Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Cultists of a god of hate

A couple of years ago, I went out with a cultist for a few months. She was a nice enough woman, pretty after a fashion, good to talk to, but she had a problem that she couldn't overcome: she was a cultist.

I'm a tolerant person. It's part of the English psyche, socialised
into us, I think, because we live in a crowded small country. One way
we rub along is to let people believe what they want and just not
bother them too much about it. England is full of (mostly harmless)
eccentrics and we like it that way. It was more of a problem that she
was not at all tolerant of my beliefs, which run no deeper than a sort
of good-natured scepticism and an understanding that science provides
a decent, although not by any means complete, explanation of what there is.

I mean, on the whole her beliefs, although they were a bit weird,
didn't really affect the day to day. The only place they had any real
effect was inside her head, which was a quite disturbed place. She
would insist her beliefs brought her peace, but they didn't seem to.
They seemed the source of a lot of the turmoil that existed in her

What did affect us were her fellow cultists. I never met any of them
but I was aware of them, because they disapproved of me. I felt this
was a little judgemental, because actually I'm a nice guy and was
decent to her. But they didn't like that I wasn't a cultist. That
alone trumped everything about me. That it didn't really have any
effect on her or our relationship, that I didn't try to bar her from
professing her beliefs, that I respected them even, although they are
by no means respectable in themselves, didn't sway them.

I'd go as far as saying they hated me. I shouldn't have been
surprised. They were cultists of a god of hate.

They didn't even need to meet me to hate me. It caused her pain
because they started to hate her too: they began to shun her, to talk
shit about her, to inform her that the god of hate would do foul
things to her if she didn't restrict herself to fellow cultists. Well,
I suppose that if you join a cult that revolves around hatred, one
thing it will be very good at breeding is hatred.

Don't ask me why anyone would want to join a cult that directs you to
hate your fellows. Certainly I wouldn't. I am not attracted by "moral"
teachings that consist of instructing you to hate the world and
everything in it, to despise your own flesh and the inclinations and
drives that make you what you are. I could never agree that we are bad
*just because* we are human. I am a humanist, after all. I believe
being a human is a good thing. Why wouldn't I? I am one. Like most
people, I'm somewhat tribal. I tend to believe that the things I am
are good.

Indeed, most of what she believed is entirely contary to my own
beliefs. She believed it was good to lie, so long as you lied about
the world and how we are to each other, and about what is possible for
humans to achieve. She lied about what is important, focusing on
things that are, in the big scheme of things, not really important.
For instance, relationships are important; but really, marriages
aren't. What I am saying is that it's important to have people to
love, to show love to, and to be loved by, and in as far as marriage
is a way of labelling and symbolising those relationships, it's
valuable. But it's the relationship that counts, not how you label it.
People often make that mistake, even to the extent that they think
it's actually important to be able to call something a marriage that
is not in fact a marriage. Can you believe it? They actually believe
it is morally more valuable to have something called a marriage that
is in reality dogshit than it is to have a respectful and loving
relationship. I have had both; and I know which one I preferred.
(Which is not to say that you cannot have both rolled into one, nor
even to say that I didn't have both at the same time.)

She believed sex was "wrong". How can it be wrong? It's just a natural
consequence of human beings' being human beings. It's just something
we do. It doesn't really even symbolise anything. It's just fucking.
We don't consider it important when dogs do it, but somehow, in our
desire to elevate ourselves above the brute animals we share the world
with, we insist we are doing something different. Not that she didn't
enjoy it. She really did. But she believed that was wrong too. Her god
of hate, she believed, would punish her for enjoying it.

Her cults, it seemed, may also have been concerned that she might be
having uninhibited sex. There's nothing they hated more. Above all
else, the cultists hate having bodies, because bodies want to be with
other bodies. They just do. You can't do much about a human body
wanting to be with other bodies because nature's like that. But
despising nature is their ritual.

Wait, I would say, why would he endow you with this wonderful thing,
which you really enjoy, which let's face it feels good (#humblebrag),
and hate you for doing it? Well, that was kind of the point. The more
he hated her humanity, the more she loved him for it. To me, that is
the definition of an abusive relationship. Why abide with someone who
hates what you are?

The prophet of this god is thought to have been celibate. In my view,
people who don't do a thing are usually poor judges of its value. Why
people listen to the pope's view on sexuality is a mystery to me,
since he has spent so much of his energy in suppressing his. He's the
last person I'd ask for advice on sex. He doesn't even like it. It's a
bit like asking a vegetarian how you should cook a steak.

That prophet's view was that we should hate this world. He said so
often. Hate the things of this world so that you can gain entry into
another, better world. Of course, there is not a better world. The
thing is, humanists understand that we can *make* a better world, and
we can make it here and now. We cannot rely on some other entity to
create it for us. Many of us consider it a fallacy even to believe
that governments, who are supposed to be collectives representing a
will, can improve the world. Strangely, many of those who think that
fallacious are also cultists of the god of hate.

