Thursday, April 21, 2011

the land of the golden calves

If I were drinking beer, I think I would argue that the human constitution contains a gene for adoration -- that human beings are programmed to adore one thing or another. As I say, this is a beer-drinking proposal, one not based on much more than a hunch hatched in mildly boozy circumstances. In vino veritas, on the one hand, and in vino idiocy on the other.

The Christians advise their followers to beware of worshiping golden idols. Initially, of course, the warning referred to literal stuff -- a golden calf in the temple which later turned metaphorical and cast a critical eye on various physical acquisitions: No, dimwit, you do not need another Lexus and what's more it's bad for you; get it straight and get straight with God.

OK. So far, so simplistically good. Acquisitiveness and imagining that possessions make the (wo)man is off the mark. So let's put all that in the 'bad' column and make an effort not to buy designer-label toilet brushes.

Let's refocus the adoration for golden calves and extra-special toilet brushes for ... well, something more noble and ennobling. Let's call it God, for the sake of brevity.

So far so good ...

Oh waitress -- would you bring us another pitcher and some more of those little pretzels?

So through prayer and devotion and serial acts of socially-anointed decency, there is some attempt to refocus and get ... well, "good" I suppose. Or maybe "better." The authority of acquisitiveness is replaced (or at least seriously questioned) by the authority of God.

A kindly, far-reaching, just and touching God. Which is then, in one way or another, adored.

When I was little, I looked like this. :)
I do hope no one thinks I'm picking on Christians here. The same framework fits pretty much any religion or spiritual exercise, I imagine. Golden calves turn into God calves. But where others might quibble and analyze and debate the objects of veneration and adoration -- the calves, the Lexus, the God, etc. -- I think it is important to get down to brass tacks and just admit it ... I've got an "adore" gene. And it's about like having a nose. No one criticizes or extols a nose. It just sits on your face and mine, doing its job.

And what is the foundation of the Adore gene that is no more remarkable than a nose? Well, my guess is this: Adoration just means I adore myself in one way or another ... and it's no more remarkable than having a nose.

My persuasions, my love, my worries, my sorrows, my greed, my altruism, my wisdom, my stupidity, my bias, my fill-in-the-blank. Where adoration and its more moderate minions raises its head, I can be assured that it is nothing but me-me-me. And I repeat -- it is no more remarkable than having a nose. It is what is. Leaping on the topic with hob-nailed boots and trying to change or improve things ... no, no, no -- that's just more of the same. Leave the virtue to those in calf palaces.

All of this may seem confounding to the person who longs to be good-better-best -- to improve a life that may be riven with sorrow or shot through with delight. But I would argue (remember the venue, please) that the simple recognition that the Adore Gene is part of the human (read my) landscape is a very good (imperative, you might say) starting point for anyone serious in spiritual endeavor. Remember -- it's not good and it's not bad ... it's just a nose.

Christ, how I love what I love! Christ, how I love to hate what I hate! Christ, how I love to criticize and castigate the wrong-headedness of one thing or another! Christ, how I rely on my worries and delights! Christ, what a wonderful, adorable person Christ (or Mohammad or Buddha or Yahweh or whatever) is! Honest to goodness, I really can get up quite a head of steam when it comes to ...

The Adore Gene.

The me of this world.

Without some willingness to simply watch the stuff that comes and goes -- the golden calves of thought and emotion, of gain and loss -- how could anyone hope to get his or her head screwed on straight. Worshiping golden calves doesn't work. It doesn't make anyone happy in a deep way. And watching is the only course I can think of that makes sense, that's practical, that offers empirical results. Watching builds the ability to adore what is adorable ... but only in its time. It's nothing fancy, but it is an important shift. Things come and go. In the moment of adoration, anyone might be consumed ... but when the fire burns out, the phoenix arises.

And who, precisely, this phoenix is is worth knowing. No need for adoration that defines and elevates something or someone who cannot survive and yet survives.

Anyway, I think acknowledging the Adore Gene is a good first step.

The second step may be as simple as ordering another pitcher of beer.

If there is a second step.


  1. There's science to suggest that oxytocin comes into play as a hormone that bonds mother and child. It may also be found to contribute to group bonding among pack/herd animals. A biologist friend who married a christian always dismissed her belief as a group bonding thing. Perhaps adoration is a biological curse/blessing.

  2. I would like to use the golden calf aa and illustration for the book I am writing. Do you have a copyright? My email (that I use everyday) is