Our religious skepticism or faith in nothing is not without physical effect.
We have all heard something about zombies, automatons or flesh-and-blood robots that appear to be human beings simply because they physically behave like humans. Zombies, however, are unconscious; at least they are unconscious of their experiences. We abhor zombies because they are an affront to dignified human nature. Zombies are one of the worst frauds conceivable. If we are unable to detect zombies in our midst, then what are we but zombies ourselves? Nothing offends a man more than to think that he is merely a machine, a thing wholly determined by circumstances, therefore he is careful to think otherwise and to raise the pretence that he is the inventor, engineer and operator of himself. He might be imprisoned, yet he is the very god of his virtual machine, the very schemer of his schemes to escape. And it is in the thought that he is not a machine, or rather in the process of thinking or being self-conscious, that he finds his freedom, and he believes that, however enslaved he might be by his own body and other external circumstances, he is free to think as he will and to will as he thinks, hence his self or I, whatever that might be, is naturally free.
In any case, are we not free to reflect on our experiences and to describe them to one another? Surely we are not merely determined bodies in time and space, nor are we the phenomena that give us cause to think that we exist because we apparently think it or experience it as thought. The natural law of humankind, what most distinguishes man from other creatures, is his ability to think and communicate his thoughts – ‘man’ is he who “draws out thought,” just as he is drawn out from his ‘ma.’ But the fact that the law of human nature is a law rubs us the wrong way. And for all we know, our mental process may be determined physical processes as well, albeit much more subtle. The phenomena we are presumably aware of “inside” may actually be “outside,” including the phenomenon of thinking. Some god might be thinking our very existence and therefore our thoughts to boot. Perhaps we do not even exist as we think we do, if at all. Maybe we are zombies all, zombies who are programmed to deny they are zombies.
But that is absurd, for how can such a thing be, something so contrary to our conscious experience? We human beings are certainly not zombies! We cannot be determined by natural laws. We have repudiated the body and earth of which it is part in order to lord it over the circumstances, and we have declared the conscious mind or soul or whatnot free of the chains of cause and effect. We may never achieve full dominion over the physical universe as we fan out in our starships, but certainly we shall dominate virtual space. There is room enough for every freedom in absolute space; therefore we would not affix ourselves to anything in particular, and would, instead, have faith in nothing. Nothing really works, therefore nothing must be done.
As Luther interpreted St. Paul: “But this most excellent righteousness of faith I mean… consists not in our works, but is clean contrary; that is to say, a mere passive righteousness. For in this we worked nothing unto God…. For there is no comfort of conscience so firm and so sure as this passive righteousness is…. Why, do we then nothing? Do we work nothing for the obtaining of this righteousness? I answer: Nothing at all. For the nature of this righteousness is to do nothing, to know nothing, whatsoever of the law or of works.”
Our religious skepticism or faith in nothing is not without physical effect, for everything comes from nothing. That nothing really works is plain to see. With the exception of natural disasters, humankind seemingly presides over the Earth – indeed, man can now create disasters every bit as destructive as natural calamities, call them divinely inspired if you will. In any case the body is the enemy, something to be conquered if not laid to waste. Physical culture might render the body strong and beautiful, but it shall never be good enough for the arrogant god of nothing residing at some undisclosed location within, the tortured god who would spit on the body and fly free of spit and other indelicacies, if only he could survive without the body and its excremental culture!
But it seems that the self by itself is insufficient: the body is necessary for habitation or existence. We cannot be rid of the body, not even in the hereafter wherein sheep sleep with wolves on the banks of the river of milk and honey. Still we can try to dispossess ourselves of our grossest physical determinations, say, by means of communication at great distances from one another at nearly the speed of light, so that the special nature of the human being, his ability to think, is virtually disembodied, yet ever so near.
The telephone is certainly a great advance over drums, torches, mirrors, pony express, and the telegraph. Conversing with someone on the telephone is almost like being with the other in the same place at the same time; yet the conversing individuals are not immediately conversant with the perception of the bodies of one another, and can break off communications almost instantly at will, offering some excuse or another. As a matter of fact, many friends who converse at length on the telephone cannot stand one another in person, at least not for long. The physical presence of others, the fact they may be directly perceived, seems to constitute a sort of tyrannical demand for performance. The mere appearance of another may not suit one’s prejudices and may even be disgusting in all respects except the constitution of her voice, whereby her thoughts may become as music to the ears.
In fact, it seems that disgust for the wormy body and its demands, a disgust summed up by profane terms for even its most enjoyable necessary functions, and the corresponding love of privacy wherein we may not be ashamed, are gradually making secular monks and nuns of us all – the number of celibate cenobites increases with the decline of the monastery population. The advent of the Internet has accelerated the drive to disassociation from every organ deemed vile for its violation of existential freedom. Neoteric man welcomes change, the more rapid the better, since the higher the turnover the more profitable life is supposed to be; and with that change comes the disintegration of personal relationships within family and tribe, clan and club, party and nation. Only the low-browed regressive faction longs for the ancient fasces and the medieval social organs. Notwithstanding a few disturbing exceptions, life for today’s highbrows is an abstract rationalizing process subservient to the mechanical production and consumption. And we are all be raised to the level where we will all ideally be equal epiphenomena, a pointillist energy field emanating from the rational economy, a virtually infinite number pinheaded units stuck in a pincushion, each demanding that all get to the point.
