Musings for the common man


Michael Merrett



Other titles by this author:

Slipping into darkness

The F.O.G.

Klaatu’s Return


Author’s homepage:



Table of contents


Chapter One- The clock is ticking

Chapter Two-This thing called desire

Chapter Three- Is porn really harmful?

Chapter Four- Rise and fall of the American labor movement

Chapter Five- Sex, drugs and more drugs

Chapter Six- What have we become

Chapter Seven- Still ticking

Chapter Eight- Look back in order to go forward


Chapter One – The clock is ticking


“The better we come to understand our foibles, the better our chances of conquering them.” – M. Merrett


            Can you hear the clock ticking? No? Listen more intently. The inexorable circular progress of its second hand is there but perhaps you haven’t yet learned how to recognize its ominous resonance over the din of what some refer to as human progress. I speak not of the ‘Doomsday clock’, the symbolic instrument scientists use to count down until midnight. That time piece represents their estimation of how long humanity has before we destroy ourselves in an exchange of nuclear weapons. That ominous clock has been adjusted many times during the nuclear age and is reset whenever experts feel a positive change has occurred in global nuclear policy.

            Nor is there any reference made here in regards to that literary bastion of apocalyptic prophecy known as the Book of Revelations. No one seems to know for sure who actually wrote this famous widely-quoted and highly-respected section of the Bible. It is supposed to represent Jesus’ prophecies of hypothetical events which could lead to humanity’s ultimate demise. Its vague and ambiguous references are so convoluted and ridiculously broad in context that for all we know it could have been intended for use as a self-help book for lost shepherds. “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches. (Chapter 3:13) These are the two olive trees and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the Earth. (Chapter 11:4) And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall over come them and kill them. (Chapter 11:7)”

Is it any wonder scholars have been trying to interpret pages upon pages of similar riddle-laced passages for centuries? With dubious levels of success I might add.

            Nostradamus is also widely accepted as a top-tier seer of seer’s but we won’t be calling upon his talents here either. This 16th Century ‘quatrain’ king made numerous predictions back in the day and a few just happened to ring true depending upon how one interprets his writings. Prophesying is an age old occupation that remains alive and well to this very day. Jean Dixon is a well-known 20th century American psychic who gained great fame and notoriety through her perceptive prognostications. She would start out each year by gazing into her crystal ball, then make a few thousand outrageous predictions of what might occur in the days ahead. If one or two just happened to come true…bingo! She was publicly certified as the real deal.

            I do not profess to be a prophet of any kind, nor a teller of fortunes. When it comes to human behavior however, you really don’t have to be a world-class wizard like Merlin or Gandalf to detect what is coming down the road. The mythical clock of which I speak is there for those with the ability to see it and it is very difficult to change the dial on this proverbial time-piece. For anyone who has mastered the art of correctly interpreting history’s Tarot Cards, one thing has remained constant in the long and storied annals of Earth’s past. Every species is expendable. None have ever proven to be immortal as we humans sometimes like to think of ourselves. I strongly suspect that it will not be a meteor falling from the heavens that brings about our inevitable demise as was the case with those mighty dinosaurs millions of years ago; it will be our own folly that does us in. The demons do not come from without, they come from within. We and we alone, will be to blame in the event that we eventually follow our four legged predecessors into the land of the extremely extinct. Currently in our world, there are very powerful forces at work. I refer to them as the PDC’s or ‘potential deadly calamities.’ They include religious intolerance, nuclear proliferation, over population, ecological meltdown, social decay and the mother of all destructive forces that dwells in each and every one of us…greed. Any one of these PDC’s is capable of bringing about the total and utter demise of humanity just as efficiently as that meteor did-in T-Rex and Company. It is fascinating to realize that only two of these PDC’s existed up until roughly one to two hundred years ago, those being religious intolerance and greed.  You can’t always see our demons but they are powerfully pervasive nonetheless. Evil and treachery are shrewd and cunning human adversaries. While one soothingly whispers sweet little nothings in your ear like an intimate lover, the other is sneaking up behind you and raising its ax to lop off your head.

            In the pages that follow, you will read about many intriguing issues that will hopefully inspire you to, at least on some levels, look at the world with a slightly different perspective. As you read on, try and remember some of the central themes that prevail throughout. What is genuine progress and what is not for example? Where do YOU think humanity is headed? Do any of us possess the power to alter the current course we are on? Most important of all, focus on honing your investigative skills when you are presented with news and events via the media outlets currently doing business around the world. CNN, Aljazeera, the BBC for example. Keep in mind that each and every one of these self-proclaimed bastions of journalistic integrity has their own agenda. You may find that things are not always what they seem when it comes to human affairs. The pendulum that slowly swings to and fro bringing with it humanity’s utter extermination is descending ever closer with each tick of the clock. Can we escape from what appears to be certain doom? Can we sufficiently grow and evolve beyond who we are in time to avert complete and utter annihilation?

At the risk of frightening off those of you who might be faint of heart, let us begin on a somewhat lighter tone. For in truth, all hope is not lost. Not yet at least. How would you like to engage in a truly mind-blowing experience without even having to drop any acid or take a toke of a joint? Those are recreational drug references for those of you ‘squeaky-clean’ types who somehow managed to get through your teenage years without ever giving in to the temptation to imbibe. If you did, I can say with a reasonable degree of certainty that you are in fact a member of a very small minority that deserves nothing short of a rousing standing ovation.

            Begin this exercise by taking a good long look at your life and the never-ending calamities that seem to confront you each and every minute of every day. Our lives seem so involved, so complex somehow, they include so many people and our personal little spheres of influence seem so terribly all-important to us. Our world seems like such an enormous entity does it not? Many of us draw up bucket-lists of places we would like to visit and things we would like to do before we head out for the great eternal beyond but many of us are lucky if we put so much as a miniscule dent in that list as the years fly by.

            Next, visit a website or your local science museum and catch a glimpse of the photos being taken by the Hubble Telescope of the deepest reaches of the universe. Galaxies that scientists estimate are as far away as 13 billion light years will daze you and amaze you. Now, close your eyes and try to imagine just how small and insignificant planet Earth really is in the overall scheme of things. It is estimated that there are literally millions of planets out there just like ours, possibly inhabited by life forms so beyond our imagination and comprehension it staggers the mind. When you open your eyes again, you may find that those seemingly insurmountable issues you face really aren’t as colossal as you thought they were. Or, you may experience absolutely nothing at all which simply means you didn’t try hard enough. In that case, you are going to have to go back and perform the exercise again and do it right this time.

            The frightening reality of all this is that for all our arrogance and collective egotism, humanity’s level of understanding in regards to our true origins is still so pitifully small. What we have managed to learn thus far has been derived mostly as the result of our insatiable need to know. We are in fact nosy little buggers and I suppose, like everything else associated with humans, there is an upside to this annoying tendency. Since the dawn of time, we have continued to ask why, how, what, when, where, and who as we gaze languidly into the historical rear view mirror. It is for that reason that I undertook this venture. There is so very much I still don’t understand and my hope is that the more I question, the more I may discover. I invite you the reader to join me on this journey of a few hundred pages or so. While the end result may not be equivalent to the awe you experienced when you first gazed up at the Pyramid at Giza, I can almost guarantee that you will not walk away from finishing this ‘diamond in the rough’ without at least being able to say; A) “What complete and utter bullshit!” or hopefully B) “I’ll never look at the world the same way again!” You might even learn something about yourself that you never even knew before, some dark secret that your friends have all known about for years but were afraid to tell you. So, open your eyes and more importantly your mind and prepare yourself to embark upon a journey that could leave you breathless with exhaustion by the time you prostrate yourself upon the sandy shores of the last page, metaphorically speaking of course.

            Let’s start with the essentials and lay the groundwork so to speak. Kick-off-your-shoes-and-put-on-your-thinking-caps Human Psychology 101. Skinner, Freud, Oedipus complex, Pavlov’s dog; you know the drill. The human mind is such a remarkably fascinating enigma isn’t it? For my entire lifetime, human beings and the unfathomable minds that we possess have simply amazed me. Look at all the incredible things we continue to invent as we slowly evolve our way along the universal timeline. As I look around in awe at the speed at which humanity is advancing technologically, I can only stand idly by and marvel at the incredible minds that are in the forefront, feverishly spearheading our intrepid forward motion. We have a truly impressive International Space Station currently in permanent orbit yet I would venture to bet that few Earthly inhabitants give it more than a passing thought. Personally, I find it humbling beyond words as to the amount of planning, construction and implementation that is involved in such a massive and scientifically complex project. I watch in awe as other members of my species perform tasks that are so beyond my skill levels that I sometimes wonder if these individuals are really from the planet Mega-geek in the Brainiac solar system. Brain surgery, quantum physics, nanotechnology, it’s all so complex and intellectually mind boggling to your average dweeb like yours truly. I honestly don’t know how these geniuses accomplish these remarkable feats when I possess every bit as much brain matter as they do, albeit mine is a bit more dormant and just a tad less exertive.

Think about this enigma known as human progress for a moment. Sharks have been around for millions of years but how far have they really evolved? They still spend their entire lives swimming around the depths of the ocean sniffing for chum. Turtles, horses, and dogs have been around for ions as well but you don’t see them building skyscrapers and suspension bridges. (Come to think of it they aren’t building any nuclear and biological weapons either but let’s not go too deep just yet. Is their collective lack of technological progress merely because they have no thumbs, which is one of the unique characteristics that separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom? What are the biological and scientific factors that led to humanity’s current status as the planet’s dominant species? No one really knows for sure although elements of the scientific community claim it has something to do with brain size to body mass relationships. Others attribute it to our development of sweat glands which gave us the ability to outrun lesser life forms that cool their bodies by breathing through their snouts but that topic is a bit too odious for this early stage of discussion.

