Divine Humor in Cyberspace

Preface

A Course in Miracles is a self-study spiritual thought system that teaches that the way to universal love and peace — or remembering God — is by undoing guilt through forgiving others. The Course thus focuses on the healing of relationships and making them holy. A Course in Miracles also emphasizes that it is but one version of the universal curriculum, of which there are “many thousands.” Consequently, even though the language of the Course is that of traditional Christianity, it expresses a non-sectarian, non-denominational spirituality. A Course in Miracles therefore is a universal spiritual teaching, not a religion.
(1995, Foundation for Inner Peace)

In the mid 1990’s there were several cyberspace bulletin boards carried on list servers which were devoted to discussion of this version of the universal curriculum, which gained widespread popular attention when Marianne Williamson’s book “A Return To Love”, based on the author’s personal interpretations of ACIM TM , hit the best-seller lists in 1994.

I participated on one such list server made available by La Trobe University in Australia from early in 1994 until sometime in 1998. I first encountered ACIM in 1982. When Lenore and I met in 1984, I started studying it more with her.

The Latrobe group’s heyday was between ’94 and ’96. It was the era just before the internet population exploded and the quality of online commentary sunk to the lowest common denominators of egotistical humanity – profanity, attack, and crudeness.

In those days the best “flamers” were self-deprecating humorists. When we made fun of ourselves it made it easy for others to see the same things in themselves, and we all had a good laugh and carried on from there.

“The Course” has many devoted students who have found much that is good in their study of it. While I participated on this list server there was a lot of serious, earnest discussion about the principles of ACIM which the participants benefited from. One of my “serious” works found its way to publication in New Zealand, of all places. Some of the participants on the list were, and in certain cases still are, regarded as good resources for ACIM students.

There was also a lot of disagreement and contentiousness, and we benefited from the resultant flame wars as well. One of the things the Course teaches us is that the people who are a big pain in our neck (or elsewhere) are our teachers. Another thing it teaches is the illusory nature of what we perceive to be “attack thoughts.” The personalities on the list server gave us all plenty of exercise as we learned those lessons. The major theme was always the same basic one: “Would you rather be happy or right?”

I fondly recall the Gender Flame-Wars of ’95, when severe injuries in that epoch (torched egos and over a dozen sprained middle fingers, hindering typing ability) brought the course of the Course list server to a grinding halt, and subsequently engendered the short-lived Rehabilitative Truce of ’95 ½ . This conflagration was started by someone who took umbrage at the male pronouns used in ACIM.

There was a lot of that sort of thing. The group was not homogenous like most groups become as they age. It was young and comprised of personalities and perspectives ranging from Authoritarian Experts to meek seekers. There were minds present which were closed, half open, and open. There was a lot of energy present in the continuum, and when the participants collided there were moments when new particles of consciousness appeared.

There was a small group of students who wandered from time to time, just having some plain old fun. Were we doing some kind of subversive Rajah Yoga? A Buddhist thing? Sufi maybe?  An esoteric form of spiritual judo where we expertly threw ourselves on our own butts so that others could see how it’s done? I think so. There were some who regarded us as just unruly buffoons, farters in church, silly children. It all depends, as the Dalai Lama observes with a laugh, on your perspective. But whatever we were, we were the pros. We were serious students, and we didn’t forget to laugh – a thing the Course also advises us to do.

Some of my favorites on the list were Ted and Richard and Wayne. They were all very much “awake” by my standards, wise and insightful often and occasionally exasperated by the strongly self-convinced, sleeping egos holding forth loudly on the list. It was an exasperation I joined them in from time to time. They were great to have around, and together, along with others who joined us from time to time, we had a lot of fun. And learned things, too.

Regardless of the finer points of what was being taught or learned, it can be seen that elements of the universal Spiritual curriculum were present in a robust, rollicking form from time to time. The Course says, “The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Joy.” Sometimes it all starts with just a good laugh. Or a good flame. Or making yourself a good target for “attack thoughts” from others.