A point has no dimensions; and that is why, to answer a medieval question, an infinite number of angels can fit on the head of a pin. Said points may not converge into one, for that would be beside the point of existence. Even when points collide they cannot meet; wherefore Fr. Boscovitch, destined to Rome to fix the cracked Dome, conceived his dual-pointed atomic theory during his research on collisions. Thus it seems dyadic marriage is in theory doomed to despair if to be one instead of two is sorely wanted. But why would couples want to be rid of their bodily differences in the first place, for without them they would have no identity. Some anarchists are wont to say that people are separate but equal in simultaneous orgasm, and that the ideal social state is a gigantic topsy-turvy orgasm.
It seems that we can be at-one with ourselves and not be lonely provided we have a cell phone to orally groom lick one other with, and an Internet hookup to create the illusion of a great society wherein we are seemingly free to do what we like, flitting about from one illuminated page to another like flies – is not doing what we like without interfering with each other the great liberal dream? Now the more psychologically intimate we become in virtual space, the more physically distant from one another we grow, for the person can only really be known personally, in bodily intercourse with other persons; indeed, it is only by virtue of such personal relationships that we become persons or human beings. Instead, our disenchantment with the body and the idea that it is inherently ugly and evil no matter how many faces and weights lifted, breasts implanted and so on, has turned us away from ourselves and one another. For example, Florida reputedly has the biggest teats in America, yet is most love-starved. We are as aardvarks, all alone in our burrows except for a brief infancy, come forth half-blind in the darkness to stumble to our respective termite mounds, pausing for an ant buffet along the way if we find them on the march. We have become so calloused at work that we no longer feel the fascists biting our snouts. Our friend the tawny owl is our only witness. If any man approaches, we can burrow deeply from scratch; indeed, we can dig faster than four men with shovels – let us hope he is not a dentist.
The tightly knit family is almost a thing of the past as the modern way of life works to loosen or sever familial ties and grind down and gear individuals to the system of mass production and consumption. The horror of yesteryear has come true : people have become button-pushing cogs in The Machine. The so-called conservative calls for a restoration of the nuclear family while espousing a contradictory competitive economic system that works its ruin; in turn, the nuclear family is dysfunctional and works the ruin of society as its members retreat into familiar trenches. Terrified Americans are obsessed with working long hours to escape from their families. Given the very nature of The System, they fear much for the future and find narcissistic solace in disembodied, impersonal groups, fictional corporations wherein they divulge themselves of personal responsibility. The desire to escape the underlying anxiety and guilt augmented by the war of all against all is employed by Corporate: the narcissist is shoved into the corporate pool. Once baptized, he is cleansed of his conscience. He is cleansed even of the democratic responsibility to choose his leaders and determine their actions; the perfection of the fascist Fuehrerprinzip in professional leadership principles, which includes leading by following, absolves him as he sinks into the solvent. A void greets him at the door, an emptiness which he fills with the corporate product, including the News that gives him further cause to fear for his future, unless he believes that the Hereafter of the Gospel exists and is meant for him providing he is obedient to the received authorities who perpetrate hell on earth.
Neoteric man, and increasingly the female of our progressive species, have fewer and fewer friends and socialize less and less. Researches inform us that only one in four people have someone to discuss important matters with; of course that is good for all sorts of businesses including the drug-pushing psychotherapeutic industry. Television watching is on the increase, hence people have less time for each other, and the lonely are pacified. Fortunately, for fewer and fewer people, there is some family left, albeit small in scope. Hopefully one’s mate is a true friend instead of a means to a selfish end. The smaller the family and the better off it is, the more divorce is wanted to split the proceeds and move on to the next trick. The poorer folk as usual produce most of the cannon fodder the military-industrial-energy complex needs to defend the means of production from state enemies and terrorist cells. The terrorist within each frustrated anarchist, made in the image of the Terrorist Almighty, would like to see the infernal mechanism she conforms to come to ruin, wherefore the media complies with the death wish and defends the militant infrastructure, producing chaotic visions for their highly profitable cathartic effect. The destructive wishes are actually fulfilled at great distances, say in Baghdad and Beirut, where nothing rules. The United States shall be the stage for an even greater reality show in the future; only the one-god of death knows exactly when, so one had better get what one can while the getting is good.
But enough of this woebegone rhetoric, for the truth makes us even madder and more ill-disposed to one another. So sorry is our state today that the truth is deemed abusive – only a lying positive mental attitude will do. But it is impossible to stop talking dirt in this sorry state. Maybe we are not made in the image of the gods we would be, but are mechanical walking and talking omnivorous worms with bad teeth. Maybe we are the living dead after all. But never mind.