NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN: Tarzan, Rick Deckard, Roy Batty and Jerry Weintraub:

tv-tarzan-marathonI haven’t seen it as yet, but just reading some of the reviews I was reminded of an article by Michael Kinsley where he referred to Al Gore as “…an old person’s idea of a young person”. I had the same reaction to Ron Howard’s disappointing production of In The Heart of the Sea and had similar problems with a proposed adaptation of Moby Dick I was hired for.

There are just some ideas, mores, themes and genres that are defined by a certain time and culture with a very definite shelf life and cannot hold up to a remake without major surgery. Surgery, which in some cases would destroy or completely alter the original story. With Moby Dick I found that the wholesale slaughter of whales to be so repugnant to today’s audiences it would be extremely hard to create the kind of classic protagonist today’s audiences demand. As great as the Ray Bradbury/John Huston film was, it was not a natural adaptation. The process reminded me of what Robert McKee used to say about Bladerunner’s Rick Deckard character as “not possessing the center of goodness” and thus suffered from a misplaced Protagonist/antagonist plot structure. In many ways Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer)was a much better human than Deckard.

This latest Tarzan was the swan song of the late Jerry Weintraub whose first choice for the role was Olympic champion Michael Phelps for the old Johnny Weissmuller role– that is until he saw Phelps act. In hindsight, it might have been better had Jerry realized then and there that today’s movie theaters have changed and are no longer welcoming Countries for Old Men…

What is the Value of a Mythological Notion or Misbelief?

Mattheus_van_Hellemont_The_AlchemistAs a screenwriter, I am fascinated by how susceptible we humans are to misbelief, superstition, and myth, I am reminded (daily) that we are now firmly in the fever pitch of mass mythologization and anathematization.

We’ve reached Gladwell’s Tipping Point and are through the looking glass in a dysmorphic, hyper-politicized realm of sinners and saints, demons and angels, and heaven and hell.

As with the most virulent beliefs there is an element of anosognosia to it. As Dan Dennett explains, “If some (beliefs) are culturally evolved parasites, we can expect them to be insidiously well designed to conceal their true nature from their hosts, since this is an adaptation that would further their own spread.”

In other words, one of the more insidious aspects of belief affliction is the afflicted one is typically the last one to know it. We see a lot of this today with the epidemic spread of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

In fact, one of the principle reasons we form identity-protecting group beliefs or ad populum congregations is to publicly reinforce the veracity of the fiction, even when it defies all logic and reason.

Is it reasonable to believe that the Supreme Creator of the Universe, presumably the greatest physicist and mathematician ever to exist, would contrive to incarnate as his own son and have himself brutally slaughtered in order to save his beloved creation from the 6,000 year-old curse of his own making?

Of course not, and yet as a world superpower in the 21st century we would be hard-pressed to elect a leader who openly questioned it.

Malcolm Gladwell describes the virulent nature of mass belief this way: “The tipping point is that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire.”

In Aristotelian terms, be it Sophocles, or Mad Max: Fury Road, we gather in a confined arena (movie theater) to willfully (or perhaps autonomically) suspend disbelief and join in on the confrontational, and climactic catharsis (katharsis) to come.

According to the English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, in his 1817 “Biographia Literaria”: We are mandated… “to persons and characters supernatural, or at least romantic; yet so as to transfer from our inward nature a human interest and a semblance of truth sufficient to procure for these shadows of imagination that willing suspension of disbelief for the moment…”

Such is the nature of the human brain.

As, Virginia Woolf once wrote, “Love is a story we tell ourselves about someone else”.

We humans are prolific, if not, pathological storytellers, biologically destined to seek out phantoms and patterns where none exist, and make up shit about it:
We superimpose a human face on the Moon and weave a tale about an omniscient heavenly being overseeing our actions and deeds.

Of course, in our most primitive beguilements it didn’t hurt that said “White Goddess” also controlled the crops, tides and women’s menstrual cycles and spectacularly transformed into cow horns every month. (Etymologically we derive our words moon, month, menstrual, man and woman from the Sanskrit root “me”)

We see the pareidoliac image of a bearded face on a cheese sandwich and claim it to be that of Jesus– even when no physical description of Jesus is put forth from either Paul’s earliest Epistles or the Synoptic Gospels. (Apologist references to Josephus’ is widely considered a forgery of Eusebius, the Fourth Century “Father of Church History”)

So where does that leave us?

Should we continue to indulge these primitive Bronze age misbeliefs, or do we confront them?

