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THE ROCK GOD

ALL HOPE IS GONE

Why do you believe?

The culture demands you jettison belief in God, in religion, in your gender, your genetics, your nation’s boundaries. Believe instead — the cultural gatekeepers and media bullhorns proclaim — in diversity, in fluidity, in globalization, in technology, in those jobs not coming back, in all of the things, however true, not true or somehow in-between, which encourage you to consume more, buy more, dispose more, and link your identity more strongly to your possessions, even as you replace them daily, weekly, yearly.

What does belief gain you?

A man using standard computing equipment was able to (digitally) swap the face of a porn actress with superstar Gal Gadot, the actress who so capably plays Wonder Woman.

It’s difficult for human eyes to see the truth, more so than ever before.

Probably, the viewers of porn want exactly that.

There was a terror attack in New York City today. Thankfully, a mostly botched attack.

A young man from Bangladesh.

He came to America.

He lived here for seven years.

He was in nearly all ways discernible to our eyes — and ears and other senses — utterly non-descript.

After a recent visit back to Bangladesh, he changed.

Today, he attempted to set off a bomb on the New York City subway.

Mostly, he harmed himself.

What if — bear with me here — the young man felt compelled to make and set off a bomb, kill scores of innocent people, but he simultaneously didn’t want to?

What if — bear with me here — whatever was compelling him to commit his dastardly act was not at all what he wanted to do?

I entertain the idea that the Bible is a makers guide. There are two elements to this notion:

  1. the Bible’s tales of morality, goodness, and faith instruct humanity — and guide us as we create evermore capable machines
  2. what if — yes, I know this is utterly fantastical — the Bible is also a *literal* makers guide, directing our technological development?

Mad, I know.

Bear with me.

I think today of Joseph. God spoke to Joseph, according to the Bible, through Joseph’s dreams. The dreams told Joseph what to do about Mary, about Christ, when to leave Bethlehem, when to go to Egypt, when to leave again.

Can we — us mortals — develop technology that enables us to send messages into another’s dreams?

Can we make voice a weapon?

Certainly, it’s already used as a substitute for magic.

You speak, your voice travels twenty feet where it reaches your Amazon Echo, which awakens, connects to the Internet, interacts with multiple computers and data sources, then returns with your request, speaking back to you.

Let’s do this, but into a person’s dreams!

A tree falls in the forest, no one is around to hear it, but once all the world’s things are wired, connected, we can hear whatever we want, from wherever and whenever we choose.

What then?

Hearing, seeing, as fluid as your twitter feed?

Question everything becomes no longer a pose, rather, the world we have constructed.

Sometimes, that’s cool.

One of the things I love so much about Beck is that I feel that even his failures — and, honestly, I think most of his songs are near-failures — but even his failures reveal our possible paths, pointing the way to a future, a future that is sometimes acceptable, sometimes exactly not.

Beck’s rhythmic collages of noise, cultural detritus, a flotsam of aural impressions, these alter how we see the world.

The past de-constructed, the future uncertain.

“Rockin’ the city, close to god
Engines running, all hope is gone
Out on the highway, having a baby
Crawling the city, close to god
Engines running
Dixie fried
Got a feeling, that I’m leaving
Extra sugar, heavy breathing”

After you hear Close to God, consider next Sweet Satan.

JESUS IS COMING

In past centuries, humans were altered by the acceleration and spread of their most profound achievement, the outsourcing of their labors to machines. In our century, we are being transformed by the acceleration and spread of our most profound achievement, the outsourcing of our thinking to machines.

We are outsourcing the rational.

Crazy is our future. Expression our currency.

Storytelling will become valued just as in the beginning.

Hunter-gatherer storytellers were essential in promoting co-operative and egalitarian values before comparable mechanisms evolved in larger agricultural societies, such as moralising high-gods. Storytellers were also more popular than even the best foragers, had greater reproductive success, and were more likely to be co-operated with by other members of the camp.

In the history of popular music — which is long — few have been grander storytellers than The Eagles.

“They even brought a neon sign ‘Jesus is Coming’,
Brought the white man’s burden down, brought the white man’s reign
Who will provide the grand design, what is yours and what is mine?
Cause there is no more new frontier, we have got to make it here
We satisfy our endless needs and justify our bloody deeds
In the name of destiny and in the name of God.”

Words powerful enough to put out the fire, joined with music powerful enough to stir the wanderlust. You can’t hear the song and not want to leave — or else make it all go away.

Don Henley and Glenn Frey were musically gifted, both desperately wanted to be pop stars, and possessed of that rare ability to construct radio-friendly hooks, awakening riffs, tightly crafted harmonies, and memorable lines. Often, they transformed those memorable lines into stories which weaved inside the listener’s heart, forever activated by just a few notes on a keyboard or beats from a drum, or the call to prayer of a Glenn Frey chord.

The pair were well rewarded for their gifts.

As are we.

