Thursday, April 22, 2010

Dionysus and the Virtual World

Today I called on my friend, Dionysus Polygamsus. He greeted me wearing discoloured, stain-ridden pajamas, and an Emily Dickinson hairstyle. It was late afternoon. The poor man was on his knees. He reeked of self-destructiveness. His shabby appearance numbed my senses.

'I hope you've brought water with you,' he gasped.

As I entered the house I found it hard to adjust to the darkness. His five wives, and twenty-six children, each kissed me on the cheek. I grieved for each one of them. I walked to the centre of the living room which was empty of furniture. Its strange vacancy matched the lifeless faces gazing at me. The house and inhabitants had lost shape. The walls trembled, and the air was numb with fear. What was Dionysus doing with his life? Each wife and child looked at me with suspicion through a veiled light. 

Suddenly, Dionysus jumped up, and clutched at me with clammy hands. 'Hold me,' he cried. 'I haven't slept for weeks! Please, hold me!' He pushed his half-drowsed, oily face into my shirt. 'Don't look at my ears! I can't stand people looking at my ears!' There was hardly any flesh on him. He was a ghostly winter sun. I remained speechless within my frozen body. He fell to the floor, and gripped my ankles.

'I want to be someone else.' Dionysus shouted, waving a bony fist under my nose.

'We all have such a desire from time to time ...  '

'A woman!'

'Which one?'

' No! Me!'

'You're a woman?!'

'No. I want to be a woman.'

I was afraid to move. I realised Dionysus' affair with computer games and social networking had become a sickening, dark obsession. He was addicted to games based on violence, destruction and death. He liked to play the hero, usually banishing a chainsaw. Me? The words orcs, warlocks, trolls, gnomes, inflict "menopausal night sweats" on me, even when sunlight towers over the streets.

'What about your children, your wives?' I said, trying to calm him. His family looked pale and drawn; some resembled gargoyles. He had become fixated with pixelated images to the detriment of his own flesh and blood.

'I don't care about them. I've virtual children and virtual wives to look after! Don't you see?!' he answered bitterly. 'With technology I can be someone else. I can finally lead an exciting life! Real life is dull!'

I told him I could arrange for a doctor to call. When I suggested he required professional help it was evident he didn't know what I was talking about. 'It's too late.' Dionysus shouted. 'I'm having a passionate lesbian affair with a gay man. You have to believe me. I'm in love.'

I felt I was being pursued by a nightmare without end. In truth, he scared me. 

'Can't you see!' he continued. 'I only exist inside my computer.'

I couldn't intervene to save Dionysus. He had been colonized by cunning advertising, marketing and false images. He told me of living for months on-line, surfing game and fantasy sites. By the sad look on his face I knew he was deluded.

Walking home I realized I didn't exist inside, or outside, my computer. Suddenly, the bright colours surrounding me became dull, frail. Time slowed down. I disappeared.


Reflections: Until today I felt totally in control of my 'life' and 'emotions'. However, while my back was turned, they conjoined to take my car keys, mobile-phone and car. Their quest? To experience a plume of volcanic ash, and cones of lava, in some god-forsaken country covered in ice.

I find their sense of humour naive and disruptive. They photograph each other - with my mobile-phone camera - and send emails to disclose how their "wonderful" journey is progressing. Meanwhile, I sit in frozen misery waiting their return unsure of my whereabouts. 

Saturday, April 10, 2010

A Beautiful Metamorphosis

Today I started a new job as a hare at the local greyhound racing track. The funny thing is the dogs think I'm a fake. I always yearned for a low-status job; an inverted form of snobbery, I guess. My father worked for a short while as a bureau drawer - the constant opening and closing give him severe dizzy spells. Even now he faints at the sight of a silk dress.

I recall that my grandfather once worked as a snowstorm in Colorado but couldn't stand wearing icicles on his chin. One cold, windy day - without warning - he was hit by a snowplough, and ended up with his hair parted in the middle. After that he became a widow, and never ventured further than the local grocery store without a loaded rifle.