–**–

From:   OBIWANB-o-b

Hi All!  I haven’t  been here for awhile!  I’ve been living and letting the whole deal go down the way it will. About two weeks ago I read through a recent series of posts and was glad to see many old friends still here.  I did notice, however, that everyone seems to be thinking way too much before they post, and talking even more. I believe I’ll just take care of that right now.

After reading your posts I knew I had to come back. The eruption of intellectual punditry and noisy, self-righteous trumpeting of opinion just sounded like too much fun.  So I reckon I’ll jump right in.

Those of you who remember me will be glad to hear I still carry my flame-thrower with the u-shaped barrel, and still take pot shots at the mirror whenever I think I see a target.  It’s how I learn.

Imagine my delight when I picked up all your posts and found what I can only gleefully describe as a target-rich environment of like-minded egos, all firing away at themselves.

Wow.

Let the games begin!

Bob

PS: I’m baaaaaaack. I installed a new computer chip with a heat sink the size of a Mazda motor. I got a brand new flame-proof asbestos suit down at the Survivalist Surplus Depot. Attack thoughts no longer exist for me. I’m covered. Come on, you punks. Make my day.

–**–

Subj:    Re: Nomination…
In a message dated 96-05-22 15:55:26 EDT, Wayne writes to Sherry:
>It has come to my attention that the bored of directors of the “OddFellows” branch of ACIM is considering nominating you for inclusion in the OddFellows.>

Dear Sherry,

This is Bob. As President of the almost-aforementioned sect it is incumbent on me to clarify and correct certain statements made by Wayne, who apparently has managed to sneak away from Kaye undetected and has obviously been fooling around with the computer without adult supervision again.

First of all, we are not the “OddFellows” of ACIM.  We are the “OddBellows” of ACIM, Revised, LaTrobe. Among other things we reflect a genderless political propriety which we devoutly and desperately hope will discourage any flare-ups of the Gender Flame-Wars of ’95.

For those of you who are new here, severe injuries in that epoch (torched egos and over a dozen sprained middle fingers) brought the course of the Course to a grinding halt, and subsequently engendered the Rehabilitative Truce of ’95 1/2, which we all recall fondly as just this really syrupy New Age extravaganza of feather-soothing, apologias ad nauseam, and tons of butt-kissing.

It was great. But I digress. I’m correcting Wayne now, I have to stay on task. Wayne wrote:

>As the acting secretary of the “fellows”, I have been asked to forward to you some of our rules so that you may properly assess your interest in becoming an OddFellow.>

It’s “Bellows”, Wayne! BELLOWS! Think AIR, Big Guy! We move a lot of AIR!

>Should you decide to become a fellow, the bored will consider your qualifications and then vote on your inclusion or knot.>

Actually, that’s “occlusion”, as in noun: “the complete obstruction of the breath passage in the articulation of a speech sound.” This is like what happens when somebody on the list ticks you off so bad that you just want to foghorn-scream them to death and you get so pissed and tense that the veins in your head and neck get really, really big and then your throat clenches shut. When you try to yell you just manage to blow yourself up like a big balloon, which hopefully the Holy Spirit will deflate before you explode yourself. It’s a very popular learning technique here.

>and then vote on your inclusion or knot.>

What Wayne refers to is our Initiation, aka The Teaching Right Rite.

If you’re found worthy, we flame you until you’re occluded, and you learn to teach others the same way, knowing you are absolutely Right and they are not.

If, on the other hand, you’re found wordy – well then, we just bash you over the head and go about our self-inflated business, leaving you to assess the quality of your lumps and improve on the technique in your own unique way as a fully fledged member of The OddBellows of ACIM.

>Should the bored nominate you for membership you will be eligible to wear the OddFellows pin to all ACIM functions. (it looks a little like Jesus with a big grin on his face).> 

Actually, it’s a 278 pound concrete cross. You have to carry it on your back while commenting. And you have to sigh in dejection at the errant ignorance of whoever it is you’re correcting. At least three times. We call that the trinity.

