Thursday, October 28, 2021

Art of God

Have you ever woken up and had the impression that you are not where you're supposed to be? That this world isn't right, and that you're missing something that should be blatantly obvious, yet isn't? You probably have, especially these days. The world has changed so radically over the last decade and is changing even faster over smaller periods of time.

By tomorrow, everything we knew could be long gone and forgotten. And if it is, what can we do about it?

All the more reason why preparing for the future is paramount, probably more than it ever has been and certainly more than it has over the last decade. Nevertheless, one cannot prepare for the future without having some understanding of the past, which is definitely a weak point for many these days. Nostalgia has overtaken common sense, and product supersedes humanity.

It is difficult to connect with the past when you only see part of it, and the rest is obscured by nostalgics and propagandists. We are missing the bigger picture here.

The most tired aspect of modern culture is constantly dealing with and talking about nostalgia. It's a vicious circle that never ends as we consistently deal with echoes of the same issues we've been tackling since the middle of the 20th century. Where worship of the past was just about non-existent in mainstream culture in the '00s, it soon poured in from the fringes to make the 2010s a characterless blob of a decade with nothing original to show for itself. Why did this happen, and why are we still dealing with this exact same atmosphere in the 2020s? Certainly a new decade means change, right? That is what we were taught was supposed to happen.

But reality had other plans.

Truth be told, we all know Cultural Ground Zero is the marking of the moment of the end of 20th century culture and all that lead up to it finally running out of steam, but that shouldn't explain our drive to steadfastly ignore this reality. We still won't acknowledge the world has changed. We might say it has, but we definitely don't act like it. 

We spent the 2000s depressed at the state of the modern world, and the 2010s angry at the state of the modern world, leaving us with little future to think about aside from how bad current events are. All that really remains is the past, so to weaponize that is all that some of the less talented among us have left to offer. And rest assured, no one who tries to use the past as a sledgehammer against reality has anything inside them resembling good intentions. As long as they remain in charge, and as long as you give them any sort of approval or acknowledgement, this is what you will continue to get, forever and ever.

It is what happens when you give support to people who hate you. This is why no one throughout history has ever done this, aside from us.

Until we let the past, present, and future, be what they are, we will be trapped in this endlessly spinning cyclone forever. Imagine an old washing machine rattling endlessly in an old rotting house, the decaying floors and walls creaking against its jittering weight as it attempts to pointlessly do its job. We all know what is eventually going to happen in such a situation. The ones in charge, however, do not care.

It also doesn't help that most every modern man is a utopian at heart, believing that if everyone were to prescribe to one ideology in particular the world would reach Heaven on Earth. This doesn't even matter what your religion is (and yes, you have a religion even if you say you don't: learn what the word means) because everyone does this.

How often have to gone through it in your head? Certainly the school system worked hard to beat it into student's skulls, to the point that they can remember it far more easier than multiplication tables or where China is on the map.

The story is that the industrial revolution changed human nature forever and now pain and suffering would go away because of Progress thereby bringing in paradise and saving fallen humanity. It never happened and it never will, but no one can get it out of their heads. Looking back on it now, one can't help but see it for the farce it is. This attitude explains why a lot of the things people thought and did during the last century seems so bizarre from an outsider perspective.

Why did it feel like the majority of the western world throughout the 20th century was more obsessed with telling people Heaven was just a folk song and cry session away from arriving on Earth, instead of pursuing truth or building towards anything?

Did no one think to build new bridges while the old ones were rusting?

We've covered this on Wasteland & Sky many times already, from Hollywood to OldPub to current bombs like the comic book industry or the whatever is left of the old record labels. No one really wants to create--they want to enforce a narrative for a group that will enshrine them as high priests and build statues in their honor. They just have to get it through their soft brains that the Special People have all the correct answers for them.

Tearing things from the base, fetishizing what you like at the cost of all others, and cutting off anything else, is the main priority of today's supposed artist. Limit your audience intentionally and if they don't connect with you, well, that's their problem. You have something to say, and if they don't want to hear it then they are the ones who are wrong.