It's actually hard for the rest of us to work on making this world
better when we are surrounded by cultists who hate this world and
themselves so much that they don't want it to be any better. It would
even be a diminishment of their god for us to improve this world. He
relies on the gap between what we have here and what he offers being
huge. The more suffering there is in this world, the more he likes it:
it just makes his world seem more attractive. The problem is, this
world is all we have. If you do not believe that the 80 or so years
you are spending in this world is all you are going to get, you are
just lying to yourself. You are just the emanations of a brain in a
human body. How could you be anything else?

There's worse. Can you believe it, her god hates us so much that he
believed we should sacrifice in blood to him to make up for our
deficient natures! He tells you it's in your nature to be shit.
Imagine if your parents had brought you up like that.

Worse, he endorsed racism and was willing to indulge it by killing
thousands of people and encouraging his followers to do the same. I
don't know about you, but I don't find those who urge genocide
praiseworthy. I might fear them, respect their power, but I don't sing
songs about how great they are.

I sometimes feel like I too would like to join a cult. It's a great
comfort to believe, to have fellows who want what you want, understand
what you understand. But if I am to join one, it's going to have to be
the cult of a god of love. I don't have sufficient hate in me for it
to be the motivating force in my life. Sadly, for her, it was, so we
split up. I wonder whether she is happy, worshipping her god who hates

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Sometimes wonderful

The paint is peeling from the wood of the Guides' hut. Inside, my girls are listening to a fat woman with a shrill voice telling them about something I'm not sure what, I'm not listening. We are standing out in the cold, dutiful parents in the best place we can be: serving our children.

The hut is ageing but it will likely outlive me. I was thinking, no one will sing over me. Am I sad that there is no magic in my life, or that there is no magic in this world? It has always seemed prosaic to me; sometimes wonderful, true, but nothing beyond what there is and how that makes us feel.

But I wish love really was eternal so that I could love my golden girls forever, so that there was a little piece of remembrance of my love for them throughout time.

I was reading today that a physicist, a true hierophant of naturalism, theorises that there is no dark matter, and the unexplained pull that we know is there but cannot find its source is the echo of a deeper universe, that all we perceive is the froth on an ocean that we cannot see, touch or feel.

I like the idea. It suggests that the universe is not random, but that what we perceive of it seems random because we cannot discern the underlying pattern.

And sometimes I like to think I want to know the answers, but other times I feel it is just as satisfying to have to make your own. Sometimes I have wanted magic, and I have felt envious of those who are able to have faith that it is there. I find their god unsatisfying but that does not mean there could not be one that offered a better fit.


The other day, I was thinking, maybe the rightists are not wrong. Maybe it really is just a dog-eat-dog world, devil take the hindmost, and I have just been hindmost. I worry that that is why I am on the left: not that I believe in community, but that I believe in the underdog because I am one.

But, you know, they are ugly and the world they paint is ugly too. Whyever I believe what I believe, it leads me to believe in a world that can be beautiful, in the goodness of my fellows, however little they show it, in a numinous "better".

I will take aesthetics if I can find it. Without it, we have to just be angry apes in a hostile world, and really, do you want that?


We move through the night, the cold fogging the windows. I am thinking about the people I have loved and how clueless I am about why they just slipped away. I am just not good at it, and in thinking that, I wish I knew whether I mean, at being loved or at anything at all. It is so hard not to just be hollow, to let the currents of your life echo inside you.

I grab Zenita and hug her. I love you, she says. My every cell sings. It doesn't matter what this really is. It doesn't matter how you explain it. It exists. That is all we need.

Friday, April 02, 2010


Dear you

I am giving up writing. I will let myself be a hack, write my pirate book, become wealthy I hope, but I am giving up my belief in myself as an artist.

I believed that I could write what it is, see into the world and make it into art. I believed that I could write work that would move millions. I believed in myself, that I had been right not to become like everyone else, to make money everything and value nothing and nobody, to not lose faith that I had something to offer that ultimately could not be resisted.

But I can't. I can't move even one. I have tried the artifice I have and it was worthless, pointless. How could I ever have imagined that I could make something that people would cherish when with the coin I have, I cannot buy hello?

That is all. I could write more but I already told you I love you and that's all I had to say anyway. That is all.


Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Millions mean nothing

Dear you

Sometimes I feel like I could believe in your god, because they say he is the love we feel for each other, and I know that it is something elemental and real, which often seems to come from outside us, yet flows through us, yet is bigger than us, so much bigger that we can seem lost at sea, on the point of drowning. But I feel that you can never truly die so long as you have love, that you will be buoyed up just enough.

Sometimes it seems big enough to make everything else small enough that it can be overcome.

