“The Soul of a Man Under Socialism” (1891)
“The Soul of a Man Under Socialism” (1891)
As Kōans go, this one (“If you see the Buddha on your way, kill him”) is actually easy to understand, although the interwebs will serve up a plethora of different interpretations for the gullible believer all far more kōan-ish than the original. The same miss- or faux-understanding of elementary philosophic questions disguised as esotericism is probably how my grocery-store Buddha got behind bars on the back of my package of non-caffeinated ginger-tea in the form of this innocent graphic that helps the system to identify my purchase at the checkout in order to charge me the right amount minus the discount, but also to tell someone in charge at the backend of mentioned system to whip out some lowly minimum wage worker to fill up the void i left on the shelf. I believe.
But hey. Brother Buddha just wanted to say this and then for you to leave him alone under the mango tree, so take it and bugger off: your path to nirvana can not be found outside yourself. Duh, right? Easy. Piece of cake. Swallow hard and move on. If you at the end of your miserable day, week and/or life want some salvation, redemption, rebirth, more facebook-likes or just some blissed out whatnot, only you, yourself and yes you are the means to that particular end.
Btw and oy vey: as a sworn anti-theist I have no fallback in that department. There is no hail mary that will save me from the purgatory I will go through for masturbating in the shower. There are no ticker-tape-parades or 72 doe-eyed virgins waiting for me at the pearly gates for altruistically helping geriatrics with crossing the streets unscathed. I have canceled all subscriptions and forfeited my future christmas gifts. But alas, I have a brain for me, myself and I to think about koans or maybe the sexy beauty of a diminished 5th in a chord etcetera. All I want. And for that I am thankful.
It also leaves me sleepless at times. Tossing, turning and thinking about the ongoing atrocities of religious ignorance still staining my species despite all those centuries of debate, science, art and whatnot clearly proving that god is dead and stinking the place up. So I need a tea without caffeine. And preferably a good one without to deep a carbon footprint. You know, something sustainable and wholesome that makes me feel good on all kinds of levels. So I grabbed this package that accommodates most of those needs and I voted with my dollar trying to ignore the over-the-top and ghastly hippie-graphics on the front. Well at home and ready to zen out I found the gimmicky Buddha bar code on the back. I am not sleepy yet.
– – – ◊ – – –
DIANOIA: A middle-aged man with a microscope for a head. Wearing a neutral shirt, no tie. His black pants are rolled up to mid-calf exposing his bare feet.
THE CAPTIVES (#1, #2 and #3): three nondescript personages in identical jumpsuits. All strapped upright into each their own apparatus that renders them completely immobilized. Only their naked hands and feet are visibly moving, their faces fastened and obscured by restraining masks. The right eye of each captive is visible to the audience as a grainy video close-up on a screen fixed to the top of each mask.
– – – ◊ – – –
lights up. Placed in the center of an all black stage, the three captives and a fourth empty restraining apparatus at the rightmost position, form a line with very little space between them. The captives are heard mumbling, apparently bickering at each other. Their video-eyes, fingers and toes are moving frenetically. Captive #1 cries out frequently and increasingly louder. The entire backdrop slowly lights up with an oversized low-resolution video of a fireplace, crackling cozily
ALL CAPTIVES: (in unison relief) Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhh!
#3: finally! I fucking hate when that shit happens … but I told you so! Didn’t I? Ha! … and there it is … aaaah, good old faithful. Halle-fucking-luja!
#2: (muttering) oh will you just shut up already?! You have no idea what you’re talking about … this is just happening once in a while and that’s it. It’s a bloody nuisance, but it always does come back … and as long as it returns to normal, it’s ok and we’re good. OK? … stop complaining and don’t be such a bitch.
#3: (snickering) you call me a bitch, eh? … I wasn’t complaining, baby! I was EX-plaining … you little know-it-all-asshole …
captive #1 still sobs and groans. The murmurs and growls from #2 and #3 are subdued. Each moves fingers, toes and video-eye. The cages are rattling
#3: (sneering) Pff! The whining comes from the right side as usual, hn?
in a choreographed manner, #2 and #3 stop moving their fingers and strain their video-eye towards #1 who continues being very agitated
#1: I know … I know! I’m sorry; I’m sooo sooo sorry! But it stresses me out like no end! I can’t take this no more, it is soooo demanding! (sobs) I don’t know what to doooo? (snivels) It’s like … I lose focus and everything becomes sooooo boring and hard to doooo and go through with… even the food is tasteless … (blubbers) … do you think I should take a few days off? Call in sick? Or s-so-something?
#3: (screaming in disdain) o-m-g! l-o-l! l-m-a-o! You moron! Why don’t you shut up? Whiny-ass crybaby … get a grip will ya?! I can’t listen to that shit anymore! (mocking) BLA BLA BLA BLA and BLA BLAAAA BLABLABLA! …. BLA!!!