>You will also be entitled to our monthly newsletter, “That’s Odd!”  as well as a 20% discount on all ACIM healing tapes.>

Which you will need. Along with a premium-grade first aid kit.

>Well that’s it. Let us know if you’re interested.>

Wayne always has been a bit of an optimist. But we’ll fix that!

signed, ObiwanB@aol.com, President, OddBellows of ACIM

–**–

Subj:    Re: Nomination… Date:    05/24/96
To:       siskiyou@snowcrest.net
CC:      acim@latrobe.edu.au

Dear Wayne,

In a message dated 96-05-23 15:38:05 EDT, you write: >My Most Magnifi-scent and Worthy Exalted President, Please forgive my errors.>

Not on your life. This is Miracles. Serious stuff. Correct yourself according to my criteria or you’re toast.

> You can be assured that I won’t make that mistake again.

Good, good! We must be vigilant, and avoid redundancy. So many mistakes, so little time. You know. Well, we must simply do the best we can, and carry on with a bumbling and catastrophic vigor for… something or the other. I forget what.

I think perhaps it’s related to, uhhh…  no, that’s not it. I seem to recall a,  uhhh…  no, that’s not quite right either. Well, that’s not important. We must simply carry on. Yes, that’s it, carry on and … something, something, and then something else, and then there’s a bit in there I forget, but it’s about caterwauling and such, and then there’s a piece about… whatever, and then it finishes up rather nicely, actually, as I recall. Heaven seems to be the upshot of the whole thing, but really, I’m just terribly busy with whatever it is this is, and I’ll simply have to deal with those other bits later.

>If it please your highness, a Ted (Hawkhill) has requested membership in the Lodge.  I informed him that I would pass on his request to you.  It seems that Ted wants to join but has some questions. He also would like us to make some changes.>

That will be fine. I will change into my chartreuse and cardinal-red vespers frock and you can wear the fur Conan jockstrap.

>To wit, he asks us: If we’re really OddBellows, how do we know it?>

Ted is rather advanced for an initiate. This sounds a lot like the third level koan we sent old Smitty to the rubber room with last fall.  I wonder if he’s making any progress yet?

>Also, was the founder, Max Mackeral, the authentic Max Mackeral or an imposter?>

An imploder, actually.  He got so upset with the second incarnation of Stephen that he actually blew himself out his own rear end.

>Ted also asks if it isn’t true that we really stole our rituals from the Masons and the Knights of Columbus.>?

We tried.  But they caught us, and jeez, did they make us pay for’em. We had to do ten Proud Mary’s and ten Our Faulters.

I remember it like it was yesterday… or WAS it yesterday?  Just did the time warp again…  Now, how did that go? “Got a good job in the city, working for the man every night and day, never had a minute for thinking ’bout nothin’, always had somethin’ to worry about…”

Or something like that. I usually just find the thumper line, sky up on the riffs and dance my brains out. You know.

>Will we admit that we are dualistic in that our name is comprosed of two words?>

We will admit that we are duel-istic, and willing to take on all comers at any spiritual competition anywhere in the world, anytime.  ANYTIME, DAMMIT!  (BTW, comm-prosed has two m’s and a hyphen in it.)

>Additionally Ted would like to know if he can sell tickets to the annual St. Josephs Catholic Charity Ball at our meetings.>

If Ted can do that he can sell refrigerators to Eskimos. Unless there’s a beer garden. In which case I’ll take twelve.

>Pending your decision most holy won, I shall get back with Ted who informs me that I may find him usually fishing out on Lake Latrobe.>

That’s a nice place for a troll. When you get there, just remember to cast your net on the OTHER side of the boat, and you’ll haul in ALL the worms. And don’t forget your DuPont Spinner. It’s dynamite.

>Your most loyal servant,
wayne>

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Whatever. Just don’t forget – I’M The PRESIDENT.

