I'm the Reverend Billy

We interrupt our regular programming for a moral advisory...

Greetings children in the name of the Goddess that swims in the part of the sky NOT YET COVERED OVER WITH NIKE SWOOSHES, MICKEY MICE AND THE UN-NIPPLED MERMAID OF $BUCKS. Please turn to page 1,000 in your hymn books, to the song that sounds like the love calls of all the extinct animals, the soaring singers and the slimy singers: their songs are all still echoing in us.

I have a friend who loves tube mice, star-faced moles and blue-footed boobies. He reports the details of their ODD AND VERY BLESSED EVOLUTION with an enthralled tone in his voice. His performance of these entertaining life forms is a cross between a comedy routine and prayer: ‘And then the booby stands on its egg with its UMBRELLA-LIKE BLUE FEET, and thus regulates the sun’s penetration of the wet baby booby within.’

This morning I have a newspaper on the table before me, The New York Times. At the top of the front page are actors who hold small gold figurines in the air. One played a boxer and one played a singer, both masterful productions of nostalgia. On the bottom of the same front page is the photograph of a long line of orange square swatches of fabric in New York’s Central Park. What comes to my mind, as I meditate on what information and imagery we choose to call important, is the philosopher William James’s request that we discover ‘the moral equivalent of war’.

What is our MORAL EQUIVALENT OF ART AND ENTERTAINMENT? My friend with his admiring mimicry of the oddest possible animals, with which evolution advertises its genius – I feel that I need to applaud my friend and his blue-footed drama. He and his booby should have at least the cultural prestige that I (not being able to help myself, AS I AM AN ABJECT FETID SINNER) accord the Oscars and the high art of Christo and Jean Claude. What is the Earth-saving equivalent of our expensive hypnotic culture? It’s the Earth itself. The Earth would save itself if we gave it the microphone.

I don’t mean to kick Hollywood. After all, why kill the messenger when we’re already killing ourselves? We’ve repeatedly seen transporting performances in which the actors were faced with the end of life on earth and through their personal transformation, which we ourselves in the real world will have to perform if we are to have a future, they survive and save us all, AND WITH SWELLING STRINGS WE GET THE FALSE HEAVEN OF THE HAPPY ENDING THAT WE PAID FOR. But that cannot be instructive if we experience these dramatised truths while sitting in the dark, popcorning our eyes and mouth before the GOD OF THE GLOWING SCREEN. If, when we leave a cinema, we are just Consumers, then our brilliant artists have laboured on technical feats of procrastination – no matter what the content. The impact on our psychic bodies – HOW their stories come to us – is their overwhelming fact and purpose.

The major feature of the major feature film is that we stagger into the night, entertained to within an inch of lives. We have had a dramatic night, it was ‘A GOOD MOVIE’, but we received the drama in the foetal position, pummeled into admiring passivity. The inability to act, regardless of the content of the storyline – that is the real movie plot. That is the META-PLOT FROM THE DEVIL THAT LEAVES US CONSUMING THE EARTH INTO THE GROUND AS IF WE ARE AN UNQUENCHABLE CANCER. And this real movie is kept hidden from us, so that we won’t do something rash, as in, say, REVOLT. THE BLUE-FOOTED BOOBY MUST CRUSH CREATIONISM. Oh, did I change the subject? And another thing, the sensible spinning of this beautiful soft rock upon which we live – that beauty must be reclaimed. When we say, ‘ah, that is beautiful!, spending $12 to see the beauty shouldn’t make it more beautiful. Leaving a cinema with nothing but a PARALYSING GREAT ART HANGOVER ATTENDED BY COMPLICATIONS OF CELEBRITY MASTURBATION… Is that the experience of beauty? It’s time to be more demanding of the concept of beauty; it can’t be just aesthetic consumption. Beauty must have in its experience the requirement that when we see it, we go out and defend it. When life is dying, then beauty must make us save life.

In closing, children, the Earth is never thanked by Oscar winners (although sometimes Mothers are, and that’s pretty close). Remember, the Earth is not a location shot, is not a background, is not a bit player, and cannot be separated from the spotlight that makes a single personality, or a single product, famous. OSCAR WILL KILL THE BOOBY, IF OUR APPLAUSE IS MINDLESS. Let us pray, ‘And the winner is – the Earth!’

This article first appeared in the Ecologist April 2005

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