Against Superheroes: Section 11 (Chapter 8)

Against SuperheroesThe twin horns, the god dilemma. In retrospect, for that period and the aberrancy that flowed through my mind, there remained a small piece of me that was grounded in the sad derelicts of my moral constructions. Could I simply be moral because I was a god? Or was the moral order external to me making me irrelevant. Irrelevant or arbitrary. I reflect now, under some control, on my perverse desires during that period (really they never left me but were just suppressed and—what is the term?—sublimated into other actions). But perhaps that is the very nature of the trajectory I was on: the breakdown and atomization of my soul or personality, and the reconstruction of it like some child emerging from the jungle, biting fellow kindergartners, until the rough edges of her being are chiseled off by running the complex maze of sharp-cornered lessons. I had been reborn and was still the wolf child.

The mythologies I was trained in tell me only sometimes about the growth of gods from childhood. Endymion, Bellerophon, Baal and Anat, they all emerge without any sense of tempest in their birth or any period of maturation. Even Jesus was born, revered, and then was spreading the word of his own godliness without any explication about the transitional period. I can only imagine the difficulty of raising that boy, whether he was arrogant towards his mother and stepfather or was stinking of zen, as the Japanese would say, so holier than thou that mother and father just suppressed contempt until the little carpenter was old enough to be thrust out into the world.

There was an intensity to the feeling and beliefs during the transformation, a rising up of what might be translated as pride, but a pride that was baseless, having been sucked of all the historical content of achievements and accolades that might result in pride. I just had the feeling in isolation, a welling of energetic sensations that made me feel entitled and empowered. Humans were in my sensorium, nearby like pointillistic fields of overlapping waves. There is wave-particle duality in quantum physics, I think. I don’t claim to understand it deeply, but it argues something like that the tiny little particles—electrons and gluons and quarks and whatnot—are all a bit like waves and a bit like particles. They are little probability waves limited in their spatial extent. They may materialize randomly or they may not, sparing Schrödinger’s cat, but they are a duality of ordinary properties that we observe in the world, waves like in water and particles like billiard balls. I think I can sense these fields that govern matter. They may look like overlays of bluish light on the world but they are really magnitudes and potentialities. And the choices, moral or otherwise, of every being I could see had predetermined trajectories like elaborate domino arrays collapsing into a picture of the future. It was in this inevitability that I lost interest in the notion of humanity. They were much less than sheep because at least sheep are governed by urges, but the reactions of specific ewes and lambs have some element of unpredictability. I could see this in the layered interactions of the points, folded around the animal’s brains, and the human ones, too. This certitude faded with distance, the distinctiveness of the points breaking down, first into semi-predictable blobs, but then drifting into a vague heat map of possible actions beyond about three hundred meters.

Without difference, without a private self immune to scrutiny by others, in a strange panopticon of god’s surveillance, the self collapses to become a worshipper only. Nothing else can be dreamt of. The self dissipates and flows up into god. My people in my little oasis, in my chambers, they were attached to the first horn because they were entwined within me by my mental scrutiny pervading their own. This happened without effort and without any ability to intervene because the core sense of standard propriety was gone. I could only exploit and use and became the central moral thesis. I could read their thoughts, too, that tens of thousands of soldiers, students, wives, fathers, and peasants had given up Islam, ISIS, the Islamic Caliphate, the Asad regime, their tribal affiliations, their family traditions, and were enthralled by me alone. The name Baal was once again spoken as more than just about arid horticulture. I was the light and the truth, with bowing towards Mecca replaced with bowing towards my storms.

There were these tiny little moments during that time, moments that I can just barely remember, but that are still hiding in my memories like darting squirrel phantoms, that show me how base I was. The fear of my people was a drug to me, their sexual excitations, performed like a stage drama, was an elixir, and when I raped and murdered them or had them rape or murder another, it was a reservoir of instantaneous climactic intoxication. But seeing that cold self-control from their previous Muslim lives hidden behind their dispositions ailed me. It made me feel cold, too, and the effervescent blur subsided until there was a contemptuous hollow like my former human self, though without the shielding of moral impetus.

I soared over the battlefields and revealed myself to crowds of young men, huddled in ridiculous drapery behind desert hills, pointing their assault rifles towards me until they cowered and became mine, departing on a hejira towards the oasis where tent cities formed around my temple. The skies were perpetually dark and roiling here, circulated by a permament afterglow of my will even when I was flying far away. I tried to discern what made these young men become the jiahdis that they had been, delving into the structures of their beliefs, but I came up with very little. It was as much an urge to power, I realized, as my own exaggerated self. There was a certain laziness, too, with so many of them detesting the meager jobs and familial expectations that surrounded them. Auto mechanic, day laborer, shepherd, bank teller—these were nothing compared with their roles as part of the great Caliphate. At first I abused these lowly zealots more than others, setting them up in gladiatorial spectacles with just knives and frying pans, robbing them of their AK-47s and RPGs. If they wanted to serve a higher power, why not through demonstrations of strength? But this bored me even more than the endless orgies of the most beautiful that haunted my chambers. Punishing them for their simple humanity made no more sense than merely instrumentalizing them. So then I began forming my own army out of them, making them shave their bodies and heads then dress in white linen military coats that the women sewed for them, the word Baal in Arabic stitched in red across their backs. I wasn’t sure who I wanted them to fight, however. I could more easily just co-opt little tribal paramilitary groups into becoming part of my retinue, so why destroy them?