–**–

From:   OBIWANB-o-b
In a message, (Saul) writes: “Speaking of bumper stickers . . .[snip]… our new one reads,  ‘May  The  Course  Be  With  You’”

HEY!

Saul, THIS IS PLAGIARIZATION OF MY ONLINE PERSONA AND i WILL NOT STAND FOR IT!  You WILL pay for this!

God is laughing at me again and i am not amused.  i’m sick and tired of this deal. i mean, i go and spend all that time learning how to tap into that buzzy little ribbon of  information floating through the cosmos, i begin to pick up broadcasts, next thing i know i’m tuned in and primed and i get the old legal pad out and while i’m writin’ it down some other earth-bound clod who isn’t even remotely as spiritually conscious as I am but who just happens to have the luck to be born in a universe where every moron has a share in the mind of God– and THEN has the additional good luck of having a daisy wheel and an editor somewhere– gets the word to the printed bumper while i’m still licking the stamp!

i’m certain this is part of the international God et al conspiracy to convince me that i’m not upset for the reason i think, which is a sneaky way for THEM to make bucks off of me and keep me from noticing it, and cut me outta the deal at the same time. i know the score, and i’m right. that’s right, Right! Right, d’you hear? RIGHT!

and i’m not happy about it, either. Life stinks, i’m glad it’s an illusion. the Course is right. And you’re all right, too. “Happy” is for idiots and bliss bunnies or whatever the heck that really clever phrase is.

i just gotta say that even though we all have our little spats i can see that denominationally speaking we’re approaching common ground, and i saw in a dream recently where we all became this like one… right… group of people and HS didn’t have to do any more for us, we’d all convinced one another of something – i don’t remember what it was, but heck, you can’t have everything in this stinkin’ life, you know? – and there we were, uh… what was it… oh, yeah, we were RIGHT!

We were like this great BIG brain in this really huge jam jar and we were throwing off blue lightning bolts and everything was just disintegrating, you know, like we’d all become this primal ultraviolet electronic bug zapper, and boy did we have them bugs terrified. God went first, a really cool flat-plane totally silent nuclear thingy, and then it all escalated just like in “War Games” and the next thing you know we’re the only thing left in the universe, everything else is just this completely useless protoplasmic spray fading into black, and the credits came up and every one of our names was listed as Creator, which i kinda liked, but the font could have been bigger and they should have used caps. It was perfect anyway.

There was a bad split second there when the Holy Spirit piped up from somewhere and said, “Hey guys, I think maybe that’s all just an ego reflection from the inside of the jam jar!”

But we located his position and nuked him stupid with our Advanced Look Down, Sneer, Search and Destroy thingy. It was grand.

Bob

PS:  Saul owes me a 10% royalty check for his bumper sticker if he believes in doing the right thing. And if he’d rather be happy then… then…  well, all I can say about that is, well, that’s just Perfect!

–**–

To:       OBI WAN B
I feel you have demonstrated an understanding of the course far beyond that of any other participant (teacher) on this BB. Would you consider becoming our leader? Would you consider doing commentary on the daily lessons? How about a weekend seminar. I will be a faithful follower and I know that at the proposed weekend seminars your offerings will be excellent. Please consider the above, we need you to complete us.

Dear Ted,

(incredulous) Really? Gee, that’s awfully sweet of you.  I wish I could, I really do, but I’m just so busy right now. I mean, I’ve got a universe to run, judgments to make, maintenance on all levels. Just between you and me, I don’t think I’ll do the “levels” thing next time. It just sort of clutters up the whole creation thingy, if you know what I mean.

It’s all the Really Big Stuff, you know? It takes a lot of time. And then Mrs. God is always after me to take the trash out on Thursday mornings, and that can take like ten days, the stuff builds up so fast. No, no I just can’t do it right now. I’d like to, but it’s out of the question. Thanks for asking, though!

