“While modern capitalism constantly develops new needs in order to increase consumption, people’s dissatisfaction remains the same as ever. Their lives no longer have any meaning beyond a rush to consume, and this consumption is used to justify the increasingly radical frustration of any creative activity or genuine human initiative — to the point that people no longer even see this lack of meaning as important.” - Pierre Canjuers, Socialisme ou Barbarie #27

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Pseudo-Spirituality the Meaning of Words (Part One)


If you're a facebook user, and you are, at some point today you'll have seen an inspirational "quote" in your feed.  I put the word "quote" in, um, quotes because I'm referring, of course, to things that aren't really quotes at all.  Things like this:


 

 


You know what I'm talking about.  They're everywhere.  The three examples above come from the first page of a google image search for "inspirational quotes". Their defining characteristics are as follows:

1.  Words superimposed over a picture, usually of a sunset, landscape, or other generically serene image.

2.  They convey a positive, pithy or inspirational message, that usually appeals in some way to your sense of individuality and uniqueness.

3.  They are not, or not necessarily, quotations of anything anybody noteworthy has actually said.




You will notice that the first and third examples above do not even attribute their words to a source.  They aren't even quotes at all.  They are just words.  Pretty pictures with pretty words written on them.  The second example attributes the statement of simple astronomical fact, "every morning is a chance at a new day" to one Marjorie Hinckley.  Who was/is Marjorie Hinckley?  Well, without any further context, we can only assume that this is the late Sister Marjorie Pay Hinckley, wife of the (also late) Gordon B. Hinckley, the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (aka the Mormons) from 1995 - 2008.  The Mormon Church is a pseudo-Christian cult known for its "restorationist" brand of conservative American protestantism, derived from "the Book of Mormon - Another Testament of Jesus Christ", the work of precocious 19th-century rural sex-pest Joseph Smith, who claimed to have translated said book from gold tablets (which nobody else ever saw) written in "reformed Egyptian" (a language that doesn't exist) by Moroni (a non-existent angel and  last survivor of an (also non-existent) Israelite tribe exiled in upstate New York) and buried in a mountain for the attention of the aforementioned Master Smith several centuries later, in order that he might have some pretext on which to hang his pseudo-religious justification for having sex with as many women as he wanted to whenever he felt like for the rest of his life.  Remember in the Bible when God said "my ways are not your ways"?  This is probably what he meant.

What has this got to do with anything?  Well, nothing.  Except to say what any moderately well-educated person already knows: always check your sources.  Marjorie Hinckley, for all I know, could have been the most insightful, wise, eloquent and quotable human being who has ever lived - notwithstanding the fact that until I started writing this blog post, I had never once heard of her; and now that I have, all I know about her is that she once may have said in public that every morning is a chance at a new day.  Which isn't even factually correct, is it Marjorie?  Every morning isn't a chance at a new day: every morning is a new day.  That's more or less what the word "morning" means.  Mornings are what happens at the beginning of every day.  There has never been a morning that was not immediately followed by a new day, Marjorie.  Also, you spent your life married to a man who led a church that teaches that Native Americans are descendants of ancient Israelites cursed with "a dark skin" to make them less attractive, which suggests at the very least a temporary lapse in the use of your critical faculties.  What your thoughts on astronomy and/or semantics are doing in my facebook feed I'm really not sure.

What I am sure about is that there's absolutely nothing genuinely inspiring about these, or any other "quotes" of the sort that are now as ubiquitious on social media as they are meaningless.  None of this would matter one bit, I hasten to add, if it didn't appear that so many otherwise apparently intelligent and spiritually insightful people didn't take them all so seriously.  I find this disgusting.  I find it disgusting because it's yet another example of a kind of fetishistic consumerist aesthetic that's geared towards diluting genuine, subversive, radical, spiritual thought down into a reservoir of meaningless bullshit.  People really are looking for depth and meaning in their lives.  We're all desperate for such things.  But for every Terence McKenna, there are a hundred Deepak Chaporas.  For every David Abram or Carl Jung, a hundred thousand David Ickes, Zecharia Sitchins or (to namecheck Facebook darling, "inspirational" "quote" factory and shitpeddler extraordinaire) a Jordan David Pearce   While it might seem that these people are encouraging a growth in spirituality, offering profound insights and presenting radical alternatives into the nature of our spiritually vacuous culture, they are doing nothing of the kind.  It's even worse than that, in fact: they're perpetuating the feeling of liberation at the expense of actually being liberated.  Inspiration is not a feeling at all: it's an action.  If words don't move you to do something, to really question anything, to genuinely challenge yourself, then they are as purposeful as the picture they're written on: pretty, yes, but nothing more than simply...there.  And if they need a pretty picture and a well-designed font to convey something of value, then you have to ask if they have anything of value to convey.  "Stars can't shine without darkness"?  Well they can actually.  The sun is a star, and that only shines in the day time, when it isn't dark.  It also shines at night, too, when viewed from elsewhere in the galaxy.  Because, once again, it's a fucking star.  Stars can't shine without hydrogen.   "The only person you should try to be better than, is the person you were yesterday".  Really?  That's going to be difficult, considering you are the person you were yesterday.  How about trying to be a better person than Jeremy Hunt?  That's also an option.

Behind these words is nothing at all: no source to check the quote against, because nothing and no-one is being quoted.  Nothing is even being said at all.  But it's being said so loudly, so repetitively, so unceasingly, that it's started to sound like something.