Do you ever wonder why the world is so crazy? I know I do. Yet the more I wonder, the crazier it seems to get. Doesn’t law school teach us to analyze fact patterns in search of rational answers? Of course; any law school professor will tell you that. Well, almost any law professor will. I suppose we can all remember one or two tenured crackpots that we had to negotiate around on the way to a law degree. So I return to my question, exactly why is everything so nutty today? We have a dysfunctional government; a serial worldwide sexual abuse scandal fostered by and covered up by so called men of God and on and on and on. And I haven’t even touched the corruption that is Wall Street, big business, professional and college sports and lately, even public school superintendents, principals and teachers who orchestrate massive cheating scandals for profit. And let’s not leave out North Korea, Iran and Syria. I mean, what is the deal?
And now for the good news; I finally found the answer. It has nothing to do with logic and everything to do with myth, sacred texts and conspiracy theories. To put it in more understandable terms, God and Satan have teamed up to play Good Cop/Bad Cop to make us all stronger in the long run even if it means that things are getting crazier over the short haul. Let me explain.
A few weeks ago I was talking to one of my longtime friends. Let’s call him Norris. He was telling me about this late night radio show called Coast To Coast. The show features guests who are really “out there.” There is no conspiracy theory too wild for this show. I know, because Norris has turned me into an avid listener. At first you just laugh it off and shake your head. But the more you listen, the more intrigued you become. The first step to realizing that the biggest obstacle to getting a great view of the forest without getting sidetracked by the trees is a lifetime habit of rational thinking that underlies our profession. We have been trained to think rationally, but the problem is that there is nothing rational about crazy. Once that breakthrough is achieved, it is only a matter of time before it all comes together. And then, without warning, in the middle of a segment featuring a woman who claims to have visited buildings on Mars and catfish ponds on Venus, the light comes on and the buzzer goes off. And when that moment arrives, albeit unexpectedly, you lean back in your chair and say “Ah Hah! Now I get it!” Well, that is what happened to me a few nights ago, so let me devote what little space my editors have accorded me to share the Big Picture of What It All Means with you.
Let’s start with the basic building blocks of human nature. God surely invented love, compassion, unselfishness and all the other good stuff about human beings when we are operating at our peaks. However, in light of the world in which we live, no one can deny that there are vast amounts of narcissism, selfishness, greed, prejudice and hunger for power in the world, not to mention suffering. Who invented that? The Church Lady from Saturday Night Live would surely answer, “SATAN!” Okay; maybe so and maybe not. The better question is why? The easy answer is evil, but let me suggest that it might just be more complicated than that. Can we also agree that God gave us each a brain? Of course, some brains are bigger than others and some people seek to cultivate theirs (i.e. education) more than others. Of course, failure to cultivate the brain (i.e. laziness or arrogance) seems to come more naturally than making an effort to do the opposite. And I don’t think it is a stretch to understand that the connection between the brain and the mouth is tenuous at best. Add the Internet, social media and cable news, and … well you know. Crazy is amplified and becomes available to billions instantly (i.e. conspiracy theories).
And then there is one of my favorite human traits for altering the behavior of others: Fear. For the 70 million or so people who were killed in World War II at the hands of Hitler, Mussolini, Tojo, Stalin and yes, to be fair, FDR, Truman and Churchill, fear was translated into fatal reality. Add to that number hundreds of millions more who were forever changed by that emotion. And World War II was just one of countless wars fought since the dawn of history until today. Did I mention North Korea, Iran and Syria? And then there are those fear based conspiracies that are a bit more dubious like “Black Helicopters piloted by Lizard People,” “W Staged 9-11 to get Saddam” and “Global Warming is merely a hoax invented by Al Gore,” etc. And finally there are those conspiracy theories that fall somewhere in the great middle like the lone assassin finding of the Warren Commission Report or the existence of UFOs.
So, who is responsible for this unrelenting fear? God, Satan, Mankind? And why? We all know the easy answer, to wit: Satan and evil. Unfortunately, if you are a college bound Mississippi high school student, this answer will probably not translate into the 3.0 GPA and 21 on the ACT that Governor Bryant wants you to have to enroll as a college education major. And by the way, since highly placed buddies of the Governor want President Obama to produce his birth certificate, wouldn’t it be fair for the governor to produce his high school transcript and ACT score? I’m just askin’.
