Fishing for God


“A man without God is like a fish without a bicycle.” ~ Found on the men’s room wall, Larry Blake’s Pub, Berkeley, 1977

The Sufi’s say that every story has seven levels of meaning. The above quote is from a book I have been reading again, Robert Anton Wilson’s Cosmic Trigger 1. Thanks to what I have learned from RAW over the years, I tend to try and look at things from as many angles as I can (when I can remember that this is a good thing to do.) From a RAW perspective, the Sufi wisdom about every story having seven level may be an example of sneaky reverse psychology. Perhaps it’s not so much that every tale has seven meanings, but rather that we are always free to look at thing in many ways.

Upon initial reading, the quote above could seem like nothing more than the type of humorous dig used by modern militant atheists to make fun of religious belief. As far as it goes, this meaning isn’t bad. It gets its point across rather well. A bicycle is a dry land conveyance, and not very effective in water. At best a bicycle would serve as something interesting for a fish to swim around.

What happens if we dig a little deeper? What if the locale was reversed and we look at the metaphor from where the bicycle is designed to work? In this version the fish is on land. Land is a place of death for a fish. So, we are dealing here with a fish in the land of the dead. This is a ghost of a fish. A fish who has passed on.

There are at least two activities which a bicycle can be put to, and so here our metaphor splits. The first use to which a bike can be put is for fun. In this version of looking at the quote the bicycle might be God providing fun for the deceased fish, a chance to enjoy their afterlife.

The other activity a bicycle can be out to is getting somewhere. A bicycle is a mode of transportation, and one that’s faster and easier than walking. So, where might one want to travel in the afterlife? The obvious answer is that the deceased will want to travel to whatever their final reward is. Getting there faster would certainly be a great boon, especially for a fish on dry land. In this interpretation of the quote God is the one who makes the way easier, the one who helps the fish get its just rewards in a timely manner.

These are three possible meanings for the above anonymous quote. According to the Sufis there must be at least four more. However, I don’t think the point is to see if you can get all seven. Like many Sufi devices, this one is not an instruction for a process, but rather a suggestion of a game. If you can get into the habit of always seeing things more ways than one, then life takes on added depth, and it is sprinkled with more opportunity.

RAW suggested this very thing in many of his talks. It’s a way to avoid getting stuck in dogmatic thinking. When someone tells you the way something is, or what something means, always try to come up with three, or four, alternative perspectives, answers, or solutions. That way you don’t get stuck in things as they are presented. You also get to enjoy the possibility of choice, and therefore a reinforcement of your free will. Because sometimes a fish is not a fish, and sometimes a bicycle is not a bicycle, and very rarely is God a god.

On Being Inspired

I just got to watch an unreleased video by a guy who I might get to work with in the near future. Excitement about the new gig aside, I found myself very inspired by the guy’s story, and sharing. I got pumped. He has something of a Gary Vaynerchuk vibe (in a very different industry) and as I happen to be a big GaryVee fan, it really hit my chords.

I noticed something interesting in the process of being inspired, beyond the content. I think it’s a good idea when being inspired to not be inspired by what someone is doing. I don’t feel a particular pull towards the industry this guy is in (though he nearly got me there) as a career. It’s not something I can be passionate about. Excited yes, but passionate, not so much. If I tried to follow that excitement all in, I would burn out, and I’d be back to looking for the thing I really want to do.

I also don’t think it’s wise to be inspired by how someone is doing something, when being inspired. I loved the style in the video, and the energy, but they are not me. Again, if I tried to go with copying his style as a way to put my passion out there, it would fall flat sooner or later.

What sticks for me, and what I think is good to emulate when being inspired by something is the simple fact that they are doing. Period. The inspiration that can last, and serve, is the oomph to get up and move forward with my passion. Not how they do, or what they do, but that they do.

In other words; when inspired, try to remember, “You do you.

My Default Interface

Gnothi seauton.” That’s Latin for, “know thyself.” It’s a pearl of wisdom from antiquity that admonishes one to be honest with oneself so that one may know humility, but also to ignore the opinion of the multitude in charting one’s course. I’ve muddled my way through life following this pearl as much as I can.

It is in that quest to know myself that I recently sorted out a funny little issue that has been itching at my mind for quite sometime. What’s been itching my mind is something that happens to others which I have realized also happens to me, in an odd way. Of course it should be obvious what I am on about at this point, but I will just go ahead and say it. The thing that happens to others, that is similar to the thing that happens to me, is none other than: resting bitch face.

In case you have not been on Internet for the past couple of years, “resting bitch face” is a thing that has been called out on social media, and seems to have a wide range of acceptance. Essentially it’s where a person’s default expression, their face before they have reacted to anything, is set in a way that is commonly taken for distraught, grumpy, angry, or bitchy. People who have this “condition” often have to endure endless inquires into what is wrong when nothing is, and assumptions that they are upset with whomever they are dealing with when they aren’t. They often become the unwitting recipients of advice such as, “smile more”, and “if you don’t frown so much people will like you more.”

I had a long and uncertain relationship with the idea of “resting bitch face.” Being a Libra, I tend to see both sides of an argument to a fault. I would wonder, if this situation was a burden for the person who had it, why they didn’t train their expressions to something different. Then I wondered why they should need to. I hopped back and forth, never giving much voice to my opinion, chiefly because it never gelled together. Finally things went click for me; I have been struggling with a version of this for all of my life.

What I realized was that while I do not have “resting bitch face”, I have something similar that has been just as much of a burden. For, you see, I am a “steady-state asshole.” Let me explain what that means. If there is an opportunity for a pointed comment, a jab at an exposed trigger, a correction of flawed reasoning, I’ll take it. I don’t do this out of malice, or fear. Rather, I do sometimes, but those aren’t the times I am referring to here. I do this because it’s in my nature. The off-color remark, the racial slur, the non-PC comment. These all come very naturally to me. I manage to keep the worst of it in, but not all. Again, I am not trying to be crass or cruel, it’s just how expression happens with me.

[SIDEBAR: I am aware there are other terms I could be using here, such as “curmudgeon”, “grump”, or “jerk”. The issue I have with these terms is they have too long been in the lexicon of common usage. That means there original meaning has become watered down by use slightly (and sometimes extremely) outside of what I think was there original intended use. Such is the nature of an actively evolving language. Plus, “steady-state asshole” has more punch than those other terms and I think this distinction requires that to get the point across. The term “resting bitch face” also has a perfectly accurate older phrase. Namely, “sour puss.” I think that “resting bitch face” is a much better phrase for modern usage for the same reason that “steady-state asshole” conveys it’s meaning in a more current fashion.]

Life as a “steady-state asshole” has many interesting and entertaining implications. Frequently saying things that cause other people to be confused about whether you mean to be insulting (intentionally, or unintentionally) can lead to some pretty pickles, some grave misunderstandings, and some lost opportunities. On the bright side, knowing that one is a “steady-state asshole” at lease keeps one aware that perhaps a kind word, or an apology are good things to keep handy.

I am a “steady-state asshole”, and I don’t mean anything by it. It’s just how I groove. It’s not you, it’s me (quite often.)