Years ago, I read an extremely woo-woo book whose author, the late ethno-botanist and psychopharmacologist Terence McKenna, posited time as a spiral descending toward a point of convergence in December of 2012, when the nature of reality would be radically transformed in some way impossible to predict. His theories were based on the Mayan calendar, the I Ching and extensive adventures with psychoactive substances along the Amazon, so I wouldn’t necessarily take them to the bank. But there was one aspect of his description that has lodged in my mind all these years: as evidence for this convergence, for the narrowing of the cycles of time as they traverse their funnel-shaped spiral, the author cited the accelerating pace of events. In other words, our pervasive feeling that things are changing much faster than they used to is not an illusion, but a reflection of reality.
Well, I believe it. \Something\ is definitely speeding along. What McKenna didn’t say is that the pace of absurdity would also be accelerating at the same rate, but I believe the daily news supplies ample proof. If he’s right about the other thing, I can imagine the transformation unfolding as follows: along about 2012, the aggregate effect of several billion hands slapping several billion foreheads in disbelief — combined with the cumulative intake of breath preparatory to emitting a massive collective guffaw — will tilt the earth off its access. Everyone who lives at a point on the periodic table of absurdity higher than can be tolerated by ordinary humans will break free from the earth’s atmosphere and go hurtling off into space, and the rest of us will get some peace at last.
If you doubt me, read on.
Thursday’s \New York Times\ covered Representative Tom DeLay’s response to reports that he’d used half a million dollars in campaign funds to compensate his wife and daughter for their services. Republican allies of the ethically challenged House leader have united to deliver his defensive message stated most concisely by his spokesman, Dan Allen: “Democrats are doing the same thing.”
I love this! Here’s what my mother used to say when I used that excuse: “Yeah, and if all the others were jumping off the bridge, would you do that too?” Undoubtedly, politicians on both sides of the aisle are creative about accounting for and using the copious funds they spend much of their time acquiring, and needless to say, this is a bad thing. But what’s blowing my mind is that DeLay et al are so lost in their own distorted ideas, so badly off course, that they sat down somewhere for a strategy meeting that determined “You did it too!” would be a perfectly adequate defense to lay before the American people. Coming up next: “President Bush Reports ‘The Dog Ate My Social Security Plan.'”
Saturday’s \New York Times\ reported the marriage to his male partner of Arthur J. Finkelstein, the Republicant consultant generally considered responsible for the elections in the nineties of Republican Senators Jesse Helms (NC), Bob Smith (NH), Don Nickles (OK), Lauch Faircloth (NC) — and since for a roster of politicians who pretty much represent a who’s-who of the GOP campaign against gay rights. It turns out Finkelstein was outed by \Boston Magazine\ in 1996, a move the magazine justified on account of his egregious hypocrisy. Despite this publicity, Finkelstein has continued in the employ of every opponent of his own rights who has offered to pay his fee.
Depending on one’s perspective, this may mean: (1) Finkelstein has never thought hard about Hillel’s advice, “Do not unto others that which is hateful to yourself.” (2) The politicians employing Finkelstein are quite happy to spread hate as a political tactic, but willing to make human exceptions for those they know and respect, need or like. (I think there’s some good news in there about the healing power of meeting face-to-face as against objectification, but it’s embedded like a splinter in a block of bad news.) (3) When it comes to politics, human rights take a back seat to economic interests (or as one venerable closeted-gay right-wing activist said to me 25 years ago when I asked him to explain the difference in our politics: “Simple. You’re young and poor and I’m old and rich.”). (4) Hold on tight, the pace of events in accelerating!
My advice to all of us who wish to survive the ripening of ultimate absurdity: just remember that our inability to know ultimate truth in no way devalues the importance of continuing to search for daily truth beneath layers of obfuscation.
I offer one of my favorite quotes from playwright Bertoldt Brecht as encouragement: “Whoever wants to fight lies and ignorance today, whoever wants to speak the truth must surmount at least five difficulties. He must have the courage to speak the truth when it is everywhere stifled; the intelligence to recognize it when it is everywhere hidden; the art to make it manageable like a weapon; the judgment to choose who will know how to make it effective; and finally enough guile to make them understand it.”