“But most important, you gotta believe in yourself! Like I do!”
--- Bill O’Reilly, “The O’Reilly Factor,” Tip of The Day
Believe in himself, indeed O’Reilly does, in italics. Add Donald Trump, in spades. Quietly, humbly self confident they are not. These two are but examples of the core human craving for empowerment that come to my mind. This week one or both may be eating crow, while still crowing. But there’s always going to be a this-week’s chest thumper. Chest thumping will always be with us and is universal. It’s even metastasized to blueberries.
Such egomania assumes some sort of empowerment -- inner and intrinsic, latent and just awaiting activation. This essay is a skewed, necessarily incomplete, and not altogether serious review and evaluation of some of mankind's most popular magic wands and pogosticks. Upsy-daisy!
Biblically oriented people know that the empowerment idea goes way back to the very beginning, to the Garden of Eden, when Satan beguiled Eve into believing that the apple was the very key to super-cosmic empowerment. God, Satan whispered, well knows that but wants to keep it secret, the arbitrary old patriarch. But you're a woman! You’ll show Him that you won’t stand for it. Go ahead, take a bite -- you’ll be Queen of the Universe! Long live the Queen!
Eve was but the first to aspire to cosmic empowerment. Monarchs have throughout history aspired to it. George Washington who could have established the tradition in the New World renounced even kingship to the amazement and chagrin to the sovereigns in Europe.
Who the greatest sovereigns of worldly kingdoms have been is, of course, argued by historians. So let’s say Nebuchadnezzar was the first. He surely saw himself as the most Golden potentate ever to be in all history (Daniel 2). So he erected an enormous golden image, a pretty imposing selfie, to which all were required to bow on penalty of cremation in the fiery furnace. A perk of potentates whether trivial or memorable, is disposing of dissidents. Next in the parade of potentates is Alexander the Great. Though merely brass (according to Daniel 2), Alexander aspired to the same empowerment as Eve did: apotheosis. The registry of earthly deities includes the sundry fully deified Caesars, and, in my day, Japanese Emperors.
Not quite apotheosis is the appellation "soter" or "deliverer, popular around the time of the division of Alexander's kingdom and nowadays among African dictators. Not a few Renaissance European monarchs settled for “the divine right of kings” to do any darn thing they wanted. This peculiar human right was conferred by holy oil drizzled upon heads by a triple-crowned pope fully empowered, popes have insisted, as Christ’s vicar, to bestow crowns, create saints, and wield the keys to heaven. In terms of dollars if not a solid gold selfie, Jeff Bezos, Emperor of Amazon, is the current sovereign, being the richest man in the world. Canonized by polls and gold-plated images probably made in China, celebrities are worshiped even above presidents and popes and Bezoses, certainly in this all-men-created-equal land.
Only a few, the 1%, are singled out for sovereignty with authority to incinerate heretics or grant admission to heaven or sign autographs. The rest of us, the “99%”, however, have easy access to a cornucopia of empowerments. Available by a silly little 1-click from Amazon’s Prime are falsies, football or tailored shoulder pads, masks, helmets, Green Beret camos and full dress uniforms, boots, Lugers and AK40s, Harley Davidsons, and the Breakfast of Champions. A little more clicking and snapping of fingers yields Siri and the scientific method; horoscopes and the Oracle of Delphi. Say yes to lottos or Las Vegas, botox or extreme makeovers. Editors and agents, personal trainers or hit men. Protest signs and tweets, #MeToos and tattoos. Rich old men helped out of their walkers and into their Lamborghini Veneno Roadsters to race over to have hair implants. To 98-pound weaklings gallons of latex are applied and – voilà! – superheros! Lacking latex, Photoshop will do.
All very nice, but merely materialistic. There are much different and mightier empowerments.
Since the masks and dramas and comedies and smoke and mirrors of ancient Greece and Gladiators slaying each other and lions devouring Christians in the Coliseum, entertainment has always been a potent power, earning laurels, acclaim, and applause-applause. But Hollywood is the Nebuchadnezzar of entertainment, the most Golden (Metro-Golden-Mayer) of all, reigning unchallenged (except maybe by Bollywood but not Dollywood) as the emperor of action and escape through virtual reality and suspension of disbelief, instantly available at a theater near you and a screen already in hand.
