Thursday, May 21, 2009

Mechanical Operation of the Spirit

Ok, the last post contained a lot of long winded, rambling muddy nonsense. Opinions tend to be a bore, anecdotes more interesting. That's my opinion

Today I took fifteen boxes of books to the airport, since I'll be moving back to Montreal at the end of June. Two students helped me move the boxes. In return for the favor, I bought them lunch at the Coop store. It's a sad feeling to dissolve the home, to pack things in boxes, to leave a place behind, to set off into the unknown.

Later, as I went out to enjoy the sunshine, a jealous colleague shouted my name and gave me a dirty look, as if to say: where do you think you're going? She rode by in a pickup truck. Some people get really upset if they suspect you're enjoying a moment of happiness. I ran home, had a fresh cup of coffee and read a hilariously funny text by Jonathan Swift, entitled: Concerning the Mechanical Operation of the Spirit, a satire on religious fanaticism.

The text treats of many useful matters, such as "three general Ways of ejaculating the Soul," "methods of managing the senses," in order to enter a state of rapture or inspiration, during which time a person receives revelations about the mysteries of existence and the cosmos. To go into trance, fanatics "violently turn their Eyeballs inward, half closing the Lids", sit rocking back and forth, "making long Hums". Basically, to experience mystic knowledge, one should suspend reason and allow imagination to lead one into "a thousand Deliriums."

I love spiritual recipe books. One of my favorites is Spiritual Exercises by Loyla. I read it years ago and don't have it with me now. He suggested that a sure fire way to see God is to go without eating or sleeping for several days.

What struck me in reading Swift was how his writing sounds so contemporary. Walk into a new age book store and browse through some of the books, the world of make-belief. You don't even need to go to a bookstore. Just listen to some of the fantastical things that people believe about the "after life", auras, astral travel, reincarnation, vision quests and so on. To be a wise man or woman, all you have to do is wear the right clothes, have a funny look in the eye, speak slowly and seriously, flash a toothy smile, act self-assured, as if there's nothing you don't know, because all has been revealed to you, including the answer to the riddle of the universe. What is most strange is how so many people are willing to set aside reason and play along with it, perhaps in the hopes that they too might one day acquire spiritual powers.

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