            The broad spectrum of possibilities in regards to human intellectual capacity is, at the same time, almost humorous. While one group engages in the mind-boggling task of mapping the genetic code, another group takes up residence in an auditorium eager to hoot and holler for well-endowed girls to rip each other’s shirts off on the Jerry Springer show. Intellectually speaking, we are certainly a species of extremes.

            So, like some of you might do on occasion during commercial breaks, I sometimes wonder where I fall into the genetic scheme of things. I like to think on the intellectual meter-reader, I could at the very least, light up a 100 watt bulb if hard pressed which puts me somewhere in the middle with America’s hopelessly average. That’s of course when applying a measuring stick where someone like Carl Sagan is placed at the upper rung of the intellectual ladder. The beloved former host of PBS’s “Nova” series and Pulitzer Prize winning author is not with us anymore God rest his soul, but I still miss his inspiring, insightful and intelligent offerings. He was one smart fellow.

            At times I reassure myself that I shouldn’t be so self-deprecating. To be fair, former President George Bush wouldn’t know the first thing about building a space station and he was the proclaimed leader of the free world. I am willing to bet that Microsoft founder/CEO Bill Gates would be hopelessly lost if called into service in a hospital operating room and for that matter, billionaire investor Warren Buffet probably doesn’t know jack about nanotechnology any more than most folks. Sure, I remind myself, he has countless billions of dollars, but can he pick up a pair of drumsticks and play a paradiddle like moi? Harumph!

            Brilliant as some of my fellow bi-peds might be however, we humans can also be pathetically naïve at times, can we not? Far too many people don’t even know where their essential services come from. Think about it, and this is not meant to sound the least bit condescending because I am right here with you as we proceed forward onboard the USS Oblivious. When we turn on a light switch in our homes, do we know where the electricity comes from that powers it? Sure it travels along the copper wires in our walls but do we know its source and how it is generated? When we turn on a faucet, we are reasonably sure we will get water but do we know where it originates or how it gets to our houses? When we turn on our computers and access the Internet, do we know where all that incredible information that appears on the screen comes from? Are we familiar with the complex inner-workings of the electronic processes that cause text, videos, and photos to magically appear on our monitors? I put this forth not to imply that we are all hopelessly stupid. It’s just that we take so much for granted as a society. We really do have it pretty easy in modern day America. When we get hungry, we simply go to the grocery store where we can find almost anything we desire at quite reasonable prices. Most people have no idea where much of the food actually comes from other than the obvious assumption that fruits and vegetables grow from the ground by way of a process known as photosynthesis, fish come from the sea by way of mommy and daddy fish, and chicken comes to us through the efforts of companies owned by the likes of Mike Tyson and Frank Perdue:) These scientifically accepted facts aside however, most people still have no idea of exactly where the food they are taking home originated and few even spend the time to look at the labels.

            Just imagine for a moment what it must have been like for those poor Puritans who came here from England and Europe hundreds of years ago hoping they would find a better life. Talk about a bad vacation. They had to contend with disease, inhospitable natives, bitterly cold winters, and relentlessly hot summers. There were no supermarkets, no condos; they had to build everything completely from scratch. There was no such thing as central heating or air conditioning to keep them warm in the winter and cool in the summer. They had to grow their own crops, slaughter their own chickens, turkeys, and giblets. There were no hospitals, medicine was limited and primitive and the women wore far too much clothing (due to their very strict Puritanistic religious code) which must have made life for the male gender awful dull. In all, they must have been made of a remarkably hardy stock to survive such incredibly harsh conditions. And they did it all for one singular reason…religious freedom.

All of which brings me to the first PDC  in this hopefully-not-completely-futile attempt to put a few secrets of the universe in better perspective for that very small percentage of readers who might actually have even less of an understanding than I do as to what makes this little planet of ours tick. If you made it safely through that far-too-lengthy last sentence you are off to a good start. This book doesn’t pretend to be the least bit pretentious but it could in fact turn out to be refreshingly felicitous. (That’s a great word isn’t it? I’ll save you a trip to your Webster’s which is where I had to go to find it. It means lucky. It’s so scrumptious you can almost suck it through a straw.) My central point is merely this. Most of us may not have the intellectual wherewithal to build a rocket, the thought of me with a surgical mask and a scalpel in my hand is enough to scare the bajeezes out of any patient and the staffing needs at my local bowling alley are being met quite nicely although I was told I could try out for pin-setter. However, I have managed upon close observation to get a pretty fair grasp on what makes homo-sapiens behave the way we do. I believe I have learned to recognize the terrible forces that threaten our very existence. I get it, I have figured it all out and if everyone on this planet would just pipe down and listen to me I could solve all the world’s problems without any reliance on legalese or even bull whips. It’s so simple a farm animal could master my methods for a happier life and a better world. My fervent hope is that if nothing else, this book leaves you A) not too completely dazed and confused, B) not wishing you had ever picked it up in the first place, and hopefully C) remarkably enlightened and dare I say it, even elevated to a new level of consciousness and ready for a one-on-one engagement with the Dali Llama himself.

While there are some obvious attempts at levity thrown in, the path humanity is now traveling is no laughing matter. Only a fool would argue with the notion that we have in fact reached a crossroad. Depending upon the decisions we make in our immediate future, the next century or so will determine if we are to survive as a species. It is imperative that we all accept the fact that we are expendable, the survivability of planet Earth does not in any way, shape or form depend upon the survivability of the human species.

            You can start by doing something that few people seem willing to do anymore in this increasingly apathetic country of ours…and that is ASK QUESTIONS! The American public needs to become far more discriminating. Don’t accept everything you see on the boob tube at face value without looking at the man (or woman) behind the curtain. You will learn in the pages ahead why we humans are not always to be trusted. I do not watch television faithfully but on occasion I have engaged in the time honored male practice of channel surfing and stumbled upon programs like the Oprah Winfrey Show. I have watched (never longer than five minutes) in total bewilderment at the female-dominated audience sitting there wide-eyed and doting on every word the host utters. I shudder as these far-too-impressionable worshippers eagerly swallow every word she utters without ever questioning her authenticity, motives, and sincerity. It is easy to see how the Reverend Jim Jones talked hundreds of weak-minded and tragically unfortunate adults to consume cyanide-laced Kool-Aid, then administer a lethal dose to their children in the now-infamous mass suicide at Jonestown. That may be an extreme example but it is intended to merely drive home an important point. We need to stop accepting everything we are told by way of the television set and so called ‘celebrities’ as irrefutable gospel as if we were little more than dime-store mannequins.

            Oh yes, that also most certainly applies to anything you read here-in. I encourage you to question every word. How do you know I am telling the truth? How do you know my facts are accurate? What are my motives? What do I have to gain? Is my level of credibility directly tied to the size of my bank account? Should we accept everything we are told from people like Oprah and Dr. Phil simply because they are very wealthy?

Developing the techniques required to more efficiently scrutinize the credibility of those who preach to us how to live our lives on a daily basis takes practice. So, let’s practice. Here is our first question.

How did we humans get here? It is a question that has been haunting us for centuries. Let’s start by going back, back in time to where it all began. Which is no easy task, in and of itself, since no one really has a clue as to where time begins other than vague estimates. Some Christians still believe that God created everything in 7 days as espoused in Genesis but as we continue in our attempts to unravel this age-old riddle through the looking glass of modern-day science, this section of the Bible looks more and more like primitive poppycock than scientific fact.

As further proof of just how far apart members of our species remain in trying to answer this question, most scientists estimate that the Earth is 4 and a half billion years old. Yet, there are some religious zealots who insist that our world is only 3,000 years old.

Big Bang theory? It’s just a theory and a very shaky one at that. Some scientists claim that a ‘singularity’ showed up from out of nowhere 13+ billion years ago, exploded into an incredibly hot combination of gas and mass, cooled, then formed the universe as we know it. So where did this infamous singularity come from? No one has a clue. Could it be that God put it there and caused the Big Bang to happen? Then when you consider that the universe appears to be infinite, a concept that further boggles our puny little human minds, it is clear as to just how primitive we still are. Not only are we unsure as to how the universe was formed, we can’t even figure out how humans got here. Some scientists claim humans evolved from apes. So why are there still apes? Did a group of gorillas make a bold decision one day to genetically branch off from the rest of the pack while the others, being terribly fond of bananas, chose instead to stay behind and hang out in the jungle grooming each other for bugs?

Ok, so we didn’t do so well with that one but don’t beat yourself up over your inability to explain how we got here. The best minds on our planet are still scratching their balding heads over this age-old mystery. Just because they managed to map the genetic code doesn’t mean they’re infallible. Did I tell you I had the idea for mapping the genetic code first but they beat me to it? I was so close too and was all the way up to page 23 of my Rand-McNally.

Let’s try it again shall we? After all, we are humans and if history has taught us anything, it is that we are absolute suckers for punishment. If we are going to make a sincere effort to solve all the world’s problems in one swell foop, (make that fell swoop) we need to show at least a smidgen of genuine stamina. We might as well tackle the most sensitive issue of them all and get it over with. Brace yourself you L. Ron Hubbard neophytes.


