This is in no way an endorsement of radical Islam or jihadists. Nor am I endorsing any radical fundamentalism, religious or political. For that matter, I suppose I can trace a line backwards from Richard Dawkins to any number of Hitlerian nabobs, pedantic teachers, overbearing parents, know-it-all neighbors and, especially, that cigar-smoker at the bar who won’t keep his trap shut for anything he disagrees with. Yeah, you know the guy. But…
…for once I see some wisdom in the Islamic resistance to depict their deity, Allah, as a drawing, painting or cartoon. It saves them the embarrassment of being wrong. Of course, they think they’re right. Allah is the kingpin, the don of those multitudinous virgins that are promised to mere mortals. He must know something us living, stupid infidels don’t. Which brings up the possibility that maybe he doesn’t want us to know, or see, thereby saving us the abject disappointment of eternal life.
To quote from a song of occidental legend: “It ain’t necessarily so.”
Western traditions are just as flawed as anything Eastern philosophies have ever dreamed up. Christianity encourages the depiction of their deity, Jesus, in all visual art—paintings, cartoons, Hallmark cards, plastic statues, Hollywood blockbusters with endless synchronization rights. And if you don’t see their god—either the father, the son, the holy whatever or all-of-the-above—in the prescribed way, well, you must be a blasphemer. The difference is: while Islam saves us the disappointment of being wrong about concepts of monotheistic mascots, Christianity aggressively forces that deception upon us with the classic image of a Jesus that likely bore no resemblance to what he actually looked like. If he existed at all. Historically, it’s the finest example of Photoshop abstractionism and, again, it ain’t necessarily so.
I grew up in an era when saddle oxfords and fancy salt & pepper sets were popular. Two-tone paint jobs were common on automobiles and no one was afraid to chop em and channel em and drop em and spray em any and all colors of the metallic, kandy apple rainbow. They was what they was and if they wasn’t, the Rat Fink gods of customization didn’t care who was looking at what they did, nor did they care what the holy and the heinous thought about it. It was done, and it was good.
Duke Ellington summed it up by saying: “No boxes.”
…we have Islam insisting that no one, neither believer or non-, create any graven images of a deity that likely doesn’t exist—at least not the way they say he doesn’t exist, or the way he doesn’t want anyone to know he doesn’t exist. I imagine this denial acquits us all of artistically conjecturing how he doesn’t appear to anyone or no one. Yes, saved from being wrong whether we want to be or not.
…we have Christianity decking all halls with Jesus and expecting all knees to bend in the symbolic presence of a trinity that’s likely just as fanciful a manifestation of a thing called faith. And just as doubtful as Wall Street investment profiles. It’s an insistence on belief in a deity that has the same likelihood of existence, but to whom our bowels must quake in reverence when the image is forced upon us—like the Edsel. It was supposed to be a Ford, or a Mercury, but no one bought it. At least the Edsel didn’t damn anyone to eternal ownership or payment plans.
The conclusion? There is none, and I won’t comment on any other religions during this hallowed “holiday season” because I’m tired of the whole furshluggin’ thing and I wanna get some sleep. God, Allah, Elvis… they’re all the monsters over our beds* vying for attention and ready to kill you if you do, deliver you to everlasting death if you don’t, or play forever in a digital lock-groove of drive-time rotation.
But to be fair, please, oh please, don’t get me weighing in on Atheism.
I’ll get mad.
Because they’re mad.