The first individual mass up-up-and-away power that broke upon my scene was The Power of Positive Thinking, a game-changer book of 1952, by Norman Vincent Peale. Think positively ’till you are blue in the face and you can fly like, with, the eagle if not GPS satellites. But back then – long ago -- a small cluster of clergy and even certain psychiatrists reacted negatively rather than positively. They warned that self-hypnosis was behind Peal power. And whether administered by another or yourself hypnosis forfeits your own will if not consciousness to the hypnotist, leaving you with even less power. But such cavil is long out of date. Nowadays hypnosis is acclaimed as such a great empowerment that it’s an entitlement. Self-evidently another of the burgeoning list of human rights, like marijuana, medical hypnosis ought to be covered by the Affordable Care like mandatory birth control for nuns, if it isn't already.
As an aside, Peale was an ordained minister and, not surprisingly, a pioneer progressive one, but, surprisingly, a religious legalist of the most outdated kind. That’s of interest only because of the pun it elicited. During the Eisenhower-Stevenson presidential campaign, Peale preached powerfully against Stevenson because he was divorced. To this Stevenson replied, “St. Paul appeals but Peale appalls.” Being a devoted Eisenhowerean I ignored everything Stevenson said, and happened upon the pun only recently thanks to the power of Google. To me puns (Pun Power) are more powerful than Peale’s Thinking if not Eisenhower’s grin (Eisenhower Power). If at the time I’d known of Stevenson’s pun I might have voted for him.
“Creativity,” also called the “Inner Eye,” is what inner power is called in art schools. In recent times exalted, creativity replaced years of raw practice and hard study, plaster casts, and live models, and charcoal dust all over your clean apron.
But now it is recognized that primacy belongs to spirituality, the engine of creativity. Creativity standing alone is out of style. Not only in art school and ikebana flower clubs but in Hollywood there is more talk about spirituality than creativity, even in car chases. I understand the next Oscars will include a lifetime award for best spirituality. Harvey Weinstein and his ladies have been nominated. Science once said spirituality was naught but superstition and thus thought it had dealt it a deadly wound. But spirituality has revived and is a power whose time has come, again, as in ancient otherwise less informed times and civilizations.
Spirituality is a human right, self-evidently in our DNA along with the gene for sex change. In our society it is burgeoning. Spirituality cannot be confined to arty people or any people or culture or cult, or any easy definition.
Spirituality of whatever era must involve forces that are not human, para-normal, other-worldly. And to many people that sounds like God. But depending on the era and the culture it is not. In fact "spirituality" is a handy euphemism for avoiding God yet invoking some even more ill-defined preternatural entity, in some cultures as vaporous as vapor, and thus amenable to incense and eagle feathers. In certain eras the preternatural entities become more tangible. Then they are "spirits." Though of necessity not tangible, spirits like to express themselves in various tangible ways, always unexpected, sometimes scary and sometimes enrapturing. In the 19th century, when spirituality carried the technical name “spiritualism,” the spirits rattled windows and levitated tables and scared people. Or, at the beck and call of handlers known as mediums, assumed the persona of your dear departed mother or father. Spirits have been known to behave like Nordic or Greek gods, about whom Jeopardy contestants never miss a question, while being embarrassingly uninformed about the Bible.
Which raises the question of whether spirituality involves goodness or evil. Easy question: neither. In the days of spiritualism, the spirits, those that specialized in rattling windows or dumping tables over, were towards the not-exactly hellish but still devilish side. At least they were scary. But never fear, scariness isn't evil, not by today's standards. Hollywood’s scary special-effects spirits leave you screaming your head off, or puking, and you leave the theater happy. Happier yet are the moguls who make billions off your happy fright. Even the scary Salem witches merely pushed pins into avatars, or somehow inflicted spells of twitching. The 19th century spirits liked to materialize as your dear dead father or mother, speaking comfortingly, being quite mellowed if in real life harsh. Hindus know of no Satan or evil, as I think of it, but certain of their spirits are pretty bad. But those that usher you into nirvana are necessity neutered because nirvana is nullity. As to arousing fright, Well, the Bible discloses that Christ aroused fear when his disciples thought He must have been a ghost, walking on water like that. To them He said simply, “fear not.” Then He simply proceeded to quiet the waters, and the fear.
