Saturday, March 08, 2014

Pandeism and the world of Harold Ramis

Today I eulogize a gifted man the only way I know how: by writing about how his world is fully accounted for, and so superseded, by the theological theory of Pandeism.

....A Twinkie 35 feet long weighing 600 pounds....

But first, I note that Patton Oswalt tweeted thusly:

If a Twinkie represents amount of grief I feel when someone dies,
Harold Ramis' death would be a Twinkie 35 feet long weighing 600 pounds.

This, for the uninitiated, paraphrases a line from one of Ramis' most famous collaborations, Ghostbusters -- in the film, Ramis' character, the brilliantly named Egon Spengler, was estimating the amount of psychokinetic energy hovering over New York (as compared to its regular Twinkie-sized Twinkie amount). Historically and recently, a number of meganerds have posted blogs or comments to the effect that a 35 foot long Twinkie would actually weigh way more than 600 pounds.*, *, *, * But their projections are all based on the presumption that the 35-foot length of this Twinkie would correlate with a proportional increase in diameter. In fact, the correct question to be asking is, "If a Twinkie is 35 feet long, and weighs 600 pounds, what would be the diameter of this Twinkie?"

Assuming for simplicity that a regular Twinkie is 10 cm and weight 36 grams, a proportionally expanded Twinkie being about 10.66 meters would be 106 times as long as the norm, and indeed weigh as much as 1.2 million regular twinkies, i.e. 96,000 pounds. But to achieve a Twinkie of that length which in fact weighed 600 pounds, one would simply need to make the Twinkie's length much greater than its proportional increase in diameter. We would need to specifically make it's diameter somewhere between one twelfth and one thirteenth the normal proportion. I'm being a bit rough here, but I believe a Twinkie is about an inch and a half or so in diameter -- and yes, I know that Twinkies are not perfectly cylindrical (nor in a vacuum for that matter). But approximating them to be, we may confidently retort that Egon spoke of a Twinkie 35 feet long, and about eighteen inches in diameter down it's length....

And, yes, that's a big Twinkie -- and a heavy load of grief, appropriately carried for the passing of such a bringer of mirth.

....I Ain't Afraid of No Ghost....

And by the way, I don't mean here to dwell on whether Pandeism is specifically consistent with the spirit-filled world of Ghostbusters, which is after all only a fragment of Ramis' work. But, yes, I do confess that I've been asked more than once: as a Pandeist, do I believe in ghosts, spirits, communion with the deceased, and such? Is there room in such a theological theory -- founded on logical and reasoned examination of the proof available in observing our Universe -- for the historically (if anecdotally) widely-believed phenomenon of ghosts? And I would answer that if there are such things as ghosts, these too are simply manifestations of our Creator in the same way that we are ourselves such manifestations.

But at the same time, I must speak for the moments of the proof from my own perceptions. I have certainly been in the presence of what I would call residual spiritual energies. I have a theory in mind that if a person has habitual behaviours, then there may exist some energy of the person which has a certain memory for pursuing those behaviours. I have never had a two-way conversation with a "ghost," but if I did I'd account for that pandeistically!!

....So I Got That Going For Me, Which Is Nice....

But the real point here is how Pandeism would view the whole of the body of work left behind by Harold Ramis -- Animal House, Meatballs, Caddyshack, Vacation, Back to School, Groundhog Day, Analyze This. There were some flops as well, but I'm only looking at the hits here, and for good reason, a reason that gets right down to the core of Pandeism: because they bring people joy. And isn't that really what it's all about? Or, at least, what it ought to be?

If it just so happens that we are, indeed, all part of our Creator, and our Creator is experiencing existence through us, is it not obvious that we ought to strive to have the most joyful experience of existence? It seems odd in this respect that many religions seem to have no room for the kinds of experiences which bestow unto us fullthroated, rib-shaking laughter. There is precious little that is intentionally funny in scripture. Theologian Alfred North Whitehead wrote that "the total absence of humour from the Bible is one of the most singular things in all of literature," and the Qu'ran is not much funnier. The Old Testament for example offers such advice as:

Sorrow is better than laughter,
for by sadness of face the heart is made glad.
The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning,
but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.
It is better for a man to hear the rebuke of the wise
than to hear the song of fools.
For as the crackling of thorns under a pot,
so is the laughter of the fools;
this also is vanity.

Ecclesiastes 7:3-6. But one must wonder, what would those folks think of the "was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor" speech in Animal House or that scene in Meatballs where the basketball team loses "with self respect" by pulling down the pants of their opponents and fleeing in the ensuing chaos? The men who penned the instructions, "let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking," Ephesians 5:4, would they scoff in derision at the classic candy-bar-in-the-swimming-pool scene in Caddyshack? Consider the hilarious comeuppance, in that very film, of the priest who golfs in the rain and takes the Lord's name in vain when he misses his last shot, only to be struck by lightning -- and who later turns up drunk and muttering "there is no God." And the bit in Groundhog Day where reporter Phil, stuck reliving the same day over and over again goes through a stretch of increasingly bizarre trysts with a local women. (One clever fellow has calculated that Phil spends in total over thirty-three years reliving that day).

But I propose that if our Creator shares in our experiences, then that includes every last guffaw of our laughter. Man was meant to laugh, and not only to laugh at highbrow things, but to laugh at fart jokes and awkward sex misadventures, at the mockery of stiff-shirted priests, at a series of cartoons making fun of a possible gay Jesus and Mohammad, and certainly of the story of the Buddhist asking the hot dog vendor, "make me one with everything." Harold Ramis had the wit to relay a story of a golfing Dalai Lama not paying Carl Spackler for his caddying in money, but instead with the promise that on his deathbed, Spackler would have total awareness.

And so, far from having words of condemnation for the varying degrees of irreverence with which Harold Ramis brought us to our knees with laughter, Pandeism would laud what Ramis gave so many, to share with one another and with our Creator -- the wonderful experience of laughter, the greatest gift one human can give another (except, naturally, for orgasms).