Saturday, September 5, 2009

Mr. Diety and the Planes

As quickly as I can describe this cuz I shoulda been in bed an hour ago, Mr. Diety is a web series written by Brian Dalton where he casts himself as Him the Judeo-Christian God in a snarky and provocative comedy that pokes fun not only at religion and culture but also humanity's shortsighted and arrogant need to quantify and label every little thing in the universe, even and especially that which we don't understand. I've been following this series for awhile. When I first encountered it I had already inched away from Christianity and was entertaining the notion that I was a "deist" and like Thomas Jefferson adhered to Christian teachings more because of the people around me than because I deemed it worthy of following. Thomas Jefferson went to church because that's where his voters would go, but he also edited the Bible to take out all the Miracles in it. My kinda Christian.

Anyway, now that I'm finding myself drifting even further from Christianity and questioning the very logic of assuming there's a god of any sort when He refuses to at least make special guest appearances now and then, I'm finding myself able to go back and watch episodes of Mr. Diety with another level of complexity. Before, I was finding it amusing in the same way I found Arthur Miller's Creation of the World and Other Business (a play that was popular among us drama geeks back when I was in high school). It's one way of looking at the concept of a diety that human beings can appreciate, but we can't ever truly understand the grand scope of what it must mean to be omniscient because He's God and we can't hope to ever properly do justice to His amazing awesomeness. Now, I'm watching these episodes again and finding it amusing I used to think like that.

The most recent installment as of this posting is called "Mr. Diety and the Planes. In it, Mr. D is talking to Larry his assistant. We learn the time of this piece (time is used arbitrarily in this series since Mr. D doesn't have to adhere to linear time) is the day before September Eleventh 2001; the morning two airplanes were hijacked by terrorists and crashed into the World Trade Center twin towers in lower Manhattan.

I've watched this twice and am about to watch it a third time. It's perhaps the best piece they've done to date. Not because it's the most funny, although it's got more funny bits in it than one would expect, given the subject matter. It's the best because not only is it funny, it is most thought provoking. It challenges the viewer to accept it on its terms, and to come to grips with how it makes one feel. It's one thing to question authority as Lenny Bruce did, or question our perception of reality as Emo Phillips and Stephen Wright have done. It's quite another to take how your audience is going to perceive the subject matter you pose, and then turn it on its ear.

A few years ago I got into an argument with some ppl about whether or not we will ever be able to laugh at Nine Eleven. Their argument was that it would never be proper, and those who believe that way should actively stop people like myself from finding humor in such a tragic event. My argument is the aphorism "tragedy plus time equals comedy." Given enough time you can find humor in anything. Needless to say, the argument did not end well, and I did not convince them any more than they convinced me.

I have been waiting for that time when enough time passes and we can finally look back not with anger or regret or mourning but with a wistful melancholy and a smile at lessons learned and memories made. I used to believe that there are some things which are sacred whether we want them to be or not. As I grow older, I have come to the conclusion that not only is (almost) nothing sacred, but in order to combat people like those I argued with years ago about this very topic, those of us who believe nothing should be sacred must actively seek out things that people think are sacred and tear them down.

Of course it'll never be appropriate to make fun of the death and loss. Perish the thought. That's not what this is about.

However, looking objectively and even cynically at how we respond to such tragic loss is a fundamental part of being human. We can't NOT laugh at our own shortcomings and incongruities when we face the tragedies in our lives and contrast it with irrational pleas to an invisible entity. This Mr.Diety skit grapples with a most powerful question: how can we ask God to spare some lives and not all? Larry suggests sparing the lives of those in the buildings, and D's response is what about the ones in the planes? This isn't done for humor sake. It comes out of the dialogue between these two characters organically and naturally, and we are left to pose that question to ourselves. Why ask God for anything?

If I asked God to let me win the lottery, what about the guy who was gonna win the lottery before my prayer changed God's mind? Why do I deserve it more than that other guy?

And who am I to think I know better than God what's good for me, or for whomever I'm praying? Since admitting to myself that not only am I probably an atheist but that it appears I've been one for awhile and just didn't really realize it, I've had people tell me they will pray for me. That's rather arrogant of them. I am not asking them to pray for me. I don't want them to pray for me. Especially if they're going to try to convince their god to let their opinion override His. I don't want that person praying for me to get his or her way. Furthermore, if God hasn't been answering my prayers for decades, why should I benefit from this other person asking for God on my behalf, even if they're asking for the same things?

If there is a God, and he made everything, including those of us praying to him, and he's omniscient and all-powerful, why are we even instigating a conversation with Him? If HE wants to talk to us, He knows where we are. We're on the rock He left us on spinning in space like ants on an apple. We're not going anywhere. He's obviously a very busy deity so we really shouldn't be wasting His time every time we want our favorite sports teams to score.

He already knows what we want before we know it, so why tell Him? If He wanted us to get it, we'd already have it. Obviously, for some reason, He doesn't want us to have it. He just wants us to want it. This is where I am when I cling to my Deism. I still have difficulty accepting the fact that a Universe exists solely from probability. In some ways it's far too perfect for that and in other ways it's far too imperfect not to have been created somehow by a self-aware entity. Maybe not a god per se, but a being so powerful that for all intents and purposes It would be a god to us. IF there is such a Creator, not just of Earth or of this solar system or of just this galaxy but of the entire Universe, then we're not his Special Little People. He's not fretting over the flotsam and jetsam that occurs on this little mudball. It's a BIG universe, and He's a Very Busy Guy.

If there's a God, He's not on our side. Thinking otherwise is arrogant and ethnocentric of humanity. At best, we are an occasional interest perhaps for amusement or even perhaps some small bit of enlightenment from his perspective, like a lab experiment is for a scientist or an ant farm is for a little kid. At worst He doesn't know we're here and if He did, He'd blight us out of existence because we're like a little piece of mold that could threaten to damage his pristine canvas that is the Whole Of Space. That's where I am now. I could change my mind tomorrow. Heck. Michael Jackson started as a Jehovah's Witness and reportedly converted to Islam a few years before he died. The once Catholic Madonna has gone from the whore of Babylon to some kind of mystic Kabbalah jew. Who saw that coming? Well, besides God.

Mr. Diety deserves more praise as a web series than it will ever get. Not just cuz it's funny. A lot of stuff out there is funny. This is funny and it makes you think. Speaking as someone who has spent my life failing to make people laugh or think, I can honestly say how terribly hard it is to do both at the same time.

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