You know that some kind of spirituality has surmounted all redoubts when atheism – famously defined by its refractory disbelief in the very idea of God – embraces, of all things, spirituality. Click here.
But back to religion and spirituality. I have noticed that religion is becoming less about God and more about spirituality. There's a difference. Theologians either dismiss the difference or promote and detail it, admonishing to "spirituality" and cursing mere doctrines as legalism. Who says miracles aren't possible. Theologians perform miracles of logic all the time.
Speaking of miracles, “Drudge Report” reports that "Inside religion is creating 'God robot' billion times smarter than humans..." A mere billion? If spirituality can straight-facedly worm itself into atheism as well as your dead father or a table, why not into religion and technology, maybe both at once? After all spirits were the preternatural intelligence of 19th century Ouija boards, why not 21st century robos? Why should robos have to rely on artificial man-made intelligence? Think of what a spirit-possessed robo could do! Not surprisingly, headline-writers see preternatural robos as consummately bloody threats to the very existence of civilization.
But we all know that in this the 21st and thoroughly post-modernist century nothing is final. There’s always something coming to strain credibility, something unexpected. That's what's so great about being alive right now, they tell me. Who knows, maybe some spirit, the one that in 1848 came back as your mother, may get tired of returning as her or a Salem witch, or even of Ouija boards and motherboards, and come back as – Christ!
Until that day comes, the spiritual experience is called, in spiritual blogs or progressive pews, a “journey.” My circle of friends like to say that. Haight-Ashbury Street hippies called it a “trip.”
My friends say their spiritual “journey” has led them to a higher open-minded theology about God or at least “life” or, for those of a Platonic bent, satisfactory ethics or deontology. That is to say, their journey takes them through, and to higher and higher cognitive-centers in the brain. Theirs is a journey of thought. The goal is "understanding."
On the other hand, what seems to be a lot more popular in Hollywood (California) as well as Bodhgaya (India) than thought-crammed spiritual journeys, is the yearning to descend to some lower brain center that doesn’t bother with consciousness -- somewhere out-of-brain, out-of-body, out-of-mind. These types yearn for their souls to merge with a disembodied preternatural bosom, or segue into some transcendent state. The less thought, the less discussion, the less the brain is involved, the more empowerment into heavenly nothingness. For them the consummate empowerment is impotency. Their journey’s blessed end is a return to the womb, that is, heaven, which is…nothing, not even clouds, crowns, and harps. Gurus call it nirvana; progressives of my church call it the “Spiritual Foundation.”
By whatever name, you may journey there, preferably motionless or prone on a magic mat, by incantations, or endless repetition of a holy name (or big words like hermeneutics, or long sentences like this one); or kissing images, especially toes, bowing to the East, West, to Mecca or to the sun or moon or a frog. Whether by a pacing saffron-robed Buddhist or umber-hooded Catholic monk, or by a socialite or TV producer clad in deluxe spandex YogaWare meditating as motionless as a lotus blossom on a mat; or by a naked aborigine decorated all over with painted keloids and dancing in a frenzy around a pole adorned with eagle feathers and sacrificial skulls, or a celebrity Scientologist being audited and "cleared" of all unwanted or toxic or traumatic mental things; whether by Yoga, Zen or Dianetics, by a witches brew or cyanide-flavored Kool Aid, by ritual or recreational psychedelics dispensed by shamans, street dealers, or CVS; whether “kat” fresh off the herb or “cat” (Methcathinone) fresh out of the lab; or simply, as seems to be the most popular route of all, spending all day with your nose in a screen – all these whether soundless or screamed, have in common the attainment of disembodied mindlessness in quest of, or escape from, the unendurable pain here below or the unendurable bliss above, itself disembodied. Call it Nirvana if you are a guru; call it OTVIII if you are a practitioner wise in the vocabulary of Scientology. The more sophisticated, and arguably gullible, among us favor costly Peal-pioneered pricey seminars, or secret bloody or obscene induction or purifications ceremonies, or a Freudian couch.
