Sympathy for the devil

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Once in a far away country by the Atlantic ocean where the sunshine is brighter and the stars seem closer to the eye than the moon, a curious oddity fell upon my gentle psyche – for a brief moment in time I was possessed by the devil. Even a year ago I wouldn’t have ever believed myself or any other fellow creature of good-humored constitution and rationally sound nature that such a dark and gloomy predicament was accessible for human exploration and was open to an unbiased interpretation and unprejudiced judgement – indeed, in my scholarly naivete, I thought that the production of wildest chimeras and fantastic fancies is the sole prerogative of those poor and deficient souls who are deprived of the creative element and who lack the supreme faculty of imagination, i’m referring, of course, to the religious and artistic types – but now as I recall to my shame the strange sequence of events that took place on that fateful night, I cannot but restate the bold and simple truth of the obvious facts – the great Lightbearer was leading me down the path of ruin. After having thoroughly examined the matter myself retrospectively under the careful scrutiny of reason and the microscope of logic and with the guidance of the scientific method, this was the only credible account and reasonable explanation that I could come up with. All things considered and all angles approached, in the nonsense of life only devil makes sense.
As I told you earlier, my dear reader, – and let the lighting strike me down if I lie -, then and there I was possessed by the devil. Now, at that particular time, of course, I entertained different thoughts about the whole – what from today’s balanced and calculated perspective  – seems rather an amusing affair, though at that time my mind was under the spell of a quite different fancy. You see, I was raised – like a tree in a park -under the impression that God exists and the first book I read besides the Disney comics was the Children’s Illustrated New Testament with the pictures of the bearded bastard-hero who pretended to be my friend.

But before you embrace my testimony and embed yourself into the secret passages of my soul, for your own safety, you should first shield your precious ego with a purple mantle of skepticism. Before you lose your mind into the tour de force of my confession, you should put on the sun-glasses of critical thinking to avoid being blinded by the dazzling truth of my argument. Take my word for it. For I once was blind but now I see.

[From here, you may want to skip reading the next few paragraphs and go directly to the story, for I will engage in a shameless and disgusting navel-gazing propaganda. If you yourself suffer from the excessive hyper-megalomania, take the risk of reading further at your own peril.]

I may have plenty of sins and idiosyncrasies but bearing false witness, I assure you, is not one of them. I am not prone to hyperbole and exaggeration, and I am positively allergic to all things spiritual. In my humble opinion, this world has never seen a greater champion of reason than me. An assassin of superstition, a defender of virtue and a protector of humanity, I stand as a litmus paper between you and the plague of fear and the Pandora’s box of irrationality. I fight against the fancies of those unfortunate freethinkers who live according to Kant’s apriori and subsist on a diet of the second law of thermodynamics and Bayes law of probability. I challenge and repel self-proclaimed brights whose meaning of life is captured in the Pythagorean theorem and who experience life as a problem to be solved, and not as a cigarette to be smoked or a girl to be seduced. Now, don’t get me wrong. I consider myself a bright and a freethinker of some kind. And if this seems to you like a contradiction, rest assured, it is not. I might oppose myself for I am not three, but million in one.

Anyway, I am a mortal enemy to all kinds of tricks of the tongue and all the magical spells of artificially embellished narration, phony and synthetic language which contradict the inspirational physics lectures of Richard Feynman and the universally accepted standard neuroscience textbook edited and partly written by Eric Kandel.
My literary style as my general speech and my natural disposition is, as evident from my allusions to the popular Nobelists above, is rather straightforward, crude and mater-of-fact. Perhaps a little truistic and childish, but plainly clear and concise, pure and sterile, and above all, self-evident, in the best traditions of Soviet dialectic materialism, with a touch of enticing dendyism of Mr. Mark Twain. In short: a brilliant mixture – a delightful and original symbiosis of yin and yang.

Now, let’s move our train of thought back to that far away country and that ocean with which we started our non-fictional and ultra-realistic journey. So what exactly happened at that critical night?

Allow me to pour the sparkly champagne of my neuronal cells into your intellectual aorta.