Welcome to PDC number one. I began this diatribe by accentuating the fact that humans have made truly impressive advancements in the area of technology, but in just about every other aspect of our chemical and emotional makeup, we are little more than common grub worms. You find that analogy a bit unpalatable do you? I bet if grub worms could speak they would voice equal indignation over being compared favorably to humans. Nevertheless, let us talk about spirituality shall we? Since the dawn of recorded history and beyond, humanity has been hopelessly inebriated with religion. We feel so strongly about it that we will resort to killing one another to prove that one god is better than another god. More people have died carrying the banner of some deity or another into battle than by any other reason other than natural causes. Greek gods, Roman gods, Norse gods, the list is endless. The legacy of some of these mythical deities still lives on in modern day pop culture. Hercules, Zeus, Odin, Thor, Apollo, Athena, and Poseidon are just a few of the mythical giants from centuries ago whose names can still be found in countless modern-day references. Their mythical escapades of love and bravery live on in countless books; automobiles bear their names (Mercury), as do household cleaning products (Ajax).  One needs look no further than twenty first century Earth to appreciate how enormously influential religion has become in our daily lives. Entire cultures are built around the belief in one deity or another. Over the centuries, theology has run through the very fabric of entire un-civilizations (yes that was a dig). We build thousands of churches, mosques, temples, statues, shrines, ad nausea to worship more gods than you can shake a stick at.

            To fully understand this awe-inspiring force known as religion, it is absolutely essential that we first accept two very important and inescapable truths. For those of you who may be a bit squeamish, you might want to run out and buy a bottle of Pepto-Bismol before you read further. First, God did not create religion, humanity did. Second, all technological advancements aside, human beings are a degenerate species. That’s right I said degenerate species!

Now, I’m thinking most if not all of you are on your feet hurling shouts of “What did you just call me sucka!” Well, sit back down, read on and allow me to explain.

Whether you like it or not, the above two incontrovertible facts must be recognized and retained as you read further, otherwise you risk falling victim to the mistaken belief that we are somehow, dare I say it, legitimately civilized and fully enlightened. Civilized beings don’t invent nuclear and biological weapons capable of wiping out millions of lives with the simple push of a button. Civilized beings would not allow societies where the privileged few live lavish, exorbitant life styles while other less fortunate souls starve.  The sad truth is, the only thing that prevents some people from seeing us as we really are is our own blind arrogance. For the benefit of those obstinate souls, I offer the following evidence to further support my claims and this is merely the tip of the iceberg in regards to previous human debauchery.

            Pick up any history book and the dominant theme is most likely to be human conquest. Who are the figures that jump out at you from the pages of our checkered past? Napoleon, Alexander, Attila, King Richard the Lion-hearted, Hitler, Stalin, Julius Caesar to name just a few. Each of these shamefully ambitious men solidified their places in history by the blood of the unfortunate soldiers that died under the weight of their banners. Human history has been dogged by war and the atrocities associated with it for as far back as we can remember. It is difficult for you and me to appreciate what it must have been like to enter a battlefield in ancient Rome for example after yet another attempt by one group to subjugate another. For centuries, the weapons of choice were crude swords, axes and spears. Try to imagine for a moment what the scene might look like after an hour or so during which ten thousand warriors cleaved, hacked, sliced and diced their way to victory leaving literally thousands of mutilated corpses strewn all over the field of combat. I don’t know about you but I wouldn’t want to have been put in the position of cleaning up that mess, especially when you consider that wet-vacs hadn’t even been invented yet.

            A quick look at the past one hundred years is all we need to come to grips with the inescapable reality that we are in fact the most degenerate species on the planet. It is a period in which technology has advanced at a frightening rate, enhancing the quality of life for many people in countless ways. Technology however, like all things associated with human advancement, is a double edged sword. It has also given us the ability to annihilate large numbers of people with the push of a button. Now when we go to war, we possess the ability to simply nuke ‘em if we don’t like the odds. We can kill people from so far away we can’t even be sure of what they were doing when we killed ‘em. The vast majority of the unfortunate souls lounging around near ground zero when that first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan were probably doing nothing more threatening than sitting around sipping tea while youngsters played with their toys. Stop and think about it for just a moment. In the time it takes you and I to blink our eyes, thousands of men, women, and children died horribly at the hands of the only two atomic bombs ever detonated over ‘live’ targets. It is nearly impossible for you and me to imagine what that scene must have looked like immediately following the moments of impact.

The twentieth century was a period when we saw not one but two full-blown World Wars. We watched in horror as Hitler tried to annihilate the Jews and expand his real estate holdings to every corner of the globe. The Japanese military machine raped and pillaged the unfortunate citizens of the South Pacific with never seen before levels of barbarity and cruelty. More recently we have seen new evidence of human atrocities in Iraq, Cambodia and Darfur to name just a few.

            Need more proof? Currently in the United States, supposedly the leading democracy on the planet, over two million inmates threaten to exhaust an already over-populated prison system and that number doesn’t take into consideration the several million more that are currently on probation. With a population of approximately three hundred million, two million convicts means there is one criminal for every 150 residents. I may be spit-balling here but I’m guessing the cost incurred by taxpayers to house these unruly animals runs into the billions of dollars each and every year.

            Pornography is everywhere including the most heinous of forms which preys upon children. Legalized gambling, alcohol and drugs are more prevalent than ever before in American society. If this doesn’t all add up to qualify as major league levels of debauchery, what does?

            It is simply impossible to come to any other conclusion after closely examining the evidence that humanity is, in fact, supremely degenerate. Far too often we lie, we cheat, we steal, we deceive, we have far too many sexual deviates in our ranks, too many of us are constantly trying to develop bigger and better ways to blow each other to smithereens. As much as it might appear on the surface that we are becoming more civilized as we continue to build more intricate and magnificent machines, the inescapable truth is this. More humans died in global conflicts in the past one hundred years than in all the previous centuries combined. Oh sure, I can hear you nay-sayers out there with your retorts that more people died in wars over the past century simply because there are more of us around. So does that mean as the Earth’s population continues to increase, it is acceptable to kill more people in order to what… keep up with inflation?

            Now stop shaking uncontrollably and come down off your high horse. Take the above cold harsh realities and put them together with the humanly-constructed foundations that support the world’s most dominant religions. One is left to draw no other conclusion other than this. Could it be that many religions are shall we say dubious in origin while some are downright utter bullshit, plain and simple? I have said it before and it bears repeating here. From what I have gathered after close observation of human history thus far, religion is little more than a tool used by greedy, ambitious men in an effort to exploit the masses. Since the dawn of time, human beings have demonstrated an inherent compulsion to worship something. At first we erected statues, golden calves and the like, then we moved on to religious prophets and today we idolize any Hollywood celebrity with an opinion.

            Look at the facts. Mohammed, Jesus, and Siddhartha each spawned religions that continue to inspire hundreds of millions of followers. Each of them was a man however. While it cannot be denied that they were truly great men in historical terms they were still members of a degenerate species. Some will call this unforgivable blasphemy. I call it seeing the world as it is. The above is by no means an attempt to stain the reputations of these remarkable men but to ignore the complex elements that caused them to have such incredible impacts on history would be totally irresponsible.

            Now, all of the above is not to suggest that our plight is completely hopeless. History also shows us that as a species, we have in fact demonstrated on many occasions that we possess a strong desire to rise above our inauspicious beginnings. We established the Peace Corps, UNICEF and the United Nations didn’t we? It is difficult to argue with the assertion however that we have only begun to poke our collective heads above the bacteria-infested slime that spawned us. If that is, in fact, what spawned us I might add, for in truth, who am I to say? I leave it to you the reader to choose between these two well-entrenched, highly sophisticated schools of scientific thought. Apes or slime, take your pick.

            God and religion are nothing less than huge in human-related terms of influence and consequence. Thousands of people continue to die as a result of some of those consequences so doesn’t it make sense to question the validity of those deaths out of respect for the victims? Shouldn’t we continue to ask questions in an effort to prevent more casualties in the future? To understand the basic concept of god, it might be a good idea to go back in time and examine the very origin of the word. That makes it much easier to track the evolution of the most powerful force that has ever existed in regards to human affairs.

            The word “god” and the concept of religion existed long before the previously mentioned trio of Icons was even born. It is important to remember that the vast majority of the world’s most enduring religions were founded at a time in human history when people still thought the world was flat. They were unsophisticated primitives rubbing sticks together to make fire. Some diehards point at structures such as Stonehenge, the Egyptian Pyramids or China’s Emperor Qin’s tomb guarded by the Terracotta Warriors as convincing evidence to the contrary. They insist that ancient cultures were in fact more advanced than some give them credit for. I would submit however that the ability to force thousands of slaves into stacking large blocks of stone on top of one another does not constitute substantially high levels of spirituality. The next time you stop to marvel at legendary structures like the Great Wall of China, bear in mind that the thousands of victims who were forced to labor and die in order to construct these monumental testaments to human egotism may not share your fond affection.

Stop and think about it for a moment. (I am going to ask you to stop and think a great deal in the pages ahead so you might as well get used to it right now.) Columbus didn’t prove that the world was round until the 1490’s, almost 1500 years after Jesus was forced to lug that heavy cross through the crowded streets of Jerusalem. It is important to try and imagine just how primitive these people were who established these religions that continue to dominate world affairs to this very day. We are talking about a period in history when horse-driven chariots were considered a state of the art mode of transportation. Indoor plumbing was virtually non-existent. Many inhabitants believed that the sun orbited the Earth, the complete opposite of what we accept as scientific fact today. Their accrued levels of understanding in regards to the chemical and biological world were still at an infantile stage.

