Saturday, October 28, 2006

Opiate, M'asses

So last weekend, Gwydion posed the following question:

Religion, as we all know, is the opiate of the masses -- and now I find myself wondering whether Comedism's actually any different. Specifically, I'm thinking about the work with biofeedback (read to prologue to Steven Johnson's Mind Wide Open for a brief intro) that reveals the clear correlation between the telling of jokes and a sharp rise in adrenalin production. Are you, by preaching every weekend, simply giving yourself a fix? And are those of us who enjoy the "sermons" doing the same thing?
The answer is yes...and no.

There is no doubt that laughter and joke telling both, in their physical manifestations, have physiological effects, many of which are helpful and healthful. Laughter may not be the best medicine, but at least most ailments don't have humor-resistant strains. The physical benefits of a good Comedist life filled with love and laughter are undeniable.

And there is even a connection between the physical and spiritual aspects. Many traditions speak of transcending one's body, of achieving a state of consciousness that moves beyond the material. Think of the way true deep uncontrolled laughter makes you lose control of your various bodily faculties -- often itself a quite hilarious result. A good laugh may shoot milk through your nose, make your sides split, bring tears to your eyes, and make it hard to breathe; yet you find yourself in a state of bliss, joy, and focus becoming one with the joke. True, similar states can be brought about through chemical substances, so if you consider the opiate comment in this context -- if other religions are the opiates of the masses, Comedism is some seriously good shit.

But, of course, the comment comes from Karl Marx and was initially intended to convey the thought that organized religion has the sociological function of making sure that the majority of people, the exploited workers, would ignore their lot and leave the oppressive system in place. Like stoners watching cable, they would be too transfixed to take real action. The structure would enforce a metaphysical worldview that justified, even glorified, their suffering making sure that they would never try to change anything.

But Comedism is not an organized religion, no, by its nature it is a disorganized religion. If we learned nothing else from the Marx brothers (minus Karl), it is that those in positions of authority are to be mocked mercilessly. Lenny Bruce and Richard Pryor taught us that the structure itself needs to be challenged. And Gallagher enlightened us by showing that a really big hammer can smack the hell out of a watermelon. Comedism has no orthodoxy because its orthodoxy is to attack and overturn orthodoxy. If anyone tried to be a serious leader in this religion,...

Comedism is the opposite of what Marx was concerned about because the central theological concept is the joke. A joke has two parts: a set up, that makes you think of a situation in one way, and a punch line that forces you to realize that you should have been thinking about it in another. This multifaceted picture of reality is the essential insight of Comedism. A true Comedist Sage (or parsley, rosemary, and thyme) will always look at the universe in different ways, will always see possibility, will always think about how to make the world a funnier place for all in it (except for armadillos which are already pretty darn funny, Saint Shecky be praised). So while other religions may in fact be the opiates of the masses, Comedism is an opiate m'ass.

We will close this week with Karl Marx's favorite joke:
A bourgeois owner of the means of production walks into a bar and orders a glass of Chateau Neuf d'Paup. The bartender says, "In zis bar, ve only zerve bier. Get out of heir bevor ze alienated vorking pipples start ze revolution, schvine."
Yeah, he loved that one.

Live, love, and laugh

Irreverend Steve