the longest beard

Triumph of Neptune standing on a chariot pulled by two sea horses, mid-third century AD Since the dawn of history and culture, people have argued about the number, names and natures of supernatural beings known as "gods" in the Earth language of English. The classic classical example is that of the god of the sea, named Poseidon by the ancient Greeks, Neptune by the ancient Romans.

Arguments about deity tend to be less about names and numbers (666 anyone?) and more about natures, ie the attributes that distinguish a particular deity from others. For the ancient Greeks and Romans, the attributes of the god of the sea included living in the ocean, carrying a trident and being very skilled at training (land-)horses.

(I have no idea what the connection is between sea-gods and land-horses. Perhaps it's that you can lead a horse to water, but to make him drink you need a sea-god.

I use "him" because stallions are stubborn, like most males of most species. Most mares on the other hand have the good sense to drink when thirsty, and don't need to be forced. The fact that "mare" means "sea" in Latin, the language of ancient Rome, is completely irrelevant to this post, but thanks for beaming the thought at me).

Having a thousand arms is a godly attribute, currently unattainable by humans. Having a long white beard, however, is an attribute to which many stubborn humans aspire and some attain.

[Digression: Jehovah's beard as pictured by Michelangelo is more grey than white and its length falls somewhat short of being long, which may be one of the reasons why his career path is stuck on "Demiurge" despite his arrogant and unwarranted aspiration to be Lord of All Creation.]

If deity has no attributes (or has all attributes, which is equivalent to having no attributes) then people would have no basis for disagreement about the attributes of deity. So let's make it so. Let's invent a sentient entity with all the attributes there are, have been, will be and could be.

Hang on, we don't need to invent such an entity, ze already exists. Ze has well over a zillion attributes -- every single one there is, to be precise. Ze has a squillion names, including my favourite: "Everything That Is" (ETI).

By definition Everything That Is (has been, will be, could be) has all the attributes there are, have been, will be or could be. ETI comprises not just material things and material attributes, but all things and all attributes -- material and immaterial, real as well as imaginary, known and unknown, existent and non-existent. actual and potential: past, present and future.

Reality is big, but ETI is bigger. ETI encompasses Reality and everything in it, including but not limited to...

  • atoms
  • breakfasts
  • mountain goats
  • clever tactics
  • cabbages
  • kings
  • sealing wax
  • string theories
  • sexual fantasies
  • snot
  • memories of snot
  • vacuums (strictly vacua)
  • cheesecake recipes
  • the chromatic scale
  • ideas about the color red
  • geometry
  • infinities
  • emptinesses
  • fables
  • ghosts
  • the past
  • the future
  • reasons to be cheerful
  • p-branes
  • Mobius bands
  • galaxies
  • light
  • Higgs bosons
  • my secret nickname
  • every thought ever thunk by Jimi Hendrix
... every frickin' thing, literally. So it's a really good thing that ETI is binding: ETI is that which binds it all together.

The strong pantheist position is that ETI is deity, or strictly speaking, that deity is inherent in ETI. To get technical for a minute, in pantheistic belief systems, deity is immanent within Creation. In contrast, in the mainstream monotheistic belief systems, deity is transcendental ie deity transcends Creation, stands apart from and separate to Creation.

One of the major benefits of pantheism is that it keeps you out of trouble: you don't have to fight anyone, ever. Because the pantheist can happily and truthfully agree with anyone about anything.

Say that a pantheist encounters a worrier who worships the god of war. The worrier says, "War is holy, war is sacred. We Aztecs name the god of war Huitzilopochtli and we worship him religiously".

The pantheist smiles a warm and gentle smile and responds to the worrier as follows: "Yes, War and Death are parts of ETI, and ETI is inherent in War and Death. Yes, it's completely true that you Aztecs name him Huitzilopochtli: well done, good choice, hard to spell though. And yes you do worship him religiously. That's great, for you. Keep it up. Fine by me. Absolutely no worries mate."

Another great thing about ETI is that Ze is context-independent and values-free. ETI can't appear before you or anyone else in zer "true form" because ETI has no true form. In ETI all forms are true. ETI can appear as a burning bush, a pillar of smoke, an angel with wings, a bloody corpse upon a cross, a bright light, an old man with a long white beard, a young woman glowing with power and glory, an innocent little child, a murderous psychopath, a bolt of lightning or, or, or, (and yes, the Hebrew word for "light" is pronounced "or" but that's irrelevant to this discussion. Thanks for beaming the thought at me though).

The point is that ETI is all contexts (and therefore has no context); depends on everything (and therefore, nothing); cares for everything equally, (and therefore cares for nothing); favours everything equally (and therefore favours nothing); is everywhere (and therefore nowhere); has all attributes (and therefore none); holds all values (and therefore none); values everything equally (and therefore values nothing).

ETI includes love, joy, trust, life, forgiveness, healing, growth, knowledge, hope, beauty, goodness and more besides. ETI also includes hate, sorrow, evil, death, pain, sorrow, ignorance, despair, deception, ugliness and more besides. But ETI does not value any of these things over any other. Deity just doesn't care (cares more than I can know or understand).

And if this portrait offends you, answer me this: do you value diversity? Imagine two worlds: one comprising love, peace, goodness and joy; and another comprising love, peace, goodness and joy, plus evil, hatred, death, sorrow, pain and more besides. Of those two worlds, which is the richer, more diverse world? Which would you prefer to exist within?

In contrast to ETI, we humans are a pretty relative bunch -- our values tend to be determined by local context: family, school and culture. We talk about things and think about them in relation to their local context. We place things within their local context, and we value things according to their local value. For example, in some cultures (eg Carthaginian) child sacrifice was practised in order to placate the gods and help ensure the welfare of the community. Unfortunately, if your civilisation is at war with ancient Rome, you better have a lot of children. Or failing that, elephants. At this point in time, however, in this culture, we condemn child sacrifice as wrong or bad. Human values are relative, not absolute.

We tend to unthinkingly assume that our local context is a proxy for the global or universal context. Our sun, Sol, is at the centre of our planetary system, the Solar System, but is nowhere near the centre of the galaxy let alone the centre of the universe, if there is one.

Many if not most if not all people assume -- sometimes thinkingly, other times instinctively -- that their local values and truths apply universally, and that if they don't they should, or they'll be imposed at the point of a sword or the barrel of a gun or the glare of a TV screen, if necessary. Some cultures value individual achievement and flexibility of thought. Other cultures value group achievement and conformity with the norm. Who is right? Everyone. No-one. Only ETI is always right, and only within ETI are all ways right.


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