Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Going To The POTY

I was playing some music here on the iMac over the weekend, and my daughter asked me a question: "what's your favorite song of all time?"

Instead of telling her I didn't have an all-time favorite, I asked her another question: "what's your favorite ear?" She stared at me a moment, and then, knowing me as she does, she answered, "my left."

But I think she got the point, which I'll now expand upon a little for this audience. Which ventricle of your heart makes the beat happen? Which of your lungs is better at breathing? What's your favorite testicle, men? And ladies, which of your ovaries do you favor? Do you have a favorite finger, or a toe that seems to outshine the other nine?

Whence comes this obsession with the best song, the greatest performer, the all-time undisputed world's champion; the beauty queen or the political king--the Lord of Hosts? Why do we live like moss on the rock of celebrity? Why do we lust for the smallest identification with fame, to the point where there is an entire industry of publications, television shows, radio programs, and websites devoted to the cult of celebrity, the quest to isolate a few wonders of humanity, and freeze them onto a narrow pedestal of adoration?

This occurs on every point of the political and cultural spectrum. Arianna Huffington has been obsessing over her role (with none other than Tom DeLay) on Time Magazine's Person of the Year deliberations, as if it is significant to humanity as a whole who the POTY happens to be, when all the pundits have cast their votes.

Well, do you care? Will singling out the POTY clean up the shit on this earth? Will knowing at last who Time/Warner/AOL/God so designates for cover stardom settle anything having to do with global warming, the genocide in Darfur, the continuing tragedy in Iraq, the round of murder and misery on the Gaza Strip and Lebanon?

If we are going to obsess over a POTY, then we will, most likely, fall recurrently into the trap of worship; and we will repeatedly fight the same wars, killing new generations of innocents, over whose God is the universe's favorite, over which belief system most accurately and meaningfully tells God's history and paints the right color on his beard.

The old Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu, who has made occasional appearances here at Daily Rev, has some advice for us in this respect: if you want reality, look past the images cast by others, and disperse the ones within you. Here is Chapter 50 of the Tao Te Ching, in my own translation:

Into life they arise,
Through death they return.

A third of them seem bound up with their lives;
A third of them seem attached to death;
Another third appear ambivalent--
Passively shifting their allegiance
From each to each.

Why is this so?
Perhaps from an obsessive attachment
To life’s mere appearance?

But I have heard of people
Who could live long and travel far--
Ever free of harm or mortal wound
From wild beasts or deadly weapons.

A rhinoceros would find no place to pierce them;
There would be no meat for a tiger’s claws,
And no place where a sword could enter.

And why is this so?
Because they have shed the illusion
That marks off life
From the realm of death.

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