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After the Golden Age by Alvin Schwartz
Giving a glimpse into the formative years of comics and beyond.

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AFTER THE GOLDEN AGE for 09/09/2002
Volume 2, Number 48

Religion is powerful and dangerous stuff. Watching it in action over the centuries, it seems over and over again to demand the lives either of its own adherents or of those outside its circle of belief. Religion marks the absolutism of the human heart, its profoundest bloodlust, a commitment so viciously framed against the non-believers of whatever god it follows, that the generation-long, cruel, ugly Thirty Years War is but a single fleeting example of it out of our own western history. More currently, the leap from "Kill a Commy for Christ" to "Kill an American for Allah" is not such a long one. Abhorrent attitudes are abhorrent in the name of any cause and one of the major causes, history shows us, is religion.

I say this without being against religion. I say it as the same person who not very long ago, but well before September 11th, pointed out the significance of something called enantiodromia. The changing of a thing into its opposite. For remember, everyone of the major religions in whose name we have seen horrors committed has also been adamant about such things as loving one another, the brotherhood of man, do unto others... Everyone of the sacred writings of the world's major religions has regarded killing as a violation and a sin against the spirit. There have been no exceptions, not in the Q'uran, the Bible, The Buddhist Sutras, and the entire Hindu canon, including the Gita (for those who know how to read them correctly.) The Ten Commandments hold sway everywhere.

If I were to stop and ask here just what it is that turns the spirit of love and peace into the cruelest violence and inhumane aggression, I must confess that it lies, mysteriously enough, in the human capacity to love. Human love, in fact, by the very virtue of its divinity, can become so strong that it will turn its deepest power and feelings against anyone and anything that seems to threaten it. Precisely because it has become human, it can descend move from being a state and condition of existence to the level of an idea. Once it has fallen into the mode of an idea, it seeks an object. That is, it tries to mirror itself. It materializes itself by finding an opposition, an opponent, the thing that stands against it-its OTHER. As I've mentioned here before, evil arises out of love precisely, as Hegel said, because "there is no absolute negative. There is only the negative of a particular positive." In short, evil occurs when love becomes objectified. That is, when it becomes a cause, a thing. As I labor to make this clear in these struggling words, I trust those of you reading this will recognize what I'm saying. Consciousness must grow out of an act of division. Hence, "I bring not peace, but a sword."

"The time cometh and is here now," Jesus further says to the woman of Samaria, "when God will be worshipped not in this mountain and this place, but in spirit and in truth." Not, in other words, in the name of this religion and this doctrine, but in the unity of life itself. Nameless and unutterable. But only after having seen itself objectified.

Let me put it another way. Essentially, love is weak, without power. Love is, in modern scientific parlance, what we call "information." Now information is not news, or facts. Information is a pure signal. It needs very little power of its own. And so it has none. Just as the micro-switch running on less than a watt of power can turn on or off the world destroying power of a set of linked nuclear missiles, so love, in its very weakness is the signal that determines the state of the world.

Having said all this, we come now, this week, to September 11. How are we to think about it? One of the objectifications of the Q'uran has taken the form of the Wahabbi religion. This religion, now in the objectified mode of hatred-specifically against the West and the US, and sponsored by the great oil wealth of Saudi Arabia which feeds it to maintain the questionable power of a tyrannical class of usurpers-we all know this, do we not?-and because the oil-wealthy classes and members of a financial group, the Carlisle Group-- where the Bushes have strong interests in maintaining the current oil balance-we all know this too, do we not?-so that in their need to maintain their dominance in oil, this Carlisle Group-the plotmaster suggests-would probably do well to turn American anger against, not the Saudis, oh no-nothing so simple-but against Iraq whose oil fields, once under American control, will no longer be dependent on Saudi oil-right? A reasonable sounding twist? It has the look of realpolitik in spades.And, of course, this is how Tony Blair will convince his European colleagues-right? Does the whole complex plot make sense otherwise? Why would the Saudis, so threatened by Iraq, refuse to support such an American initiative? Does it not also make sense to see that they recognize the threat to their control of oil resources? These are all possibilities to be reckoned with. To be examined with care. And possibly a very good move for the moment, except that we ought also to consider how it might well extend the dominance of carbon based energy and suppress the arrival of alternative sources to a point where arresting global warming becomes impossible. Here the plot can take a multitude of important paths. So-a good step for the moment, but-where does it end up?

Once the process of division has so objectified the highest spiritual purposes, men are required to move carefully, think clearly, examine all the hidden moves and motives. Must we not then be both gentle as a dove and strong as a lion? The world is again at one of those great descents. Will the process of division continue further down? Will matters get bloodier and worse? I suggest here one of a number of possible scenarios. I am in my plotting mode. It's the way my comic strip mind works. But the one thing I'm sure of-September 11th is a time that calls for each of us to think hard and carefully, while remembering that "Even as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so shall the Son of Man be lifted up." How shall we now handle this crisis that spreads out from this fatal date? I hope that many of you, reading this column, will offer us your best thoughts.

Now, above all, is when they're needed.

--Alvin

<< 09/02/2002 | 09/09/2002 | 09/16/2002 >>

Discuss this column with me at my Round Table.

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