Friday, January 4, 2008


From the Archives

(March 2006) Solomon Pomenya, a fifty-two-year-old Ghanian doctor who witnessed the total eclipse of the sun yesterday, said,
I believe it's a wonderful work of God, despite all what the scientists say. This tells me that God is a true engineer.

I love that we humans respond to beauty and mystery by searching for higher meaning, that we find inspiration in the natural world and its wonders, but do wonder why we must attribute such beauty to a higher being.

Inspiration, for me, seeps out as poetry or music or art, as some attempt to express in a tangible way what my senses and mind and soul absorb and process.

This means that, when I read a statement such as Dr. Pomenya’s, I substitute “creative spark” for “God.”

The philosopher Umberto Eco taught himself to eat and walk and shave and live and write faster in order to get more work done.

Eco says

I have come to believe that the whole world is an enigma, a harmless enigma that is made terrible by our own mad attempt to interpret it as though it had an underlying truth.

I share this suspicion yet obsess about meaning.

Eco studies semiotics, a field in which philosophers analyze the complex meanings of cultural/pop products: Michael Jordan bobbleheads and that stupid bucking chicken commercial and Bond. James Bond and Brangelina and the whole American Idol phenomenon and that vapid Barbara Walters television show in which seemingly intelligent women say such things as “Well, I call other women bitch. Sure I do, and don’t tell me you don’t either.”

(This MUST be some male producer’s idea of what women do when we are alone together—when we’re not tying each other up in knots and fist-fucking each other to earth-trembling orgasms, that is).

So what is it about Americans and our cultural products, our stuff, that makes us max out our credit cards and pay exorbitant interest rates just to garner more stuff?

Are commercials really that persuasive or do we lack some core meaning that would keep us from going on such mad spending sprees?

Why do so many of us prefer to be consumers rather than citizen activists?

Jon Stewart riffed on the genetically altered “healthy” omega-3 hogs on tonight’s Daily Show.

Scientists have apparently altered them to match the naturally healthy but rare Iberíco hogs (which North Carolina’s Cane Creek Farms raises and sells to organic restaurants).

Stewart asks “Why should we eat in moderation when a scientist can just change an entire species’ genetic make-up to benefit our fat asses?”

Why indeed.

And why do we prefer poison to spots on our apples? Epcot to the real thing?

Don’t Americans want to know why so many foreigners despise us, how other cultures live and change and deal with consumer products?

(Wait. I know the answer to that.)

Perhaps our lust for consumer products and our isolationist tendencies are the natural by-products of Americans’ fear of our own emptiness, are the result of our inability to move beyond the Puritanical workaholic ethics that our culture has handed down to us.

What, besides God, would help us find meaning?

Eco says

I'm not saying there's no difference between Homer and Walt Disney. But Mickey Mouse can be perfect in the sense that a Japanese haiku is.

Ponder that one.

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