Man, how did I become stuck only able to express myself in words, and they are so insufficient. But what can you do in the face of something ineffable, intangible, yet powerful enough that you can be humbled by it?

Do you feel like that? I remember when I saw you, I felt like it made sense in a way that I could not possibly explain, yet if I ever could, I could wrap it up and sell it for millions. And of course I wouldn't; I couldn't. Because if I ever could, I would only want to give it to you for nothing.

And it cannot be your god, because it is not huge and untouchable. It is something tiny and precious, so little and fragile, I snatch it up and hold it tight, so tight in my hand, my fist clenched, afraid that if I open it, it will be gone, that I will open my hand and you really will have flown.

But there is part of me that never lies, a small part, deeper than anything else, and sometimes when it is still at night, when it is cold and I feel like nothing can warm me, it warms me. I know you cannot understand what I am saying and it feels like you dare not, but I cannot write the words it says because they are not in a language I understand, but strange and incomprehensible as it is, I am compelled to try to listen and I will die wondering whether I ever really knew. And I ask myself, does she have a place in her too that sings for me or am I just imagining a world in which I am more than nothing at all? And I won't let go from fear that that world is only something some corner of me has spun from the emptiness that would otherwise engulf me.


Sunday, March 28, 2010


Dear you

Did you ever watch Breakfast at Tiffany's? Such a fine film. I wish I would one day write a screenplay that good, and of course, Moon river is my song. It goes without saying that I found, loved and lost, my own Holly.

You know what's wrong with you, Miss Whoever-you-are? You're chicken, you've got no guts. You're afraid to stick out your chin and say, "Okay, life's a fact, people do fall in love, people do belong to each other, because that's the only chance anybody's got for real happiness."

I'll drink to that.


Thursday, March 25, 2010

A day in Tampa

Dear you

I had mostly a nice day hanging out with A in Tampa. We tramped around Ybor, the old Spanish section, which has some great old buildings. It feels a bit odd not to be able to talk to you about it, because I think you would love to hear about the streets, the sounds, the smells, the sights. As I walked around, it struck me a couple of times to wonder what you are doing. I miss knowing the little things about your life that matter: about what you do with your kids, where you go, getting your nails done, having a new hairdo, the small shit that we share to bond us more closely. Yeah, I know that's the problem. R, A's husband, has gone a bit weird because he doesn't understand how come this guy he doesn't even know can say he loves his wife and they can be good company yet they haven't met before. But that's the internet. It's made a world we never would have believed possible, right? So me and A have "met" many times and shared a lot of laughs and some tears; although I am in a lot of ways a stranger, I am also a good friend of hers, as close a friend as any she has here in Tampa, I think. But of course, I can put myself in his shoes. It would be fucking weird if L had had a friend to stay who she was somehow best mates with but I didn't even know.

And you know A has been a good friend to me. And friendships can take all kinds of forms. Did you ever see 84 Charing Cross Road? If you haven't, it's written by a woman who has a 20-year correspondence with a guy and comes to love him, yet never meets him. I feel a bit weird about making internet people real, because it seems like you risk ruining everything (and I'm due to meet some more people who are virtual friends, so I should get used to the idea!). You don't know whether you will destroy the image they have of you or improve on it. (A is though just exactly the person I knew her to be and I am very glad to have had the opportunity to have made her a "real person" and as it happens, her husband is also a lovely man and I feel privileged to have been able to be part of his life too.)

It feels odd not to be able to talk to you about how I feel about visiting America. More than odd. It feels like a big gap in my life, like you ripped something out of me. And I do understand why you felt you had to do that, but you were wrong. The day I start thinking that it is wrong to love someone is the day I give up on this life and become an automaton or just die. Nothing is better than love. I've tried a lot of what else there is, and I'm confident I'm right.

Maybe I just don't know how to calculate it. I seem to have been blessed with a mind that can run through mazes of thought, yet in some things is simple. What can I do about that? Anyway, it's not something I would ever want to change about myself. I am content to feel that love is worth more than anything else and that you disagree is not anything like an argument that convinces me.


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Once your spark

Dear you

Most of the day I was listening to old music. They say it soothes the savage breast, or something like that (at least if you keep the heavy rawk at a minimum), and I stumbled across this. It's a pretty bad live version but I couldn't help wondering when you last listened to this:

It made me feel uplifted. I didn't feel sad that we can't listen to it together or anything like that. Rather it made me think of your smile. I don't remember you ever doing anything but smile. Am I romanticising it? I suppose I must be, and I know I've made you angry from time to time -- or frustrated at least -- but when I picture you, in all the dreams I have of you, you are smiling, and I am at least some of the time causing you to smile. I wish I still could be your spark.

I wanted to find something that sounds as beautiful to me as you are. But there is nothing really beyond the secret song that my heart sings to itself because you exist. So this is only second best, but I hope you will find it beautiful too.