Dave Sim's blogandmail #42 (October 23rd, 2006)
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Howdy. And welcome back to the Blog & Mail. Here's another letter that I thought was interesting that came in this week:
This letter is in four parts:
My effort to convey to you how deeply and positively you have influenced me.
My effort to begin a dialog with you to determine whether or not I might be of service to you.
My effort to apologize for two letters I wrote to you during the second half of `04
My effort to sum up parts 1-3 in four lines or less.
As someone who has always possessed an awareness of God, I'll never forget the moment I realized you had an awareness of God—it was while reading Rick's Story—the point when Rick had gotten into his cups and began to "shift" between "perceptions" and appeared to be perceiving a multitude of otherwise unperceivable "levels of existence" or "possible universes"—it was the scene where Cerebus, from Rick's vantage, appeared to be a demon of some sort (the mood of the scene was similar to the "something fell" portion of Astoria's trial). Regardless of what you intended to convey, what I got out of it was "God is revealing Himself to Dave." It came to me and it excited me. All I could think was "I can't believe this, it's too good to be true". I was so thrilled for you, and, really I was thrilled for myself, as I had suddenly had both an ally and a reason greater than entertainment to be reading Cerebus. As somebody who had been surrounded by atheists—parents, friends, colleagues, etc.—the "ally" aspect was significant.
When you began to really flourish in your awareness of God, I witnessed you sticking to your guns and defending said awareness over and over, and the level of inspiration I received from this was like nothing I'd ever known. Not even from reading the Torah during Yom Kippur, deep in the heart of the fast, did I know that level of inspiration. I thanked God in my prayers for the presence of your work, because witnessing you fight for your position triggered the realization within me that I was being far too accepting of the rampant atheism that surrounded me, far too willing to allow their point of view to dominate my setting. Reading your words lifted me out of that haze (or gave me the sense to lift myself) slowly, over a period of years.
If I'd never read your work, I never have adopted the action of praying 5 times a day (I might have come to it on my own, only much later in the game). I can surely say that this single dedication has changed my life.
Reading your accounts of fasting in Ramadan inspired me to fast in Ramadan. I'm the only person I know who has pursued Judaism to the extent that I have who also fasts in Ramadan. The fact is, Ramadan (or the act of fasting for a month) lends a tremendous quality to prayer—it is quite literally a spiritual "experience". I always find coming back down into a lesser awareness of God to be very depressing, so I began seeking for a way to try and keep that quality alive, to remain in a heightened state of innocence and awareness beyond Yom Kippur and Ramadan, and I found it in Sikhism. I moved to New Mexico four months ago and have become immersed in the Sikh culture. New Mexico is the cradle of Sikhism in the west and, ironically, a good 70 percent of us are (or were) Jewish. Sikhism has given me two Big Guns: the first is the capacity to remain in a high awareness of God for long stretches of time (thanks largely to yoga and reading from the Guru, which is the "Sikh bible"), and the second is the discovery that the ultimate form of living the Will of God is to be of service to the earth. Which brings me to the second part of my letter…
Sorry to interrupt, but let me say, with all due respect to a fellow monotheist, that I disagree. The earth, so far as I can see, is a temporary construct which houses/encases/imprisons YHWH and which YHWH appears to be busily building from the inside out (Neal Adams' "growing earth" theory). It seems to me that the nature of a planet is just such a large (relative to us, anyway—a flyspeck relative to God) temporary construct who is housed/encased/imprisoned as a direct implication of the all-the-way-back-to-the-Big-Bang free will choice of its (unclean) spirit to oppose God and to desire to be separated from God so, from where I sit, what your core proposition amounts to is: "the ultimate form of living the Will of God is to serve the he/she/it who opposes Him." I can certainly understand atheists and agnostics (Stalin's "useful idiots"—as he once described communist dupes in the Great Democracies—taking yet another form) thinking that way—their numbers are Legion, particularly in a day and age when environmentalism is running amok to such an extent that many—arguably half—the people in the Great Democracies are basically 1) earth worshippers and 2) God haters—but I don't think that way myself and I think it's seriously and profoundly misguided to think that way. I think that's exactly the sort of thing that the Koran is talking about when it warns, vehemently, that "joining gods with God" is blasphemous and unconscionable.