Today’s Lesson: Dessert

I pulled the same old dessert card (a small box of two hundred cards with quotes from ACIM) today for about the millionth time. It’s a personal favorite:

Do you prefer that you be right or happy?  Text, p. 573”

I tend to get a little edgy when I pull the exact same dad gum card out of a deck of 200 for like thirty seven days in a row. I begin to hear that long, droning network tone and a voice saying, “This is a test.  This is a test. This is only a test….” And I’m muttering under my breath, “Yeah, but if you’d flunked it 36 times in a row you might re-think your use of the word ‘only’… I’m thinking’ maybe I screw up one more time and I get karmic detention for like, what, maybe a millennia or so? I’m getting test anxiety disorder here.

What would be so tough about giving me a break? Like say maybe we lay this card over here, and I just… sort of… pick another one. Like this one!”

And out I pull: “Every thing is for your own best interests. Workbook, p. 38”.

Well, I can hack that. Yeah, right. Everything is for my own best interests. Cheery little thought, that. But there’s some scribbling down here at the bottom of the card.  It says…  Pick another card? So I do.

Yeah, you guessed it. Right or happy. Happy or right. Whatever. I begin to think maybe Mrs. God has been stacking the deck again. I get it from all sides, you know?

Anyway, I give it a shot. Hmmmm….  “Right” can be nasty. I recall my last attempt at being Pappy Yoakum: I plant my size 10-1/2 firmly on the ground, raise my index finger to the sky, waggle it menacingly and proclaim, “I Has Spoken!”

Next thing I know Mammy Yoakum has that “I may just have to slap your face clean off” look in her eye. So OK, not right. Right is not right. I’m no rocket scientist, but I can figure out what the other possible answer is. Happy is good. Fine.

But Hey! Wait! I got it!  Right and Happy! Now you can’t beat THAT with a stick! THAT’S my preference. THAT’S my answer.  I’ll go with that one.

Gee, I’ll bet I’ll get a different card tomorrow!

–**–

From:   OBIWANB

Hi All,

I’ve always liked groups, because they always bring such a wide variety of peoples and experiences together. Here are some observations about spirit-based groups that I’ve made:

1.Truth is recognizable immediately.  I “Know” it when I see/hear it.

  1. I can “take what I need and leave the rest”.  Spirit sees that I’m served what I require.  I am attending a banquet for many where only certain dishes have been prepared particularly for me.
  2. Sometimes ego doesn’t get checked at the door. It takes over the floor for awhile, but it never lasts. I may be tempted to dance with it, but I’ve learned that it’s best to stay close to the One who brought me.
  3. Teachers have the most to learn, and Learners have the most to teach.
  4. Everybody, no matter how new, has something valuable to share, and everybody, no matter how old, has something valuable to learn.
  5. My source is The Source. My group is my “Re-Source”.
  6. Preachers move a lot of air.  It doesn’t bother the air.

–**–

From:   OBIWANB
In a message dated 95-11-06 21:10:50 EST (   ) writes:

> And he adds that many Course students make the mistake of become fundamentalists about the Course.>

Not knowing whether this is a direct quote or a paraphrase makes it difficult for me to get as upset about this statement as I would like.  If it is a direct quote, however, then I am appalled, outraged, and fundamentally opposed to the use of the word “become” when “becoming” is so very much more appropriate and in keeping with Our Doctrine.

If this sort of sloppy expression continues everyone will start confusing the unreal with the Real and I will be obliged to buy a whole bunch of white-and-gold-gilt Louis XIV furniture, design a crest with like these really neat griffons on it, run over my face with a truck stop, grow big hair, and rent a satellite just to set the record straight.

Fundamentalists are people too, and the sooner this Bashing of the Righteous ends, the better!

–**–

From:   OBIWANB
In a message dated 95-11-07 02:52:50 EST, (     ) writes:

>Please don’t get serious on us 🙂  Did you see my TV/Course trivia question? Which TV show character or characters best embody the principles of the Course and why? (e.g. Floyd the Barber, Mr. Ed, My Favorite Martian, Joe Friday).>

Hi!  Nope, I didn’t!  I’ve been feeling lately as if some mail directed to me is getting bounced.  I’ll look into that.  Serious?  Was I serious somewhere? Jeez, I’ll have to look into that, too!  Hmmmm.  TV show characters. Lessee….

