Religion in Crossroads

One of the fascinating things about Jonathan Franzen’s novel Crossroads is how each of his characters demonstrates a different way of losing religion.

The saddest, most barren way is to substitute religion with rationality. Trying to reduce life to a series of formulas leads one to the life of an addict who is forever succumbing to every drug-addled method of feeding his narcissistic fixation on the self.

Then there is a less tragic and more pathetic way which relies on embracing the ancestral wisdom of the indigenous cultures because it’s vastly superior to the boring Christianity of the eternally culpable white people. Of course, there is no ancestral indigenous wisdom, and the character who tries to befriend Navajos and “serve” them eventually catches a glimpse of what an enormous dick he is.

There’s also the woke way of displacing religious belief onto political action. A bunch of snowflake wokesters in the novel spends years installing wheelchair ramps on a remote Navajo reservation where nobody has ever seen a wheelchair.

Of course, there’s also the Moralistic Therapeutic Deism of the kind popularized by Oprah. People convince themselves that talking endlessly about their feelings is “spiritual” and use these fee-fee conversations to hide how utterly boring and shallow they are.

Other characters try to substitute religion with “therapy,” sex, food, even smoking. The result is a moral, physical, and relational collapse of enormous magnitude.

In the novel, it’s 1971. The characters don’t know what we do: there’s still a long way down from where they find themselves.

Great Thinking Skills

Thank you, Biden voters. Great thinking on this one. Yippee for your analytical skills. Really did us all a solid here.

NEW YORK (AP) — Get ready to pay sharply higher bills for heating this winter, along with seemingly everything else. With prices surging worldwide for heating oil, natural gas and other fuels, the U.S. government said Wednesday it expects households to see their heating bills jump as much as 54% compared to last winter. Nearly half the homes in the U.S. use natural gas for heat, and they could pay an average $746 this winter, 30% more than a year ago. Those in the Midwest could get particularly pinched, with bills up an estimated 49%, and this could be the most expensive winter for natural-gas heated homes since 2008-2009.

By the way, I know how much you love your Russia collusion. So here’s a hint: who makes a lot of money selling natural gas? Yes, that would be Putin. And who worked his tail off from day one in office to dismantle the US energy independence and guarantee soaring oil and gas prices? Yes, that would be Biden.

We are just a few months into this lovely presidency you inflicted on us and I’m already paying 30% more at the gas station and 20% more at the grocery store. In return, we get more COVID deaths than in 2020, exploding polarization, inflation, and trillions more of public money pumped into the pockets of the 1% you so love.

Keep doing exactly what you are doing because no price is too high to avert the terrible tragedy of you having to change your mind once in your life. There is absolutely no chance you made a mistake on this one. Never! You are infallible. It’s evil-doers conspiring with other evildoers plus Trump plus Delta variant something something Nazis systemic racism something that’s causing all this. You have zero responsibility.

Six-dollar Billionaires

Did you, folks, know that the Biden administration wants to make banks report any transaction over $600 that individuals make? This is supposedly aimed at “billionaires” who are well-known to avoid taxes by making $600 transactions. Of course, this lets off the hook those billionaires who make $6 transactions but that’s a different story. They will be getting their comeuppance during Biden’s second term.

How to Feel Safe

In infancy, the feeling of being safe and nourished – not just with food but with love and care – comes from the instant availability of mommy and her breast.

As a child grows, he learns to transfer this feeling of safety onto additional objects – a toy, a favorite blanket, etc – that he drags everywhere. This allows him to spend more time not being clamped to mommy’s body and still feeling safe.

Gradually, the child learns to achieve the feeling of being safe and nourished without either mommy or the transitional object (the toy or the blankie). The source of the feelings of safety and love moves inside. This is a gigantically important moment in human development when a child learns to self-soothe. It’s a foundation of human freedom and agency. “I still need mommy but if necessary, I can take care of myself” is how an independent, healthy human is formed. Adulthood comes when you figure out that you don’t need mommy. And maturity is when you realize that mommy needs you now and it’s not a terrifying thought.

So what does this all mean? It means nobody can make you feel safe or valuable. These feelings can only come from inside of you. If you still seek safety from a transitional object (for many people it’s food), this means you are still stuck in that toddler stage where you were supposed to start learning to self-soothe without an external object. If you still need big, all-knowing, all-powerful and ever-loving adults to “keep you safe,” things are even worse. You are stuck in the infant stage, still terrified that mommy’s breast is not coming and eternally angry that it can no longer feed your adult needs.

We don’t breast-feed 15-year-olds, do we? Neither do we say “here, hold your plushie” to 20-year-olds without mental deficiencies. We don’t do it because it doesn’t work. They are past the age where the breast and the plushie can nourish physically or emotionally. An adult is capable of making himself a sandwich and we expect him to do that. Similarly, he can make himself feel safe. We can’t make a safe space for adults because that space can only be located inside themselves.

Don’t Mess with Masculinity

Anybody here a Blacklist fan? We are finishing up season 8, and I’m being visited by a terrible suspicion that the show is going in the direction of telling us that Raymond Reddington had a sex-change operation. This would be a huge letdown because I didn’t watch five million seasons of a show about the most masculine guy in the history of television to discover he’s supposed to be a chick. The entire show is nothing but a pretext for James Spader to demonstrate a glorious, unfettered masculinity. I very much hope nobody is planning to mess with that.

Talking about masculinity, isn’t it funny how when Spader was young, fit and acted in porn movies he didn’t come off as manly at all while in his sixties and overweight, he’s doing it effortlessly.

Dave Chappelle Special

I should have known that there was no chance Netflix was going to put anything unwoke on its platform. But I bought into the social media hype and did go to check out the Dave Chappelle special. Of course, it turned out to be the standard woke swill. And I’m an idiot for believing Netflix’s marketing tactics.

Bleh. If I wanted that kind of thing, I would have gone to the faculty meeting.

Neoliberal Unions

At the University of Sussex, the administration is defending a feminist professor’s right to speak her mind while the union is trying to pressure the administration to fire her.

At my university, we are 75% back to teaching in person now and 90% back next semester because the administration waged a massive battle against the union that wanted us to become a 100% online school for the foreseeable future.

Labor unions are nothing more than a neoliberalizing disciplinary agent. It pains me to say this because we all know my history of union organizing. But now unions are completely anti-worker and pro-Big Business.

Seeking Validation

The reason why people insist on having their life choices constantly affirmed is that there’s no longer any stable moral framework within which they’d find the knowledge of whether they are acting correctly without having to pester everybody else constantly. People freak out so badly when the correctness of their lifestyles isn’t beamed at them from everything and everybody because they don’t have a set of foundational beliefs about the good and the bad. They are like little children who need mommy to approve of how many pieces of candy they can eat because they have no idea how to decide that for themselves.

Take, for instance, the demands that everybody list their “pronouns.” This is infantile behavior that needs mommy constantly to confirm her love because the infant doesn’t know how to maintain the feeling of being loved on his own. Ideally, the child grows up and finds a way to maintain the feeling of being safe and valuable on his own. But if he doesn’t know how to do that, he’ll become clingy, pouty and will demand declarations of love and acceptance from everybody around him.