I am not the way, the truth or the light

I was going to write something about the depressing aftermath of the Tory budget and my anger at smug, lying millionaires telling single mothers et al that we’re all in this together, but my anger is very real, increases with every second I spend thinking about the confidence tricksters who lead us and it gets in the way to such an extent that the results are barely coherent. So instead, a small hymn to spiritual values.

A couple of years back, I speculated about a possible career change and thought it might be interesting to become a guru. I was quite open about it, logged it all in a blog, did a sort of cost-benefit analysis of its viability and even sketched out the specific type of guru genome I had in mind. Non-religious, but tolerant of all faiths, except those requiring human sacrifices; rural rather than urban (depending on the wi-fi coverage); tolerant of chanting and singing, as long as it didn’t happen when there was football on TV – all very commonsensical, reasonable modes of being.

I didn’t fool myself into thinking I could just sit around and be worshipped, or watch my followers worshipping something or somebody else. Worship was only an optional extra. No, I knew I’d have to give a little as well as take as much as I could. So I’d respect the archetype and give my followers access to some inner truth. But, as the archetype demands, it would be a completely arbitrary, relative truth, as meaningless as all the others. Thus I hit on the not-quite-mantra of ‘The sweetness of the butterfly drowns daily in the morning’s echoes’. And, if any of the followers were still troubled, I’d offer them the additional nostrum ‘Feel the swan in your blood’.

I decided too that, if they really expected me to say stuff, I’d do it in parables. So we’d sit around outside (or, from September to May, since this is Aberdeen, inside) the hut, and I’d say something like:

A pregnant woman walked into a baker’s shop and asked if he had a bun in his oven. The baker, who was a kind man, looked at her and said, ‘I have many buns in my oven, along with numerous varieties of cake and countless loaves of bread’.

‘And do you deliver this bounty?’ asked the woman.

‘Indeed,’ replied the baker. ‘I have a white van and travel to towns and villages and back again, unloading its goodness into people’s homes and lives.’

‘And does it taste as good as it smells?’ asked the woman.

‘Alas,’ replied the baker, ‘that I cannot say, for I am wheat intolerant.’

The woman smiled and laid on the counter a small white hanky, edged with Nottingham lace.

The baker unwrapped it to find, inside, the tail feathers of a wren.

‘Bless you,’ he said to the woman.

But she was gone.

That sort of thing was easy but other aspects of the calling might be less so. For example, I spent quite a while trying to devise sentences in which I could include the plural of the word ‘sect’ in such a way that it might be misunderstood or misheard by the followers and consequently lead to more mundane satisfactions to counteract the potentially oppressive excesses of spirituality.

Sadly, though, the anticipated allegiance of gullible humans whose lives were empty enough to seek the comforts of the void I was offering didn’t materialise. I did try articulating the not-quite-mantra at one or two dinner parties but it was met with either ribald merriment or the discreet handing over of business cards by psychiatrists or more successful gurus. I can only think that my gurudom was yet another victim of the credit squeeze and the oppressions of Mammon. (See? We’re back to that.) Never mind, even though our British masters are only intent on accumulating wealth, on the other side of the Atlantic the various millionaires aspiring to lead the Western world place their respective spiritual – and overwhelmingly Christian – values above material ones. It’s a reassuring picture..

0 comments

  1. Er, that was tongue in cheek right? Or else you’re not talking about the US, lol. I don’t know what’s worse, the millionaires who pretend to know what the middle or even poor class is, or the millionaires who want to take us back thirty years and still don’t relate. Until we clean house in the Congress or give them all two year term limits nothing will change. Maybe we need a global sit-in. Yeah, what would happen if all us poor schmuck just sat down on the job. Think the millionaies would pay attention when their corporations and factories stopped running? Probably not. Yeah, I’m in your mood.

    1. I think you know me well enough, Livia, to recognise the sort of unsubtle irony I indulge in. I think if I were a believer in God, I’d be a bit embarrassed by the way He’s turned into an election tool by these people. As an atheist, I find it incomprehensible that anyone could take any of them seriously.

  2. Wonderful! Though I think you missed a trick in not allowing your followers to worship the all-seeing, all-knowing internet. I’ve recently found (via Internet, the All-Seeing and All-Knowing, from whom all blessings flow) that two people I knew long ago in the US have indeed become gurus. One gives gives workshops and writes books about how to transformation yourself via quantum theory and, as he is the son of a Christian minister, illustrates that the apple may rebel yet it falleth not far from the tree. The other is the bipolar ex-husband of a friend who has set up shop as a shaman and teaches others to be shamans, too. So we learn that only via the Internet, and its prophet Wi Fi, do we gain wisdom.

    1. Thanks mef. I share your reverence for the ‘only true source of all our wisdom’. What makes it even more worthy of our faith is that, rather than establish a single arbiter of THE WAY, it also conveys multiple mutually exclusive truths. Its disciples are therefore right all the time, even when they disagree profoundly with one another.

  3. Don’t give up on it Bill. You have most of the qualities of a successful guru: intellect, wisdom, authority and charisma. What you’re lacking is a certificate in advanced yoga; an inability to cross your legs behind your ears; the knees for a dhoti … oh, and the ability to explain the sound of one hand clapping. The transcendental road is a rough one, but be steadfast.

    1. I admire sycophancy in a woman, Sara, and so – leaving aside your assumptions about the flexibility and aesthetic appeal of my legs and knees respectively – I shall buy said certificate online and compose a philosophically incomprehensible but linguistically plausible article on the apparent paradox of the clapping hand. Thanks for your encouragement.

      1. I hope you also admire sycophancy in dogs, Bill, because Coco says this is not only a brilliantly amusing piece but your knees are most certainly dhoti-ready. He is currently murmuring, “What is the sound of one knee knocking?”, as well as a veritable cocophony (fuck this autocorrect business) of those classic kokokoans involving swans and butterflies.

        1. Thanks Donnie. Leaving aside the fact that Coco’s appreciation of knees is conditioned by the endorphins produced by the activity he’s performing on the part of the leg beneath them, I’m grateful to him for his understanding and approval – nay, approbation.

  4. Politicians, religious zealots, sports enthusiasts, the rich, the poor … fuck ’em all – I’m moving to Tahiti! My tiki hut awaits …

    1. Ssssh, Jackie, you’ll have hordes of people wanting to come and stay – and the poor are already getting fucked anyway.

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