Tuesday, November 4, 2014

living with dogma

Lohbado in the Tabernacle
Peter Stumps was the son of a preacher man, before he became Lohbado. For eighteen years he attended the Church of the Living Monument, where his father, The Reverend Stonehenge Stumps, preached every Sunday. It was difficult living with someone who would summarize things by scrunching up and blowing a fart, as if the meaning of life resided deep within his stomach, intestines, gall bladder, or bowels. His face would pucker up, his eyes narrow to slits before breaking silence with a dogmatic assertion about the nature of reality. If someone questioned his opinion, his face would redden, his eyes bulge in a fierce expression as he spoke intimidating words, in an authoritarian fashion, as if to say: “I have spoken. Let no one disagree.”

    That was his job, as preacher, as a reverend minister of the Church of the Living Monument in a status conscious society. He was expected to speak with certainty and authority in response to questions about existence. His replies were supposed to put the minds at rest. His sermons, long monotonous buzz, people could sleep safely in the arms of blind faith. They would awaken from a deep slumber, after being stupefied by the incomprehensible ramblings of the preacher and would feel much better. Nothing better than a nap. It would be more comfortable to lie down than to sleep sitting up. But that’s another matter. Why even bother going to church, when it’s easier to sleep at home? Peter Stumps often posed such questions as he endured his father’s dogma on Sunday mornings.

    Sometimes a person would approach Peter Stumps after church and go into a gush, pour the heart out, bare the soul, as if being the son of a preacher man gave Peter some sort of spiritual powers to provide comfort for the insecure, or to put the worried mind at ease. He was used to that. It was quite predictable. A man would walk up to him out of the blue, talk as if they were long lost friends for an hour. It might happen a few times over the space of a week or two. Then Peter would never hear from the person again. A gush was nothing more than a gush. The need to gush would cause a person to speak until the power of the gush diminished. Finally, the bladder would be empty, right to the last drop. The man might squeeze out a few last dribbles of chatter, then over and out.

    The point of the gush was to obtain reassurance that one’s world view was safe and sound. Some people liked to proclaim their beliefs, a statement of faith, get it all out. The statement of faith was intended to silence questions and eliminate doubt, to burry cognitive dissonance under a blanket of self-induced mental chatter.

    Peter Stumps told his therapist, “It’s not that I’m being mean. I don’t wish to insult anyone. But it was incredibly depressing and bleak when the old man tried to impose limits. The limits were based on his uptightness. He pretended that his mental horizon represented the objective limit to reality. He failed to see that he was merely being uptight, that life was fluid and open to endless exploration, because nobody knew for sure what was going on, other than things were going on. He was convinced his model of reality was infallible. Perhaps without that conviction, he would have been unable to be a preacher. Or maybe, as a preacher, he could have limited himself to posing questions, and providing guided contemplation of the mysteries. Instead of trying to paste concepts or words over the unknown, it would have been much more powerful and honest to admit that it was unknown, a mystery.

    “To admit one doesn’t know is like having a burden removed. One can set out into the unknown to philosophize, contemplate, meditate or explore.”

    This episode, like most of the episodes from Lohbado’s memoirs, took place in the world of dream and memory, a figment of imagination, the filament of a tungsten bulb shedding a little light on the subject.

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