Based on the above, it is perfectly reasonable to question the influences that inspired the origins of the world’s dominant religions. It is widely accepted that prehistoric humans established a hierarchy of deities based on anything they simply were too primitive to understand. As an example, Joey Cro-Magnon was out playing a leisurely round of golf with Freddie Neanderthal as an approaching thunderstorm loomed ominously overhead. Poor Joey, unaware of the dangers of waving his club in the air after a great shot, was struck down by a bolt of lightening. Freddie freaked out and after recovering from the shock of seeing Cousin Joey smoldering in the grass with a new hairdo, ran off to warn his other relatives not to upset the thunder gods or they would end up as human fricassee too.

            Violent storms resulted in the naming of numerous deities for such natural elements as wind and rain because the primitive people of that time period knew next to nothing about wind currents, barometric pressure, lunar phases, etc. All of which, as you meteorological buffs no doubt are fully aware can strongly influence extreme weather patterns.

            As time progressed and humans continued to act as humans are prone to do, ‘god’ began to take on a whole new meaning. When a caveman (or cave woman for that matter) got out of line, we can only assume there were repercussions. After all, just how long can any striving-to-call-itself-civilized society condone the practice of lustful cave men sneaking up and bopping unsuspecting cave women over the head with their clubs, then dragging them off to their caves by the hair and having their way with them?

Fortunately, human males have evolved intellectually and spiritually to the point where they no longer engage in this barbaric practice nor conduct themselves like primitive degenerates. Now they use “roofies” like sophisticated degenerates. Why carry a cumbersome club around when you can just reach into your pocket for any one of a slew of readily-available “date-rape” drugs, then slip one into your lovely lady’s drink when she is not looking? This represents a much more refined approach don’t you think? Some sexual deviates out there might even go so far as to call this human progress.

The punitive measures ancient cultures employed for controlling wrong-doing could often times bring little more than moderate results. Stoning was rather crude and long-term service as a member of the SVC (stoning volunteer corps) could lead to serious cases of tennis elbow. Burning suspected wrong doers at the stake frightened the kids. Plus, it wasn’t always easy to determine who the guilty party was. Forensic pathology was a thing of the future and cave-dwellers were literally getting away with murder. At some point in human history, and no one is quite sure as to the precise date, a progressive-minded primate suggested the now universally-accepted notion that there is an after-life. He (or she) further asserted that once we take our last breath, we are all going to have to face the Creator and be judged by our actions while here on Earth. This highly implausible concept turned out to be the Mother of all rumors. I can only guess that their initial reaction to this incredible new revelation was, “Holy Moly! Somebody better build a boat-load of confessionals!”

            Thus the phrase “Instill the fear of god in them” was born and we can only assume it became a widely accepted means by which to control social behavior. You may be able to hide from the cave-cops but you can’t hide from the Almighty. In the English language at least, it is no mere coincidence that the words god and good, devil and evil are differentiated by the addition and omission of just one letter respectively. Are you connecting the dots here? God-Devil, good-evil. It is crystal clear that there was a definite progression here and while we can’t be sure which terms came first, they are clearly forever intertwined in theological lore.

            Now, as we all know, there isn’t one single shred of evidence that heaven and hell actually exist. How could there be? The only way to find this out for sure is by dying. I can only speak for myself here but I am in no hurry to take the eternal dirt nap just yet. Of course there are always those hopeless zealots out there who believe the outrageous claims by some heavily medicated delusionists who claim to have died and come back to life. They rail on about seeing bright lights and the flames of hell and other such preposterousness. How does one argue with such outlandish utterings?

The belief in the connection between how we live our lives while here on Earth and the way in which we will be judged later has proven to be a profoundly powerful influence on cultures throughout the centuries. In summation, it is clear that the concept of ‘god’ and the religions that sprung from the belief in any number of them were borne out of a primitive lack of understanding and later, an attempt to influence behavior and keep the riff-raff in line. It is important to proceed forward with these basic concepts in tow. The latter still remains at the very heart of virtually every established religion that exists today.

Oh, one other very influential impetus that spawned a need to believe in some thing greater than ourselves was the nagging question,” how did we get here?” To this day no one has been able to answer that question conclusively so we chalk it up to the Almighty. One must admit it certainly ties up any loose ends rather nicely.

            So how did these concepts evolve into today’s most dominant religions? They were tremendously helped along by the likes of Mohamed, Jesus, and Siddhartha, the three most influential figures in the evolution of Earthly theology as we know it. One cannot help but be impressed with the legacy these men left behind and the impact their lives had upon this planet’s history. So who were these men? Some of you may be familiar with their biographies; some of you may not so here they are. I’ll be brief however, since we have so much more to talk about as we endeavor to redirect the course of our increasingly at-risk and highly fragile species. No one will ever accuse us of biting off more than we can chew eh?

Chronologically speaking, Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha) came into our humble little world first. He was born around the year 566 BC in a region now known as Nepal at the foothills of the great, snow-covered Himalayan Mountains. You know; where the abominable snowman hangs out. Bear in mind this was a full half-millennium before Jesus made his appearance and a full millennium before Mohammad popped out of the womb. There are many legends that surround Siddhartha’s life and many sayings attributed to him but no one can say with complete authority which are true and which are not true. This was a time when humans were just mastering the art of riding horseback and living in adobe huts. Much of what was passed down was done so through word of mouth, and we all know how humans just love to embellish upon a story whenever the opportunity presents itself. One truth is indisputable however. This man did have an Iconic-like impact upon that region of the world.

            He was born the son of a wealthy tribal chief in a group known as the Shakyas. It is told that his father attempted to shield him from the “underside of humanity” and did not allow him to bum around or venture far from the family palace. At the age of 29 however, Siddhartha’s curiosity regarding how “the other half” lived got the better of him so he ventured forth to get a taste of peasant life. What he witnessed shocked him beyond words. He had never been exposed to death, poverty, and malfeasance. In essence, he was hit square in the face with a mega-sized dose of Pandora’s Box syndrome. Having led such a charmed life, something bothered him profoundly. It is something that sets us apart from virtually every other creature on this planet, at least to the best of our knowledge. No, not thumbs, we already covered the extra digit thing. It is called a conscience.

            How do we know lions, tigers and bears don’t have a conscience? Good questions since our collective understanding of what makes animal life forms tick is still extremely limited. We can only surmise from close observation upon witnessing their actions and the expressions on their snouts after a successful hunt. As they devour their prey without the slightest hint of emotion we can only assume that they don’t wrestle with serious bouts of remorse afterwards. Animals act mostly out of pure instinct, the need to survive and procreate. It is doubtful that they lounge around dwelling on issues of right and wrong between kills. Once we learn to speak lion-ese I’m sure many of these nagging questions will bee answered to our mutual satisfaction.

Back to business. It is apparent that Siddhartha was probably wrestling with his conscience more than other humans of his day since after all, he is the one we remember most. Can you name anyone else who was born in the Nepal region in the year 566 BC?

After that brief period during which he set out to discover the world, he reportedly returned to his village with a group of followers so it is clear there were those who were eager and willing to listen to him right from the get go. He began espousing the need to follow a lifestyle known as “the middle way”, a compromise between unbridled greed/materialism and respecting everything that surrounds us on an existential level. I personally find it absolutely amazing that this man recognized the dangers to society of another PDC (pervasive greed) 2500 years ago and yet we still haven’t learned to overcome this devastating scourge to humanity. Siddhartha is the human most associated with the word “enlightenment”, something he reportedly achieved at one point in his life which elevated him to a status beyond that of mere man in the eyes of his followers.

            Buddhism is based on a doctrine referred to as “The Four Noble Truths” and they are:

1.) All human life is suffering. (Ain’t that the truth.)
2.) All suffering is caused by human desire, particularly the desire that impermanent things be permanent.
3.) Human suffering can be ended by ending human desire.

4.) Desire can be ended by following the "Eight-fold Noble Path": right understanding, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration.

            In essence, anyone who achieves mastery of this doctrine and attempts to live by its code can achieve “enlightenment”. No easy task judging by modern day America where the words ‘right’ and ‘pop culture’ rarely collide in the same sentence.

            Note the operative word contained in the ‘Four Noble Truths’. Desire, which is the twin brother to temptation. As you read on, you will see how incredibly pervasive these elements are in our daily lives.

Siddhartha lived to a healthy old age and after his death, a small group of followers known as ‘monks’ carried on his teachings. Once again however, as we will see later with both Islam and Christianity, religion and politics rarely seem able to avoid one another and find themselves more often than not on a collision course. It took a political figure to elevate Siddhartha to the big stage. The emperor Anoka converted to Buddhism in the 5th century BC and it was that decision which inspired millions to take a closer look at this humble man’s life. It should not go without saying that, all degenerate-species-allegations aside, Buddhism does in fact espouse some very noble virtues. When compared to other dominant religions, it tends to be far less militant and heavy-handed and is instead far more tolerant and respectful of other people’s beliefs.

If you happen to visit various Asian countries today, don’t be surprised to see Buddhist monks wandering from place to place looking like they really don’t know what they are supposed to be doing in life. They never seem like they know exactly where they are going and they don’t appear to be in any hurry to get there. In Buddhist culture, it is good luck to offer them food and shelter and such gestures can even buy you favor with the ‘Big Buddha upstairs.’ All kidding aside though, they may be a bit of an enigma but you will never see one of them wearing any concealed explosive devices strapped to their anatomy. Suicide monks? Unthinkable. Women find them absolutely adorable and often can’t resist the urge to run up and hug one of ‘em.

