Man's perception of the Universe, in three figures

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The Independent Culture
What A week. Swotting up Einstein (book review), talking to Multinational Corporate Executives (speech), and trying to design a God (secret). No fun, but it's a living. Einstein is a pushover compared with trying to understand the Multinational Corporate Executives, but coming up with a credible, albeit fictional, world-class deity is a real bugger. There's more to it than simply chucking in a lump of retribution, a leavening of mercy, two cups of omnipotence and a nasty streak of infantile braggadocio. Such a God would be what drug companies and theologians call a "me-too" product, and I really can't see regular Islam-users, for example, being seduced away from their favourite product for no discernible consumer benefit.

But I think I have found the answer. The Authoritarian God market seems to be pretty well sewn up, and there's not much available space in the Vaguely Transcendent And Smelling Slightly Of Animism sector. On the other hand, there seems to be growth potential in the Pik'n'Mix department, and that's where I intend to make my corner.

One of the Multinational Corporate Executives explained it to me. We had had a long and awful meeting in which the Multinational Corporate Executives explained that they had asked me to give a speech to their Multinational Corporation because I was a free and independent thinker, and then explained exactly what I had to say. Then we all went out for a drink, and they said, What else are you up to? and I said, Designing a God, actually, and one of them said, Oh, really, wow, I'm really into, you know, world religion, that's amazing. And before I could say, Shut up! Shut up! Or I will throttle the life out of you! she was leaning across the table, eyes shining with the light of pure lunacy, and explaining in terrible detail her religious and spiritual beliefs.

She believed (she said) in a Sort Of Universal You Know Spirit Yeah?, which we could all recognise and get in like touch with, except that phallocentric Western culture had got between us and the transcendent mysteries of nature. No point in explaining that Western culture had actually spent the last 500 years trying to get the hang of the transcendent mysteries of nature - gravity, electricity, the origins of the universe and reliable credit scoring, for example - and had made rather a better job of it than anyone could ever have predicted. The awful thing about this woman was that she, personally, had been terribly let down by Western culture. It had borne her, educated her in line with the latest theories, then let her loose in a world full of wonders, but without providing her with any means of telling whether or not she was talking sense.

Borges once wrote a wonderful story called "Funes the Memorious", about a chap who lacked the ability to forget. Poor Funes remembered every single thing he had ever seen or heard or smelt or in any way encountered, until he was driven to insanity and death by the tumult of memories. This woman reminded me of Funes. In her late forties now, she had never forgotten nor even discarded any of the pseudo-mystical notions she had encountered since the Sixties. She believed in Castenada's ludicrous Yacqui Indians, and in the supernatural powers of crystals. She believed that the Mayans were guided by spacemen, and that an earlier civilisation had existed beneath the surface of the Earth. She believed that human beings could give off an invisible light which could make other human beings feel better, that the Tibetan Book of the Dead was dictated by the same Mystical Forces who designed the Pyramids, and that witches were forces for good. She believed in ley-lines, channelling, the Holy Grail, Excalibur, shamanism, dervishry, tantra, cabbalism, oracles, palmistry, acupuncture, Tarot, runes, spooks and necromancy.

In fact, the only two things that she didn't believe in, the only things excluded from her incredible salmagundi of self-delusion, were Christianity (an authoritarian phallocentric conspiracy) and science (an authoritarian phallocentric conspiracy). What surprised me was that she managed to believe in Multinational Corporatism (an authoritarian phallocentric conspiracy if there ever was one) but I went home and brooded on it in a chastened and resentful way, and, as so often happens, everything was cleared up in my sleep and I can now explain man's perception of the Universe to you, if you are interested.

This is how it works. There are three fundamental categories of things: marketing, blind faith and facts. Every human activity is a mixture of these three categories, and so can be defined by a simple, one-to-10 scoring system. Salesmanship, for example, is of its essence a 990 activity, all hyperbole and crazed self-belief; curiously close to the present government, which I would put at 971 (note that I make no distinction between successful and unsuccessful marketing; merely the degree of it). Major world religions hover around 861, while the Newtonian and Einsteinian universes score 127 (the subsequent quantum model, however, is as yet a slightly shaky 734). Marketing itself is 853, which may strike you as paradoxical but actually demonstrates the astounding precision and versatility of my system. And the religious worms' nest of my poor mad interlocutor is, clearly, a disturbing 191.

But this is not just a descriptive system. It also holds the key to happiness and success. Just calculate your own personal score and conduct your life accordingly. The mad woman is probably a 090, so the 191 philosophy of life which makes her happy would render a gritty 009 northern engineer speechless with rage. Similarly, a 990 philanderer will be miserable in a 255 marriage. As for the theory itself, you can be entirely confident that it works. Why? Because of its own self-referential score, a delightfully well balanced 666. !

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