Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Charlie


This is not a review of the film version of Daniel Keyes’s award-winning Flowers for Algernon (short story, 1958, novel 1966) with the spelling corrected.  No, this is a brief commentary on a “game” that seems to be gaining great popularity among teenagers and adolescents (and you have no idea how old it makes you feel to say something like that).

You rang?
It’s pretty basic.  You scribble “Yes” and “No” and a few other things on a piece of notepaper, and balance a pen or pencil on another pen or pencil, and invoke “the demon Charlie” by chanting his (its?) name.  You then get the answers to questions.

No one seems to have been dumb enough to use this method of answering test questions.  Most people doing it seem aware that it’s kind of stupid, but “cool” to pretend, sort of like the “Magic Eightball” that you shook and asked embarrassing questions about your friends, e.g., in the hearing of Archibald you ask the Eightball in a loud voice while shaking it, “Did Archie run naked down Main Street last night chased by Betty and Veronica while waving a screaming chicken?”, and laugh hysterically when the Eightball “answers” “SIGNS POINT TO YES.”

"Read this.  You'll feel better."
Ultimately, of course, you’d be better off watching the 1940 Three Stooges film, You Nazty Spy, that inspired the “toy” or, better, reading an actual book from 1940 like Fulton Sheen’s Freedom Under God, or Mortimer Adler’s How to Read a Book (updated 1972 with Charles Dornan) if you’re uncertain how to go about the business, but it’s all harmless fun . . . right?

It’s all harmless fun — not right.

If there’s nothing in it, it’s a waste of time — and nobody has as much of that as he or she thinks, and shouldn’t be wasting it.

Here’s a fun fact.  Ask most people how many days they think the average lifespan is.  Most people will answer 100,000.  Do the math.  Living 100,000 days would make you more than 270 years old.  The average lifespan in days, assuming the Biblical three score and ten (i.e., 70), is more like 25,000 days.  Do you really want to waste any of them asking an Eightball or a balanced pencil what you should be doing?

What if there is something in it, and you really are summoning up a demon from Hell to give you answers to a bunch of really stupid questions?

Nothing serious or anything.
Traditionally, demons don’t do this sort of thing for free.  Having no use for Bitcoins or any other funnymoney (such as the debt-backed Euro or U.S. Dollar), they have a tendency to take your soul.  In exchange for the rather dubious pleasure of temporarily embarrassing your friends, you gained an eternity in Hell.

And you don’t even know if the answers are right even if you’re serious.  The Devil — the chief of demons — is also known as “the Father of Lies.”  You just tossed away your soul for something that isn’t even true.  At least in the stories people selling their souls got a little something for it.

None of this, however, answers why this so-called game is so popular, or what to do about it.

The fact is that this stuff always comes in spurts during times of social stress and change.  There was rapid growth of “spiritism” during and after the American Civil War, and another surge in the 1890s when to all intents and purposes the “free” land under the Homestead Act ran out and more people began being forced into the wage system — and the Ouija Board was “officially” invented.

"Will I ever get out of Hell?"
Another big surge came after World War I, and again after World War II.  The Magic Eightball was invented in the 1950s by someone who had been influenced by “automatic writing” through a Ouija Board, and embodied it in a children’s game.

It didn’t start with the Ouija Board, though.  The technique of “spirit” or “automatic” writing has been used for about a thousand years at least.  Madame Blavatsky used it (allegedly) to compose her two theosophical treatises, The Veil of Isis and The Secret Doctrine.  (Some authorities claim that her spirit guides didn’t actually dictate the books, as there are indications of possible plagiarism from other esoteric tomes, but maybe the spirit guides got their wires crossed.)

Madame Blavatsky
Around 1900 the Ouija Board was marketed as a game for children.  It was repackaged in the late 1960s as “Ka-Bala: The Mysterious Game that Tells the Future” and seems to have enjoyed good sales, catching the wave on the whole “New Age” schtick.

Many people are unaware that Fabian socialism, the root of E.F. Schumacher’s Small is Beautiful (1973) and A Guide for the Perplexed (1977) books, both “esoteric” or “New Age” pieces, is a combination of Madame Blavatsky’s theosophy and an expanded georgist socialism.  Nor is it particularly well-known that the social and economic thought of Msgr. John A. Ryan, the popular “social justice” guru, was heavily influenced by the socialist-populist politician Ignatius Loyola Donnelly (at least according to Msgr. Ryan’s statement).

Ignatius Donnelly
Donnelly was born a Catholic but turned spiritualist.  Madame Blavatsky used Donnelly as a primary source in her second book, The Secret Doctrine, in the section dealing with the sinking of Atlantis.

What can be done about this sort of thing?

You could forbid people to mess around with it.  Of course, that would virtually ensure its continued popularity.

Or you could address what is probably at the root of many people’s interest in the occult: a feeling of powerlessness.

You know what’s coming.  “Power,” as Daniel Webster said, “naturally and necessarily follows property.”  If you want to get people to stop asking demons and spirit guides for advice, the obvious thing to do is to empower them through direct ownership of capital to take control over their own lives.

This requires an aggressive program of expanded capital ownership, such as Capital Homesteading, that has the potential to empower every child, woman, and man through direct ownership of capital.

It beats balancing a pencil and asking “Charlie” to tell you what to do.

#30#

2 comments:

Max Weismann said...

Hello,

We are a not-for-profit educational organization founded by Mortimer Adler and we have recently made an exciting discovery—three years after writing the wonderfully expanded third edition of How to Read a Book, Mortimer Adler and Charles Van Doren made a series of thirteen 14-minute videos—lively discussing the art of reading. The videos were produced by Encyclopaedia Britannica. For reasons unknown, sometime after their original publication, these videos were lost.

Three hours with Mortimer Adler and Charles Van Doren, lively discussing the art of reading on one DVD. A must for all readers, libraries and classroom teaching the art of reading.

I cannot exaggerate how instructive these programs are—we are so sure that you will agree, if you are not completely satisfied, we will refund your donation.

Please go here to see a clip and learn more:

http://www.thegreatideas.org/HowToReadABook.htm

ISBN: 978-1-61535-311-8

Thank you,

Max Weismann, Co-founder with Dr. Adler

Michael D. Greaney said...

Welcome back, Max!

We cannot recommend these videos highly enough. Not only are they extremely informative, they are genuinely entertaining.

You should also check out the Center for the Study of the Great Ideas in general. In case you don't know, Adler and Kelso co-authored "The Capitalist Manifesto" (1958) and "The New Capitalists" (1961), available as free downloads from the CESJ website:

http://www.cesj.org/resources/free-ebooks/