Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Coming Out of the Golden Apple Closet

It's time for me to come clean about something: I enjoy Judaism for its cultural heritage, including folklore, mythology, and of course magical technology, but I'm not particularly interested in being a good Jew anymore. All the rules are useful in certain ways, but ultimately I feel like rule-based thinking needs to give way to something more intuitive and organic. And if I'm completely honest with myself, Discordianism has always felt far more right for me. In this post, I'm going to try to explain why.

As far as I know, Discordianism is the original joke religion. But is it *really* a joke? Well... that depends on which Discordian you ask. Some people treat Eris like an older, spookier Flying Spaghetti Monster, and that's cool. Others of us realize that when we talk about constructive disorder or destructive order, or claim Eris lives in everyone's pineal gland, those are important teachings we're spreading because people need to hear them. My approach to Discordianism isn't better, only different, and truthfully I need to get better at talking about such ideas in a funny way. Recently I wrote a game to that end.

I talked here about how the Principia Discordia was integral to my realization, as a teenager, that being messy or otherwise chaotic was not necessarily a character flaw or a moral failing. It's simply the way I was, and largely still am. For me, it was truly a revelation when I learned that order can sometimes be destructive, and disorder sometimes creative. It touched a chord deep inside me, one that Judaism never has.

Discordianism appeals to me because I enjoy trickery, especially when it's aimed at helping someone to learn something they can't learn another way. "Paradoxical intervention" is the term. That's not to say I know what another person has to learn; usually, I totally don't. The idea is to thwack the person upside the head with enough absurdity that they might wonder, "What other assumptions have I been taking for granted in my life?".

On a larger scale, this practice is known as poetic terrorism or glamour bombing.

Also, it's fun to have a "holy book" that includes some of the funniest absurdist and surrealist humor I've ever read, paired with flashes of insightful philosophy. Or a goddess who's perfectly okay with my calling her a miserable bitch, and who doesn't mind in the slightest if I usually don't believe in her. I think it's fair to say the feeling goes both directions.

But the main appeal for me has always been the emphasis on keeping one's mind open, on paradigm-shifting, on how "reality" is relative to one's assumptions. Sure, there are things we can't change, but how will we ever figure them out if we assume we already know all the answers?

The Principia Discordia flat-out states that we'll never know all the answers. "Life is the original Rorschach," it says. We all view the world through filters or grids that are also called "beliefs". Don't allow others to choose your filters based on their priorities. Facts are one thing, but beliefs are tools that shape how your life will seem to you. From the Principia Discordia, I learned that it was okay to believe in things I had been told "aren't real" by people who had little imagination. I was already a weird kid, but it still felt freeing to be given permission to follow my own vision.

(In case you didn't know, the House of the Apostles of Eris has long since decreed every person on earth to be a genuine and authorized pope. Download your own pope card, and start making up your own metaphysical hogwash / poppycock today!)

It's funny to me how I started with the Principia because my inner chaos made me feel like a raging whirlwind, and these days I'm more like the eye of that storm most of the time. Back then, I had to get myself a chaos star ring just to focus my energy enough to stop disrupting all my electronic devices. That hasn't been a problem in years.

Perhaps Discordian / chaos-magical thought really is the contrapositive of Buddhist thought.("Discordianism is Buddhism upside-down and backwards," as I used to like to say.) The Buddhist says, "Believe nothing but the Buddha's teachings, for everything else is illusion." The Discordian says, "Believe whatever's convenient. It's all a bunch of man-made crap."

Or perhaps I should call the waiter and tell him there's some Buddha in my Discordia soup. I do have two very close relatives who are Buddhists, whom I've been known to discuss this stuff with.

I would declare myself an orthodox Discordian now with great pomp and circumstance, but orthodox Discordianism would be silly for its complete lack of silliness. Therefore I will partake of a hot dog this Friday and praise She Who is the Mother of All Confusion and Cacophony. And yes, that hot dog will be made with pork.

I spent years keeping YHVH's regulations, and while they helped me with developing willpower, many of them are useless for making me a better person. My tribal allegiance to that god will never change, but he knows my heart well enough to realize that I'm not actually his servant. Because I'm not anyone's servant, least of all Eris's. In the immortal words of Cartman, "Whatevah! I do what I want!"

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