My present wife, Mona, passed away two days – no, two hours – ago. Doesn't time sometimes pass slow? Perhaps, it's just my state of mind. Our relationship had become tiresome and dull. At breakfast she complained of a high temperature and that her shoes had left for work without her. I noticed her mouth had grown bitter and a blueberry plant. She no longer looked like the honey of a minute, never mind of a generation. She suddenly transformed into a throbbing demon, grabbed the net curtain from the window and tried to suffocate me. I didn't find this strange. It's normal behavior in our household.

What galled me were the tufts of cotton wool she was attempting to push deep in my orifices. We struggled, then she ran angrily up the stairs, screaming, her voice distorted, 'I'm not going to a damn dog track to watch you work! Would you do the same for me?! I damn well know you wouldn't!'

Does that sound like rational behavior to you?

She raced into the bedroom and attempted to jump through the back of our wardrobe. She cried in an abrupt, gasping voice, 'Narnia!' Suddenly, I understood. As I stared at Mona - embedded in the back of the wardrobe, her rage compressed and silenced forever - I realised her need to live in an entirely different world.

I kindly helped her on her way with the aid of a large baseball bat. She's now lodged in a cavity wall; smiling, not smirking, for the first time. The room seems strangely silent. By appearance, all stress and anxiety have left her body, except for her hands which are tightly clenched.

I will plaster over Mona tomorrow, then redecorate the walls with yellow patterned wallpaper. It's the least I can do. Her favourite short story was The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. I take full advantage of my new-founded liberation, shower and dress as a man for the first time in weeks. I felt intoxicated, full of desire and arrange a blind date with a lady called Catherine Wheel. I trust her on-line photograph is unflattering. She has spiked, ink-blue cauliflower hair. Her face looks like soft cheese with a bread roll for a nose. In a certain light I fear her features may resemble Stilton with veins of blue-green mold.

The house is quite. I close the wardrobe door, then turn towards the bedroom door, and walk in gentle, sensitive steps and embrace a beautiful metamorphosis. I burn like fire. Mona would understand.

Reflections: Staring out from my hair covered face I sometimes appear lonely, detached, loveless, a vessel of inner decay. I don't awake for days from grotesque dream states. I am someone to look at, rather than be. Surrealistic imagery has the audacity to accompany me for hours. It is strange, not offensive.

The hollowness of existence touches us all, at times, if we are truthful. To be honest, I do not despair. I appreciate and experience the present, for someday it will disappear. I warmly embrace it and am thankful for its company.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

The Deceit of Labelling: Bigotry and Prejudice

The Conversion of St. Paul - Rubens

It is a sad fact that bigotry and prejudice appears to be the norm, rather than the exception, in an increasingly complex world. Most people seem satisfied to offer, or seek, simple-minded explanations to complicated matters affecting different peoples around the world who have their own grievances, views and aspirations. There will always be extremists and radicals who seek to subvert peace efforts and continue to perpetuate hatred and distrust. It is part of the nature of humankind. 

Many Christians, Muslims, Jews, and other believers in the supernatural, may know what they believe, but not why. Some accept creed without scrutiny which may have been inherited, rather than arrived at, and consequently are unable to articulate the foundation of their faith in the face of open minded discussion and critique.

Agreement on the meaning of the term religion is a Herculean task: the answer dependent on who one asks. The theologian, secularist, sociologist, psychologist, cosmologist, philosopher, writer, sports enthusiast et al., may each proffer a different explanation.

The arts and nature provide activities through which individuals achieve contentment, and which they may pursue with intense passion and devotion, for example: music; literature; poetry; painting; philosophy; wildlife preservation. An 'unbeliever' may admire religious paintings: The Conversion of St Paul by Rubens is a prime exemplar. The meaning to an individual of a work of art may be philosophical, inexplicable, provoke wonderment, or engender a spiritual sensibility.