With all the solace that religious beliefs bring, and much of the good they aspire to all over the world, what to speak of the ingenious art, music and architecture they have inspired, why not simply let them die out on their own?

Isn’t this what happened to the all the ten thousand other gods, goddesses and beliefs from antiquity?

I suspect these are questions we all need to ask whether it is our own impassioned political notions or habituated ideas about morality, creation and the meaning of existence.

As Joseph Campbell wrote in The Symbol without Meaning:

“Let us ask, therefore: What can the value or meaning be of a mythological notion which, in the light of modern science, must be said to be erroneous, philosophically false, absurd, or even formally insane? The first answer suggested will no doubt be the one that, in the course of the past century, has been offered many times by our leading thinkers. The value, namely, is to be studied rather as a function of psychology and sociology than as a refuted system of positivistic science, rather in terms of certain effects worked by the symbols on the character of the individual and the structure of society than in terms of their obvious incongruity as an image of the cosmos. Their value, in other words, is not that of science but of art: and just as art may be studied psychologically, as symbolic or symptomatic of the strains and structures of the psyche, so may the archetypes of myth, fairy tale, archaic philosophy, cosmology, and metaphysics.”

ON THE MARVELOUS HISTORY and MYTHOLOGY OF TRANSSEXUALITY and HERMAPHRODITISM

thoth-art

V.I.T.R.I.O.L.

Visita Interiori Terra Rectificando Invenies Occultum Lapidum

Ancient Alchemical Acronym

There have been hermaphrodites from the very beginning, and some ancient cultures honor them to this day. in India it is widely considered a great blessing for the Shikhandin or Shikhandi, named after a celebrated transexual warrior hero of the Battle of Kurukshetra in The Mahabharata, to visit the home of a newborn child.

The (Sikhandin) form small bands and roam from village to village playing instruments and singing bhajans where they are treated as truly auspicious and benevolent beings.

In certain mystery school traditions, the Hermaphrodite is represented as the ipsissimus of spiritual attainment, the perfectly formed hierogamy, sacred marriage or syncretic union of the psyche’s animus and anima, mentioned in the above mystical coda and translated here:

VISIT THE WORLD WITHIN AND
YOU WILL FIND THE HIDDEN JEWEL

The Screenwriter’s Jesus: The Storyteller’s Guide to Movies, Myth and Mnemohistory

Jesus on a Boat

“Even if there was a historical Jesus lying back of the gospel Christ, he can never be recovered. If there ever was a historical Jesus, there isn’t one any more. All attempts to recover him turn out to be just modern remythologizings of Jesus. Every “historical Jesus” is a Christ of faith, of somebody’s faith. So the “historical Jesus” of modern scholarship is no less a fiction.” 

Dr. Robert M. Price Jesus: Fact or Fiction

 Unless you’ve been tucked away in a confessional these pasts few years, it is impossible to have missed the Jesus historicity debate raging through Western academia and the Internet. For all the handwringing and vitriol, it could lead to one of the most impactful upheavals of the information age. [1]

While there are those who wonder why it matters, biblical scholars, historians, mythologists and theologians have jumped into the fray for a full on Manichaean donnybrook.

Leading the charge against a conservative consensus of historists who, “claim the prestige of the university while following the rules of the seminary”, is a growing guild of academic upstarts, including: Dr. Peter Boghossian, Dr. Richard Carrier, David Fitzgerald, Sam Harris, Raphael Lataster, Dr. John W. Loftus, Dr. Matthew S. McCormick, Mark Paulkovich, Dr. Robert Price, and Dr. Valerie Tarico.[2]

To the lay audience, much of the exegesis will sound like Tolkien geeks parsing over passages of The Lord of the Rings, arguing for or against the existence of Hobbits. Upon further investigation, one will find a stimulating debate that is likely to knock the nimbus off the two thousand year old body and church of Jesus Christ.[3]

No longer content to argue messiahhood or divinity, these scholarly skeptics are waging unholy war on whether the person Jesus ever walked the earth, let alone on water.

Applying Bayes’ Theorem of historical probability, Dr. Richard Carrier, the author of On The Historicity of Jesus, rates the chance of a blood and flesh Jesus as low as six percent. [4] So, if you’re betting on the risen Christ vouchsafing your voyage to Valhalla you may want to rethink your odds.

As legions of horrified Christians rise to forefend their beloved savior from the graveyard of the gods, and understandably so, the evidence is so compelling we have to consider whether this is a belief system in its death throes. [5]

Ironically, from the storyteller’s point of view, Jesus is much more valuable to us as myth than as the messiah of faith or star-crossed rabbi of dubious history.

