Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The gods are anarchists

One of the old Taoist sages said that the perfect Emperor would be one who, at the beginning of his reign, seated himself facing in an auspicious direction and a never spoke another word.
That is certainly my idea of the proper use of sovereignty and I find that I believe the gods, or those gods whom I find worthy of honor, understand this wisdom, and, therefore, do not strive to rule anything.
The gods I have cultivate the acquaintance of are fundamentally anarchists. True, they may cause events to happen because it is their nature to do so, but they have no lust to control other beings. They will guide those who asked to be guided, they will teach those who ask to learn, but they do not demand that anyone follow them or do things their way.
They will visit bad luck on those who deal with them without proper manners. And the gods kill, of course, because death is part of what they are. Some gods will visit us with horrible pain, but not because they are punishing us or attempting to control us, but because to do such things is their nature.
The real gods, those who deserve our honor and devotion, are not rulers or bosses: they are masters.
“Master,” though, in the sense of a Japanese sensei, rather than in the sense of a master of slaves. This word “master” is one of many English words that betrays itself. It has been used to mean “despot” or “overlord,” but it also means one who is superbly skilled or deeply learned.
Fans of Lord of the Rings – the book, this isn’t in the movie – may recall the scene where the hobbits are in the house of Tom Bombadil. Frodo asks Goldberry “Who is Tom Bombadil?” She replies “He is Master. No one has ever caught him by field or stream.”
While Tom may seem a ridiculous figure to some with his feather hat, yellow boots and nursery-rhyme songs, but one could do worse as an image of God of Forest and Field and the Wild Free Things. The identity of Goldberry seems obvious also.
But if you want a harder-edged image of divine liberation than Tom Bombadil, consider Nietsche’s Superman.
A lot of nonsense has been written and spoken about Nietzsche and his vision of the superman, mostly because of his purported Nazi admirers. This is nonsense: Nietzsche would have despised the Nazi project, not because of its cruelty and violence, but because the Nazis necessarily devoted their lives to running the lives of weaklings, as he would have considered them.
The Superman, as conceived by Nietzsche, does not seek office, lead movements, command armies, rule nations or own slaves, because to do so would be weakness, and to control others is to be controlled by the need to maintain control.
The gods I know understand that, too.