People of good will can have honest disagreements on these issues and environmentalism is certainly (along with gay marriage, gay adoption of children, abortion, etc.) one of those 50-50 areas. Whoever you are, you tend either to believe that 1) the earth is One Tough and Resilient and Malignant Old Bird that we couldn't seriously damage or even affect even if we were of a mind to or 2) the earth is this fragile, delicate blue bubble floating through space and that even just one spritz of spray deodorant wounds her mortally and causes her to weep piteously (My OZONE layer! My OZONE layer! BOOhooHOOhooHOO) after the fashion of the Baby Jesus of Catholic maternal legend who was forever weeping copious and catastrophic tears over some real or imagined transgression of little Catholic children everywhere—"when you [fill in the blank] you make Baby Jesus cry" or 3) you believe something in between. But there is no clear consensus. Until the Harper government came to power in this country, we were in the "weeping earth" camp: the UN, NGO, European Union, Socialist, hand-wringing, dithering, do-nothing-but-deplore-loudly-and-emotionally 50% faction. Now, we've joined the United States/Australia/Pacific Rim 50% faction that is actually looking at what individual countries can do based on actual science rather than "weeping earth" alarmism, countries which have a far better record over the last decade of actually instituting the over-arching aims of the Kyoto Accord than do the Kyoto signatory nations. As an example, the United States as a non-signatory country with a "made in America" solution has a far better greenhouse gas track record than does Canada, a signatory country, that has spent the last decade hand-wringing, dithering and doing nothing but deploring loudly and emotionally (you guessed it) the United States.
In my own overall view of reality, however, the construct is still housed within the largest context of planet earth—that is, the adversarial relationship between God and the YHWH. To me, extreme environmentalism is just another form of YHWH worship: earth worship. I don't trust in the earth or serve the earth, I trust in God and attempt to serve God to the best of my abilities. .
The first year that I fasted in Ramadan, I experienced exactly what you describe: the urge to find a way to keep the heightened state of innocence and awareness going so I fasted forty days instead of thirty days. The Koran is pretty emphatic about counselling against that as well—"carrying over the sacred month"—and I was distinctly aware that something was wrong along about the third or fourth day of "spill-over". The conclusion that I came to is that we are completely ignorant of whatever fasting in Ramadan actually is. It isn't just "giving things up for Lent" and it isn't just the specific 30 days that are involved (although I suspect both are central and crucially important) and it isn't just some form of prayer Viagra. I think you're supposed to enter the state for 30 days and then depart the state for specific reasons which are unknown to us but which definitely center on "our own good". Likewise "coming back down into a lesser awareness of God" I think is the wrong way of looking at it. I don't think we, as individuals, have a lesser or greater awareness of God—either relative to each other or relative to ourselves during Ramadan. I think we experience our own greater potential, a good contrast between our day-to-day selves and our Ramadan selves but that a key element of that and the lesson of that is not to achieve some exalted state (to me, that way lies mysticism, oogie-boogie, Alan Moore territory) that we can then occupy, some lofty plateau where we can transcend being mere men. No, we're mere man, I think as a fact of life and I think the idea is that Ramadan can give us a touchstone for becoming better men, an inner awareness of what we are able to be 24/7 without the magnification and clarity that Ramadan provides. As I said in an earlier Blog & Mail, I used to limp to the finish line of pre-Ramadan, counting on the fact that Ramadan would "save me" by being an external state which would insulate me from my own self-destructiveness (drinking, over-eating, etc.) and this year it finally sunk in that I was missing the point. Among the things that I have come to see that Ramadan isn't, it seems to me Ramadan also isn't a spiritual Betty Ford Clinic or a spiritual detox program. No, I think Ramadan is the doorway to jihad (in the sense that you and I would understand that—self-discipline, self-improvement "on path of God") and the point is to make inner jihad a 365-day a year reality, not a 30-day reality.
But, as the Koran says, "You to your religion and me to mine."