But in the 1960s – my day and how well I remember it – pharmaceutical modalities were popularized as tickets to spiritual and cerebral nullity. The substances of choice were pot, an easily grown plant that’s now growing like weeds, in fact is sometimes called that, and LSD. Actually discovered by Albert Hofmann, PhD a researcher at Sandoz Labs and empowered by Timothy Leary PhD, a Harvard professor, LSD is a sophisticated laboratory derivative of -- of what? In medicine I studied pharmacology, but don't claim to be an expert in it. And it turns out that every authority I consulted about LSD has a different tale to tell. So here's wikipedia: LSD is a laboratory derivative of psilocybin mushrooms crucial in religious rites of the Mazatec people of Mexico. In contrast to the drugs for Alzheimer's which don’t work, these do, rather too well, empowering hippies to stop the earth and drop out. Sacked out on curbs, homeless, or hanging out in coffee and paraphernalia shops, hippies had forfeited their humanity, the majority view, or had become creative and spiritual beings, the nostalgic view now.
But now in the 21st century pharmaceutical empowerments are called “Neurophysiological communication enhancement.” I found many ads on the web for “neurocell,” or NeuroCell” or “synIQ” featuring celebrity scientist, Steven Hawking of Cambridge University, being interviewed by Anderson Cooper, with endorsement by Bill Gates. Almost totally paralyzed from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (“Lou Gehrig’s disease”) and speaking via his defunct vocal muscles empowered by a speech garbling generator, Hawking testifies that “neurocell,” has enhanced his own already renowned “cognitive brain function and neural connectivity, while strengthening the prefrontal cortex and boosting memory and recall.” “It will change humanity.”
Being an old doc I checked the label and found it’s simply another pill containing the familiar potpourri of ingredients including multiple multisyllable molecules you never heard of even in med school, plus caffeine. Caffeine is cheap, but the stuff is expensive, and obtainable only by subscription, don’t miss out. Will you settle for a cup of coffee?
I also found that the claims for both LSD and Neurocell are similar: Hawking hawks his pills as strengthening neural connectivity; Leary claimed that LSD is good for enhancement of brain, reality, and even length of life; discoverer Hoffmann called it the “medicine for the soul.” Carter’s Little Liver Pills, eat your hearts out.
Besides mental and spiritual powers the less spiritual and more physical powers are being pharmaceutically enhanced. Anabolic steroids and less identifiable chemicals are widely employed to great award- and prosecution-winning effect by Lance Armstrong and baseball celebrities. For some reason they are not yet in official favor. But as socially acceptable as marijuana and yoga for spiritual power is Viagra for power in bed.
Drugs aren’t the only way to enhance metabolic and various body-parts. Gold’s Gym famously bulged bodybuilder’s and boxer’s biceps. Not just showy but life-saving are liver, kidney, heart transplants, even face implants for the terminal ill. But that’s nothing compared to gender changes at whim. And there’s something ingenious about cannibal warriors eating a formidable adversary’s heart or testicles to import the victim’s powers. Over here that practice hasn’t come back in style yet, but we're working on legal equivalents. Just over the horizon are such cellular and subcellular enhancers as stem cell manipulations, cloning, and genetic molecular engineering. For some reason the latter is being resisted for food in general, but if that’s what transformed the dreary berries of my childhood to monster blue berries, all I ever have for breakfast, more power to it. Genetic engineering for, and of, people is currently objectionable, but isn't it preferable to the old discredited eugenics?
