Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Quit Forsaking Yourself, Genius

"Thought he had it all before they called his bluff
Found out that his skin just wasn't thick enough"

NIN - I'm Looking Forward to Joining You Finally

You gotta love the Gethsemane chapter of the Jesus myth. Not only does it execute a successful dramatic build-up before the climax of the fable, thus elevating itself to more skillful oratory than the Bible's otherwise rather dry brand of superstitious lunacy but reveals a bit about the countless writers who massaged that collection of texts into existence and maybe even whatever original figure inspired the Jesus character.

It's very human. Here we have a fanatical religious and social reformer who's been wandering the dust-choked shores of Galilee for a decade or so trying his damndest to fix the world, to the best of his limited knowledge and abilities, and so far business has been pretty good. People show up to his seminars, they listen a bit. They like me, Yeshua tells himself, they really really like me.

It goes to his head a bit. I mean, the poor sap must've been a little cracked to begin with (or had too much of that sub-tropical sun) to take up the street-corner prophet line of work, but to me it's always been likely that Jesus, like so many of the most successful liars, conned himself into believing his own bullshit. Some good portion of that poor naked ape's brain probably really thought it was the progeny of the almighty creator of the universe. He thought he was bulletproof.

So imagine him in Gethsemane, that poor self-deluded do-gooder, a carpenter's son who ran his mouth too much for his own good. He can practically see the other shoe about to drop. There had been whispers and hints of betrayal, and anyone who's taken even one look at human affairs knows how the powerful crack down on those who might shake up the system. He might've been crazy but by the standards of his time he wouldn't have been stupid. He knows the soldiers are coming. Maybe not that very minute, maybe not that night, but he knows his days are numbered. The delusion begins to crack. He breathes the cool night air in the olive orchard and counts his allies. He knows the big man upstairs, good old pops has got his back. So the minutes and hours pass and no chariots appear to whisk him off to salvation. He knows it less than before. No glorious shining host descends from on high. He knows it less, and less and less... and the world around him goes on as it always has, nature persists with every breath he takes but the supernatural fails him. So he asks "take this cup from me" and with that line and others like it I think it's safe to say there must really have been a central figure who inspired the New Testament mythology.

It's not a line any writer would have willingly woven into the story, unless constrained by pre-existing consensus as to how the story goes. It trips up the narrative. Such words would not be spoken by the earthly third of universal omnipotence who could nose-wiggle his way out the bind if he felt like it, nor by an omniscient entity who already knows how it's all gonna go down. They are rarely spoken even by demigods of Jesus' ilk, by convention a rather self-assured and belligerent lot. Herakles, writhing in agony and ready for self-immolation as Nessus' blood sears through his skin and veins, doesn't bitch at Zeus to come down and get his share of punishment. That's not the way this kind of story goes.

It is, however, exactly the line we'd expect from a very human confidence artist steeped in a culture of scapegoating. He's preached himself into a corner and is desperately looking for a way out. Maybe the words were spoken up into the sky, maybe they were mumbled to someone he was trying to convince to impersonate him. Ida know. But if someone overheard it then in the garden and it became part of the oral history which would, a century and more later, be set down by a gaggle of third-rate hacks as Gospel, then well, go to and ask them about how important "canon" is to a good fanfic.

This is all ignoring the more amusing angle of Jesus praying all night in the garden combined with the three-for-one deity sale nonsense of trinitarianism. A demigod asking pops to bail him out, that makes sense. Who in Melpomene's name does an avatar of the divine pray to, though? At least it's not as batshit cracked as Rama holding an archery contest against another avatar of himself but it does inadvertently reveal a core truth about religion.

What is prayer, ever, except talking to yourself?

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