This may also be true of 'falling in love', viewing a beautiful landscape, listening to the gentle murmur of a brook, or the lapping of ocean waves. Language cannot always express such experiences, as there may be, and usually is, an 'indefinable something more' about them.

Those who believe in the supernatural, and those who do not, may get pleasure from the same phenomenon - the difference being interpretation. The super-naturalist may interpret these experiences with reference to a deity; those who do not, regard these as manifestations of nature.

How many times have you heard an individual replicate a headline from a newspaper, or other media source, or quote verbatim from a sacred text, regarding an issue they patently haven’t thought through themselves? Some people are only too eager to offer their opinion on a myriad of issues without knowledge of the facts, which can be verified as sound or unsound.

Some parents consciously instill nationalistic, racial and religious ideological dogmatism in their children: hatred of other races and religious groups other than their own; belief in a class based superiority to others. Until a child forms associations outside their home the attitudes articulated by their parents can remain sacrosanct.

The same moral views and behaviour instilled at an early age may remain embedded in the memory for many years or a lifetime. Our knowledge of right and wrong may be obtained from a variety of sources: parents; society; peers; the law; God; our conscience. The values held by people and groups we associate with - family, friends, work colleagues, church or political organisations - influence the views we express as are own. Indeed, individuals may change their values and views dependent on whom they are talking to, and as a result conflict may arise.

Ultimately most people reach a position where their view on moral issues is lucid, but may change in light of new experiences, the way they perceive things, and when the issues arise.

How many times have you heard the quotation, 'Let your conscience be your guide?' History is littered with appalling acts which have been, and still are, carried out with a clear conscience. The consequence of conscientious differences of opinion can be catastrophic.

During the Reformation, Protestants and Catholics tortured and murdered each other; the mass hysteria of the witch trials in Europe resulted in the executions of tens of thousands of men, women and children. Today, throughout the world, individuals are still being imprisoned without trial, and tortured and executed by those blinded by ignorance and intolerance.

Altitude assists significantly when dropping bombs on other people as evidenced by the U.S. military on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. From an airplane houses below resemble minuscule dots. If you can’t recognise people, see their faces, and are not familiar with their name, it seems to be relatively easy to push the button, if deemed to be in a good cause by 'those in power'.

How easy it slips of the tongue to say one abhors violence, fabrication, and indoctrination in all its forms. No more so when 'religion' is used as a label by those perpetrating murder and violence. Nietzsche turned this observation into a principle, 'In individuals insanity is rare: in groups, parties, nations and epochs it is the rule'.

The control of information and knowledge, and the capability to influence the way people believe and perceive the world, are important to those who aspire to exercise and preserve authority. The mass media - nationally, and worldwide - has a powerful incentive to sell newspapers and attract television viewers (the battle for commercial survival), and can be relied upon to change facts and distort truth as and when directed by their 'wealthy' owners.

The mass media may 'intentionally' portray those who do not have power in dehumanizing terms: parasites; scroungers; wasters; animals; and by using degrading terms: the poor, the underclass, the drop out, when in fact the individuals are genuinely homeless, penniless, unemployed, asylum seekers, mentally and physically ill.

The deceit of 'labeling' individuals distorts the truth, and the victim(s) may be portrayed as responsible for their circumstances, not the state, or society. The media can be used to great effect by those wishing to use power for political, military, religious, business and monetary purposes. Also, with modern technology, globalisation, the internet and faster means of communication, localised conflicts can swiftly become internationalised.

It is not difficult to understand the intentions of those who openly engage in activities to denigrate and destroy the lives and memories of other human beings. However that may be, individuals should aspire to learn more and to think for themselves, to attack prejudice and ignorance, and help to eradicate hatred, violence and racism in all its manifestations. 

Each human being on this earth should be free to live in dignity, to be treated with dignity, and respect the dignity and rights of others.