To continue the thinking about Satan and resistance developed in recent posts:
A dirty little secret of mine is that I really enjoy electronic dance music (EDM). My wife doesn’t get my love for the style and tends to mock me for it somewhat, so I usually keep my appreciation of Kaskade, deadmou5, Zedd, and the like to myself. I jam out with earbuds in place while cooking or cleaning the kitchen afterwards.
Among the EDM bands and musicians I listen to, I have a special fondness for the American duo that go under the name of ODESZA. I especially enjoy the Intro and first full track on their 2017 album A Moment Apart. That intro features a clip from the 2011 independent sci-fi drama Another Earth, where actress Brit Marling of Netflix The OA fame recounts a story of the first Russian cosmonaut in space.
Just as the space traveler catches his first glimpse of bauble Earth hanging small and fragile in the void of space and begins succumbing to the wonderful experience of the sublime astronauts often feel that was characterized in Frank White’s 1987 book as the “overview effect,” a maddening clicking noise starts coming from some hidden part of his spacecraft. The sound continues for hours on end and begins driving the cosmonaut insane. He can’t find it, can’t fix it, can’t stop it. Finally, knowing he has to endure twenty-five more days aboard the defective spacecraft with the knocking noise, the cosmonaut decides that “the only way to save his sanity is to fall in love with this sound.”
That moment reminds me of the final scene of the 1994 comedic drama Being Human starring Robin Williams as a whole host of characters throughout history who share one thing in common: they’re average Joes whose lives are decidedly not going the way they would have them go and must find some peace with an existence they cannot control and may not particularly like from moment to moment. In that final scene, Williams is playing a divorcé spending the weekend at a beach cottage with his two kids. He’s stressed, at wit’s end with work and personal drama, and trying (though not very hard) to find some mental space and peace in which to enjoy his fleeting time with the kiddos. As the trio sit around a fire on the beach over which they’ve cooked the chicken dinner they’re all enjoying, stopping to point out the stars and reminisce, his sage daughter tells Williams’ character to relax. The Dad says, audibly but still mostly to himself, “Everything’s going to be ok,” at which point his wise-beyond-her-years daughter responds:
“What do you mean going to be? This is it…. I told you, Dad: this is as good as it gets. This might be the best moment of your life. How much better do you want it? … Enjoy it.”
That movie came out my final year of high school, in the relative calm before the storm of my first year of college. That freshman year constituted a whirlwind mindfuck of a time that found me doing a massive amount of drugs and regularly drinking to oblivion and beyond, in addition to continuing to deal with issues of depression and suicidal ideation exacerbated by feelings of homesickness and longing for real connection that being in a strange city halfway across the country with no friends or family around denied me. One night, in a particularly bleak drunken stupor, I climbed atop the two-story school library and jumped to the ground, not really intending to do myself particular harm, but managing to break some bones all the same. That stunt earned me a stint in the hospital, some shiny new crutches atop which I could sweat my way across campus between classes, mandatory psychological counseling, and some calls home to my parents, much against my will and despite the fact that I was over eighteen years of age.
What got me out of that year and through all the intervening ones from then to now has largely been the advice of Robin William’s character’s daughter, combined with the wonderful moment in the Epic of Gilgamesh when the eponymous hero stops to ask the maiden Siduri the way to Utnapishtim and eternal life, but she responds:
“Gilgamesh, where are you hurrying to? You will never find that life for which you are looking. When the gods created man they allotted to him death, but life they retained in their own keeping. As for you, Gilgamesh, fill your belly with good things; day and night, night and day, dance and be merry, feast and rejoice. Let your clothes be fresh, bathe yourself in water, cherish the little child that holds your hand, and make your wife happy in your embrace; for this too is the lot of man.”
Our modern post-industrial society has decided that the end-all and be-all goal of contemporary life is some ideal of happiness. We’re so conditioned to quest for it, so wholly consumed with wanting it, that we can easily sink to the depths of despair when we realize that this notion is really just some kind of Platonic ideal of the latter-day: a hopelessly abstract externalization with little basis in anything really conducive to what counts for daily life, what Siduri enjoined on Gilgamesh, what the wise daughter on the beach urged her father in Being Human to realize: life abounds in homely, quotidian moments of contentedness, and that feeling of fleeting, momentary satiety amid the otherwise insatiable hunger for “something more” is all that really counts.
For me, this is the heart of the first of LaVey’s Nine Satanic Statements about how Satan represents indulgence instead of abstinence. Indulgence isn’t just mindless hedonism, but intentional, marrow-sucking enjoyment of those small moments, freeing one from the constant compulsion to assume, at any given time, that something more, something better, some kind of real happiness awaits, crouching just around the corner, just maddeningly out of sight. If “the Church” represents the quintessence of delayed-return thinking and giving over the here & now to some misguided sense of self-discipline in service to an eventual, promised recompense for present toil and exertion, then the resistant Satan who has been “the best friend the church has ever had” embodies the pull toward present appreciation that forms the bedrock basis of real contentment in life.
Satan is the resistance to Gilgamesh’s hopeless quest in the words of Siduri. It’s perhaps not coincidental that the name Siduri is thought to be a Hurrian word for “young woman,” a possible epithet of the goddess Ishtar, who was associated with the planet Venus and is thus a representative of the Dawn/Dusk Star identified in Biblical and post-Biblical tradition as Lucifer.
Satan is also the resistance to Robin William’s character’s hopes for everything to work out, expressed in the simple words of his pre-teen daughter, exhorting him that this is it and defiantly asking how much better do you want it?
To all my friends currently suffering from depression and despair, feeling themselves caught in a dark chasm of expectancy between the world as they would like it and the world as it presently is, I repeat these words of gentle resistance.
We should all take to heart, as well, the wisdom of early-seventh-century BCE Greek soldier-poet Archilochus, the first in extant Greek literature to find fodder for his verse in his own personal emotions, the first lyric poet:
“By the spear, I have my beaten bread, and by the spear, my potent wine, and I drink it, leaning on my spear.”
Life is a never-ending battle against all kinds of resistance, but there are times, too, when we can stop fighting, if only for a moment, and lean on the hafts of our spears and take some fleeting pleasure and indulgence before returning to the fray. Drink deep at such times, friends, and eat well. You’ll need the strength and calm of mind to again heft that damnable spear!