Scott Weiland, RIP

I don’t have to accuse you of anything. You are already accusing yourselves all the time.

Scott Weiland (RIP December 3) was one of my personal favorites, coming up there in the heady days of grunge bathos, and I chose him over Blind Melon’s Shannon Hoon (RIP 1995) and Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder (still alive). Of course, our generation’s Jim Morrison had already led the way, Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain (RIP 1994).

Weiland’s wife, in her distress (I hope), wrote a note, which reads, in part, “Our hope for Scott has died…”

How can hope die? How can hope for a person die? Is this a possibility? From my perspective, there is always hope for Scott, even if there is very little hope, and even if he is already dead. Who knows what he met when his heart stopped?

His wife continues, “We are angry and sad about this loss, but we are most devastated that he chose to give up.”

That’s his wife.

Oh, wait. Ex-wife. Why is she commenting? I don’t know, but that’s harsh, bro, really harsh, the pinnacle of wifely arrogance and judgmentalism, that a drug addict could choose anything. She then instructs those who loved him, for whatever reason, to take a kid to a ballgame rather than memorialize their love for him.

It is curious to me, and I see it as a similarity, that Kurt Cobain would write a song, essentially declaring “Married = Buried,” then choose to use the muzzle end of a shotgun to eat a shotgun shell, whence his wife garnered some notoriety with her band, Hole.

Like I said, I don’t have to accuse you of anything. You already accuse yourselves all the time.

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Dead Ritual

Final Advent Musings

In my introductory post on ritual, I drew some DIY distinctions, teasing out some components of ritual in order to talk about them with a little more clarity, namely: Rite (change of status); from Superstition (invocation of luck); from Ritual (communal edification). These are fairly arbitrary, but upon hearing no objections, I shall proceed.

I avoided religious practices in developing my definitions because so much freight comes with the topic, not least of which is the phenomenon of the mass exodus of Europe and North America from its cathedrals and religious identity. Why? the question is asked. Why the mass exodus? Oftentimes the answer is “dead ritual,” in an effort to draw a distinction from “dead god.” Why should I submit to practices and institutions that are basically dead? If God is alive, he is not bound by an institution of bricks, mortar, and incantation.

To be sure, the response cuts both ways. I’m about to attend a handful of masses to commemorate the Nativity of Christ Jesus, along with a majority of attendees who are there because Grandma wants them to be there, and if they do not attend, they risk precluding themselves from Grandma’s love and affection. Why should you submit to practices and institutions that are basically dead, even for one night, as a token for your close kin? Why not be an honest Puck and forgo the ritual of attending so that the rest of us can benefit from the change of status the mass effects without the constant awkward rubrical flubs?

The rituals are dead because the rites are dead, no? If the invocation does not bring the name of God upon you, if the eucharistic prayer does not bring the body of Christ to you, and if the benediction does not confer the blessing of God upon you, then, naturally, everything else attendant is dead.

Christmas Mass

If the religious artifacts are dead, then, as attendant rituals to your own familial Christmas rituals–holiday rituals, whatever–if the religious artifacts are dead, then also your familial Christmas rituals.

But you can’t do that to Grandma, can you?

One Grandma I know absolutely clobbers the Sanctus, every mass, every time, just blows it out of the water. And the attendant ritual of singing the Song of Simeon as a dismissal: she hits the line, “A light to lighten the Gentiles” with such a sublime force, it brings forth a moistening to my eye, as though she has seen the little Christ child, as promised, and now she can die in peace. It’s a ritualistic requiem, if you will, repeated, given life by her attending to the change of status.

I suppose this little post started out as a screed to encourage those ignorant of the rites to steer clear of my rituals, to come to peace with Grandma, you see, and finally tell her that it’s impossible to be an honest Puck and attend to dead rituals because the rites are dead, but it wouldn’t be right, somehow. Let the light of Grandma’s attending lighten every familial Christmas ritual.

One Is The Loneliest Number

More advent musings

John Derbyshire, who sometimes injudiciously shares naughty thoughts with the world, has notoriously wagered alongside Pascal, oscillating irregularly between a deistic agnostic and a fully materialistic atheist.

He chafes against the charge of “materialistic,” as I recall (and I can’t be bothered to look it up, but I know I’m not being unfair), offering as an argument that there is no alternative. On at least one occasion he criticized his well-meaning critics with this observation:

Those who appeal to Natural Law–some sort of appeal to the complexities of the cosmos–in an effort to re-convert him to Christianity commit a logical sleight of hand (and here the information is relevant that Derbyshire is a popularizer of advanced mathematics), that is, when they say, “How can you deny there is a Creator-God when the world is so magnificent? O John Derbyshire, you especially should know that there’s almost no mathematical probability that all this could just happen,” –when they make this argument, they are stumbling mathematically.

Au contraire, he would say. It did just happen. Those who argue that it cannot be have deftly removed the numerator from the probability.

Indeed, when I look at the work of God, and all its majesty and wonder, I come at it from a basis of faith. Of course I see the hand of God. But if I do not come at it from the basis of faith, I see the improbabilities having come to pass. It doesn’t matter the improbabilities of the physical world, both cosmic and quantum; it doesn’t matter the improbabilities of the emotional world of familial relationships and psychology; it doesn’t matter the improbabilities of laws of thermodynamics over against natural selection. They all, by all reckoning, just happened. It cannot be elsewise.

In other words, the numeral one is still atop the denominator, no matter how vast the denominator should happen to be. A chance of one in two is a chance of one in two. A chance of one in seventeen billion is still a chance, no matter how infinitesimal. Materialists rejoice as ones who walked into a casino once, and only once, placed a single chip upon a random number at the roulette wheel, and won. By chance, not miraculously. By chance.

Indeed, it is necessary to  maintain the numerator in order to remain a person of faith, i.e., a person of The Faith, which includes a Creator-God. If faithful people remove the numerator, they become fundamentalist materialists themselves, denying the confession of The Faith which includes a Creator-God. The Faith demands belief to be completely suspended, surrounded in its entirety by doubt. From that position of utter weakness, The Faith does its work.

That is to say, if there is not a one atop the denominator, there is no longer a declaration of The Faith; instead, adherents are reduced to arguing probabilities. From there, it’s a short slope to slide down into the denial of the Redeemer-God, when we bow our heads on Christmas morning, reciting that impossible thing, the number zero above the denominator, namely that, somewhere in between “Very God of Very God,” transcendent beyond apprehension, and “He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate,” there is the phrase which earns a hearty chuckle from our coevals who surround us entirely in the maelstrom of the agora, “He came down from heaven, was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary, and was made man.”

There’s where the zero belongs: zero chance, not even a table upon which to place your bet. Let Pascal rot, or burn, whichever.

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