You must boost yourself up in order to stand on others. And as an artist that is your destiny--to be above the masses.

But this is the opposite of the purpose of the artist. It never worked this way before. The purpose is to find ways to share your experience of the world with the audience so that you can both come closer together in Truth and understanding of reality. In this aspect, creation is religious, because you are attempting to share the word with the world. You are trying to get them to come together, if only for a single second, for something bigger than what you each have individually. Forget all art being political: all art is religious.

Which brings us to modern "religious" art. This is going to be a tough subject to cover without offending anyone, but that would only be if the intent was to purposefully drive people away from the larger point here. If all art is religious, then what can be said about modern religious art in comparison to mainstream or "secular" art as they call it? 

The truth is that "secular" and "religious" art are two lesser halves of a whole. On their own they are only have a mere fraction of what they can be. If all art and entertainment is religious, and it is, then how can there be a separate "religious" and "secular" art?

That's just it: there can't be.

It can simply be told that there is no such division of religious and secular art and anyone who thinks there is has bought into a frame that never existed before the 20th century. Separate "religious" and "secular" art do not exist.

We're going to have to go through a real gauntlet to get through this subject, so please bear with me. First we must gather some perspective.

One thing we really do need to realize is that the 20th Century is not reality: it's an aberration. The invention of "religious" art as a product and wholly independent industry in modern terms is a misnomer. It isn't real.

Note that I am not talking about statues or paintings of religious figures or events--such things are still art, just of higher value to certain groups for obvious reasons. They are still art regardless of their origins or higher intent behind them. I am specifically referring to the idea that secular things have no bearing on religion and religious things have no bearing on secular things, which isn't true. Before the 20th century, nobody considered this division when creating. They didn't consider it because it didn't exist. We created this false frame ourselves.

Religion is about how one views your purpose in the world and what your role in existence is. Everyone has a religion because everyone believes they have value and purpose outside of themselves and in the universe they live in. If you didn't believe in a purpose you would join the unfortunately growing number of suicides creeping all across the western world. As the expression goes, it doesn't matter if you believe in God because He believes in you. The reality of it is that existence outside of yourself will push you onward and force you to learn, trust, and grow in the world you live. You will learn to believe in things outside yourself or you will die.

You are a creature of faith, even if you don't think you are.

Therefore, one cannot create a piece of art that is not religious. The subject is unavoidable. Every piece of art is embedded with what the creator believes, on some level. You are what you believe, in the end. The only way you wouldn't would be is if you were a complete and frothing nihilist, but even then you would be expressing your philosophy through the events in your work. It just is the way it is. It cannot be avoided, and for centuries before us it never was.

This idea of separates did not fall out of the sky, either. What happened is that the West became so comfortable with their vision of utopia coming soon that different groups of people pushed in different directions to steer the ship. One group decided to throw out everything that came before because the future was here and now, and the past was evil and to be forgotten. Once we throw off the chains of our horrible ancestors and burn them in effigy, and apparently do this over and over forever, we can finally Evolve into our next stage. Whatever that is we do not know. But it will happen someday. At some point. Definitely. Just you wait. Anytime now.

However, this is just one of the groups dealing with unreality. The other group that caused the division between the religious and the secular is the Christian Entertainment Industry stationed all over the Western world. They made the division deeper.

I can hear the objections already. How can a religious group forcibly divide religion and secular art? Wasn't it the utopians that did that? The answer would be that yes, they did. And the Christian Entertainment Industry is half of the cause. They are both to blame.

This divide was caused by the secular purposefully pulling away from the religious and the religious purposefully pulling away from the secular. The gap is so wide today because of this fissure that was deliberately caused so long ago. In many ways both sides just consist of different takes on approaching the "Americanism" heresy that believed a specific place and people on Earth were destined to create a new Eden.

