Bye George

I love the pictures of George Carlin that are currently everywhere. I’m not a fan particularly, though some of his stuff is pretty brilliant, but that old bastard was fully present and fully alive. There’s a wild gleam in his eye; he would have been a marvelous Iago if someone had ever done a crazed version of Othello. Carlin clearly relished his role as renegade on the verge of berserk, and I’m glad his death was swift. Someone who cut relentlessly through bullshit the way he did deserved nothing less.

I’ve been fascinated by Carlin’s antipathy to organized religion and belief in God in general since he emerged from the burden of being the Station Master on Thomas the Tank Engine. The spouse came in last night and regaled me with a favorite bit, wherein Carlin muses that, since we are created in God’s image and we’re not perfect, God must therefore be imperfect as well. It’s an interesting concept – Carlin was so smart that pretty much everything he came up with was bound to be pretty intriguing – but as played out, the logic doesn’t really work for me. Mountains, according to GC, aren’t perfect because they’re all different – a weird reading of perfect. After talking about mountains, Carlin then says, “And everything God ever created dies!” And, well, mountains don’t, and you were just talking about them. Maybe I’m being too literal-minded here…I dunno. But I think I never really embraced Carlin because I felt like a lot of times he’d get on a tear and just start yelling shit and insist he was right. I like people who leave a little bit of wiggle room for interpretation, I guess. But then Carlin wouldn’t be Carlin if he did that, would he?

Much funnier was the spouse’s next report, of GC wondering why those plastic dashboard Jesuses face the driver. It ends with, “On Jesus’s dashboard, there’s a small plastic white middle-class hypocrite.” Awesome.

In a strange way, Carlin fit the crazed Old Testament prophet picture in my head better than almost anyone: a wild-eyed, somewhat insufferably self-righteous man with an angry voice crying in the wilderness – albeit to packed houses, which I think is testament to the fact that the majority didn’t really listen to Carlin or think about what he was saying beyond the surface. I’d like him more if nobody else did. The fact that he openly attacked and despised God, the concept of God, and people who believe in God is good; it’s only in having beliefs challenged that you figure out what’s worthwhile. It’s too bad that so many people either saw the anger as part of his schtick or got all knee-jerk and reacted exactly the way he predicted they would. A great questioning mind has left the building, and that’s cause for sadness.

I am truly grateful to Carlin for the influence he had on the spouse, among other people. A legacy of ranting at inanity and complacence is a pretty good one.

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