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Archive for February, 2021

Once again, the wages of wanton corruption and spiritual blindness parade boldly among the chronically deluded and unthinking.

Amazingly, the story of the worship of the Golden Calf was re-enacted live at the CPAC convention in Florida this weekend by Trump’s loyal band of miscreant followers and acolytes.

They actually had the audacity to fashion and roll out a golden statue of their cartoonish demigod. That said, it was hardly an impressive statue projecting any real stature. It can be more accurately described as a pitiful golden golem, a contorted Homunculus and,from that standpoint, a more fitting unconscious expression of the mean-spirited, ugly persona of its subject.

The so-called “Conservative Republicans” are clearly now completely enslaved in an “all or none” covenant with their much celebrated demon. Just when you think they have reached the nadir of personal debasement, they surprise us with yet another act of disgusting obsequiousness. This is part of the sad reverberating drumbeat of a rising tide of American Fascism.

The often unmentioned accompanying allegory in the Biblical story of the Golden Calf, fashioned by Aaron during Moses’ forty day pilgrimage to Mount Sinai, was what Moses did with it upon his return. Furious with what he perceived as the ultimate transgressive blasphemy, he had the idol burned and the gold ground into a fine powder. He then added that powder to water and forced the Israelites to drink it, killing them.

Not yet finished with his retribution, Moses then issued the Lord’s command for the Levite’s to slay the remaining idolaters by the sword, killing “10000 men” ( Exodus 32). So repugnant was the idolatry, that all (except the Levite’s that refrained from worshipping the bull) were put to death. Such was the intolerable immaturity and superficiality of the faith of those who tired of waiting on God’s time for word from Moses and instead cynically turned to a transitional object to adore.

The sin of the Israelites was in grabbing hold to any handy symbol that gave them a quick sense of power, identity and agency when so much was uncertain. Their impulse was to act in an adolescent and regressive grasping for anything to worship that was in their own control. Lacking in the vision that inspired Moses, they simply couldn’t wait on God and trust in goodness. They needed to exert their will having lost all patience waiting for an authentic encounter with the sacred.

One cannot help but wonder what awaits the ideologues on the far right who show such a thirst for the “cool-aid” of Trumpism to soothe their fears of any form of social change since the 1950s. I do suspect and hope that many will one day wake up from their Trump-induced somnambulism, feel ashamed at their folly and embrace a truer sense of America as an exemplary melting pot. Many will undoubtedly and regrettably play through their stupefaction with enough hyperbolic rationalizing to last a lifetime.

Meanwhile, we all need to keep watch. This may be the true and terrifying manifestation of the “ zombie apocalypse” that authors of both fiction and nonfiction have envisioned.

© The Harried Mystic, 2021 and Br. Anton, TSSF. Unauthorized use or distribution of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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The Scream by Edvard Munch

Is the soul-numbing boredom of Covid isolation turbocharging the rabid and pernicious narratives of hatred, fear, delusional frenzy and the seemingly insatiable appetite for misinformation?

The sensational arouses our strongest feelings. We love the dramatic and surprising turns in a story. It gets the heartbeat up. We breath faster. It distracts from the banal humdrum round of so many same-old-nights following upon same-old- days.

Is that what’s got so many Americans worked up as they crave their prior favorite escapes from the banal and what they recall as “normal”?

While the causes of the descent into inconsolable malaise, disaffection, anger and the irrational shouting of our times are surely multi-factorial, stultifying boredom must surely be principal among them as a compelling irritant.

On day two of the second impeachment trial of the erstwhile President, accompanied by the ongoing drumbeats of mindless tribalism and the continuous talk of Covid variants, I find myself drawn to an iconic painting that feels well-suited to our moment in history: “ The Scream,” by Norwegian painter Edvard Munch.

This iconic painting, foreshadowing expressionism, was originally entitled the “ Scream of Nature”. Munch’s own journal reveals its inspiration – ‘a walk at dusk over a bridge when the sky over Oslo turned blood red as he felt a silent agonized shriek in the world mirrored in his soul as horrifying anguish and despair. ‘

Arguably, Munch’s riveting and deeply disturbing painting can be said to be a striking symbolic embodiment of existential torment. After all, his was a tragic life. He lost one sister at age five, when she was just 14, to turburculosis, and another later to mental illness, and he himself experienced a “ nervous breakdown”. This deeply melancholic and sensitive soul wrote:

“ Illness, insanity, and death were the black angels that kept watch over my cradle and accompanied me all my life.”

Edvard Munch

Under controlled circumstances, we love a good fright. We delight in stories of ghouls, ghosts, night crawlers and monsters. Look at the success of the “ Walking Dead” and “ Jericho” as illustrative. There are seemingly infinite variations on the telling of the tales of “ Dracula”, witches and warlocks, devils and avenging angels.

The suspense and horror genres thrive for good reason. We all embrace the good yarn that gets us riled up. It makes us feel somehow more alive. Paintings of heaven are predominantly ethereal and beautiful, but essentially dull. Compare them with the works of Hieronymous Bosch ( e.g., “ The Garden of Earthly Delights”). Oh my!

Problem is, in these times of pandemic, those already predisposed to the effects of demagoguery ( I.e., the “ low information voters) are especially susceptible to tall dark tales. They struggle to distinguish fact from fiction. They accept the weaver’s tale as nonfiction if he has charisma and repeats it often enough. The story is uncritically absorbed.

Trump manipulated this psychic reality with an incessant propaganda intended to specifically rally the darker passions. It worked beautifully. It got innocent people killed. It was and is his only demonstrable talent. He is perfect in the role of dark prophet and one might even suspect ( though I seriously doubt he read it) that he is a student of the written work of Adolph Hitler (“e.g., “ Mein Kampf”, or “ My Struggle”).

In any event, he embodies much of what Hitler’s manifesto signifies: he is the victim, only he knows the truth to greatness, and only he is able to unleash the real “ patriots” who have too long been silenced. The lesson Hitler teaches is simple: Lie big, lie bold, and stoke the monsters of the Id.

Once the pandemic is in the rearview mirror, I suspect much of the acute din of the zombified hoardes will subside, but that won’t come quickly. The condition is chronic and resistant to treatment.

The only true medicine is authentic reflection: catching ourselves in the act of being swept up into the frenzy of finding meaning in combativeness, abuse of one another, demonization and unbridled histrionics.

The dilemma is that this takes self-awareness and emotional intelligence. Many need help getting to square one on both counts. Our bards of the stories of better angels have their work cut out for them. Nonetheless, our Nation and our culture must look to them to lift us out of the muck (especially those stuck solidly in it).

This is the purpose of the Arts: to cause us to see more clearly and elevate our vision. I can think of no more important time to put the Arts at the service of the renewal of civilization, morality, and unity.

© The Harried Mystic, 2021 and Br. Anton, TSSF. of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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