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Monday, Feb 26, 2018 - 23:45 SGT
Posted By: Gilbert

Annual Ritual

"I still got an A even though I was expecting a B or C. However, God listened to my prayers and this incident [the exam scripts being stolen] happened, resulting in my distinction."

- God works in mysterious ways concerning A-Level Chemistry

Sat through a performance by Zhang Di (who apparently quit medicine for more jocular remedies) and company at Resorts World Sentosa on Sunday, where his knack for composing lyrics on the spot was on full display. [Digression: one has to recognize its relation to ad-hoc xiangsheng, and the entertainment of matching poetry, couplet-style, as practised by the old Chinese literati of Hong Lou Meng; which in turn recalls The Dozens, a rap form of which was featured in 8 Mile]. Guy's been around for a long time - my parents recalled watching him when they were courting, thirty-over years ago.

His motto of having others forget their troubles does have something to it - the problem is, of course, the forgetting...

Recruitment, Redux

It never quite feels like the new semester's arrived, until one gets approached by nattily-attired young gentlemen at or around the Central Forum. I was anticipating collecting my Puzzle Fighter E. Honda sushi, when one of them graciously inquired as to whether I was missing something in life.

As they seated themselves determinedly on either side, I could not help but feel slightly guilty, for my soul had already been promised to many Hells, and if they wished a share in it, why, they would have to wait in line. On this, to be fair, there have at times been reciprocal agreements amongst the Abrahamics; yet these are tenuous pledges, amendable only all too easily, as with the Holy See's hardline stance on membership in the days of their pomp, and Negroes seemingly being summarily uncursed in the eyes of the Lord, that sweet summer of '78.

But can one expect much more? A rational man might have begun to grow suspicious, when a supposedly all-knowing deity gets pissed at his favourite pets for munching fruit - as is their nature - before having His Chosen wander the desert for forty years... only to settle in just about the only spot without oil. The second act then sees His Son's followers genocide his first supporters for over a thousand years, before He inspires an Arabic warlord to persecute them both. The combined toll of death and misery from these misadventures defies description.

This is an objectively atrocious record, and if He had been a middle manager, He would long have been fired. Unfortunately, being simultaneously the boss and the boss's son has produced the unhappy combination of being both fossilized and nepotistic, and one can only look on with a pity akin to that of a clear-headed observer evincing a battered wife, who returns after yet another hiding because this time, I just know He will change.

Still, it would have been impolite to say all this to doubtless well-meaning fellows, who dutifully continue running their spiel. Talk at one point wandered to the percentage of Singaporeans that were Christian. This is about twenty percent (as I happened to know), the reply which was matched by affirmation - and perhaps, just a hint of anxiety. I do believe that this de-facto ceiling has been some cause for consternation among the relevant communities; and, I might add, it exists for a reason, but none that would be glad tidings for these fine gentlemen.

Skipping the international politics angle, which LKY was on top of, this is ultimately an eminently natural phenomenon - as a creed gains dominance and saturates the mainstream, so will it begin to splinter, as has happened over and over again. Given how all of them profess much the same fundamental set of virtues - don't kill, love your neighbour, etc - about which I can discern no actual disagreement, one cannot help but wonder just why there has been so much feuding over the details. The inescapable conclusion, then, is that organized religions were never truly about those things. Rather, it at some point became rude to assert "I want this"; far more respectable was "God wants this". The implications are, clearly, interesting (like, surely God has enough Cantab A's in His bag?)

His Word Of Glory

"Whoever it was who translated the Bible into excellent French prose is chiefly responsible for the collapse of Christianity in France. Contrariwise, the men who put the Bible into archaic, sonorous and often unintelligible English gave Christianity a new lease of life wherever English is spoken."

- Holy Writ, H.L. Mencken

The above sentiment echoes that shared by luminaries such as Wilde - who was probably agnostic on his best day - and Wallace, who professed a soft spot for the Catholic church. This predilection is entirely understandable - given that there is no logic involved in theology, or at least none of the sort that would pass muster in any properly-accredited craft - one should expect the full assortment of bells and whistles in recompense. Swinging censers, fragrant incense, Morrocan leather kicks, cherubic castrati rocking Ave Maria - the whole nine yards.