Once recognized as a marvelous creation of humankind’s irrepressible imagination, Jesus may be better poised to save humankind — not from temptation, or the “original sin” of an errant ancestry, but from fundamentalism, anti-intellectualism, and the mesmerizing thrall of magical thinking.[6] [7]

“For the great enemy of truth is very often not the lie– deliberate, contrived and dishonest– but the myth– persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic. Too often we hold fast to the cliches of our forbearers. We subject all facts to a prefabricated set of interpretations. We enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.” John Fitzgerald Kennedy Yale Commencement Address 1962

Indeed, we may yet learn the ‘truth that will set us free’. Not from some expiating act of human sacrifice, but from Jesus’s forensic journey from myth, to historicity and back again.

“It is one of the great lessons of our study [of religions] that for the vulgar, ill- or uninstructed mind, myths tend to become history.”  Joseph Campbell Cooper Union Forum Lectures

[1] Did Jesus Exist? The Trouble with Certainty in Historical Jesus Scholarship | Thomas Verenna -Academia.edu https://www.academia.edu/1825948/Did_Jesus_Exist_The_Trouble_with_Certainty_in_Historical_Jesus_Scholarship

[2] Jack Tsonis’ interview with Professor Dale Martin cited in “Is There a Christian Agenda Behind Religious Studies Departments?” By Raphael Lataster, University of Sydney Published by the Religious Studies Project, on 23 January 2013

[3] Christians need to face the bad news about Christianity http://theweek.com/articles/555392/christians-need-face-bad-news-about-christianity

[4] Proving History: Bayes’s Theorem and the Quest for the Historical Jesus– April 24, 2012 by Richard Carrier Prometheus Books

[5] From the Internet: Cosmologist Lawrence Krauss: Religion could be largely gone in a generation http://www.salon.com/2014/11/04/cosmologist_lawrence_krauss_religion_could_be_largely_gone_in_a_generation/

Why the Internet is slowly strangling religion http://www.salon.com/2014/11/14/why_the_internet_is_slowly_strangling_religion_partner/ via @Salon

The Internet: Where religions come to die http://youtu.be/0Rqw4krMOug

The End of Christianity John W. Loftus Prometheus Books; July 26, 2011

[6] The Bible: So Misunderstood it’s a sin Kurt Eichenwald Newsweek” “When the illiteracy of self-proclaimed Biblical literalists leads parents to banish children from their homes, when it sets neighbor against neighbor, when it engenders hate and condemnation, when it impedes science and undermines intellectual advancement, the topic has become too important for Americans to ignore, whether they are deeply devout or tepidly faithful, believers or atheists. http://www.newsweek.com/2015/01/02/thats-not-what-bible-says-294018.html

[7] Hence it was Suetonius* speaking in the language of his party, who calls the Christians Genus hominum superstionis maleficae, ‘the men of the magical superstition.’

Copyright MCW 2016

Thoughts of Pushkin on an Easter Sunday

Pushkin_2273175b

And it came to pass that Alexander Sergeyevich arrived in Kishinev and promptly fell under the spell of a Jewish barkeep’s beautiful young daughter.

Of course, he was fiercely atheistic at the time, but still swore he would convert to Judaism if she would agree to kiss him once on the lips, and then, more suggestively, as he writes in this poem composed for her on Easter Sunday:

“Christ is risen, dear Rebecca
And here I stand ready, my Jewess
To place into your hands what tells
Jew from Orthodox Christian”*

*Pushkin by Henri Troyat pp 193 Doubleday 1970

Faith v Imagination

book_of_imagination_by_t1na-d7mlgj9“For surely it is folly to preach to children who will be riding rockets to the moon a morality and cosmology based on concepts of the Good Society and of man’s place in nature that were coined before the harnessing of the horse! And the world now is far too small, and men’s stake in sanity too great, for any of these old games of Chosen Folk ( whether of Jehovah, Allah, Wotan, Manu or the Devil) by which tribesmen were sustained against their enemies in the days when the serpent could talk.”

Joseph Campbell Primitive Mythology Toward a Natural History of the Gods Page 12

I don’t know where they got this notion that just because rationalists reject faith and belief that somehow they forfeit their imagination and wonder. Personally, I’d much rather hang with someone with their own vast imagination than those who still cleave to the make-believe nightmares of their Bronze Age ancestors.