Now, before we go any further I'm going to have to make a few things clear. This is not an argument against any specific denomination of Christianity or groups within said denomination. The subject is not specifically theological in nature which has little to do with what the issue we are covering is actually about. We are speaking of worldly problems and behaviors that caused the troubles which lead us to where we are today.

Living as a utopian is not dependent on where you spend your Saturdays or Sundays, it is about what you believe human nature will consist of hundreds of years after you are gone. If you believe it anything but unchanging and that reality itself can absolutely be warped by thinking the right thoughts and saying the right platitudes then you are a utopian. Since this is something everyone involved in the Christian Entertainment Industry absolutely believes, they are therefore utopian. And this is what we will keep in mind moving forward today.

Modern Christian Art is actually an incorrect descriptor. It is not particularly Christian, it is not really Art, though it is thoroughly Modern. I suppose 1 out of 3 isn't a total failure, though they did hit the worst of them dead on.

For an example of what we are talking about, we can mention any number of things. Movies such as God's Not Dead, books such as Left Behind, or music such as the heavily regulated and gatekept CCM industry, all exist to sell a prepackaged ahistorical soft serving of mid-20th century values and platitudes complete with their own religion heavily based on a modern view of the world that didn't exist before Industrialization and, to be frank, no longer exists today. Their framework is hinged on a time and place that was a waterdrop in the waterfall of history.

It is in fact the makings of a religion, but it isn't framed around Christianity. It is framed around safe, saran-wrapped modernist living for first world baby boomers that came of age over half a century ago. They are more or less 20th century Amish only still entirely dependent on the grid. They even have the three aspects one need to be considered a makeshift religion.

They have a cult: that would be "Bible-based Christianity" though a thoroughly 20th century view on what that means which is always different depending on the date of the calendar (but never before 1950 or so) and use their own "Christianese" language to speak to the ingroup. They also tend to call themselves "non-denominational" though sometimes Evangelical though that is increasingly rarer. The point is that they all share far too similar habits.

They have a code: a thoroughly modern baby boomer outlook on existence usually hinged, purely coincidentally I'm sure, on William F Buckley. You might as well look up to King Louis IX. He has about as much bearing on the modern age. More, actually.

They have a creed: this would be their stale and unchanging art meant to keep you locked down to one place and time while the world around them goes to hell in a handbasket. This would be the Christian Entertainment Industry, which fails at being Christian and fails at being Entertainment. But it does keep you complacent in modernism, and that is what matters more.

From what I can learn, the source of all this is the early evangelical explosion around the mid-20th century which brought up many figures from Billy Graham, Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, and Francis Schaeffer, among others you still hear about today over half a century later. This group would go on to influence philosophical attitudes that later pundits would call "conservative" in outlook. Though, being a faith revival it wasn't conservative in nature, it was in fact very progressive in its ambitions. What such people are actually attempting to conserve today is this movement, social climate, attitudes, and all that goes with it.

It's looked at today as a big boom of Conservative culture, though it is in actuality a fairly modern movement stationed in a particular place and time meant to lead us to a utopia. Heaven on Earth. Much of this consisted of an explosion in Modernist Evangelical art and culture by the likes of Jack Chick or Focus on the Family which hinged everything on this new "Bible-based" movement that would be the handbook to a better future.

And this is the group the runs the Christian Entertainment Industry.

Now, to be fair, there is nothing wrong with a religious revival, nor is there anything wrong with people excited to share their new found discovery of the meaning of existence with everyone they can. To say otherwise would be juvenile and sophomoric. What is wrong is said people using their new found discovery as the art equivalent of soma to lull those around them into a modernist slumber of blandly being safe, fat, and happy. This is the real goal of the industry more than anything. Here they will give you guidelines you need to reach to be put into specialized Christian stores, otherwise your art is Not Christian Enough and is not fit to be consumed by the faithful. Disagree with their official doctrine? Well, you're on your own.

Given that no one believes in mid-20th century first world boomerism aside from a small gaggle of people, a lot of people are on their own. Where does connecting and reaching the world come into play here? That's the problem. It doesn't.