With my recent success both monetarily and in planting roots/flourishing, I'm beginning to "free up" and, in freeing up, I have to see that my destiny is to be of service to the earth, to be a lighthouse in the coming times. As a result, I've decided to fill my life with virtuous actions, and one of many acts of service I'd like to commit to, God Willing, is to be of service to you and your work—to help preserve the integrity and longevity of the work and your name so that it will survive the nightmare that is surely coming as we move into a new age. The claws of feminism will cut as they are torn away from the reality they've been obscuring, it's as obvious as it can be. My hope then for you, your name and work, is that it all manages to avoid perversion along its way through the collapse, so that it can arrive intact at the point in time when the dust from the death knell of feminism has settled, and the work can be seen for what it is: divinely inspired and executed by one of the truest MEN in known history. You did not compromise and you gave you will to our Creator, and you were rewarded with one of the great works; one of the greatest, in fact (the last third of the 6,000 page story is a clear indication of that greatness).
So my question is:
Is there a way I can be of service to you?
I am not offering a specific service—only offering that I am willing to be of service to you in whatever way that would be best, if you are willing and God is willing. So this is just an effort to begin a dialog on the subject.
And it's very much appreciated, I assure you and quite a change of pace from my usual: which is defending myself and my theories (or, as the headline says, my "daily hectoring") from character assassination. So, in the interests of beginning a dialog as you say, let me take issue with a couple of your premises:
I don't think there is going to be a "death knell for feminism" (although it might make a good name for a band or an album) nor do I think there should be. I have no quarrel with women wanting to compete with men in competitive fields. Where I primarily take issue with feminism is in a) their suppression of contrary viewpoints through character assassination and b) their unwillingness to look at empirical evidence when it comes the abilities of men and women respectively. Way, way, way back in the early stages of my pariah-dom, in the hopes of finding some foundational basis for discussion I said, "We're arguing over percentages" and I still think that's the case. Extreme feminists believe that 100% of women are better than 100% of men. Extreme "masculinists" believe that 100% of men are better than 100% of women. My own view is that (all homosexual, transgendered, hermaphroditic exceptions being acknowledged) men are men and women are women. As is the case in almost all natural world constructs, men hunt and forage and women give birth and rear the young. My own view is that this holds true for people. Left to their own devices most men want to hunt and forage (jobs) and most women want to be homemakers, wives and mothers. The key is "left to their own devices". If you turn schools into feminist indoctrination camps (as we have done) and make homemaking an object of derision and competing with men the only valid basis for female achievement, you will skew the percentages. My own guess is that roughly five to six percent of any population is determinedly feministic by nature. Tomboys: girls who want to grow up to be their fathers and never grow out of that desire. As I see it, if you put that roughly five to six percent of the female population in charge of women (as we started doing in 1970), you can easily get to the point where 85% of women are out in the world pretending to be their fathers and who are derisive about anything having to do with home and hearth, children and homemaking: strong women work, weak women have babies and stay home and take care of them. Well, no one wants to be weak, so just by putting it that way you will take all of the best potential wives and mothers and turn them into ersatz men. Again, I don't have any quarrel with that, with advocating it and—strictly from a strategist/tactician point of view, divorced from its effect on society—I can applaud wildly the implementing of it: to go from 6% of women in the workforce to 85% of women in the workforce in a few generations. That's mighty impressive. But, to me, it isn't an abstract thing that merits uncritical applause. To me what you have done is to take something that 6% of women want and to foist upon the other 79% to the detriment of society. Everywhere in the world, the UN mandated gender balance of 20% to 30% of all legislative seats to be held by women (the United States has adopted this misguided policy in Iraq and, I think, is paying the price for it) has proved unattainable. To me, it's unattainable because of the percentages. You can only achieve half those numbers if you coerce women, lower standards, skew qualifying programs and you're still going to come up 10 to 15% short. Men are men and women are women. I'm all for women competing with men if women can compete with men. You show me a female fire fighter who can do everything the fireman can do—lift as much, run as fast, climb as high, carry as much gear—hey, I've got no problem with that. If you want to lower standards to make all fire departments 50% women of 40% women or 30% women or 20% women then, yes, I have a major problem with that. And I think that's across the board: empirical evidence shows that in a genuinely competitive field where you don't skew standards it will be all men with some female representation. "We're arguing over percentages."
