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Wednesday, June 6

The Gig That Wasn't

I didn't really leave work early to go to my gig. I left work at a reasonable time and calmly drove in the direction of the gig. Later on, I'd whinge that "I left work early for this", but I was lying. Sorry. Lying is a sin. There was some comedy on Radio 4 - Jo Caulfield - it was good. I laughed a bit. I was in a bad mood, but I managed to laugh anyway. Feeling wrung out isn't good for comedy, but you never know what will happen when Doctor Theatre takes over.

There was some but not much traffic. The venue, in Balham, had a massive free (at that time) car park near it, so I had no reason to be stressed from the journey. But I was in a miserable mood. I can point the finger of blame at all sorts of things. At the moment, the word "religion" is playing on my mind. I think I can safely say that some of the worst things that have happened in my life have been a bi-product of religion in some way shape or form. I think I can also say that my residual anger from my weekend's conversation with "Flanders" comes from a certain amount of jealousy. What annoys me still is that this hypocritical loser, despite his baseless fervour and small-mindedness, has a sense of serenity and, dare I say it, happiness in what he's doing that I seem to lack. In what I consider to be his ignorance, this man is wallowing in satisfaction (some of it self-satisfied smugness) without the pangs of doubt that pick away at my own mind. Sure, he may be a deluded, bigot with an inconsistent set of values (I'm even annoyed that he's not even commited enough to be doing everything he can to follow his own belief system - you don't perve over your mate's girlfriend at all, certainly not when you're married and certainly not when your belief system states that you shouldn't), but he's a happy deluded bigot.

I, on the other hand, have only disappointment with religious belief systems. I consider myself smarter than the absolute average, and where has it gotten me? I've gained the ability to see through a lot of the world, thus disbarring me from immersing myself in emperor's-new-clothes-style spiritual experiences. I know it's a pile of horseshit. Sure, you can find something moving, because a sense of shared emotion is always moving. This, however, doesn't make something about god. It makes it about the group dynamic.

In some ways I wish I had gotten up at 4 in the morning while I was in Jerusalem to go to the western wall to see thousands of jews praying at sunrise. I think it would have been a moving experience... in the same way that seeing a stadium full of people go quiet at the song that the dead-member-of-the-band wrote would be moving, or the way that nothing beats the excitement of your team scoring the winning goal in the last 30 seconds of the match. Hell, winning a digital radio in a radio competition was a moving experience. At the moment I discovered that I'd done that, I thought my life might never be the same again. It was the KNOWLEDGE that it was just a nothingness in the grand scheme of things which made me quickly get over it.

We all want to be touched by something amazing and I truly believe that god and religion is an invention which promises that reward and frequently offers something which appears to deliver in the form of pseudo-meaningful shared experiences in religious practice, or in just the wonder of nature, which those people prepared to switch off their questions can enjoy.

So, if only I could switch off my ability to see through placebo-belief-systems. If only I could surrender my will to the ancient wisdom, which makes a lot of sense in what it's intended to do. If only. Except I can't. I'm a mind-oriented person. I have feelings. Some. I can get sucked into a moment... but I have a wall around religion and spirituality because, my friends, it's a bunch of phoney wisdom, created to tame the less sophisticated wit of its followers.

Now. Writing this causes problems. Indeed, thinking this causes problems. It is the knowledge of this conflict which has been bugging me since some idiot (probably me) opened this particular can of worms on the weekend. The thing is, though I don't believe in religion for myself, I can see why it's attractive. I can see why religious observance is actually a good thing for those that do it. Identifying yourself with a larger group, and being able to do so apparently willingly (I'm not going to go into a free will or guilt-driven behaviour debate here) is a great thing. To have a sense of belonging and identity with a wider community, defined by your shared culture, is a good thing. Sure, some people might say that a set of religious practices imposes rules, restrictions and responsibilities on those that practice. They may say that those impositions are in some way pointless if they're really just there for show. I would say that people vote with their feet and that that is important. If you have to identify with your in-group by thought word and deed all the time, then you really gain that sense of belonging. If this helps you achieve a sense of serenity and peace, then maybe you should do it. If you can do it without doubt, then lucky you.