It was no more than five years ago, but I still remember those moments as if they transpired before my eyes just yesterday. It all happened in a modest hotel of three or four stars. This was to be my last night there before heading back home. So, for a few days – during a conference which I honored with my lofty presence- I had the pleasure to use the starry hotel as my residence.
After a miserably boring day spent listening to a bunch of nice people talking about their achievements and their agendas for future, I staggered into my room around 10 PM exhausted but relieved that a long day has finally come to its deserved end. I looked forward to my Jacuzzi bath and some cold refreshing drinks which, I knew, were waiting in the interiors of my room’s refrigerator to fulfill their purpose in life and to end their miserable existence into my stomach. I am not sure about the drinks, but the destiny had something else in store for me. Something inside me – a devil, I suppose – was getting loose. I began to tremble and noticed a sudden change in my mood. It went almost instantly from being completely lethargic and depressive to marvelously enthusiastic and spirited. Then and there I knew that this night will be a different one. In retrospect, everything seemed to be set up for my spiritual adventures. And I just had that special feeling – of vanity and hubris – buzzing inside my ribcage. It was one of those nights. One of those moments, when love was in the air.

I had set my mind on spiritual issues long time ago but this night I was determined finally to settle the matter once and for all. I decided to solve the puzzle of my existence – for better or worse – and to find out the truth behind the mystery of my being. I wanted to receive answers on the spot for the most important questions that our species could conjecture. Questions that had tormented all the great minds and philosophers before, I was determined to answer conclusively and completely in this very instant. For starters, tonight, I thought, I will try to catch God by his tale, if he’s not careful enough to avoid waggling it in front of my nose. I will do whatever it takes to push him to the limit. He has to show up, if he’s real. He has to manifest himself to me, if he’s really that dead serious about all this salvation plan and creation fluff. So, instead of taking a warm bath and sipping cold drinks I was to receive the wisdom of ages. I was determined to find God. Yes, silly me. How crazy it all sounds, doesn’t it? But such is life – crazy to the utmost.

Almost like a Buddha, who according to the popular legend spent hours sitting under the Bodhi tree until he became enlightened, I planned to do the same routine, but, of course, not under some dirty tree – where germs and bacilli proliferate in abundance – but inside my clean, warm and cozy hotel room.
This was my night, I resolved. The night in which I achieve my enlightenment. Tonight or never. I sat on an arm-chair next to the window in my room, through which the hotel lobby – one floor below – was to be seen. I decided not to move my legs until I receive a clear and unequivocal sign that God truly exists – up on high or down below, within me or without – it is all the same to me. So I eagerly awaited a voice – that was not mine – to proclaim that God exists. But I heard none other than my own.
I had read somewhere that God sometimes delivers his message in understandable prose through the mouthpiece of some cunning prophet. Sadly but soon I had to face the grim reality about the lack of my prophetic skills, since I could not hear any voices besides my own. Nevertheless I sat still for about ten more minutes and ardently waited for what is going to happen next.

Minutes went by so swiftly that I soon became quite restless. Perhaps I should try to meditate – a sudden thought came to me. I had heard before that meditation might work wonders – as a vehicle it may allure the divine being into one’s room, if not exactly into one’s soul. Besides, based on the evidence of mass media, it stills the mind and attunes it to the wavelengths of the divine radio. Many people meditated and their whole appearance, especially the triangular area of their face, radiated like a light bulb. And who wouldn’t want to radiate like a light bulb? Even Buddha meditated and he eventually got his enlightenment, so why not I?

To some extent, I had already mastered the technique of Zen meditation for I knew that in essence it consists of nothing but a crash course in elementary mathematics. You had to count your breaths for a span of twenty minutes. The catch was to avoid the terrible sin of miscounting and to be careful not to overstep the magical number of ten. So I began to gather my libidinal energies and to focus my attention on the air that flew through my nostrils. In and out. Out and in. I counted ten out-breaths and then started the monotone routine all over again. At times I had counted eleven out-breaths and then later I felt like being stuck at two or three. But usually as soon as I breathed in, I had lost the count of my out-breaths already. Likewise, after the first in-breath, the second went missing, and I came back with my attention again to the new first. So I breathed in and said silently to myself “one”  and when my next in-breath came I said “one” once more. No wonder then, that it seemed to me, that I had lost the count of breaths altogether.
I was mesmerized by thoughts that seemed more appealing, more interesting and more beautiful – like a vivid image of a lovely pair of female titties or the odor of a freshly grilled juicy cattle steak – than a simple, extremely boring and dull arithmetic exercise as counting to ten. My body and my mind were yearning for an intellectual and physical stimulation, but the repetitive trans-inducing miracle drug couldn’t quite cut it for me. I wanted something real like my fantasies, my thoughts and my dreams.
As I continued my exercise in hope of attaining enlightenment and to hear the voice of God, I became slightly concerned and appalled at the indifference with which heaven views my efforts to establish a bond between us. There was no signs of life on God’s part. You trickster, why are you avoiding me? Why are you hiding from me? – I wanted to ask God, but then I realized immediately that he hasn’t showed up yet. He ignored me completely. Who was to blame for this scandal? Surely, not me! If anything I was committed as ever to play my role in the script. It was God who abused his responsibilities towards me – his very own creature – by refusing to come out of the shadows and wrestle with me like an equal. Was he afraid to confront my wit? Too proud to speak with a mere mortal? Was I not pure enough? Hadn’t I had a childlike heart?