The issue with such a thing is that the standards this industry runs on is one divorced from the majority of Christians (Evangelical or not), the majority of the world, and the rest of history itself. Art is made to connect with the most amount of people possible--the above industry is very deliberately tailored to not do that. Instead they have made new standards to carve out their own special space not unlike the one Fandom used to destroy adventure fiction.

Actually, it is very much the same idea.

Admittedly, at least they didn't hijack another subculture to do this like Fandom did, but it doesn't change the realization that they deliberately made an industry that thrives off ignoring reality for pumping soma into a plastic bubble culture while the world around them goes to hell. This wouldn't be so bad if they didn't try to hijack in entire religion instead and alter the perception of it so badly that every knucklehead and Millennial uses this group as an example of your average Christian believer. This is actually worse than what happened to adventure fiction because it is affecting a several thousand year old religion in the process.

All for what? Conserving a false modern world that is currently on its death bed? We shouldn't be trying to save the 20th century. It's already dead. We should be letting it go.

Think about this logically. Is there a Hindu Entertainment Industry? No. There is Bollywood, but it isn't explicitly Hindu over being Indian. Why? Because it is prepackaged in the fact that it is based around India's entire national character, which includes Hinduism. Secular and religious are one and the same, because they naturally are. You can notice the same for every other religion: there is no entertainment industry fashioned around them to serve soma to cultural members. They are just naturally embedded in the art already being made.

They just make art. This industry cannot do that.

Of course the natural reaction to the above charge is reflection. We will then have to go on about how Hollywood/OldPub/whoever hates religion as a concept and wants nothing to do with anything that isn't modernist secular cultism. That is fair, they clearly do. They are very clearly a problem. Any objective analysis of their products these days shows that they definitely know less than nothing about religion. Everyone knows that.

But this doesn't excuse making the exact opposite error they made. Now we have two different industries that are at best half of what they should be and deliberately cutting themselves off at the knees to cater to shrinking demographics. Both sides are attempting to fashion a construct around themselves instead of engaging with reality as it is. If you want to know a source for the recent downturn in mainstream art and entertainment it is this truth catching up to them. Their time is at an end, and they deserve it.

A religion is not a cult. I know a lot of haha funnymen in the 1990s tried to convince you they were the same, but they are actually very different things.

Religions exist for the purpose of connecting life and purpose to a higher meaning outside of our perceived reality. We want to know more about why we're here and what it all means. This is a way of opening thought to wider and larger perceptions of reality.

Those who say "religion controls you" are wrong: religion offers guidelines and food for thought that allow you to better understand your place in the world. There is not religion on Earth that thinks you becoming a member will instantly make your life easy and give you a pass through hardship and strife. We used to know this before fedora garbage became common. Religion teaches you to work with and understand the world you live in--it isn't a toggle to turn on easy mode. This isn't what any religious person honestly believes. Frequently, joining a religion actually makes life more difficult, for many, many reasons.

However there is a certain type of group that does think that by following their rules to the letter that you will achieve utopia on Earth. All you have to do is turn your brain off and let the leader do the thinking for you. Once you do this, everything will work out. As long as you listen to everything they say, anyway.

The group that believes this would be called cultists. David Koresh, Jim Jones, the Rajneesh movement, and countless others, believed that giving them blind obedience was more important than considering your role in the universe or what you can do to improve existence for yourself and others. It is the literal opposite of a religion.

The very real difference between the two groups is that religion exists to connect you to both a higher power than yourself and others of the same beliefs with matching goals. Together you grow and understand the world better and in a more deeper and complex way than where you started out. Cults operate by figureheads that must be followed to the letter to achieve nirvana, and wouldn't you know it that following said person will make you happy and whole and all your problems will just melt away. You aren't growing: you're shrinking.

Using religious beliefs as veneer for cult thinking doesn't suddenly turn it into a religion. It's still a cult, and it's still trying to offer you something a religion doesn't promise you or the world. There is no get out of jail free card when it comes to reality: cults try to convince you there is and religions do not do this. It is very simple.

