin, the man who brought us evolution.

Not surprising to me, at least, is that the religious hordes are riding out on their shibboleths and denying our human past for a holy spook. But then only something like 39 percent of Americans believe in the theory of evolution. Which then tells me that the remaining 61 percent are living with misguided principles. So much of what the dazed and confused believe has had such a powerful role in the shaping of our lives, and I want to say lets try a bit of the atheists world-view for a change and see if that will make a change.

I’m not saying that science has all the answers, but it asks the big questions whereas religion says pluck out your humanity and replace it with the eternal.

Science allows us to evolve, move forward and experience new life. Religion simply moves us backward, allows a lapse in progress as a moral obligation. Religion has not let us evolve, does not advance us intellectually, creatively, emotionally, or spiritually. It is not a creative force but a destructive one. A spiritual life is one of an ongoing connection between the self and the spirit. Religion severs this connection and says deny the self, which is in essence denying the spirit, for the sake of some eternal nowhere.

A life of spirit is not a giving up of the self to a savior or God but an acceptance that we are all part of a greater unknown. Organized religion only wants to stymie humanity, weigh it down with eternal promises or damnation, take away our atoms and cells and replace them with edicts and commandments and sermons.

But change is at the soul of us all. Change is our basic element more than carbon.  Change is our building blocks but religion wants us to believe that this is not the case and that the root of our humanity is a state of eternity.

God is stasis. Jesus leads only to a spiritual freezer where we are all just lumps of flesh waiting for the hand of God to defrost us and give us eternal life.

I for one am glad Darwin killed God.

Spitzer zie demimonde?

If I have to read another thing about Spitzer, I’m going to have to call the Emperor’s Club myself to get some relief.

Why the complete absorption with this man? Okay, I understand man’s fascination with the lurid and a man of power falling flat on his face for a paid fuck, but, are we as a society that naive to think that this kind of practice doesn’t go on? Weren’t Roman senators indulging all the time, and they had a choice between women and boys. What makes it so “shocking” that a man of power abuses his position? Where have we all been the last few centuries?

Is everyone up in arms because he was prosecuting such miscreants and ended up being one himself? Odd sentiment to have. Do we actually believe that those who enforce the law are somehow cleansed of all depravity and moral slackness? Man is flawed but wishes he was otherwise. Why should holding a public office suddenly rid you of your humanity? Humanity is not simply virtue and truth and honor and respectability and the principled and ethical, it is also accepting that we are indecent, deceitful, immoral, capable of being polyglots for the languages of failure. And I know we must all strive to be better. But it’s as if nobody wants to see the slag, the jetsam, the dreck, the scum, the dross of what it takes to attain that higher, greater self we all so desperately long for.

If we insist on sensationalizing a man’s downfall aren’t we doing the complete opposite of lifting our humanity to a better place? If you set a person up as either martyr or sinner, and it’s obviously sinner in Mr. Spitzer’s case, we are reveling in the transgressor and get stuck there and only focus on that and never see that it is both sinner and martyr that we are and neither is better, only humanity is what counts.

And the news isn’t just informing the electorate, either. The media have just placed a stone in everyone’s hands and with a blood-curdling cry yelled throw! What a puerile approach we have for punishing people. Instead of impeaching Spitzer or putting him in the pillory, why not have him wash the cum-stained garments of prostitutes? I don’t understand why we must ruin a man because of a fatal flaw we all inherit: being human. And is it such a dreadful condition to have, being human?

And enough with all the prayers for the family. How can we take pleasure in ruining a man and then glibly offer a patronizing supplication to his family as though we are now honoring him for this one saving grace that he had a family. It’s a hollow gesture since everyone’s just exhaling a collective sigh of release. I mean, what man hasn’t dreamt of going with a hooker? The vast majority of us might not act on it, but we’ve all toyed with the idea. Does this make us any different from Spitzer? The only difference I see is that he’s a bigger fool than the rest of us. And everybody hates a fool because it makes the rest of us look bad. So let’s just can him and shove him aside instead of accepting the humanity in all of us is not perfect.

What should happen, is that he should be forced to go before a jury of women and made to explain in detail what went on. If we really want to humiliate the man and make him pay, a group of women would be the perfect way to do it. He should have to intimately describe his transgressions against a single woman as an apology to all women. That should be his punishment, not loss of job or public mockery and condemnation. Let him be judged by the women he thought he was superior to because he arrogantly believed that by using one he was above all.

If there’s going to be any punishment, though, it’s going to come from the ones who love him, not society. He’s going to have one hell of a dark night of the soul. His guilt’s going to haunt him for years, and imagine all the anger and hate and accusations and shit that he and his family are going to have endure behind closed doors, in their own private hell. He’s got his own personal Dante’s Inferno before him but without Virgil as a guide. And if he’s a man he’s going to have to beg forgiveness from his family and they are going to either save him or damn him a lot more than the media or his peers ever will. Sounds like justice to me.

A plague on the house of media.

There may be no news in poetry, as Auden so rightly sang, but it’s better for it.

News should be what new little discovery we’ve made in our own backyards or that we’ve seen the first robin of spring or it should be news that tells us something new about ourselves without violence and greed and perversions and the next sensational buggery.

Why doesn’t the news ever highlight what it is we all have a common cause in: change and something better. Why doesn’t it ever focus on the things that inspire us to greater heights? Surely if we are all here to live with one another the best way to do this would be to have others inspire us, not make us into drooling morons. We have all these people around us to inspireus and yet we continually opt to become a race of destroyers. A morass of emptiness.

Why on earth are there other people if they only bring us all down into stagnation and rot.

Our daily goal should be to inspire not expire. Inspiration brings more life with it. And that’s why we are here. Life.

Yes, throw Spitzer to the lions, he deserves nothing less. What is that axiom? “Judge not lest ye be judged.” Jesus, I’m quoting the Bible. Good for me. Nothing should be off-limits for a writer. If it is, he or she has no business with words.

What really gets my pagan goat, though, is that Spitzer’s downfall was because of a woman. What is it about us that we must perpetuate this archetypal myth: Man’s fall from Eden because of woman nonsense. It’s not stated, but we all know our religion and we all are expected to understand that he wouldn’t have been toppled if it wasn’t for the prostitute.

We need to seriously remake that myth. Have man and woman each twist free their own fruit of knowledge and then swap them and walk away from Eden happy with the self-imposed exile because it means life.