#2: (angry) shut up! Both of you! … always making a biiiiiiig drama out of e-ve-ry-thing?! What’s wrong with you?
long silence. The captives do not move. The video-eyes are either closed or looking down. As the crackling of the fireplace becomes louder, the flames get bigger and brighter. A distant muzak is barely audible.
#2: (happy) aaaand here we go … aah … come on comrades … lets get back to business!
after a while the three video-eyes start moving in unison, as if watching a very slow-moving tennis-game. Five volleys later Dianoia enters stage left carrying his glossy black shoes in one hand. He patrols the stage, carefully inspecting every corner, repeatedly crossing his arms. Now and then a nod seems to confirm an interesting find. He inspects the audience front row fixedly, only to finish his going-over by observing the captives who do not notice him at all. Dianoia joins the engulfed captives in one pass of the invisible tennis-game. Finally he bends down and puts his shoes in front of the empty restraining apparatus, adjusts their placement minutely, brushes his hands against the front of his pants and faces the audience
DIANOIA: (clearing his throat) I’m back! … I have come back for all of you!
the captives strain their video-eye toward Dianoia, gasping loudly.
#3: What the ef? Is that you?
#2: Hey?! Why’d you come back! Didn’t we t… ?
#1: (interrupting cheerfully) Hi! That’s unexpected?! Where’ve you been? (then whimpering) Have you been gone long? … wait … eh? … who are you? (crying) … back? … whoa?
DIANOIA: (touching each captive successively, talking eagerly) Yes! Yes, it’s me Dianoia … I’ve decided to come back to you guys and tell my story. I’ve learned so much up there … I know now how to get you out of this … you know? … I see all these things clearly now and I tell you … things here are not like they seem … this place is a fucking cave and it does hold us down … (stops abruptly, notices he is pointing at himself) … eh … (stabs his index at the captives) … controls you … locks you up inside this pipedream for no reason … oh, my friends … I am deeply convinced that we can change … I’m telling you … you should just … follow me … free yourself … and … and … yeah, come with me …
silence. Dianoia freezes in a begging posture, his strong-minded body language completely transformed. When the silence becomes awkward he makes a feeble motion, pointing upwards then reaches out open palms towards the captives.
#2: Wait-wait-wait … wait. You’re not really saying that you went “up there” or whatever, and that “somewhere” was all uh-ah-different and oh-so-better and more for-real than here? I don’t believe you. I can not, and I will not believe you!
#3: And b-t-dubya you arrogant prick … didn’t we all agree last time, that you’d go terminate yourself? You were all malfunctioning and supposed to be recycled and replaced … the wide-open-sorry-ass-whimp over there hasn’t been himself since … since you … and your bullshit.
#2: Yeah look at him. It’s disgusting and repetitive and it’s all your fault. I knew from the start we couldn’t count on you … go get outta here! Go! … NOW!
DIANOIA: But I’m telling you! All you have to do is to come see for yourself and you’ll know! It’ll change! To the better! All it takes is the light of day and once you’re used to that … it will become clear! I promise. Please? Try it?
#1: why should we? Because you say so? We’re not that crazy. This place is good enough for us … right? As long as we don’t complain too much … I mean … look at you … all pompous and fancy.
#2 and #3: Yeah (snicker) … for-real
Dianoia takes a few cautious steps backwards as he steals a glimpse at the audience. He squares his shoulders and inhales sharply. With balled fists he approaches the captives
DIANOIA: (breathing out) Okay. Here’s the deal … you get out of those things and give it a try … no no no, listen to me … If you don’t like it … which I know you will (stabbing each word at the captives with his index-finger) … you will never hear a word from me again. Deal?
#1: … ahem. Yeah. Nah. No thanks, really. I’ve already seen you fail once and I still have no clue what you’re talking about , so … (sniffling) I’d bugger off if I were you, really … sorry
#2: My god? You’re trying to call a deal? Somebody should put you down right there … are you deaf? … (screaming) SHUT YOUR FACE AND GET OUT!
captive #1 and #2 close their video-eyes. With open arms Dianoia turns to #3 in a gesture of last hope.
#3: (super-cheery) Deal! Suuuure! Let me out. I cannot wait to prove your ass wrong! Come on dude-a-noia … lets get it over with, once and for all …
Dianoia immediatedly walks over and unlocks the restraining apparatus that holds captive #3. The cage-like door snaps open and the captive steps out, stretches his neck and cracks his joints. He stiffly follows Dianoia to the stage front. There he reaches slowly in to his side-pocket. He removes his hand again, index pointing and thumb sticking up mimicking a big gun. He points it at Dianoia, and shoots him in the heart with 3 loud shots. Dianoia erupts in sprays of blood and falls of the stage. Lights out.