Sunday, May 13, 2007

The mustard on the face dream

I watched Christopher Hitchens this morning on CSPAN2. He’s angry at religion. He’s sick of people who want to teach his children creationism, among other grievances. So many people have their own plans to reshape our culture into their own vision of perfection. Such plans conflict, don’t they?

I gave up watching during their time for questions. There was one man in the audience who started yelling when it was his turn at the microphone. He didn’t like what Christopher Hitchens said. At least he waited his turn. Both Christopher Hitchens and a security guard encouraged him to leave. It could have been worse. Fortunately our culture has some standards of behavior, regardless of whether it’s the law or embarrassment that’s more important for policing them.

Instead of watching something else, I closed my eyes and started having dream-like symbolic images, as I often do. One was especially memorable because there was all this bright yellow. It started as a face, not necessarily my face, not necessarily someone else’s face, but a universal face. Then a plastic mustard container appears and something off screen squeezes it forcefully on the man’s face. Hmmm, the revenge of culture that everyone is trying to change? It will leave us like a man who has to be told at the end of a meal that he has mustard on his face? I’m sure some would think of a sexual analogy, but no, it wasn’t like that.

It was memorable enough that I thought about how the mustard was squirted on this man’s face. I recognize that pattern. It’s how I squirt mustard on a slice of bread for a sandwich, in an S-pattern, but with wiggling so that it covers enough of the bread. I don’t have to get a knife out to make it perfectly smooth. It wouldn’t be right if somehow I could put peanut butter on bread that unevenly. That I’d have to smooth out, but mustard? That pattern’s fine for mustard. So squirt and go.

I like the freedom of that. I have enough perfectionism in me that I could imagine getting a knife and making the mustard even all the way across the bread, but I save that for other things. I like that I don’t have to do that with mustard. There really is a lot of freedom in our culture if you think about it, especially in comparison to the past

What about the face? Well, it’s more personal than someone’s feet. A face has one’s eyes, out of which we could see this world in a much more functional way, if our society was big on that. Instead there are all these fantasies about getting rid of religion or making everyone a Christian or Republican or Democrat. It’s not that I like diversity so much. I just think there’s one reality and many people are delusional about what that reality is, especially those who get up in public and insist that they know all these other people are delusional. That people have delusions is reality as well. They are human nature. People overvalue their opinions. They don’t know how much they don’t know. They have simplistic visions of how the world could be better. They pretend cultural evolution is merely a matter of people deciding what they want. That’s not what I see cultural institutions doing over generations. To some degree they have lives of their own.

People see themselves as in charge of their future. I see something greater than we are using us for the bread in a sandwich. What is that thing? Is it God? Is it more natural forces that have shaped us through both biology and culture? I’m not sure, but I am glad to see we use the same technique with mustard. Having things in common allow for some bonding.

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