When you say "the claws of feminism will cut as they are torn away from the reality they have been obscuring", well, I think that makes a very persuasive argument for not tearing them away. I mean, I agree. Feminism has its claws dug deeply into the soft tissues of society and most days those claws seem to go right through me to get to society. Which is why I try to discuss these things in very reasonable even tones and why I try to find good phrases that distill the essence of the argument so as to open up a dialog and to suggest other ways of being: "We're arguing over percentages". There what I am saying is that "your feminist claws have overextended themselves—no one in the Great Democracies is suggesting that women should be expunged from the workforce, but you are oppressing wives and mothers who choose matrimony and maternity by belittling them and trying to force them to become like you by character assassination and insinuation and vilification. Please stop doing that. It's your own choice and no one, least of all me, is denying you the choice—if you really think that the fulfilment of womankind can only come about through the policing of the ranks with character assassination, insinuation and vilification, then that's certainly a protected choice (what is a democracy with protected advocacy?) and the choice that you have made up until now and that is the choice you will, I am guessing, make for the foreseeable future. But, as the only person who has so far dared to submit himself to your full-scale wrath and insensate destructiveness in daring to speak openly against your oppression by identifying it as such, let me just ask, politely again: please stop doing that.
Now, that certainly hasn't had any effect up until now and I doubt it will have any effect now, but that's "where I'm coming from" when it comes to "the claws of feminism".
Now when it comes to my work and my name, I can't envision any way that anyone could be of service to me there. That's up to posterity and the verdict of history. I mean, quite apart from the Yahoos: Sgt. Flowers volunteering to pull Collected Letters together, Margaret Liss doing all the heavy lifting on the Archive—if you've got a suggestion or an interest, I'll be glad to give it a fair hearing and make suggestions and offer what limited help I can (given how full my own plate is). In a larger sense, it would probably be helpful if my name or Cerebus's name became synonymous with feminist McCarthyism. "I think we have a Dave Sim situation shaping up here" or "That sounds like 186ism". But, it would be just the same to me if you substituted the name of Lawrence Summers—the Harvard president hounded from office by feminists for presenting an argument based on empirical evidence—in the same context. "No, no, no, you're trying to summersize the situation". That is, you're using emotionalism, alarmism and character assassination to keep from having to address empirical evidence which runs contrary to your gender politics. That is, you're an advocate of feminist mob rule, you're a totalitarian feminist bigot intolerant of viewpoints different from your own and you want to use the feminist consensus to crush people and destroy their lives and reputations. Again, I don't think we're going to be free of totalitarian feminism—from summersizing (pronounced "summer-sizing")—anytime soon, but I think we're going to need shorthand terms if we're going to keep it from happening on a regular basis particularly in those environments like the media and academe which are controlled by totalitarian feminist forces.
In an even larger sense, if you want to be of service to me, just keep driving at the Truth. Don't shy away from empirical evidence. Don't kill the messenger. Look hard and critically at what you're doing and what you're advocating and what you're participating in and when you're told not to pay attention to the man behind the curtain, shift your attention immediately to the man behind the curtain.
If you think I'm onto something, great. I would consider "divinely-inspired" to be dramatically overstating the case (but thank you for thinking that highly of it). I mean, I know what you mean. My version of that would be the preaching of David Ring who has cerebral palsy. Have you ever seen him? He used to be on Jerry Falwell's program reasonably often. Google him and see if anyone has tapes for sale and do yourself a favour and buy one. When I used to listen to David Ring preach, I'd think, this is the closest thing to pure inspiration from God I can imagine. Which I'm sure Mr. Ring would find appalling. He's just another aspirant to God's favour as we all are. But, oh, the souls that man must've saved by now. To me, I see myself as having a strange aptitude for understanding metaphor and that definitely gives me a different perspective on Scripture, but I didn't write Scripture. My own view is that the Age of Prophets ended in 632 AD and that was it for "divinely inspired". We're on our own as individuals now and that was how I approached Scripture, as an individual on his own trying to save his own soul. It would not be hard to present a persuasive argument that all I have done is to lead myself astray through my intellect and that anyone following my path is just—having been seduced by my hair-splitting sophistry—following me into Hell so this is no small point or false modesty on my part. That's why I always emphasize: it's YOUR soul that's at stake. I'll find out on Judgement Day. And check out David Ring LIVE by whatever means possible.
