On Religion.

I was asked the other day about my religion.  Rather than take the easy route and say “Unitarian Universalist,” the church I grew up in, or even “atheist,” I had to choose the hard way.  I replied, “Stoic Discordian.”  I was met with a raised and confused eyebrow.  At least I can explain the basic tenets of UU philosophy in a few brief points: love and peace, a general belief in a single god (hence Unitarian) and that all are equally right and will get into the heaven they desire (hence Universalist).  You know, a “find your own path kind” of church (and gee golly whiz, sorry for all the quotations and parentheses, I fear they’ll be frequent).  I mumbled something about maintaining a healthy amount of skepticism about reality.  About how the world is founded in a logically structured chaos.  And how every belief and religion is both right and wrong at the same time, including (and perhaps especially) my own.  Threw a little bit of transcendentalism and pantheism in there as well.  All, of course, layered on top of a good dose of library and information science.  Plus a helping of good old empirical science.  I don’t think I made much sense and the subject was quickly dropped.

In the time since, I’ve tried to organize a manifesto of my (dis)beliefs.  An important place to start might be in the church of my upbringing.  I’ll provide a few links for reference (in accordance to my political beliefs of librarianism, in which individuals should look up relevant information for themselves) after the metaphorical jump (there is no jump; similarly, the cake is a lie).  Where was I?  Ah yes, giving chao and confusion a jumping point: my childhood.

I believe Wikipedia gives a pretty little explanation of the UU church as a place to support a “free and responsible search for truth and meaning.”  Historically, the church is rooted in Christian origins.  Contemporary UUs don’t give this history much credence.  Ideally, the church is just a place for free-thinkers and free-believers to come and be church-y together without having to subscribe to groupthink.  I think only a few days of Sunday school were ever devoted to Christianity.  The rest was rooted in a conglomeration of creation stories, mythos, and world views.  For the longest time I didn’t understand what the church was trying to teach me to believe.  Finally I understood when instead of a confirmation ceremony, the youth were asked to tell the congregation what she or he believes.  One of my favorite jokes goes: What do you get when you cross a UU with a Mormon?… Someone who goes door to door and asks, “Why am I here?”  I announced to the church that I didn’t know what I believed.  The congregation said, “Welcome.”  I’ve since stopped attending church.  But the lessons learned there have not stopped attending me.

There are several philosophies that I could say have influenced me since: transcendentalism, the poetics of space, fika, the internet, and others.  We’ll skip ahead to the ones most at hand: Stoicism and Discordianism.  In accordance to my beliefs, these are opposing philosophies.

Stoicism represents a unified account of the world driven by formal logic, non-dualistic physics, and natural ethics (summary again thanks to Wikipedia and the internet).  There is an emphasis in the Stoic beliefs on overcoming destructive emotions, viewing the world as largely deterministic (as Vonnegut might put it, “So it goes”).  For those of you who have met me, you probably know that I can be a bit deadpan from time to time.  “Det går,” or the English, “It goes,” is nothing short of a personal mantra.  The Stoic side of me is what drives me to read, query the internet, obsess over information, and work in a library.  And then for the healthy skepticism.  Enter Discord.  This “religion” is based on the idea that there is nothing but chaos.  Here is where I place my beliefs in the absurd.  Rather than describe it myself, I recommend to simply read the Principia Discordia, or first the Wikipedia article then [], then disregard all you’ve read.

That’s enough background now.  It’s time for a manifesto.  It begins with the desire for a symbol.  All other decent religions have a proper symbol, so why shouldn’t I?  Now, this symbol is at first glance a tree.  A representation of Yggdrasil, the World Tree, its branches and roots running a circle that makes the Earth.  The roots stretch down symbolic of my familial history, an obvious reference to the Scandinavian mythos and history which my mother gave to me.  Buried amongst the roots is a barrel of aging Bourbon whiskey to represent the American mutt / Kentucky hillbilly history in which these roots have been planted (plus I like Bourbon).  The roots also twist into the family name which I now carry.  This might show how humanity (specifically me) permeates or is a part of greater nature, not separate from it as so much Puritan-based-religion believes.  And the branches.  They reach into the sky.  Within their leaves are the potential for every living thing.  And two ravens as my thought as memory.  Yet when you look closer at this tree you notice it’s not a tree at all, but an intense circuitry.  Nature has taken a new form in technology and within the center of trunk where one might find an owl’s nest is a human eye, looking out upon the world from this grotesque fusion of mythos, invention and history.

The basic tenet of my faith of the Stoic Discordian cabal is to disagree.  With others and with myself, even to the point that I disagree about disagreement and do the opposite of my intention (i.e. to agree).  In this tenet is established a belief paradox where nothing and everything is correct.  It is the logical approach to chaos.

A famous Discordian quotation: “A conclusion is simply where you stopped thinking.”  With all the coffee I’ve been drinking thanks to my Swedish heritage and UU upbringing, I don’t think I can stop thinking.  This is not conceit, it’s simply an admission that I may never reach a conclusion.  If you would like to be baptized into my cabal of the unknown, just ask.  I am, after all, an ordained Pope of Discordia.

Anyone who knows me knows not to take this manifesto seriously.  Then again, you probably also know that I am being absolutely serious.  Mostly I just like fucking with people.  Hail Eris.  Patron God Odin, Matron Goddess Google.  Canonical Saints include such known filmmakers as Ingmar Bergman and David Lynch, fictions such as Zaphod Beeblebrox and Johnny Truant,  even a piece of pizza I enjoyed a few days back.  May the absurdity of fnord be with you.

Listening to: Om Du Möter Varg, Detektivbyrån

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3 Responses to On Religion.

  1. kaistevenson says:

    Yeah, that about sums you up. Pretty sweet symbol you’ve described, and I’m hoping you’re able to give it physical life sometime in the near future.
    Part of me applauds your attempt to assemble the various pillars of your life into a sort of “Garrettonian” temple (that sounds kind of cool, actually…), the other part of me thinks you’re simply creating a loop hole or excuse for doing absurd things, which is fine (to an extent).
    Eh, fuck it. It goes, or it intermittently flies, stops, crashes, creates, destroys, etc.
    Hit me up an e-mail sometime soon. Looking forward to hearing from you.

    -kai

    • Garrett Traylor says:

      Yeah! I’ve actually got a half written response to the last e-mail you sent just hanging out in my draft box. I got sidetracked… probably with all that fika. My bad. New poem to send your way, too. Oh, and as far as this “Garrettonian” business goes, I’m forced to agree: it sounds totally rad (aaand cue self-indulgence). The name, I read once somewhere, means something like “mighty spear” which might make some cool implications for a faith/temple based on the name. One might also draw connection to the word “garret,” which is alternatively a watchtower, place of refuge, or attic. From there, further implications can be made to Gaston Bachelard’s Poetics of Space, which assigns the “attic” as a space of memory. The attic also represents a place of daydreams. And to quote Bachelard as a related aside, “The hermit is alone before God.” Anyway, yes, you will hear from me soon.

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