Our next historical giant is the man whose influence has spawned more followers than any other. We know him as Jesus of Nazareth and to this day, more controversy surrounds his true identity and the circumstances of his life than any other human since the age of the dinosaurs. Western civilization even changed its calendar based on the year he was born. We now refer to that very large part of human history prior to his birth as B.C. (Before Christ). After he was born is recorded as A.D. or anno domini which means ‘year of our lord.’

So, was he really the Son of God? Did he really perform all those incredible miracles? As usual, the key element that runs through this thread is the same one that runs through the threads of every other religion the world over. It all comes down to what you are willing to believe. Christians refer to God as simply “God”, Muslims have “Allah”, Jews have “Jehovah” and the Hindus have their “Brahman”. Which is the one true God? Christians have the highest number of believers so it only stands to reason they must be correct, right?

Faith is such an enormously all-encompassing and powerful virtue. It can easily consume us and result in an overwhelming urge to enforce our beliefs upon others. It is this unfortunate side effect that has caused more war and strife than any other stimulus in human history. Now if we could all just learn to keep our religious convictions to ourselves, some of us might be able to stop fretting over the current terrorist-alert levels and get a little REM sleep.

Jesus was by all accounts a man of profound peace. Thus his nickname “The Prince of Peace,” which is in direct contrast to Mohammed who was reputed to be a warrior by nature. Jesus supposedly inspired his twelve “disciples” to write that portion of the Bible known as the “New Testament.” It chronicles the life and teachings of this legendary man born the son of Joseph and Mary in a manger in Bethlehem. He also represents the point at which the Jews split with the Christians over one central issue. Christians accept Jesus as the true “Son of God”, Orthodox Jews do not. That represents a rather sizable difference of opinion. Which group is correct and why? Can we accept the writings of disciple’s Matthew, Mark, Luke and John as truly “Divinely Inspired” when human history is replete with indisputable evidence showing a repeated pattern of lies, treachery, and deceit? Can we accept without the slightest tinge of reasonable doubt that Jesus was in fact God’s son as these men claim he was?

The circumstances surrounding his death have stymied scholars for centuries and lesser minds like mine for hours on end. The legend says he was crucified, died and was buried in a sacrificial exercise that was performed for the purpose of forgiving our sins. Some of his over-zealous followers claim they saw him rise from the dead and ascend into heaven, but was this genuine fact or fanciful fiction? When we Christians think of heaven, we usually look skyward to the great blue yonder. The centuries-old notion prevails that when we die, after living a life hopefully worthy of redemption, our souls will rise to the heavenly heights. Then, we will be met at the Pearly Gates by Saint Peter who will ruthlessly interrogate us in an effort to evaluate our worthiness to enter into Heaven and the eternal bliss that waits within. When taken as a collective whole, this entire narrative requires the listener to be ready and willing to swallow one heck of a whale’s tale. Did Jesus really float up into the sky and disappear into the clouds as some of his followers claimed? If God wanted to forgive our sins, one would think He could have come up with a far less elaborate scheme than having Jesus wander through our world for 33 years, then be forced to endure torture and voluntarily submit to being nailed to a cross to die a slow painful death. What about the timing of this colossal episode in human history? He died to forgive the sins of all humanity but does that include the countless indiscretions that followed? Humans have committed far more atrocities after Jesus died than they could have possibly committed prior to his being nailed to that cross. On his best day, William Shakespeare couldn’t concoct a yarn of this magnitude.

And what about this most highly acclaimed book in human history, the Bible? An in-depth evaluation of Christian history reveals incontrovertible evidence that this most fabled of all texts has been edited, re-written and re-interpreted to suit the whim of countless kings, popes, and other self-motivated egomaniacs. The “King James” Bible, as one example, was a compromise version resulting from a dispute between Puritans and the ruling bishops of the day. The means used to record the original writings of Jesus’ disciples was so primitive that it is difficult for anyone to know with absolute certainty exactly what they wrote, what they meant and what they actually saw Jesus do. Did he really perform all those incredible miracles? Without trying to come across as the least bit disrespectful because I do genuinely admire the legacy this man left behind, could it be that the observers of these miracles were simply too primitive to understand what was transpiring? If we had a time machine and we could send famed illusionist David Copperfield back to those primitive surroundings, would he too inspire one of the world’s great religions?

What about the Council of Nicea and the Council of Constantinople, both of which took place in the fourth century AD? They both represented great gatherings where the myriad of conflicting Christian factions came together to decide which passages would be included in future versions of the Bible and which would be omitted. It was also during these Councils that church leaders decided that Jesus would be recognized as the true son of God going forward. This was a time of great confusion and internal conflict, a period during which certain members of the Catholic Church really went off the deep end. Secret societies like Opus Day and the Priory of Sion came into existence over whisperings of a Royal Bloodline that swirled around Jesus’ involvement with Mary Magdalene. With all due respect to author Dan Brown, these rumors and conspiracy theories were alive and well centuries before he came up with the idea of crafting his highly acclaimed novel ‘The Davinci Code.”

Prior to the television set, the Bible ranked as the most powerful control device known to man. Religion is a very powerful drug and once it enters the blood stream, it is nearly impossible to resist. There are actually courageous crusaders out there who make a living de-brainwashing those who cannot regain control of their own minds and bodily functions once they have had their heads filled with an overdose of religious theology. The notion that some invisible being is watching everything we do and that we will be judged in the end is powerful stuff indeed. Especially when you throw in added enticements like irresistible visions of heavenly bliss and the alternative: spending the rest of eternity sweltering in the fires of hell.

Many bible thumpers love to quote passages from this awe-inspiring book to reinforce virtually everything they preach. They proceed under the unshakable assumption that by quoting the Bible, it gives them an aura of infallibility found nowhere else in the world. If you question them, you are either a devil worshipper, a heathen, or unspeakably evil. Too many of these poor lost souls lack the will or the intellectual capacity to question anything contained therein. This book, completely written by primitive men with nothing more than a rudimentary understanding of the physical world around them scientifically speaking, contains text that to this day drives humans absolutely mad with religious frenzy.

The factual truth is that while some good intentions were involved, much of the world’s religions are based on myth, legend, innuendo, superstition, conspiracy, hocus-pocus, mumbo –jumbo, and deceit. That all adds up to a witch’s brew of Biblical proportions. Religion has always clashed with science. When men like Sir Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin made major breakthroughs and elevated our understanding of our physical world, they were harshly chastised and portrayed as demons by Christian churches. 

Despite the fact that humanity has a long-standing and clearly established history of distrustful behavior, the Bible somehow remains above reproach. Every human being since Joey Cro-Magnon may be capable of lying, but certainly not the twelve disciples right? ‘Let he who is without sin cast the first stone,’ Jesus once said to an unruly mob. Even he recognized that we are all sinners and hopeless degenerates (on the upswing) yet his 12 disciples are somehow viewed today as superhuman pillars of virtue able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. The night Jesus was taken into custody, Peter himself denied that he ever knew his lord and savior when his feet were put to the fire so to speak by the Romans. Out of pure fear, he lied plain and simple which, to any sane person can mean only one thing? He and the other disciples were every bit as human as the rest of us. They had an agenda, they had motives, and they were every bit as capable as any one of us of stretching and twisting the truth to meet their own end. Legendary Italian statesman Niccolo Machiavelli came along centuries later and is credited with coining the phrase, ‘the end justifies the means.” It could be easily argued however, that the twelve disciples popularized it long before ‘Big Mach’ began wandering the streets of Florence Italy.

It is clear that Jesus’ claim to fame was initially enhanced primarily through the words of these 12 loyal followers. Which begs the question, how difficult is it for anyone to gather a group of followers together and inspire them to do your bidding? Have you ever heard the names Jim Jones, David Koresh, or Marshall Applewhite? One of the many differences between these three 20th-century messiah-loony’s and a pillar of virtue like Jesus is that today, with our somewhat more advanced understanding of the scientific world, it is far more difficult to dupe people into believing that you are going around performing miracles and receiving communiqués directly from God.

Much of Jesus’ legend was built upon his perceived ability to perform superhuman deeds. He walked on water didn’t he? Or was he merely walking along a sandbar that made it appear as though he was walking on water? He turned water into wine? Such a feat would be child’s play for any one of a thousand modern day magicians. He reportedly raised Lazarus from the dead. Or did he? The accrued medical knowledge of that region up to that point was still primitive at best. Could Lazarus have been in a coma-like state and by mere coincidence, he regained consciousness while Jesus was in the vicinity?  All of which might come across as unforgivable blasphemy to some of you more staunch supporters out there but the implication here is merely this. For centuries humans have been killing each other in vast numbers over religious differences of opinion. The Crusades are centuries in the past yet here we are in the 21st century still grappling with a world-wide Muslim-Christian conflict that seems to have no end.  Doesn’t it make sense to question the validity of this never-ending madness?

To some fanatical religious zealots out there, religion is a very powerful force indeed. It possesses their minds and souls in a way that simply has no equal. They become so strongly entrenched in their beliefs of what they have read and heard, their minds simply shut themselves off to any opposing views and it becomes nearly impossible to reopen them again. If you don’t completely fall in line with their rigid set of beliefs, they immediately go on the attack and you are either stupid or even worse yet, a devil worshipper and card-carrying member of the Illuminati.