The Last Resort may be the very best song from the Eagles’ very best album, Hotel California, which is one of the very best albums of the modern rock era.

The Last Resort is a layered re-telling of ourselves being our most human.

Destructive.

We destroyed paradise.

This was our very first declaration of human power, a defiance of godly supremacy.

Foolish, foolish pride.

We’ve spent the past many millennia attempting to make good, resurrect paradise, piece it all  back together, and return once again to the garden.

I am not certain we will ever succeed, but the effort certainly drives our best stories, just as its rejection drives our most fantastical failures.

A CONCEPT BY WHICH WE MEASURE OUR PAIN

It was on this day, December 8, 37 years ago, that John Lennon was murdered, a madman with a gun took his life.

I don’t believe…we’ve evolved since that time as much as our baseline capabilities allow.

We failed ourselves and this future.

The dream is over?

I don’t believe that, either.

But we can do much, much, much better.

Start.

COLD HARD CASH

“Tell the rambler,
The gambler,
The back biter
Tell ’em that God’s gonna cut ’em down.”

Story idea: Deep State conspires with China to hack our iPhones to drain the bitcoin wallets of the tens of thousands of newly rich libertarians. The dark elements of government then use that money to plant stories of sexual depravity against the now hacked freedom lovers in an effort to silence them.

Who are the heroes of my story?

The thing about bitcoin is — and I have almost no bitcoin, only enough to be honest when I say to you I have some bitcoin — is that it absolutely made sense for rich folks, particularly rich techies, to put a fraction of their wealth into bitcoin back in, say, 2015. But it made absolutely no sense for people who weren’t super-rich to invest in Bitcoin, probably ever, and yet here we are, with the cryptocurrency rising towards $20,000, making early investors phenomenally wealthy — assuming they can cash out, which is admittedly a shaky assumption.

Early bitcoin holders hit the lotto. Then the powerball, then the lotto again.

They are swimming in money.

You’re not.

Sure, you can rebuke yourself for not rushing in soon enough. Certainly, you can curse those who did, knowing full well they are no smarter than you, no more insightful, probably not even more daring. They got lucky, is all. Damn lucky. But they’re super-rich and you’re still struggling.

We’re all gonna die.

Soon.

Few conveyed this relentless truth better than the wonderful Johnny Cash — the only human besides Elvis, the King — to be inducted in the rock and roll and country music halls of fame. Cash was also inducted into the Gospel music hall of fame. A remarkable talent, beloved in his life. For good reason. Johnny Cash was the singer-songwriter-storyteller-poet that charmed us as the fires died down. He did this in the 1950s and 1960s, an era we can now scarcely imagine. He did this in the 1970s, when most weren’t yet alive, and he continued to pierce our soul and light our spirit as we traversed our many man-made valleys of darkness right up until his death in 2003.

One of his best, “God’s gonna cut you down,” a bleak tale told by many across the generations, Cash sang to us after his death, such was the power of his voice and the reverberations of his redemptive message. We are all prisoners of the flesh, Cash warned us, in both song and deed, and only God can save us.

“You can run on for a long time
Run on for a long time
Run on for a long time
Sooner or later God’ll cut you down
Sooner or later God’ll cut you down.”

WE LOST THE BEAT

It would have been better for all of us had Belinda Carlisle remained with the Go-Go’s.

But I understand.

Out with the new wave, in with the old money. Also, there was very real acrimony within the group, and a clear disparity in talent.

Plus, The Machine is better at optimizing the one than the many.

“Do you know what that’s worth?”

I sometimes feel bad for Belinda Carlisle. She was a core part of the Go-Go’s, a fun, reasonably talented “all-girl” soft punk hard rock group, which the world needs more of, even if the world regularly forgets this. Also, she was plump. Pretty, but Ohio pretty, which is fine, really, ask any man, but The Machine does not tolerate Ohio pretty, even when it’s a native of California. The Machine forced her to alter her body, her looks, probably to starve, probably to cut herself off from what she was, all just to sell records — not art, never art, art gets in the way.

Instead of fun, rocking numbers from the Go-Go’s, we got the music equivalent of cheap powdered donuts.

“They say in heaven love comes first
We’ll make heaven a place on earth
Ooh, heaven is a place on earth”

It gets worse.

In the 30 years since this song was released — yes, really — Earth got even less heaven-like. That doesn’t seem like it should be possible, yet it’s true. We can’t put down our phones, can’t turn away from the screens, we are drowning in data, losing ourself in information, regularly outraged, depressed, obsessed, so deeply removed from our center that even sleep is difficult for many.

And The Machine — its packaging, its emphasis on consumption, on the one, not the many, that is now stronger than ever.

“In this world we’re just beginning
To understand the miracle of living
Baby I was afraid before
But I’m not afraid anymore”

I’m not afraid, not really, just disappointed — in all of us.

To be fair, sometimes The Machine gets it right. “Heaven is a place on Earth” is a fine song, really. But we deserve so much better.

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