That galled my scholarly self most about the ancient histories. The internecine warfare, constant and unabated, the conquering and conquerings, the subjugation by Hellenists and Romans, and the steadfastness of Yahweh and El, of Jesus and Allah, against all opposition, and yet I could just turn them all to shower me with their  praise, the emotional tsunami greater than any petty skirmish over land and water, and profited little from warfare. If I was the Baal of old, consumed by Mot, child of El and Ashera, humanity was just an essential toy, but irrelevant to any grand scheme. In every ancient religion, there are consequences for not worshipping in the circumscribed rituals. We have the Sabbath requirements, the aversion to pork, the necessity of Halal, the baptism in water, and the consquences are hell and purgatory, disavowal and tribal sanctimony, or even killing. All that morality amounted to was obedience and tribal affiliation. At least some of the ancients had temple prostitutes and secret knowledge. There were unknowns and inner sanctums.

And so there I was on the horns of this dilemma, transfixed by the opportunities—so dreadful and irrelevant—about what I should do with myself and my time and my worshippers. I wanted them. I needed their emotions, pain and joy, sexual frustration, and cruel excitations. I had to have them but I had nothing to do for them. It was this dilemma that hung over me every day, broken only by my mad, beautiful flights into the plumage of evening storms, across the sands and villages, like misaligned matrixes, cupped in the runnels of the hills. I soared over them and they watched from below in ecstatic awe at their new god. And the sad irony was that I had nothing but pain and abuse for them. At first I thought I was enough. That the relationship was enough. They worshipped and I absorbed. But I felt the weight of the history of the god experience hanging on me like a heavy, wet cloak. I was supposed to guide them and direct them, for their greater good. And the horn would be determined by my will, derived from my unknown new resolve, interpolating the good from some sense of history that was just a distant, abrasive cloth, or maybe from new directives. I tried to imagine what those should be beyond worship. They could be good to one another. They could make war on the Muslims or the American drones growling around my cloud masses. They could build water desalinization projects. But it was all inconsequential. A few would live, a few would improve, but the worship would continue unabated. I could focus on maximizing the intensity of my experience of them but the models and mechanisms for achieving that were unknown to me. Sexual intensity was initially appealing, then violence, then transgressive combinations of both, but there was no continuity to any of it. The novelty rose, peaked, and then was gone again like a darting rabbit.

The only conclusion available to me was that the religious experience of the worshipper had to be conditioned on a love commitment that demanded little from me. It was mostly an internal phenomena for them, constructed of their personal relationship with Baal, with Jesus, with Allah. It didn’t really matter much at all who I was. I could be an English footballer or Ronald Reagan. Insofar as the love was not putrified by any misdeeds or violations of some mental contract of fear and love that was instituted from early on or by a lack of discernment, the object of their worship was inconsequential. They believed in me, wanted me, and wanted me to be something transcendant to them.

The history of Yahweh was at least as pathetic as my own. Like a discredited huckster he demands of his creation that they obey his dictats concerning the knowledge of good and evil, then punishes the entire human race forever when Eve unknowingly violates his strictures. This asinine moral copula is just amplified by his unholy destruction of the entire earth later on in Genesis with the Noachian flood. I blundered. I, in all my omniscience, didn’t foresee the ineluctable tendency of my own creations to violate my trust. A god who is incompetent and immoral and petty should be an abandoned god but, as my own subjects showed, beat them enough into submission and even the smartest and most incorrigible will bend to your will. My will, oh my will, was great and permeated their thoughts all through their days. I made sure of that when I was in close proximity to them. I could only imagine El and Yahweh, brutally obsessed with their own internecine deeds and proclivities, picking these tumults from some laundry list of options for the perverse persecution of their followers. And the followers recorded it all in some transcriptive form, harmonized after a return from Balylonian exile, from Persian co-existence, wrapped into something that held the ancient conundrums of these moral horns but also tried to build a new understanding of what had befallen them. There had to be a moral order, sensible and emerging from a natural science of sin, from some elemental failing of human capacities that translated into insignificance before immeasurable powers. That was what I was and the rest of it was a construct in their own minds. I could feel it, too, the rapt beliefs filtering down like layers of gray water pebble beds, emerging into a consistent narrative. I was Baal, the storm god come to deliver the Middle East from desert purgation. This meme was becoming pervasive, transmitted like a tiny virus through all the people. They didn’t want more cell phones or an afterlife, just more water for their olive groves and garbanzo beans. I was a weather phenomena who raped their girls until they died. It seemed a small price to pay for a god, and the inconsistency of it was lost in waves of explanation, of apologetics, that emerged from their hope for something that led them out of their meager lives. At least we have a god they seemed to say and think.

I can’t project effectively back into the minds of the ancient people that I studied for so long. They believed things that I can’t comprehend and were limited by a tiny woven fabric of contingency and self and tribe and meager education. They had worldviews, much though that term makes me ill, and their views formed shadows that were only eclipsed by simple day-to-day activities like defecation and tending to their crops. Everything else, from animal killing and eating to fornication and family, were guided by these moral films shrinkwrapped over every tiny interaction. I have lost my sympathy for these things, these tiny worships and admonitions that built up into angry familial confrontations about righteousness and jealousy, and see the vying among my people as a horrific consequence of their failures as independent beings. They should despise me, despise Allah and Yahweh, despise all the pushy moralists with their rapacious appetities. They should rise up and attack me, take back their women and their sexual identities. They should seek out weapons against me. I would retreat in the end. War with me is even less consequential than among them. I can feel it, briefly, but it doesn’t extend and nourish enough that I can be sustained by it.

At Oasis the end came in two very separate packages that led me to think in new ways. One was Ela, of course, and I can only continue to apologize to her memory, now. The other was a beacon from another world that shook me out of my delirium.

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