In a completely mundane sense (50-year-old retired guy, paranoid about dying broke here) if you really have lots and lots of money and you're already paying the zakat and you're interested in a commissioned picture, Jeff Tundis has been working tirelessly to rebuild www.cerebusart.com from the ground up. You tell us what you're willing to spend based on the prices you see there and we'll be happy to do something for you.
Now onto the apology.
As is the way in Sikhism, I have been given a spiritual name (deleted) and that has become my REAL name. I'm not going to reference my birth name because I'd just as soon forget it (along with all the time spent living it), but I'm sure you'll be able to recall the correspondence we had once I describe my end of it:
Writing to you from a very bleak situation in Brooklyn, NY, I rather rudely and absurdly asked you to loan me 5,000 dollars, and then pushed the subject when you declined. To add weirdness to the rudeness, I then shipped you the last copies of whatever comics I had done in my life to that point, which I ridiculously perceived as an act of exoneration.
One might wonder if I could get by without mentioning this very embarrassing set of letters—just start fresh with you as *******, but if I am going to be of any service to you whatsoever, I must be as transparent and clear as is humanly possible. So please, I ask you to accept my last letters as an act of foolishness, and accept my current apology for subjecting you to that foolishness. If it's any consolation, I took your final words of advice and they led me, along with my own work, to much higher ground. As it is, I have all the money I need and more, my own beautiful home and am surrounded by exceedingly healthy human beings who are pursuing an awareness of God and being of service to the world.
Well, to me that's a big step up from being of service to the earth.
Yes, I remember you and your work distinctly and I'm glad that my advice was that helpful. I pointed you in the direction of Scripture and prayer (seeing a fellow massive reclamation job I strongly urged the "five times a day") which I thought might be completely futile and, in a sense, needlessly cruel when someone thinks that $5,000 is all that's going to save him. But it was and is my best advice.
The pages you sent were wrapped in plastic and were a pretty fair size and at one point in the Archive process, I was sitting there looking at them and wondering if I should hang onto them or throw them away. They didn't seem to match up to anything else in any Archive context and I wondered if they were important enough to preserve in their own category. As I recall from your letter, you were basically throwing them away in my direction. "If HE doesn't want them, why would I want them?" I weighed it in the balance against my experience that Archive Stories have a way of coming back to life just when you least expect them to. And what I decided to do was…
…I forget. I honestly forget. While I was writing this, I went and checked in a very haphazard way where your pages USED to be and they weren't there, but I'm also pretty sure that the point where I was really sitting and staring at them was in the intermediary Archive stage after they got moved from Ger's office to my studio. Just went and checked the last six-inch pile of un-filed Archive material (that has been sitting there for about a year now) and, no, it wasn't there either.
Anyway, if I run across them, do you want me to send them back to you? You put a lot of time and energy into them, as I recall, but then they might be part of your past life that you just want to forget.
To sum the letter up:
You have inspired me to the extent that I have pursued and been afforded a life much, much better than I've ever dreamed of, I'd like to return the favor in a manner that would best benefit you and your work, and either way, I hope and pray that our last correspondence will not sour current and future correspondence.
Thank you for taking the time to read this. I sincerely hope you will write back.
Well, in a manner of speaking I'm writing back. Hope you don't mind that it's in public. I never let personal animosity enter into correspondence past, present or future and I certainly don't let it "sour" me on any correspondent. On the contrary, I'm glad to see that this story, at least so far, has a happy ending. I'm only a little rueful that I might have bet on the wrong horse as to whether your Archive story was one that was going to come back to life or not. This letter would make a great companion piece to your earlier letter and pages. The letter I'm pretty sure is in the hard-copy correspondence files along with my reply. God willing, those pages will turn up at some point.
Thanks for letting me know that everything is working out for you. God bless.
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