Fear is a powerful control device standing alone, but an even more effective strategy to get people in line is to pair God with fear while a group of elite human beings appoint themselves to act as HIS personal spokespersons here on earth. They promulgate rules for fun and profit while literally “scaring the hell out of people.” While some might take offense, this sounds a lot like organized religion, be it Roman Catholic, Protestant, Morman, Muslim, Cult of Personality a la Kim Jong Un or what have you. (For the pairing of personality with fear, substitute two million armed soldiers for God).
And so, how exactly do you pair God with fear to enable self serving, earthly spokespersons to control vast amounts of humanity and money? One of the surest ways is to cite a sacred text. We have seen repeated examples of this with the Bible, the Koran, the Torah, you name it. For example, how many Muslims have justified killing other people in the name of Allah? How many suicide bombers think they will get an express pass to paradise by becoming a martyr?
And when it comes to Christianity, how many American politicians justify their whacky and often callous conduct and comments by citing Bible passages notwithstanding the separation of church and state and the rights and feelings of other individuals who are not quite as arrogant and self assured. Space limitations preclude the number of actions that the modern day Pharisees of America take that are the polar opposite of what Jesus Christ actually taught.
For anyone interested in delving into the role of mythology in modern religion, I recommend the four volume series entitled The Masks of God by Dr. Joseph Campbell. Most people know of Campbell’s work through the famous PBS series The Power of Myth with Bill Moyers that first aired in 1988. I have been intrigued about this phenomenon ever since first encountering Dr. Campbell’s groundbreaking work. His endless examples of where much religious dogma originated is stunning. For example, much of Christian orthodoxy was lifted directly from the sacred texts and traditions of the religion of ancient Egypt, proving that a lot of what passes for divine doctrine is not exactly new or unique.
So, given the fact that sanctimonious hubris is a fact of modern life that seems to be getting worse around the globe with each passing day, here are a couple of examples that will explain what is really going on in the world by applying myth, conspiracy and inferences drawn from observation and hypothesis.
As Joseph Campbell famously said, God by its very definition surpasses human ability to understand and then there is what everybody talks about. To my mind there is no doubt of God’s existence. Just take a look around. Is the vastness of all creation, from the precision of the solar system to all manner of species from human beings to ants to plant life, all just a fortuitous accident or is the hand of a higher power at work? That is the easy part. However, once we get beyond the existence of God, the arrogance and impatience of human beings takes over. Did it ever occur to anyone that maybe God does not work on mankind’s timetable and that maybe God’s method of creation is divinely guided evolution? A couple of examples come to mind. Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell’s family tree is obviously of the genus of the cypress tree rooted in a swamp somewhere near Kentucky Lake. Based on his facial features, is it out of the realm of possibility that his ancestors were once turtles? The same goes for Donald Trump and Orangutans. Okay, tell me that James Carville’s ancestors weren’t reptiles. I’m just sayin.
We all know that in 1913 the 16th amendment to the U.S. Constitution authorizing the federal income tax was ratified. What you don’t know is that Angel 1040 and his assistant angel 1040 EZ were dispatched to America by the then infallible Pope Pius X that year in consultation with and approval of God to write U.S. tax policy based on the evolution of rules governing the Catholic Church. The more complicated the better, complete with lots of self-serving loopholes for members of the Illuminate, a conglomeration of global business interests and other elites favored by the universal powers that be. Knowing that evolution is the technique God uses to create all things, it would take a while before the work was complicated enough to be totally unfair and incomprehensible. The time ordained was the election of the first black President of the United States who was to be of the Muslim faith born in Kenya. We now know that critical mass was finally achieved on January 20, 2009.
This one is easy. When God created the world, no one bothered delivering desk and wall calendars until about six thousand years ago. This explains why scientific estimates of billions of years versus political whack job claims of 6000 years can coexist.
Yes, part of it is myth, part of it is science and part of it is conspiracy theory borrowed from sacred texts. The only thing I think we can all agree on is this — the world is big. REAL BIG! I guess we will all find out what it really means one day in our own peculiar way, though I suspect there are billions of people around the globe, including way too many of our elected “leaders” that already have all the answers.