Dostoevsky and the Joy of Absurdity

Dostoevsky and the Joy of Absurdity

In response to Tony Blair’s recent performance at the Chilcot Inquiry, the Archbishop of Canterbury yesterday described our former leader as “one of the most un-Dostoevskian characters in Britain.” (source) In explanation of this comment he added: “I did once rather unkindly say that Tony Blair did do God but he didn’t do irony. Irony is when you recognise that your own sense of dramatic power is always something that is going to be absurd in the light of truth. The readiness to cope with that absurdity is something that you have to learn in order to grow up.”

In light of this (deliciously) ironic insight from the head of the Anglican Church, I would like to offer an open invitation to the Archbishop and to Darth Blair – that they (temporarily) put aside their respective religious attitudes (which appear to suffer from that seemingly insurmountable odour of persistent seriousness) and embrace something incalculably more mature and absurd. After all, none other than Rowan Williams has publicly identified taking-yourself-too-seriously as a state of immaturity, and given that this condition often appears inseparable from members of his congregation, it is only reasonable that he puts his holy apple where his gob is, and takes an Adamic bite of Irreligious Ridiculousness.

For there exists, hidden amongst the most ancient and arcane of esoteric practices adopted by subversive minorities throughout the long and tangled spaghetti-tapestry of time, a system of thought which shimmers in peerless profundity as an unfathomable supernova of human realization, a Lapis Philosophorum of such unearthly wisdom that even the most hard-headed of us ego-inflated primates cannot fail to be moved. Its name is Discordianism.

~

Discordianism is most lucidly described as “a religion masquerading as an elaborate joke masquerading as a religion (and vice-versa-flip-reversies).” Venerating the twin truths of Discord and Absurdity, the only hard-lined rule is that of an unswerving commitment to good humour. The good Discordian laughs a lot, and practices the sacred OM, placing him in transcendent antithesis to the entrenched dogma of overt seriousness of Catholicism and Anglicism.

If organized religion is the opium of the masses, then disorganized religion is the marijuana of the lunatic fringe.—Kerry Thornley , The introduction to the Principia Discordia 5th Ed.

The holy book of this lunatic fringe is an odd agglomeration of anecdotes, parables, rites, dirty limericks and wisdom-globules, known as Principia Discordia. Narrated by Higher Forces of Absurdity and penned by Malaclypse the Younger in 1958, the Principia Discordia describes a confrontation not between good and evil, but between seriousness and absurdity – played out between the characters Eris, Goddess of Discord, and old Greyface.

Greyface and his followers took the game of playing at life more seriously than they took life itself and were known even to destroy other living beings whose ways of life differed from their own.—Malaclypse the Younger , Principia Discordia, Page 00042

Salvation from this accursed state is to be found in the constant subversion of any attitude which is allowed to stray too far into the torturous realm of seriousness at the cost of good humour (see: The Tale of the Blind Men and the Elephant). This entails a recognition of absurdity as the fundamental underlying state of reality. The mature Discordian displays a childish appreciation of nonsense, hinting at either a latent enlightenment or a latent psychosis (it’s a fine line).

~

NONSENSE AS SALVATION

The human race will begin solving its problems on the day that it ceases taking itself so seriously.

To that end, POEE proposes the countergame of NONSENSE AS SALVATION. Salvation from an ugly and barbarous existence that is the result of taking order so seriously and so seriously fearing contrary orders and disorder, that GAMES are taken as more important than LIFE; rather than taking LIFE AS THE ART OF PLAYING GAMES.

To this end, we propose that man develop his innate love for disorder, and play with The Goddess Eris. And know that it is a joyful play, and that thereby CAN BE REVOKED THE CURSE OF GREYFACE.

If you can master nonsense as well as you have already learned to master sense, then each will expose the other for what it is: absurdity. From that moment of illumination, a man begins to be free regardless of his surroundings. He becomes free to play order games and change them at will. He becomes free to play disorder games just for the hell of it. He becomes free to play neither or both. And as the master of his own games, he plays without fear, and therefore without frustration, and therefore with good will in his soul and love in his being.

And when men become free then mankind will be free.
May you be free of The Curse of Greyface.
May the Goddess put twinkles in your eyes.
May you have the knowledge of a sage,
and the wisdom of a child. Hail Eris.

~

In light of this, the following must be stated: beards are (not) serious business.

Men with beards are often guilty of taking themselves too seriously, perceiving their facial hair not as a tangled arising of the organic chaos of nature, but as a badge of higher intellect (such men never eat spaghetti in public). It is the authors concern that the Archbishop of Canterbury has, as Narcissus, become entranced by his own reflection and enamoured with the seriousness of his beard. It is too trimmed, too damn tidy for a man of his obvious stature and ill-fitting to a leader of spiritual concern. As the Anglican Church faces schism over its attitudes towards homosexuality and woman priests, as congregations tumble and ministers defect to Rome, the bridge of reconciliation can only be wrought within the tousled disorder of unbridled follicle-facial-flowering. Rowan, I implore you! ‘Thou shalt not shave nor cut the corners of the hairs of your head, nor are you to trim or clip at the edge of your beard!‘ (Leviticus 19:27)

For Rowan it is not too late, yet for Blair one fears the dye is cast. If he could only have laid aside his razor for long enough to allow his repressed beard-yearning freedom of expression then perhaps we would have seen a very different performance at the Chilcot Inquiry. Perhaps we would have seen a man humbled by his mistakes, a vilified politician transformed into a new-born beacon of compassion – a flame of hope amidst a sea of black excuses. Yet as it was, the same old story prevailed – in Blair’s eyes was no compassion, no remorse, not even a flicker of self-doubt.

But all masks eventually crack, all faces are finally unveiled, and if you watch him for long enough and look deep enough, there becomes perceptible the slightest glint – hidden in his expression as a cold moon behind a dying star – a glint of embryonic fear, a nascent, as-yet-unrealised dawning of a larger truth that will some day consume him. The truth that he was WRONG, not in his politics or in the decision to go to war, but in his unwavering certitude that has relegated the sublime obscurity and ambiguity of the human condition into a halo of unshakable conviction. For in so doing he has set himself up against the forces of chaos and disorder that underlie all life, and some day those forces will break the horizon in roaring cacophony and he will be as a feather tossed into a hurricane. And as the rest of us gallop past upon our purple-spangled unicorns, blowing bubbles, giggling like children and singing – Row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream

– that halo of certitude worn with such pride will fall about him, slipping as a noose around his neck, and on it a thousand heartfelt prayers will be answered, as finally we see him choke.


 
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