This, I feel, is a failing of their successors, who dispensed with the pageantry, and replaced it with a joyless severity. Officially, it was a rejection of the extraneous, of distractions from the Divine. Third Wave Abrahamism rejected human imagery altogether. In this I think them mistaken. Maybe the Holy See was corrupt, but they did at least own their niche, and they knew how to celebrate. As G.B. Shaw has his Black Girl note perceptively, after the first fisherman's magnificent paper-mâché cathedral passed, the remainder of the procession carried but "smaller and mostly much uglier paper Churches", while all insisting that theirs happened to be the only true one.

Happily, this inferiority has been readily addressed by some of the newer crop, who have erected splendid titanium structures, worshipped with concerts of impeccable production quality, and whose leaders see fit to appear only in the finest threads; how can we not recall in this the first great marbled houses of the Lord, graced with haunting pipe organs played by the finest masters, overseen by priests whose vestments would cause Venetian ladies envy? It is a tested formula, I say; keep it (but, perhaps go a bit light on the Dayung Sampan next time)

The allegory of the shepherd, by the way, has seldom been properly explored - a most cursory analysis would yield the uncomfortable realisation that not one in a hundred shepherds tends his flock out of benevolence - their well-being is his concern, inasmuch as they provide utility: milk, wool, meat. In fact, we should be rightly suspcious were any shepherd claim unconditional love, particularly if they happen to be Scottish.

Now, this is not to say that a degree of beta sheepiness is baad; without some compromise, there would be unending conflict. However, the point is that sheepiness (also the Third Wave Abrahamism equivalent, submission) and its attendant traits - unlimited forgiveness, for one - are hardly as ideal as the faiths love to promote. The main benefit, as far as I can make out, is that it in practice allows obedient multitudes to be easily led - and ironically, often in the manner Exodus 23:2 warns against.

His instrument upon this Earth
[80% evangelical support!]
(Source: r/dankchristianmemes)

This attitude I cannot in good conscience support. For sheep will too often gather in circles, and bleat softly to each other, and convince themselves that they are okay - for they are, above all else, taught to fear; but this is no great accomplishment, given that it is most commonly undertaken by the indoctrination of defenceless young minds. Take a child, as the Jesuits are wont to, and teach him something blatantly ridiculous, such as his soul being forfeit were he to drink soda on Thursdays, or were he to ever touch his left ankle with his right hand. I am willing to state that such convictions can be permanently implanted in the majority of children, with suitable reinforcement techniques. Some may reject this as a disrespectful and baseless insinuation; if so, in all honesty, they would be mistaken.

It is, however, true, that there are many sheep and few lions, for that is the natural state of affairs. It is also true that one does have a choice, if nothing else, whether to be a lion, or to accept being a sheep. The life of a lion is fraught with peril, for his peers are strong too, and in that strength dispense with niceties. When a lion's might goes, he will oft be brutally slain, which is coincidentally also the time when the flock gathers and reassures themselves that they are glad not to be lions.

But, you see, this neglects the fact that sheep all die too, and generally they die quite ingloriously indeed, however they try to convince themselves otherwise. One does not deny that this may be a comfortable and late death, if the sheep be fortunate. But it is death nonetheless, and bleatings as to some everlasting afterlife I feel quite distasteful and insulting, as would an appeal to Santa's future beneficence be to any self-respecting adult.

And, you know the secret?

Sheep don't actually even admire or really love other sheep, you know. They respect their shepherds more, as any number of successful megapastors can attest to; but, more than that, they love lions - see: GOD-EMPEROR TRUMP.

And why not? At the very minimum, he'll cut your taxes!

A day as a lion, worth a lifetime as a sheep

"Crom! I have never prayed to you before. I have no tongue for it. No one, not even you, will remember if we were good men or bad. Why we fought, or why we died. All that matters is that today, two stood against many. That's what's important! Valor pleases you, Crom; so grant me this one request. Grant me revenge! And if you do not listen, then to hell with you!"

- Conan's appeal
(now this is a man, and this is a God)

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