Priests and Dolls.
by Dear Jon
October 15, 2002
Sort 179_Dear Jon-Priests and Dolls.
ACTUAL LETTER TO DEAR JON:
Since you're a man who seems to know about religion, I was hoping you could clear up some things. Why do Tibetan people worship a Dolly Llama? It seems a very odd practice to worship a stuffed animal, but I suppose every religion seems logical to it's worshippers. But why does this stuffed toy get praise from people like Richard Gere? Did it belong to Buddha or something?
No Doll Worshipper
I don’t think I have tipped off that I know anything more about religion (or philosophy) than what is provided in a liberal arts education. A comparative religions course and the movie “Matrix” are all anyone needs to converse intelligently about the deep questions of life.
All human beings look for ways to give significance to existence. One anthropologist who worked in the area of comparative religions and who I do not have time to look up suggests that religions grow up out of a need to resolve two issues:
1. What is the difference between a living body and a dead body?
2. Are dreams real?
Another way to ask the question “Are dreams real?” is to say “Should I be scared of the dark?” Stuffed animals bring comfort to children who know, when Dad turns out the light and closes the door, that they are abandoned to a world of darkness where scary things can happen.
Every parent knows that when they promise their kids that there are no such things as monsters, they are lying. Terrorists are monsters. Rabid dogs are monsters. The child is simply receiving the anxiety of parents and translating into their own experience of fear. The child also learns from adults that there is comfort in attachments. If dreams and stuffed animals are all fake and make-believe, than the stuffed animals can be fake protectors. Better to be protected from make-believe by make-believe, than to be stripped of all protection and left in the dark alone.
I was given a stuffed panda for my fourth birthday, which I named Charles Honeycutt. That was back in the days they made stuffed animals with little styrofoam beads. I only had him a few months before seams were opening and all his stuffing was leaking out, so my Mom fixed him by stuffing him with old nylons and stitching him together with seams that have not broken in 28 years.
I have not shared my bed with him since I was eleven, but he might be the best gift I have ever received, and I have received plenty of good ones.
Some say that science can answer the two questions, and in a way they have. There are clinical ways to describe the difference between life and death, and a chemical explanation for dreams during different states of consciousness. But rational explanations appeal to only a few people in the world because they do not speak to the intuitive need of the human race to make life significant.
Tibetan Buddhists revere a sage called the Dalai Lama, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989. There have been fourteen successive Dalai Lamas dating back to the middle ages. Now that Communist China controls Tibet, it is anyone’s guess whether there will be a fifteenth.
The Dalai Lama is not exactly a doll, but I think a child’s relationship to the dark is similar to the adult’s relationship to mystery. So long as the Dalai Lama lives, millions of people have comfort that order penetrates chaos, even if in ways that are unknowable.
There are some who assume that those who appreciate life’s mysteries are basically weak little children who are still scared of the dark. They have a spokesperson in the outgoing Governor of Minnesota who is, I might add, a complete idiot.
Clinical explanations do not answer the questions completely, as anyone who contemplates life for longer than five seconds at a time already knows. Answers have been surfacing everywhere in the world and everywhere in history. For many centuries, peoples of Western civilization had turned to the answers provided in the Christian faith and its various spokespersons, be they popes or preachers or revivalists. In the last hundred years, westerners have abandoned the significant tenets of Christianity and embraced clinical explanations for everything. With the eclipse of culture to “post-Christianity,” we are now more neurotic, suicidal, and addicted than ever. Also, the dignity of sexuality has been reduced to 25 sluts competing to marry a millionaire on national television, and serial marriage is now considered normative.
Into the moral and spiritual chasm steps Dear Jon. In the western world, millions of people are turning to Dear Jon for comfort; to find order in chaos, to find meaning for their lives. I should probably research my facts with the Webmaster, but when he formed the business plan he had an “exponential trajectory of readership” which was the clincher for securing us the venture capital to get the PO going. Okay, that is an exaggeration. We have had no venture capital, because it costs nothing to run the PO. His trajectory was his part of the bargain to get me to start writing.
He predicted we would double our hits every month from November of 2000, so starting with twenty hits and doubling 24 times, we should be at approximately eight million hits a month right now, which puts us in line to start charging credit card numbers for the content, an issue brought up at the last editorial board meeting which I think deserves consideration.
But I would continue to give my sage wisdom for free, for that is sacrifice in the service of humanity and peace on par with the Dalai Lama and Jimmy Carter, who is the most recent recipient of the Nobel Prize, and who teaches at a Baptist Sunday School in Georgia, and who is worshiped by Evangelical Democrats throughout the midwestern United States.
Not to toot my own horn, or anything, but really, I AM the only guy who writes for this two times a week, because I know my 8 million readers are counting on me. They are the ones who are important, my little lost lambs, and not my own comfort. So I will gladly receive the Pulitzer first. I realize I will have to live decades longer before I am in serious running for a Nobel Prize.
|PO BOOKS BY DEAR JON
Dear Jon Letters: Tips for Dating and Mating
Published July 21, 2008
Our advice humorist turns his attention and trademark wit to affairs of the heart in his first and very affordable book (only $8.95!).
Teachings of a Three Year Old... Turned Tyke,
by Hal Evan Caplan.
A father learns from the wisdom of his toddler.