Cultists cannot create art; they can only create pamphlets for the cause. And is this not exactly the problem with mainstream art?

This group who runs the Christian Entertainment Industry does attach cult behavior to religion (then throws the word "religion" under the bus in the process, mind) and has in fact influenced many people's thoughts on art and entertainment in unhealthy ways that has stunted creativity over the past half century. This is inarguable.

For instance: rock n roll is not the devil's music. The devil has no music. The devil cannot create anything. You can take things that already exist and warp them to being a pale imitation and mockery of the original, but the core of the original creation remains intact. A musical style with roots in blues, gospel, and country, all of which are Christian musical styles to begin with cannot suddenly be evil and Unchristian because a 20th century boomer in a suit who knows nothing of history says it is. It does not work that way.

Instead they influenced many people (both with them and not) to eventually cut off a musical style and pruned it of its religious roots by letting nonreligious people dictate the rules for the genre, thereby ruining what was being made and released into the world. This is not living your faith: this is running away from the world after poisoning the pond.

This aversion to and hatred of art is an attitude antithetical to creation. And make no mistake: it is a misunderstanding of epic proportions. Religion is about celebrating creation; art is the act of creation itself. The two go together, because they were made to. Every other culture in the world understands this truth. A "religious" person telling you avoid an entire medium, genre, or style, because of preconceived notions they have built up in their head is objectively doing it wrong. They are turning towards cult behavior and damaging others in the process.

What this leads to is two separate cults battling for the soul of something they are both missing half the picture on. Where it was one whole it is now broken in half, and the chicken's are currently coming home to roost. This is why western entertainment has truly hit a nadir. We let this happen. Unless the pieces are reassembled, they will never become whole again.

If you want to build a safe space then go do it on your own. Creating a culture meant to reject reality was never going to end in anything but disaster.

That disaster would be Clown World.

It does not have to be this way, though. It won't be forever. We look to the good old days because we cannot imagine a good new future. Here we are, stuck floating in a stagnant sea of endlessly recycled nostalgia and misplaced memories. No wider hopes for the world, art, culture, or each other. Just a bunch of cults trying to pass their pamphlets around a dead wasteland.

But, as has been said, this isn't the way forward. We need a refresh, a real reboot in our thinking. Change this broken modern mentality and you can change the world. Hopefully for the better this time. I'd like to think we're about due.

We have a blueprint forward, we just have to finally use it. Things have changed so much recently that it is a bit difficult to truly comprehend where we've steered wrong, what we need to walk back, and what we need to keep. Nonetheless, we will figure it out.

The '20s are going to be a weird time, that much is clear. There is a lot to do and not so much left to save. We're going to have to focus instead on moving onward into a new future. Leaving the '00s and the '10s behind in the dust is going to be worth every moment of blood and sweat. Reattach to the past and move forward properly. We're due.

Cultural Ground Zero happened a quarter of a century ago. It successfully killed off the last bits of modernism and left us with the scrap heap of memories that we have used to prop up the pathetic state of the way things are for far too long now. That isn't going to last forever, and it is already falling by the wayside. When it finally goes we are going to need something else in its place: something better. And we know by now exactly what we need. We just have to do it.

Change is on the way, ready or not. Let us just hope we do it right this time. Who knows how many more chances we will be given before time is truly up.

1 comment:

  1. Oh wow, this was a great article. I've been hoping that somebody would point out the crapsack that is the Evangelical Industrial Complex for years now, but you cut right to the heart of the matter. Man, you would be sooooo kicked out of Realm Makers if you went in there and told them this! They are a smaller bubble inside the big bubble and they pass around soma in big peace pipes. I've been trying to figure out how to connect Christianity with the world at large through my art for a long time now, but so many Christians don't seem interested in doing that. Now I finally understand why. It also makes the Cult of Trump make more sense, too. I've scratched my head for years, trying to figure out why Christians treat him like Jesus. Now I understand--he just fit right in with the cult of soma.