I think Opie Taylor from Mayberry best embodies the Course, ’cause he continually was saying, in one form or another: “Gee, I dunno. Whatta you think, Paw?”

But then again, Foghorn Leghorn, that great big chicken with the heart of gold and his “Ah say, ah say, now listen here to me, boy, I got somethin’ to teach ya here….” was a fine Course fundamentalist, always trying to impart his particular wisdom and experience to that little chicken hawk.

–**–

From:   OBIWANB
Subj:    Re: Ecology and the Course
In a message dated 95-11-08 02:28:08 EST (     ) writes:

>Open Question from a Tragically Confused Path Mixer (“TCPM”): Do you believe it is important to not poison the earth with pollution?>

Yes. But I tend to comment anyway.

>Do you personally take steps in your life to live in harmony with the environment?>

Yes. More steps than the environment takes to live in harmony with me.  Last year up on the lake while sailing our little boat we were beset with “stinkpots”- all those fossil-fuel-burning whiz-bang holes in the water. I sprained my middle finger preaching the Truth to every damn one of ’em…  Judgment hurts!

–**–

Subj:    The (smoking) Target on Ted’s Back.
From:   OBIWANB

Hey, that’s not a target!  It’s a smiley face!  It just looks like a target! Hold your fire!

Oops. Too late.

Ted, I would like to give you a hand. You’ll have to go back a ways for this one, but you’re going to like it.

Remember the days when we were all running’ around short on words and short on pants, but long on the intuitive wisdom of God?  We had a succinct way of stating the mirror principle, remember?  It went like this:

“Nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah,
I’m rubber and you’re glue,
What you say bounces offa me,
an’ sticks to YOU!”

You know what I think, folks?  I think if our moms walked around the corner right now and saw all this crap we’ve got stuck all over us, they’d march us by the EARS into the nearest bathroom and tell us to clean up our act Right Now!

And I for one would be giggling for all the fun it’s been, and the price of a sore ear and a good chewing out would seem like a fair enough trade.  I may NEVER learn… Oh well.

ObiwanB-o-b

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2 Responses to Divine Humor in Cyberspace

  1. LouisW says:

    It looks like your introduction to the Course was 10 or so years before mine. I see here that you used that time well. In my defense, though, I hadn’t realized that it was a required course. It doesn’t say that in the catalog; you need to get the book to learn about the requirement.

  2. bobgriffith says:

    LOL! As you obviously know, invoking a defense when speaking in a Miracles context can be funny or it can inspire asteroid showers from the peanut gallery, depending on whether you are with friends or not. And whether they are asleep or at least awake enough to recognize who you are. Rest easy knowing you are with a friend, and I am at least awake enough to know who you are…

    That “required” thing can really hang folks up. As you know, you just need to be a spiritual being in a body, and the experience of that is the course “required” of everyone, because everyone is that.

    When I first encountered the line “It is a required course,” I thought, “OK, that’s it. This is going to be too precious and special for me.” I carried on reading anyway, and after a lot of whining and complaining about the form of the message, and the writing in particular, I began to be aware of expressions of spiritual principles coming through what I first had thought was gibberish. Definitely a form of expression that took some getting used to, for me anyway. I finally started taking small bites at a time, and found I digested it much better, and without the former gastric indignation.

    The language of ACIM is a kind of “language beyond language” which reorders syntax and uses secondary meanings often, among other things. The “alien” linguistic structure stimulates the beholder to recognize and reconsider the patterns of their thoughts, and their meaning. It’s a holistic continuum, and it takes some getting used to before statements like this one about a “required” course (the second line in the Introduction) make any sense at all.

    And then it does. When that happens, no single statement may make any sense at all in and of itself, but the whole thing comes together quite nicely anyway. ACIM is weird that way.

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