Archive for April, 2009

Have You Herd?

Friday, April 24th, 2009

I’m not sure how it started but the other day when I was talking with God, she got off onto something of a tangent about coincidences of the English language.

She explained to me that some of the things that seem to be just accidents of history, of the way the language evolved really have a deeper meaning and connection that just isn’t apparent. As an example she said that our tribalism sometimes manifests itself in strange ways. She pointed out the two words “heard” and “herd.” She told me that there’s a reason they’re homonyms. It boils down to asking someone if they’ve heard the latest about something. It seems that that turn of phrase is a sign of our being social animals, we want to be part of a herd so we try to establish who has “heard” the same things. Likewise, when we want someone to be part of our herd, or for us to be part of theirs, we want them to have heard the same things that we have.

Then she went on to explain that the reason we “pack” a lunch is because we want to eat our lunches in packs. Like a pack of wolves that have just hunted down a caribou.

About that time I started to suspect that she was just putting me on.

Spring For It

Friday, April 17th, 2009

How is it that Easter has managed to escape the whole U.S. over-commercialize everything ethos. I mean, sure it hasn’t escaped it completely but when it comes down to it, selling a lot of candy, eggs, and flowers is a whole lot less conspicuous consumption than what’s been done to Christmas and Halloween.

I’ve talked before about how there’s really no big summer Christian holiday but that they’ve got the other three covered. There’s Halloween for fall and that’s turned into a big money maker what with costumes, candy, and massive street fairs. There’s Christmas for winter, and Christmas just about defines conspicuous consumption. And Easter covers spring and handles the big fertility celebrations while managing to stay small and focused. Sure there’s a lot of food dye sold and a bunch of stuffed animals but as spending goes it’s pretty small potatoes.

So I asked God to give me a clue. It can’t be the death thing, everybody being bummed out over Christ dying on the cross, because, well, look at Halloween. It can’t be that we don’t know how to commercialize somebody coming back from the dead, what with even Time magazine running a story the other day about the success of zombies in movies, books and games. So what is it? Have we just not gotten around to it yet?

Actually, what God told me is that it’s an optimism thing. Spring just naturally brings out the optimism in people, and even the story of Easter, for all the downer of the crucifixion, is still ultimately about redemption and hope. But both religion and capitalism do their best work by pushing pessimism. Fear increases sales. Apparently it’s a lot easier to get people to buy stuff they don’t need by making them think it might be bad if they don’t, than it is getting people to buy stuff because it might be good if they do.

So the next time you’re thinking about buying something, try to relax a little and try to figure out if anything bad really is going to happen if you don’t buy it. I mean, you can always buy it later, and if it’s on sale, well, if people really needed it, really had to have it, well, if that were true they wouldn’t have needed to put it on sale in the first place. So buy what you need, buy what you want, but don’t buy just because they’re trying to scare you.

Good Grief

Friday, April 10th, 2009

Well, it’s Good Friday, the day when all good christians celebrate the crucifixion of Jesus Christ “our Lord and saviour”(tm). When you stop and think about it the crucifix is really a rather gruesome symbol, but with just an edge of titillation. You’ve got this great philosopher, beaten, cut, and laid out to die, but also stripped down to near nakedness and hung up for display.

There were certainly some S & M freaks in the early Catholic church.

And where do Christians get off being so virulently anti-gay when they’re so busy parading around a three-quarters naked man as they’re primary symbol of hope? Me thinks they doth protest to much. Or to be a little more explicit, it’s a well known psychological phenomenon for people to deride in others what they suspect in themselves.

Oh well, I guess we all have our crosses to bear.

A Bloody Mess

Friday, April 3rd, 2009

In a few days the annual celebration of Passover begins. Passover commemorates the release of the Israelite slaves by the Egyptian Pharaoh. Mind you, it took ten plagues to convince the Pharaoh that releasing the slaves was a good thing, and Passover is named after the tenth of those plagues. That’s the one where God sent down his angels to kill the firstborn son of every family in Egypt, but spared the Israelites, because, after all, they were his chosen people.

Of course, even though the Israelites were God’s chosen, the angels still had a hard time recognizing them. So the deal was, the Israelites were supposed to let the angels know where they lived by splashing their doors with the blood of a spring lamb, and the angels, seeing this blood, would “passover” the marked houses. Get it?

But what’s the deal with that? Couldn’t god just tell the angels which houses to skip? Is it like those fish symbols on cars, the Jews just needed an excuse to declare who they were? And what if the first born had already died? Or had grown up and wasn’t a child anymore? Or was still a child but had married and moved out? What if some of the Jews were busy when the message was sent around, or couldn’t get hold of a lamb in time. And why were they told to slaughter a spring lamb; I mean, it was spring, weren’t all the lambs spring lambs?

All in all I just don’t think the whole thing was very well thought out.