But the silence in the room only intensified and these questions boomeranged back at me.
The hotel was covered in silence as the clock struck midnight. All good citizens were already enjoying the pleasantries of sleep or the amusements of sex. But I was a man on a mission and I was determined to preserve. If this makes me a bad citizen, so be it. If this is the price to pay, I am ready for it. Nothing is given, everything has to be earned.
I wanted to push myself to the max. Even though the magic of meditation was of no avail against God, I had still plenty of energy left to look for the black cat in the dark room.
So I girded myself with fresh strength and courage and began the pursuit anew. This time, I was determined, I will corner him until he shows me his true colors. As every woman knows how to trick a guy into getting her pregnant, similarly by analogy, I had to find a way, perhaps with a help of some esoteric technique, how to induce God’s appearance.

Though being a a stern rationalist, I had a fairly wide grasp of esoteric arts and sciences. Moreover, I was blessed with the rare qualities of awe and wonder and an ever important, overwhelming desire to experiment with the most advanced spiritual technologies.

Suddenly, as if from nowhere, a thought came to me: Perhaps I should try the method of Sufis of invoking the sacred presence within my heart. According to the founder of the Sufi Order in the West, Inayat Khan, you had to repeat a sacred syllable or mantra in a laud voice ad nauseum until God is disturbed from his eternal peace and fells down from his heavenly throne into the inner depths of your mortal being. Modern Hindus used the syllable Om, which was said to represent the primordial vibration of the universe, but Khan recommended an even more potent syllable – Allah – the sacred name of God himself. It’s worth a shot, I thought. So I invoked the sacred name and eagerly awaited the descending dove of God’s holy presence. Allah, Allah, Allah, Allah, Allah – I repeated this five letter word in a laud and commanding voice, almost to the point of exhaustion. After a few hundred times, I had enough Allahs already. Hence, I quickly changed my tactics and switched from the strange Mussulman and exotic sounding “Allah” to the more familiar and Christian – “God”. I repeatedly uttered this word too, for several hundred times, but, alas, in vain! Nothing happened. Still no enlightenment. Only the sound of silence. It became clear to me that these holy mantras were too ineffective to attract what seems to be a deaf and dumb and whimsical deity. The whole endeavor was starting to get a little uncomfortable and embarrassing for me. As I looked at my watch, it read 1:00 AM. I had been doing attentive sitting, Zen and mantras for three full hours already, but all in vain, for there was no God in sight. Why oh why you are so elusive? Why do you play these silly games with me? Why do you act as if you don’t care? And why do you pretend that you don’t exist?

Then it dawned on me, perhaps my room was the root of the problem. It might have absorbed some bad vibes and evil eyes from its previous visitors and guests whose karmic cycles were less pure than mine and hence these negative energies had built an invisible barrier between us and were preventing God from answering my prayers and communicating with me.

Naturally, then, I decided to change the scenery a bit. I went outside of my room and choose to allow the Spirit of God to guide me wherever she may please. And so I wandered around the hotel and inspected every corner of my floor, floating through the corridors like a ghost from an abandoned castle. Soon the spirit took me to the elevator. Then, as if directed by the divine hand, I promptly pressed the button “ground floor”. In no time I was already walking through the lobby, which showed no pulse of life. Just as everything else, it was engulfed in the silence of the night. I went to the main entrance and as I approached the automatic doors, they dutifully opened themselves to me. But I had no thoughts of going outside the hotel, so I stood still for a brief moment in-between the automatic doors. Then suddenly, I was taken by surprise, the doors began to close but as soon as I lifted my finger, as if by magic, they flew back to their proper place and adapted themselves to a much more welcoming and, if you like, an “open” state. I felt like I was blessed with an omnipotent power over this trivial aspect of life, that is to say, I could open any automatic door with the sheer force of my magnetic presence. After playing for a while with this diabolic electronic puppet, I sat down on a white leather couch at the lobby area and deliberated my next move. What could I do more to compel God to manifest himself? Should I kill someone? No, I am not that of a hero. Should I cut my hands off and mutilate myself? Perhaps then he will take notice of me. Though, it would be a rather sad prospect if the cost for a divine revelation is no more nor less than one of my limbs.