Collectively, this man Jesus and his Bible amount to an incredible quagmire of galactic proportions. Once again it all comes down to faith and one’s willingness to believe. Personally, I don’t care if someone believes in the tooth fairy, the Easter Bunny, Santa Clause, leprechauns, or little green men from Mars so long as they don’t go around murdering those who might perceive their beliefs to be a bit out of step with popular sentiment. The lasting impression that remains with me after twelve years of parochial school teachings is that this seemingly well-intentioned man we all know and love named Jesus must have been one remarkable human being and someone worth emulating. Regardless if he was the “Son of God’ or not, it is difficult to argue that what he taught and the value system he lived by were certainly worth admiring and mimicking. I doubt that he would approve of the actions of some of his followers subsequent to his demise however. Since his alleged “Ascension into Heaven”, some of his more notable supporters have done some pretty terrible deeds in his name. The Crusades for example will remain a black mark upon the soul of Christendom until the end of eternity. Thousands of innocent victims were ruthlessly slaughtered on both sides of this infamous Muslim-Christian conflict and the after-shocks of this horrible event are still being felt to this very day. Those unfortunate souls, many of them women and children, didn’t die because God wanted them to. They died because powerful, ambitious and clearly misguided figures of the day like King Richard who led the Third Crusade decided they needed to be killed. It is hard to believe that Jesus would have approved of such heinous actions.

Then there was the Inquisition during the 15th century, a shameful period in which Catholics of all shapes and sizes went completely bonkers. Picture an entire army of Joe McCarthy’s running around pointing the finger at everyone and accusing anyone they didn’t like of heresy and crimes against the church. Torture and executions ensued along with complete and utter barbarity. With no irreverence intended towards certain other unfortunate victims, it made the Salem Witch Hunt look like a walk in the park. They even torched Joan of Arc, the filthy heathens.

I have often pondered, throughout my occasional studies of human history, what it was that motivated these notable men (and women) who jump out at us from the pages of our text books, Bibles, etc. Were they merely driven by the same compulsion scientists and historians are today: the overwhelming need to know how humanity and the universe as a whole came into existence? Were they also trying to answer the question, why are we here, not just how did we get here? Or were they merely ruthless, greedy and ambitious barbarians out to rape and pillage purely for the fun of it? Those who did so under the shadow of a religious banner were fortuitous enough to be portrayed in the history books as virtuous martyrs. The true pessimist might sum up human history with one simple line: So many questions, so few answers. Let us endeavor to persevere however.

Our third Icon from religious history is definitely the most provocative of the three. Mohammed is the self-proclaimed founder of Islamic religion. He was born in Mecca in the year 570 AD, five centuries after the death of Jesus. He lived at a time when the Arabian Peninsula was in a state of great turmoil. Christianity had already taken root and was becoming a force to be reckoned with in the world-wide religious arena. The Byzantine Empire centered in nearby Constantinople, (now Istanbul, Turkey) exerted tremendous influence all the way through the Arab lands right into Jerusalem. The Jews were also prominent religious players at that time and many Arab tribes that were reluctant to accept the Jewish and Christian ways still worshipped false idols. All of which begs the question, which idols were true and which were false?

During his youth, Mohammed was involved in trading and caravans were very much in vogue as the method of bringing goods to market. He must have had a very troubled youth, having lost both his mother and father at a very young age. Mohammed reportedly became disheartened by the false idols the local tribes worshipped every year in their annual trip to Mecca. He had his so called “First Vision” at the age of forty while hanging out in a cave at Mount Hera. Remember, these were very primitive times. How do we know that he didn’t just ingest some bad mushrooms? No one else saw this vision; his wife told others about it being a loyal spouse and in the years that followed, it was necessary to subdue by force anyone who didn’t believe him. Mohammed’s followers which, in the earliest stages were very few in number, began calling themselves Muslims which means “one who submits to god.” They survived by raiding caravans which some might say portrays them as little more than petty thieves. Whether or not they were friends of Ali Baba I do not know. It is widely believed that Mohammed was illiterate so this all begs the question, why would God reveal Himself to some caravan junkie who couldn’t even read or write and was hanging out in a dark cave possibly smoking weed, then ask him to spread his word? Rather dubious beginnings wouldn’t you say? “Don’t make no sense no how, somehow.” (Curly Howard, philosopher and mentor) Muslims could very easily counter that by asking the equally legitimate question; “What is the alternative? Fall in line with some religion spawned by this carpenter guy nailed to a cross and hung out to dry by the mashugana Roman bastards?” Touché.

I don’t know about you but I occasionally ponder what criteria God might use to determine who He is going to appear to and who He is not. I keep reassuring myself that I was a good doobie last year. Santa even came to my house. How does one qualify for such an incomparable and divine honor?

Mohammed eventually saddled up his camel and headed off to Mecca to cast out the false idol worshippers which, in itself is not the least bit original when it comes right down to it. When Charlton Heston…I mean Moses ascended Mount Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments, supposedly from God Himself, he stayed up there commiserating with the Almighty longer than his followers could stand so they busied themselves by transforming into worthless degenerates and going terribly astray. They drank heavily, engaged in a few rip-roaring orgies, then built bronze statues and erected false idols of all shapes and sizes. Farm animals were very much in vogue during this period and cows in particular were often the gold statue of choice.  Moses reportedly returned with the first divinely-carved tablet only to smash it over someone’s noggin in utter condemnation requiring him to go back up again. Can you imagine the look on his face being put in the unenviable position of explaining to God Himself that he smashed the first set over someone’s skull and he would need a replacement? Please!

Mohammed probably became a warrior out of necessity because he apparently had many detractors who had trouble swallowing his ‘I talked to God’ spiel and set out to take his life. He traveled to Jerusalem where he demanded an audience and tried to convince the powers that be that he deserved a place at the big table. Again, it is difficult to know exactly what his motives were but it is clear that his claim to have experienced visions from God were rejected by the Christians. The Jews were even less receptive and they responded by summarily delivering unto him a swift kick in the ass, then rudely escorted him out of their temple. Some might suggest that he reacted the same way a small child would after being rebuked by his playmates. He gathered up his toys and went home. He may very well have decided in private that the best way to proceed would be to merely go out and start his own religion. Why not? There were already countless religions trying to exert influence all over the world. Even if Mohammed was in fact illiterate as historians claim, it is clear from historical accounts that he was strongly influenced by Jewish writings (which we can only assume were read to him by others) as well as the Old and New Testament. It is even likely that he was familiar with the doctrine of Hinduism which found its roots in nearby India. This religion predates all others and is so old, scholars can only guess at its true origins. How do we know that Mohammed wasn’t merely driven by the notion that in a world drowning in religious contradictions, there is always room for one more?

A close examination of history since their demise would lead most observers to conclude, if Jesus was the Prince of Peace, Mohammed surely was the Maker of Mayhem. In the contest for ‘most fanatical followers’ he wins hands down. Take the issue of publicly displaying their respective images in today’s world. Likenesses of Jesus can be found just about everywhere, heck I’m surprised no one has come up with the idea of putting his face on a box of Wheaties. Christians are a relatively docile and easy-going lot when it comes to this particular subject. In the early 1970’s,  world renowned composer Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Broadway play Jesus Christ Superstar was anything but flattering, yet it was a tremendous success at the box-office, none of which were subsequently burned to the ground by angry Jesus-worshippers. When ‘The Da Vinci Code’ (Dan Brown, author) took the literary world by storm in 2004, this fictitious, conspiracy laced yarn went so far as to suggest that Jesus actually married Mary Magdalene, a known prostitute and that she bore him children out of wedlock. Pretty inflammatory stuff when you consider that we are talking about a man who many still believe was in fact, the true son of God. While some members of the Pro-Jesus Front voiced their indignation, rather boisterously at times, no mass book burnings took place.

Now let’s look at the flipside. If you publicly portray images of Mohammed on the other hand, especially in a negative light, a contract will be placed on your life. Muslim hit squads all over the world will set out to hunt you down and kill you while you sleep. Danish newspaper Jyliands Posten committed the unforgivable offense of publishing unflattering cartoons of Mohammed that sparked outrage and riots throughout the Muslim world in 2006. So much for freedom of speech and expression.

If you even write something about Mohammed, that really seems to get their dander up also. Just ask author Salman Rushdie who was forced into hiding after publishing ‘The Satanic Verses’ which contained anti-Muslim passages. Even rock singer turned Muslim convert Cat Stevens agreed with the global Islamic call for Rushdie’s death.

So my advice to one and all is to take great care in what you say and do in regards to this particular prophet. Wait a minute, aren’t I writing about him right now? Hey, all you bearded guys out there, I’m kidding! I’m just some nutty guy flicking boogers here. Never take me seriously.

            Jesus is often referred to throughout American pop-culture in a rather fun-loving way. I remember a Boston Bruins hockey bumper sticker during the 1970’s that read, “Jesus saves….but Esposito scores on the rebound!” Christians didn’t take all that much offense to it and for the most part it was seen as playful jesting.

            Crack a joke about Mohammed to the Muslim sitting across the table from you at your next peace treaty discussions and he is more likely to respond, “Poke fun at the prophet again, and I’ll cut off your testicles!” It has become crystal clear to me that some of us take this religion stuff waaaaaaaay too seriously.

