Δευτέρα, 8 Μαρτίου 2010

Tom Robbins - Skinny Legs and All

"When the sixth veil falls—and with a barefoot kid called Salome performing the ancient Levantine birth dance in a testosterone-bubbling New York bar, it might no longer be premature to speak of falling veils—when the sixth veil falls, the desensitizing, corrupting illusion of bullet-train history and its apocalyptic destination will surely dissolve.

Roland Abu Hadee once remarked that the reason that Jews habitually accom-plished more than Moslems, more than Christians, for that matter; the reason a Jew seldom hesitated to take on artistic, social, or commercial tasks that would frighten off, say, a possibly more qualified Gentile, was because the Jew wasn't betting all of his or her chips on the hereafter; Jews were boldly playing their hands, cashing their checks, here and now; they were going for it in their own lifetime because they had never been convinced, as a people, that the banks would be open in heaven.

The patent truth is that nobody, regardless of race, religion, or personal enlightenment, nobody knows whether or not there is an afterlife. Only the dead can say for sure, and they aren't talking. Energy never perishes, so the concept of reincarnation makes a certain amount of sense, but there's absolutely no proof, "memories" of "past lives" (genetic pot shards?) notwithstanding. Despite all absence of evidence, however, there thrives a popular and stern faith in the end of time and in the orchids or onions to be distributed at the finale; and that faith, that wishful—or fearful—thinking, constitutes a veil so thick, so sturdy that it's a wonder we can see to get out of bed in the morning. If nothing else, the sixth veil is an effective sun block. It may also be a shackle and a shroud.

As long as a population can be induced to believe in a supernatural hereafter, it can be oppressed and controlled. People will put up with all sorts of tyranny, poverty, and painful treatment if they're convinced that they'll eventually escape to some resort in the sky where lifeguards are superfluous and the pool never closes. Moreover, the faithful are usually willing to risk their skins in whatever military adventure their government may currently be promoting. When the sixth veil drops, there will be a definite shortage of cannon fodder.

Those in high places are not immune. While the afterlife concept renders the masses manageable, it renders their masters destructive. A world leader who's convinced that life is merely a trial for the more valuable and authentic afterlife is less hesitant to risk starting a nuclear holocaust. A politician or corporate executive who's expecting the Rapture to arrive on the next flight from Jerusalem is not going to worry much about polluting oceans or destroying forests. Why should he?

Thus, to emphasize the afterlife is to deny life. To concentrate on heaven is to create hell.

In their desperate longing to transcend the disorderliness, friction, and unpredictability that pesters life; in their desire for a fresh start in a tidy habitat, germ-free and secured by angels, religious multitudes are gambling the only life they may ever have on a dark horse in a race that has no finish line. Theirs is a death wish on a very grand scale, an eschatological extension of Kissinger's perverse logic—"In order to live forever, we must die as quickly as possible" —and if time doesn't run out soon, they're going to form a posse and run it out. Fortunately for them, they see signs everywhere that the end is near. Unfortunately, they're virtually the same signs that their ancestors saw millennia before them.

Meanwhile, the thermodynamic and cosmological forces that form the basis for "time" spiral merrily along without going anywhere very much. Just around. And around again. Order expanding into disorder contracting into order at a rate so incredibly slow that it bores and bewilders us to the extent that we have to invent psychological endings for it.

What the sixth veil conceals is not a blank clock but a relieved expression, the expression on our own faces as we meet ourselves coming from the opposite direction, free to enjoy the present at last because we are no longer fettered by the future that is history."

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