Duly lauded are Inner Empowerment conjurers like Buddha and Peal, implant surgeons and genetic engineers; duly suspected are substance scientists Leary and Hawking; duly legendary are such as Aristotle and Einstein. But looming, and praised, above them all, is Charles Darwin. He's history's top empowerer. Darwin empowers every empowerment. For Darwin empowers Evolution. Darwin created Evolution from eons of survival of the curiously empowered fittest, which has evolved into the various master races. Without Evolution there would be no Buddhas or Peals, no Learys or Steven Hawkings (or Sadie Hawkins), or for that matter no Disneys or David Attenboroughs and BBS Evolution-nature documentaries, only the swamp whence they would never crawl. Evolution empowers life -- and nature documentaries and, so the court has adjudged, science itself, what it is and what it isn't, at pain of loss of tenure and grant money! All rise, out of the swamp.
After Evolution what’s left to empower? That’s the limit! We've reached the end of the line.
So it’s time to quit the trampoline, catapult, and pogostick, to call off hang-gliding with geese, and settle back down to earth. Workers empowered to "arise" wind up on the floor -- sitdown strikes. He who would fly with the eagles winds up waddling with ostriches. He who proclaims to millions by banks of multimedia microphones may not realize the thing is still on. They that live by the sword shall die by the sword. They that invent atom bombs shall ... but that's too cataclysmic a prospect to talk about in this heavy-handedly light-hearted essay. We seek escape at Hollywood and, naturally, to "Star Wars."
For now the Force may be with you, but when Lucas or Disney run out of sequels the Energizer Bunny will outrun you. Plato Power, on the scene millennia before Peal Power, is only emanations from the formless Form or Prime Mover, and what happens when the Form implodes or the Prime Mover is put out of business by Uber Mover?
That spiritual, creative Inner Eye of the artist is good only for generating blotches and abstracts and silly awards, not reality. The Inner Eye brings inner yearning. The apple did not bring Eve the cosmic diadem.
Human cannonballs take a token arc and then crash, hopefully into nets. All those schemes for self-exaltation succeed mainly in exalting pride which goeth before a pratfall. The curve goes up, then down. Gravity wins.
Many spiritual journeys are circles or cul-de-sacs. Darwin Power's survival of the fittest leaves only mutations.
Bank on it -- Inner Pogo Power is either as false, fake, fictitious or feeble, transitory, or a downright scam, or worse. That’s because every last empowerment formula or template that Google can cough up relies on human power, or worse. Even Google does.
And even if, by accepted criteria, those empowerments are arguably successful, they are subject to the Statute of Limitations. For those few who actually are anointed and crowned, there is inevitably a comeuppance, thanks to age or rebels, rivals, or scandals. Julius Caesar was done in; Queen Victoria petered out; Nixon was watergated. Art Linkletter (from my day; do you remember him?) promised ladies queenhood for a day. That turns out to be a reign 24 hours longer than Eve got. Andy Warhol promised everybody only 15 minutes of fame. This week even the iconic self-believer, Bill O’Reilly, is off the scene, snuffed out like the subjects of his series of once best-selling “The Killing of Whomever” books.
Even those web ads under such mastheads as Forbes, CNN, and Randpaul.forum for “neuroenhancers” Neurocell or NeuroCell or synIQ or cognIQ, surely to change humanity, are fake. Or so claim such odd web sites as Quartz Media, which, I suspect, might themselves be fake. Self-proclaimed more trusted judges of urban legends and scams, e.g. Snopes, have not spoken out. Meanwhile other sites expose such fakery just to make more credible their own listings of memory enhancers, complete with images of the bottles, -- which, of all things, turn out to be the exact same stuff as Hawking hawked. Fakes of fakes of fakes, hacked and spliced from out-of-context video bits. Were the hackers spirits? Scary. Or silly.
As for gluten-free, alpha-gamma-fat-carbo-acid-radical-ion-free, meta-modroitin-free, calomel-caramel-free-karma-lized veganism, they’ve probably been accurately or falsely exposed too. But without bothering to check every exposé I’m a doubter like those clergy and psychiatrists who winced at the negative side of Peal Positive Thought. As to my breakfast blueberries, I’ll let them speak for themselves. The empty container says it all. They were great.