In many ways, to you and me living here in the 21st century, the three aforementioned god-like figures might as well be from a galaxy far, far away. The means by which records were kept and passed down through the centuries were so primitive it is almost impossible to sift through it all and unravel the real truth and the motives that propelled these three men to such lofty heights. Regardless of their authenticity however, it is clearly apparent that they were each prepared to do something very few people are willing to do in today’s world. They possessed the courage to question the world around them and they were clearly willing to take on the establishment in an effort to bring about positive change. History will continue to debate what is fact and what is fiction in regards to their respective legacies. There are those for example, who wisely scoff at baseless myths such as the one involving the 72 Virgins which are allegedly promised to Muslims if they are willing to die for the cause. If it were me and this myth was in fact true, I would ask for photos first so I could pick and choose. Absolutely no redheads. There are others who see the Christian promise that all good doobies will go to heaven as nothing more than a human attempt to encourage us to behave in a compassionate manner with the promise of a reward later for our allegiance. But no discussion of such men as these should end without acknowledging the fact that regardless of what you and I may think or choose to believe, Siddhartha, Mohammed and Jesus deserve a tremendous amount of respect for the impact they had upon human history. I like to think that regardless of how shamefully their followers have chosen to conduct themselves in the years that followed their deaths, these three legendary men meant well and were each driven by good intentions.

Good intentions aside however, the more one studies human history and the evolution of religion as a whole, the more resolute one becomes with these indisputable conclusions. Religion is a man-made commodity. There is absolutely no concrete evidence that any human being has ever seen God, is the son of God, talked to God or received messages directly from God. Certainly not in the literal sense at least. That is as clear as the nose on your face. There are those who claim to have seen God but there are some among us who claim to have been abducted by aliens too. And what about this Elvis guy? He’s been dead for years and everyone on the planet claims to have seen him lately. We’re humans and you know how we lie. Our propensity for stretching the truth is exceeded only by our boundless imaginations. We have a slew of Holy Books such as the Bible, the Torah, and the Qur’an, each self-conflicted in its own way. We have more religions vying for supremacy right now as we speak than at any other point in human history and new ones seem to sprout up every day. Not surprisingly, few of them seem to get along with one another. Muslim Shiites are constantly sending suicide bombers to call upon Muslim Sunnis. Muslims cannot get along with the Hindus. Christians can’t seem to get along with anyone including themselves and have spawned more sub-religions than Carter has liver pills. Catholics don’t like the Protestants, which includes the Baptists, Episcopalians, Lutherans, Evangelicals, et al. The Protestant faith for that matter was the result of the ‘Reformation’, a movement spearheaded by Martin Luther back in the middle ages. He and his followers broke away from the long held beliefs of Catholicism.  Why? Because he didn’t like ‘em that’s why. When you don’t like something about one religion, just go start your own. We have atheism, scientology, appliantology. We have Mormons (did you know they wear sacred undergarments? Holy boxer shorts Batman!)  And speaking of Mormons, what’s up with this polygamy thing?  Who would even think of inventing the concept of having several wives at the same time? What was he smoking? I have enough trouble finding one woman who is willing to put up with me, let alone ten.  Why don’t we ever hear reports about a woman having numerous husbands? We constantly see references towards reverse discrimination in this country, what about reverse polygamy? What would we even call such a thing? He-digamy? The reason we never hear stories about such a scenario is simple. Women are far too smart to fall into such a trap. They know all too well that getting emotionally involved with just one member of the opposite sex is sufficient enough to ensure a life of utter turmoil and misery.

In the year 1890, Mormons supposedly abolished this primitive practice. They finally came to the realization that there just wasn’t enough Viagra around at the time to maintain sufficient levels of stamina to satisfy so many needy concubines. So why is the most dominant news event as I sit here writing this in April of 2008 a story coming out of west Texas involving polygamists? Apparently a small group of middle aged and remarkably incomparable degenerate men established a private little, members-only religious sect for themselves and built an entire compound to serve as their cozy, secluded base of endless sleazery. Wives were plentiful (one super-stud reportedly had 31) and they were remarkably productive sexually speaking as authorities removed over 400 children from the compound. Underage female teens were being bred for marital purposes and forced to betroth to older men. More than 3/5’s of these teenage girls were either pregnant or had previously given birth to children. Rape was not uncommon, nor was child abuse. All of which has far-reaching moral implications, not to mention reinforcing everything I have been saying about we humans all along. We are capable of almost anything when it comes to exploiting one another, even when it involves children.

Back to the ticking clock and ‘too many religions.’ There is Janism, Neo-paganism, Sikhism, African traditional religions, Chinese traditional religions, Primal indigenous religions, all claiming to worship their personal and indisputable ‘One True God’.

Now take a look at some of the most contested areas in the world; Northern Ireland’s dispute with England, the Israelis vs. the Palestinians, Pakistan vs. India, and Iran vs. Iraq, just to name a few. Each of these bloody conflicts has religious lines drawn in the sand. No matter how you look at it, the same common denominator remains a constant. Humans are at religion’s core and humans are a primitive degenerate species (on the upswing) which makes the concepts that support most organized religions the biggest scam since Merlin’s All-Healing Magical Elixir. As such, there has never been any shortage of, dare I say less than scrupulous opportunists ready and willing to step forward and declare themselves ‘the chosen one’, the one true ‘Champion of God’. Let me hear you say halleluiah brother!

I have always harbored a particular feeling of utter contempt for those who use God as a product put here for their retail purposes. Never before has this been so much in evidence as it is today. I recently read an article regarding the son of a preacher by the name of Joel Olsteen who followed in his father’s footsteps and took up the reigns of his ministry upon the elder Olsteen’s demise. Joel took the ministry to a whole new level. He went to college and majored in television production so it only stands to reason that his knowledge and depth in theological terms was increased expo-nothingly. He did however, learn the concept of exploiting the masses through main stream media and with that knowledge; Osteen has achieved true celebrity status in the increasingly competitive and highly-profitable world of what I refer to as DITSI (divinely-inspired television solicitation incorporated.) He recently invested 100 million dollars (money taken from the collection plate) and renovated a basketball arena in an effort to increase the numbers of seats and the size of his flock. Make no mistake about it good readers; flock is rather sadly the operative word here. These poor unfortunate impressionable souls who buy into these age-old scams and fill arenas across this planet on a daily basis ready and willing to empty their wallets to God represent some of the most vulnerable among us. Many suffer from medical conditions, have lost loved ones and are ripe for picking due to their emotional state of mind.

Olsteen, the all-too-eager-to-accept-handouts shepherd, wrote a book that is based on the following ‘seven principles’ to a richer life. They are:

Enlarge your vision.

Develop a healthy self-image.

Discover the power of your thoughts and words.

Let go of the past.

Find strength through adversity.

Live to give. (This one is key to all TV evangelists. Above all and in order to reach true salvation you must be willing to give your money to the Lord, through them of course.)

Choose to be happy.


If this doesn’t collectively constitute the most incredibly sophomoric approach to theology since Father Guido Sarducci, I’ll eat the cigarette-smoking priestly comic’s hat. My personal favorite and by far the most profound is the last little ditty. As humans we are all going to deal with any number of normal, unavoidable events such as living long enough to see our parents pass on. We lose friends, have our cars and homes repossessed if we are not careful, we deal with health issues ranging anywhere from cancer to the heartbreak of psoriasis but according to Joel, all we have to do is choose to be happy and all will be well in the garden.

I must confess it has been quite some time since I have encountered this level of simplistic drivel. Now, I suppose to some out there Olsteen’s ‘Seven Pillars” represent highly intellectual stuff and in all fairness, if you find the answers to all your problems and take comfort in such poppycock, more power to you. If he had written such simplistic prose and didn’t invoke the Almighty somewhere in the mix he would have probably been written off as just another country bumpkin. To give credit where credit is due, he is wise enough to know that by dragging God into the equation, his listeners might be compelled to grant him considerably more latitude and maybe some longitude as well.

After a lifetime of enduring the likes of Jimmy Swaggert, Reverend Ike, Benny Hinn and Jimmy Baker to name just a few of the more notorious charlatans, I have learned to become a bit more cautious of what seems to be a never-ending multitude of Bible-thumping TV evangelist money-grabbers. Billy Graham was so arrogant as to respond thusly to a reporter who questioned why he wore $1,000 suits and arrived to his ‘sermons’ via stretch-limo? “God never said I had to dress like a pauper.”

I decided to put forth my own seven principles to a better life. Take heed, and keep your wallets where they belong as I will not be passing around the collection plate afterwards:

Improve your vision. Learn to spot a god-meister when you see one.

Stop idolizing celebrities. They are no less degenerate than you and I.

Stop living your life vicariously through the narcissistic nitwits in Hollywood. Forge your own path, leave your own legacy.

Learn from the past. If you get fleeced once, don’t let it happen again.

Adversity is part of life. Don’t add to it by becoming a sucker. If there is a God, he sure as hell doesn’t need your money.

Don’t worry, be happy. (Thanks to Bobby Mcferrin, or did Bob Marley write that one?)


Olsteen also was featured on an episode of “Sixty Minutes”. During the entire segment, the less-than-courageous reporter who was interviewing this latest in a long line of TV Evangelist hucksters never bothered to pose any provocative questions, such as: “Don’t you think that one hundred million dollars could have been better spent actually helping those in need rather than building yet another ‘monument of self-promotion’ which does little more than accommodate additional donors?” It is downright frightening to watch one of these gatherings. I am amazed at the level of naivety that beams forth from the faces of those in attendance. At the same time, my heart goes out to them. There are countless souls who wander this planet looking for some sort of inner-peace and salvation. Unfortunately, they oftentimes fall prey to those who make their livings through exploitation and manipulation.