However, my desperation still had its limits within the frameworks of the normal and common-sensical. As I became more sleepy and dull, at some deep and intuitive level, I sensed that soon I will be delivered from my spiritual trials and torments. Very soon my night will be over. Very soon something strange will happen to me. But the clock approached 2:00, then it struck 3:00 and I became quite nervy. After all, I had to check out from the hotel at 8:00. Nevertheless, my commitment of finding God was still unshaken and I could not give it up just yet. Being so close to my goal, I knew that God was most probably lurking just behind the next corner awaiting to reward me for my faith and perseverance.  I wouldn’t stop just yet.
I continued to sit on the white couch and to observe the white ceiling and the white walls of my temporary residence. It seemed to me a perfectly adequate pastime one could do at such a late hour. But then I noticed something really strange. I saw a dark figure that slowly maneuvered itself towards my direction. I awaited the arrival of God but it was not meant to be. Instead as the figure approached my retina, I recognized a fellow primate. As soon as our eyes crossed, he turned around and hesitantly went back from where he came from initially. At that very instant a thought came to me: What if this being that seems so human-like is really God? Perhaps this was my final hurdle. This has to be it. My final chance. My final deliverance. God has finally arrived to congratulate me, I thought. So I jumped on my feet and ran after him. However, I soon noticed that God was wearing the costume of a night guard. Moreover, he was of an African descent and spoke perfect American English. Very convincing, I must admit. But, of course, I knew that for God nothing is impossible. If he wanted to, he could easily disguise himself as a frog or a melted cheese sandwich or even as a Latvian, whatever that may mean.

The guard – or shall I say God – looked genuinely terrified when he saw me approaching him. He obviously wanted to trick me into believing that he was doing his nightly rounds and performing his duties to the best of his ability.
-Can I help you, Sir?, the guard asked.
I am looking for God.
The black man seemed to be taken aback for a moment by my sincere response, but then he quickly gathered himself and repeated what I had said to him with honest disbelief and some puzzlement in his voice:
You are looking for God, you say?
Yes. I am looking for God and I’ve been waiting for him to appear and speak with me for a long time already.
Oh man, are you serious?, all of a sudden, he burst into a smile. – You are together with those people from the conference, right?
I was astonished how deeply he had penetrated through the secrets of my soul. How could he – a simple-minded night guard – know that I had attended a conference? Clairvoyance was the quality of gods. A mere mortal couldn’t have known this.
How do you know that I attended a conference?, I asked naively with an intention to trap him with his own words. I was greatly relieved that my spiritual efforts were not in vain after all. I finally had him by his beard. You old trickster, this time you won’t slip through my fingers.
The receptionist told me that a group of people had arrived this weekend for some kind of a highbrow conference. You are leaving tomorrow, right? Oh man, you better go to sleep then.
The guard answered convincingly, almost too convincingly for my taste. However, something in his behavior and performance struck me as odd. The oddity being that he appeared to be exceptionally normal. He was moderately built, he had an average size of about six feet, he twisted his tongue in a soft, conventional manner of speech, and he seemed genuinely disinterested in anything but his own being. A true God, I though to myself. I wanted to tell him that I had solved the puzzle and that I knew who he is really behind the mask of a night guard. I wanted to call his bluff and tear off his mask and show to the world his true face. But I held myself together for I also knew that upon the sight of God a man must instantly die. And so, even though I knew that this man was God incarnate sent to comfort me in my spiritual agonies, for my own sake and for the sake of this sinful and wicked world, I pretended that I did not recognized him. But I asked one more question, just to be sure.

May I ask you something?
Sure. Fire away.
Does God exists? ,
I fired at him my ultimate grenade.
He gently nodded his head and answered with a warm smile covering his face:
God certainly exists.

After hearing this, I knew that my journey had reached its end station for I had received the long-sought confirmation from the lips of a “stranger”. Suddenly I felt dead tired again and empty like a vase without flowers. Without saying anything more, I walked away from the lobby and went upstairs to my room. As I lied in my bed, right before falling asleep, I remembered the vivid image of a lovely pair of female titties and the odor of a freshly grilled juicy cattle steak. For a split nanosecond, while still under the influence of the devil, I thought that God exists. But when the morning came, I woke up with a terrible headache. As soon as I opened my eyes,  to my immediate surprise I was confronted with an astonishing sight. A few empty bottles of alcoholic beverages were lying horizontally on the floor. All the lights were on and my refrigerator was standing open – empty, without any cold and refreshing drinks in it. Apparently someone had been engaging here in heavy drinking for quite some time but I had no reason to suspect that it was me.  So I blamed it all on the devil.  

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