I can't. In fact, all I can see is that I'm faced with three choices:
  • Let my religion remain a massive source of conflict in my life
  • Ignore the conflict and be a total hypocrite
  • Embrace religion, despite all my cynicism and sense of total disbelief, suppressing my own mind in the process
Who wants to choose one of those for me? No? Right, I'll get back to the story about last night's gig, then.

So, with the irritation grinding away at me, I arrived at the pub. Some friends of mine were there and we hung out. I wasn't really in the mood to talk. They got chips, I got religious about my diet and didn't. We all need something to believe in, and I believe that if I reduce my calorific and fat intake, the lord may grant me a lower weight and waist. Bizarrely, there's a lot of evidence to prove that this really is the case. Surely it are a miracle.

After a time we went off in search of the room in the pub in which the gig was to be held. We found another comedian in an ante-room near where we thought the gig would be happening. It turned out that we were in the wrong place though. We headed higher up the building, and, on the third floor, found a small room with a bunch of chairs, a stage, a PA system and a PA-disinterested promoter. He reckoned I didn't need to plug my guitar in, which is code for "we're not going to plug your guitar in whether it needs it or not".

At this point I wasn't in the mood. I was cracking jokes and bantering, but with a certain sense of bitterness and irritation. Maybe put on a stage with an audience, I would have turned on my fake cheery jolliness, but I was more rancorous than anything else. Still, banter occurred.

Then another friend of mine arrived (him of The Musical! fame). We chatted, I introduced him to my other friends, one of whom had seen the DVD of The Musical! and so was keen to meet him. Then the gig was pulled. I was starting to feel like I shouldn't be in London to do a 5-7 minute gig at a new act night, competition stylee, with a bunch of hopefuls and hopelesses. I was starting to say things like "I'm not coming back" and "I'm better than !this!"... and then I reconsidered. A moment of clarity. Some might say it was lordly insight from Jesus, talking to me through my mind. They would be wrong. I used my own reasoning. The promoter, though at first not incredibly keen to help me out, is someone who runs a fairly prestigious club (weekends in the same venue) and also runs a new act night to give acts a leg up - potentially into this club. Surely that makes him one of the good guys. He pulled the gig owing to audience numbers and proactively sought to rebook everyone. Surely that makes him one of the good guys. He died for our sins. No he didn't, and anyone who ever says that sort of thing is preposterous in their fervour. So, I asked for a September booking at the club. September the 11th - "nothing ever bad could happen on that date" I quipped.

So, the gig hadn't happened. I wasn't feeling funny anyway. We decided to go back downstairs and go into an acoustic music gig that was happening down there.

The music gig was splendid. The musician Vijay Kishore was the only act we saw, and his playing and singing were very emotive. To my hardened heart, there wasn't much in the way of things to be felt, but I could appreciate it. Perhaps when I'm in a less mind-oriented state, his CD will get under my skin some more. We all bought CDs after the show, we were that impressed with his stuff.

So, I set out to go to a gig. In the end I wasn't to perform at it, but I did get to see something immeasurably better than I would have performed. So maybe it was divine intervention that turned my poor performance into a good watching. Maybe, but it was probably just one of the many random things that happen in life as a product of the chaotic interactions of an unimaginable quantity of people. And anyone who believes otherwise is believing first and fitting the facts into their beliefs. If you belief something general enough, then everything will fit.

I, for instance, believe that if you're negative about comedians while in the gig with them, then your gig won't go so well. What counts as "so well" is a question of interpretation, my exact measurement of all the examples is non-existent, and so this general feeling can be retrospectively applied to anything I remember within the context of that belief.

Oh, and I believe that The Rebbe died for our sins, which is why I'm so excited at the prospect of exhuming his corpse.

Enough now!

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