At the risk of being banished to Hades by the likes of Benny Hinn, most organized religions today do little more than exploit the weak-minded and most vulnerable among us. While people like Hinn and Olsteen might find justification in such endeavors, I find them reprehensible. Think about it for a moment. If we took all the money that is lavished on ‘houses of worship’ around the globe and spent it on food and medicine, there wouldn’t be any starving or sickly people desperately in need. But then we would have no need for TV evangelist God-meisters would we?

While loathsome and grotesque, monetary exploitation is by no means the most dangerous aspect surrounding this intriguing mythical force that has been holding humanity in its sway for centuries. The real danger comes from those who take their religious beliefs to a militant level and it is those forces who do have the will and the means to bring total and utter calamity to our entire species. As we speak, the number of religious fanatics continues to grow and their efforts to destabilize the governments of the world are intensifying.

Now, pay very close attention to what I am about to say. This is very, very important. All of the above is not meant as an attempt to shatter anyone’s belief in God. I may have been born at night, but I wasn’t born last night. I am fully aware that anyone foolish enough to go around this particular planet dissing God is off his rocker. The God Ninjas will break out their daggers and hunt you down like a dog.  Therefore, before you assassins head out into the cold, dark night with the intent of fragging my butt, I reiterate the following for all to hear. I believe in God and will continue to do so until someone, anyone can prove to my personal satisfaction exactly how we puny humans got here. Because the irrefutable truth of the matter is, no one has ever been able to explain it conclusively. Atheists think they have it all figured out when in fact they are nothing more than clueless, odious, malcontents who have absolutely nothing to add to this intellectual discussion. The purpose of this text thus far is to hopefully inspire you the reader to question the world around you. I honestly believe that if you do even a minimal amount of research, then apply even the smallest degree of common sense, you will come away feeling the same way I do. God is good, religion is highly questionable. That is the humble message I am putting forth merely in the hope that some will at least think about it. Wrestle yourself free of all the religious notions that you were force-fed during your formative years, sift through all the pre-conceived notions you have accrued since adolescence and just think about it. Then, after doing so, if you want to believe in what Jesus espoused, do it peacefully. There are scant few humans to look back on that are more worthy of our devotion than he is. If you want to follow the teachings of Mohammed, once again by all means do so. Is there any way that path can be traveled without the explosive vests though?

            Why question any of this, some might ask. Humans didn’t arrive at this point in our existence without constantly questioning previously established concepts. Doing so helps us grow and expand our wisdom and knowledge. The day we stop doing this is the day they should shovel the proverbial dirt over us all.

This brings us to yet another one of the central monumentally awe-inspiring and universally thought-provoking themes of this entire text. I bet you were beginning to think there wasn’t any point to it whatsoever. Don’t be cruel. Here is a question for you. Have you ever wondered to yourself, what would you list as the most powerful of human motivations upon close inspection of homo-sapient behavior thus far? What are the unseen forces that are driving the aforementioned clock to tick down towards our eventual undoing?

My answer would be… (drum roll please) Temptation, Stimulation, and Exploitation. ‘So what, big deal!’ you say. Please reserve final judgment until I am well out of earshot if you don’t mind. This seemingly insignificant revelation has a direct and far greater impact on just about everything that happens on planet Earth than you could possibly imagine. I will prove this to you beyond any shadow of a doubt in the fascinating text that follows. You are about to discover that these three all-powerful elements are forever intertwined throughout the delicate fabric of humanity. As you will see, these three critical elements have dominated human affairs since we first learned to climb the nearest tree at the sight of an oncoming T-Rex. They remain every bit as dominant today as we reach for the cosmos and beyond. This little tidbit of information might not, at least on the surface, sound like it carries a tremendous amount of weight in and of itself, but you will see in the pages that follow that almost everything we do can be summed up with these three words. You will also see how they are used against us by external forces in their never-ending efforts to both influence our thinking and control our behavior. So trust the great and powerful Oz, don’t touch that dial, stay tuned for this is absolutely must-see TV.

(You’re still here? Wow, subliminal messages really do work.)

What? What’s that you say? I thought I heard some rebellious rabble-rouser out there ask; “Why write a book with a central theme that appears to imply that we are all nothing more than a bunch of hopeless degenerates (on the upswing) whose only purpose in life seems to be to royally screw one another?”

Well pilgrim, that is a good question and one that I actually have an answer for. You can rest assured that even if I didn’t have the answer, I would just make one up. After all, we are professionals. (Hunter Thompson, God rest his soul.)

Without painting too broad a stroke here, why do any of us express or exchange our thoughts and ideas for that matter? In essence that is what this book represents; a humble expression of ideas that I willingly accept may or may not be of use to everyone. We express them as part of our never-ending search for knowledge and understanding in the hope that someday, it will elevate us and further distance us from our primitive beginnings.

There is always the chance that something you read herein may inspire you to have thoughts and ideas of your own. What you are doing right here and now is exactly the way it has worked with us humans since we first learned to communicate with one another by rhythmically beating on logs with clubs. Our communication skills have come a long way since then and have advanced to the point where our SETI program (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) routinely sends radio signals to the farthest reaches of space hoping some alien life forms will receive them and answer back. If they are out there and they know what is good for them, they will steer clear of ‘the third planet’, at least until we move beyond this suicide bomber thing.

It is the never-ending progression of exchanging thoughts and ideas that has led us to where we are today. Hopefully you will find the following at least mildly interesting and it may even inspire you to go forth and write your own book and move the debate forward even further. In the words of Lex Luther, “One man can read War and Peace and learn nothing while another man can read the back of a match book cover and unlock the secrets of the universe.” Which of those people might you be?

I will refer to human beings many times in this text as degenerates. I do so however, without the slightest bit of malice or ill-intent and on each occasion, understand that in no way do I exclude myself from this, what some might find, distasteful reference. So above all, do not take it personal as it is certainly not meant to be. The word is merely used to rattle our collective conscience. It is a simple attempt to remind us that we should all strive to live up to the highest possible standards and up until now, we have not always achieved that lofty objective. I further use the word degenerate as a buffer against another prevailing and powerful scourge that we must accept as part of our emotional makeup. That word dear friends is arrogance.

Knowing and understanding who we are will hopefully help us become a better species in the years to come. In order to do that we have to lower our defenses and recognize where we are at this point in our evolution. So take everything you read herein with a grapefruit-sized grain of salt just as you would if you were immersed in any other piece of literature. Being able to poke fun at ourselves helps to keep us grounded and somewhat more introspective. And with that I will continue this leisurely lesson.

Who am I to bash human beings and refer to them as arrogant, some might ask? If you share in this assertion I scoff at thee. I know these cretins; I am one of them. I have lived among them all my life and have learned to recognize their wretched ways. We humans think we are more important than any other species on the planet. We have done nothing but brutalize and hunt down every other species on Earth since we first learned how to throw rocks. Look at the headlines even in today’s world.

On each occasion when yet another brightly-tanned surfer heads out to catch ‘the perfect wave’ off the coast of Maui, then gets munched on by a great white shark when the surfer foolishly paddles into the domain of this legendary predator, how do far-too-many humans react? They scream ‘Kill all sharks!’ and head for their spear guns. During the past thirty years or so since the airing of the Hollywood mega-hit movie “Jaws”, humans have hunted several species of sharks to near extinction, ignoring the fact that they play a vital role in the nautical nature and ecological health of the world’s oceans.

            When yet another naturalist/photographer heads off to the far reaches of Alaska to take some up close and personal photos of grizzly bears in the wild, he underestimates the speed at which these eight to nine foot fur balls can jog. Being a typical overweight and out of shape American, he looses the race, then gets munched on by the hungry grizzly who is merely conducting himself like any other ravenous animal would  in the wild. So how do some observers react? With a shout of kill all grizzlies!

            We shamefully hunt many animals for their furs so that filthy rich husbands can throw them over the backs of their grotesquely spoiled wives. For centuries, humans have hunted down elephants and rhinos and killed them unmercifully for their tusks which bring big money on the black market. Then these murderous butchers leave their enormous carcasses to rot in the mid-day sun. We nearly drove the befuddled buffalo into extinction which was no easy task since there were gazillions of them around when that North American safari began. The number of species we have driven into extinction grows larger every year. Don’t they have just as much right to live on this planet as we do?

            It is safe to say that if a pint of blood was drawn from planet Earth, figuratively speaking of course, then tested for levels of arrogance, human beings would shake out at the very top of the evolutionary chart. We place a higher importance upon ourselves than all other creatures combined. We’re so appallingly arrogant we even make each other ill whenever we travel from one country to another. Anyone who visited the United States, France, Great Britain and Germany in succession would almost certainly be compelled to think there was some kind of planetary contest going on to see which citizenry can conduct themselves with the greatest degree of egotistical flare.

            Understanding ourselves, as the opening line of this book boldly states, is as vitally important as any other pursuit in which humanity currently finds itself engaged. Let us continue to be willing to recognize our weaknesses and not merely our strengths as we proceed. If we have any hope at all of removing the battery from this tell-tale clock that continues to tick down towards the hour of our doom, we simply have to be willing to open wide our eyes and see the world as it really is. Anyone not willing to check their ego at the door simply will not be allowed in the pool. And with that, let’s go swimming.