Saturday, June 11, 2005

Deconstructing Flatlander

He loved his tape recorder

I've been going through Flatlander's "estate"--if you can call it that. It mostly consists of several crates of records that look like they were picked up at local thrift shops; most of them are scratched and of dubious musical value. There are a few shelves of books, and a couple boxes of action figures, mostly Star Wars--also of little monetary value on today's flooded market. Then there are several notebooks full of a tiny, cramped cursive, apparently compiled by the Flatlander over the past few months. It's hard to read them for any length of time; the extreme compression of the script gives one a headache after deciphering only a few pages. The Flatlander, while portraying himself as an languid slacker, seems to have had an intense--one could even say turbulent--spiritual life, the details of which he poured into the few slim volumes now in my possession. The themes of these writings range from skateboarding and record collecting to theological difficulties he had with the church he'd been attending. To give you some examples of the tenor of these musings:

Christianity takes the immortal divine mystery incarnate in each of us and projects it exclusively on the figure of Jesus Christ. In doing so it perpetuates a state of alienation in the soul, establishing a gulf between God and man that can only be bridged by a set of scriptures interpreted by a specially trained clergy. Rather than leading one to an experience of God, the religion thus acts as an insulation from mysteries perhaps too difficult for the general population to fathom. Nevertheless, actual spiritual transformation is replaced by a continual feeling of guilt and unworthiness, the only antidote to which would seem to be death, or Christ's return--an event that would likely put a great number of priests out of work.

What kind of God would establish himself as the sole authority in creation, and relegate to hell any who refused to make a public confession of faith in him? Surely a God of infinite power and benevolence would spare no expense to bring his creatures into a state of grace and gratefulness. Sending your only son to die and then trying to make us feel bad about it just isn't working.

If Jesus returned before the process of individualization that he set in motion were completed, he would suffer from the same disease of the spirit that afflicted him the first time around: loneliness [scratched out at this point in the text, the words: one can still be lonely in the midst of great mulitutdes, or one's followers]. Kafka was right when he wrote that Jesus will only return when he is no longer necessary. The living God requires equals, not followers.

Because it is based on a lie--or a lie's misinterpretation--Christianity can never be a path to liberation. It's time to let Jesus down off the cross so we can regain an awareness of the divinity of the here and now.

Flatlander's apostate ramblings are occasionally punctuated by semi-orthodox moments of inspiration:

From even the least charitable reading of the Gospels, Jesus seems to have embodied some of the best traits of humanity: generosity, love, compassion and honesty--though this last has yet to be recognized in the doctrine of any mainstream Christian church [written in the margin at this point: what I believe to be a quote from Neitzsche, "Honesty is the youngest of the virtues"]. If what the scientists say is true, and the entire genetic history of humanity is present like an infinitely divisible hologram in the make-up of each human being, then Jesus lives on in each of us. Alongside the turbulent passions, vices and violence that roil the human bloodstream is Jesus' personal victory over the world illusion, recorded for all time and imprinted in our natures like an indelible tattoo. Thus, calling on his name in times of stress and difficulty, though it may seem like swearing or blasphemy, may actually have some beneficial psychological and spiritual effect--in the same way that bringing to mind the face of a dead and beloved relative can lend strength and boost moral in a trying moment.

Alongside these revealing, though perhaps not very original, faith confessions is an elaborate and idiosyncratic exegesis of the Star Wars movies. The Flatlander seems to have been writing the outline for a book that he believed was scheduled to be published by Harper & Collins sometime next year. I have contacted the publishing house, and they deny ever having heard of such a project--though they indicated some interest in reading a proposal were one to be made available.

Personally, I think the whole project is an example of mad overkill, and only brings into focus the precarious psychological state, bordering on psychosis and hysteria, that Flatlander had succumbed to in the months leading up to his demise. I mean, we're talking about Star Wars here: a popular entertainment for the masses...not Shakespeare!


Michael said...

The saddest thing about Christianity, is the way most Christians view salvation. I have a friend who believes Salvation does not take place until baptism. Most other people will say salvation takes place at the time of confession. My responses to those two statements are:

#1. What about the thief on the cross? He was not baptized, yet Christ told him he would be in Paradise.

#2. Peter followed Christ for 3 years, before acknowledging Jesus was the Christ. So for those tree years was Peter not saved?

I have come to believe that Salvation is not a moment, as Paul tells us to continue to work out our salvation. If that is the case for Salvation, how can anyone say when it begins?

What if I was to tell you Salvation is an opt-out kinda thing, rather than an opt-in process? (Sounds Universal, I know.)

The one thing I know for sure is, by reading the gospels, you clearly see those who thought they were saved or "in" with God were actually "out", and those who were viewed as "out", were really "in".

Adjuster said...

Michael's view of things makes me feel a lot better about my eschatological status.

In Buddhism, the Bodhisattva refuses to pass away into "final enlightenment" until all other creatures have been saved first. They forego passing through the door in order to hold it open for others.

But maybe salvation is a kind of revolving door: our glimpse of the inside renews our view of the outside.