Not everyone may enjoy even standard empowerments. With tears threatening my cheeks, let me abandon my sardonic mode and tell you of a beautiful little blind girl who had no eyes. As a 3-month-old baby, exquisite baby, both eyes were extirpated to save her life from retinoblastoma. Her normally sighted siblings, younger than she, would be gamboling and cavorting all over the park, but the little blind girl just could not, and oh, how she tried. All she could do was run in place, her little feet just going up and down but not moving forward, crying, “wait for me!” Her remarkably life-like plastic prosthetic eyes saw nothing.
Human empowerments fail. But there is indeed a never-failing, infinite empowerment. At last the bottom-line, flat-out, no-nonsense, twinkling-of-an-eye cosmic, everlasting secret of empowerment.
God. It is God. “Without Me ye can do nothing.” (John 15:5). Despite what Satan told Eve, or O’Reilly tells you, or Darwin tells the courts or you, it is God. Thus empowered, you can believe in yourself in a way that none of mankind’s formulas can deliver. “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” Philippians 4: 13. That’s self-belief I can believe in.
God's empowerment isn't an upsy-downsy curve. It's a one-way ascent without a downside, even under His yoke. You don’t fly with eagles but angels. I still remember what our 6th grade teacher (in an old-time SDA school) chalked on the top of the big blackboard: "Higher than the highest human thought is God's ideal for His children)." Every morning we stood up and recited it together, and then the Pledge of Allegiance.
His empowerment is not simply better Peal, Ponzi, Political or Regal Power. Those gotta-believe empowerments are illusions, delusions, or hallucinations. Or genuine scams. By their very nature they are self-centered. Did Ponzi scheme for love of humanity? Throughout all history monarchs and dictators from Nebuchadnezzar to Mobutu, have exercised power on behalf of only themselves, no bones about it -- except dissenter's bones. Self-centered to the core. Apparatchiks and courtiers vow fealty -- with their fingers crossed behind their backs, hopefully out of sight or it's off with their heads. Louis XV's vast Versailles was famously a dog-pile of history's most suave, unctuous, bootlickers. The more despotic the tyrant the more he demands to be adulated as a liberator. Has there ever been a US politician who is naught but a puppet of special interest or political party who doesn't plea for votes on behalf of, and for, the American People?
Human empowerment is for the short term, too often gone in a twinkling of an eye. God's is long term, everlasting. His is not only for the beyond but for the here and now. It is the power -- quite amazing when you think of it -- to be at peace when the world and Ponzi schemes collapse, the power to bend over to help the fallen to stand up, not to stand firm for your rights though the heavens fall. He offers not the upsy downsy teeter-totter but rest from frantic self-empowerment, which, if pursued at full Peal pace, or inhaled at parties, always leaves a person panting, burned out, maybe jumping through glass doors and off the 20th floor. At best an afternoon at L.A. Fitness and a Happy Hour at Cheers, and a hangover.
“Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Matt 11:28. Rest, not nirvana. Where else can you find both earthly and eternal empowerment and rest, both such as "eye hath not seen nor ear heard?" 1 Corinthians 2:9
To people queued up for a Peal Positive Thought Seminar or pot paraphernalia, all that sounds like a let-down, as frail, fragile and feeble and hollow as God says human empowerments are. Did God tell you THAT?, as Satan chortled to Eve. And so it is -- A big fat forget-it -- for the Peal O-Reillys, for today. Tomorrow, a very powerful tomorrow, will come, eons will come, but not eons of survival of the fittest.
God, not eons, created you and your powers -- will power, reproductive power, muscle power, digestive power, and brain power whereby to comprehend, and eyes to see, that it is God who is all powerful. And that little blind girl running in place in the park -- it is God who will give her two fine new eyeballs, and she'll be the champion track star of the galaxy. Then, my dear beloved daughter, you can pitch those sightless prostheses that were only acrylic. They never fit quite right anyway. For both of us, what a wonderful, exciting, blessed hope, full empowerment then and sure hope now.
YOU GOTTA BELIEVE IN … YOURSELF?
Or, At The Count Of Three: One-Two-Three….Upsy Daisy!
graphic partly by: Comic vector designed by Freepik
Rewritten: Monday November 27, 2017
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