Below is the latest The Pain -- When Will It End?
[Note from Webmaster Dave: If you've been tuning into the website, do not worry. You have not missed Part III. Tim's got some cartoonist explanation for it, but the bottom line is that all of the parts are on the website.]
I have nothing against the Hindus personally. Just giving equal time to all the worldís major religions, and they have as many centuries of nonsense and oppression behind them as any of the othersómore, actually.
I was acutely conscious as I drew panel 1 of the danger of offending Hindus by depicting their gods as superheroes, but, if itíll mollify any Hindus reading this, this panel is meant to be less irreverent than it might seem. I was about halfway through a straight rendering of the Hindu gods when it occurred to me that, since their appeal to me is essentially the same as that of a superhero group, it would be funnier to draw them as one. As it happens I have an old juvenile fondness for the Hindu pantheon, based on a copy of the Bahagavad-Gita given to our family by Hare Krishnas at an airport when I was a child. It was heavily annotated by the guru who was then head of the International Society for Krsna Consciousness, who resembled a bullfrog. Every one of his annotations, regardless of the verse it was appended to, explicated that verse as a command to chant the name of Krsna all day long. Even at age ten I could see that his interpretation was monomaniacally narrow and slanted to support his own literal-minded practice and had nothing to do with the text. What blew my young mind, though, were the color plate illustrations. These exerted the same kind of absorbing fascination as did Fantastic Four comics, Heironymous Bosch paintings, and certain psychedelic album cover art (I remember being particularly obsessed by Elton Johnís "Captain Fantastic," which in retrospect I can see was strongly influenced by Bosch). The Hindu pantheon really was like some fucked-up superhero teamómen with blue or gold or green skin, multiple faces and arms, and animalís heads, wielding maces and tridents and axes and conch shells, breathing fire, blowing bubbles containing galaxies. In particular I remember an allegorical illustration of a man on the stairway leading up to salvation and down to perdition. As is always the case in such illustrations (and in real life), the path to eternal bliss is bland as a ĎFifties advertisement, but the road to damnation is dramatic, exciting, and full of intriguing characters. Personifications of anger, lust, and envy were trying to lure or tug the guy downward to spiritual destruction. Anger is the one who really caught my imagination: like Charles Manson with blue skin and a flaming mane of red hair and villainous red moustache, blazing red eyes, and a pair of big red pirate pants. And I unabashedly loved, and still love, Garuda, the messenger of the gods, half-man and half-eagle. Basically he is Hawkman. There was a parable about a little sparrow who was angry that the sea had swallowed up the eggs sheíd laid on the beach, and was determined to empty it out, beakful by piteously tiny beakful, until she got them back. The heartless sea burbles gleefully at the hopelessness of her effort, but then fucking Garuda, moved by her devotion, swoops down out of the heavens and commands the sea to give her her eggs back! Great illustration of Garuda pointing at the sea and yelling at it, his vast wings spread wide. You can bet the sea coughs them up in a hurry, with many an obsequious apology to Lord Garuda. Oh, I canít take it! I love this story. I am weeping as I write this. Garuda rules.
Ahem. Anyway, lots of religions have cool gods and good stories. But then inevitably you also get the caste system and suttee. What is it with people where itís such a short step from belief in a divine creator to setting women on fire? How does that follow? Itís not even polite, let alone moral.
As it happens, while drawing this cartoon series Iíve begun attending church, albeit for secular reasons. I am temporarily living in the apartment of my evil friend Ben Walker while I look for more permanent winter lodgings in New York, and Iíve learned that Grace Church on Broadway, a short walk from here, has free Bach concerts daily at noon. Iíve taken to going. Today I was sitting there in the quiet before the concert reading a novel when suddenly the shattering opening of the Toccata and Fugue played on the pipe organ, making me start in my pew. (You know it, Iím sure: itís become clichéd through overuse in films and ads. Itís in Fantasia.) I have no grasp of musical theory or structure at all but even my dull ear can intuit the symmetry and inevitability of this music, as immediately as my eye can see how perfectly wrought a gothic cathedral or double helix is, ignorant though I am of architecture or biochemistry. I had to ask myself: has anything anybodyís written in the entire twentieth century--Charlie Parker or Miles Davis or Hank Williams or Johnny Cash or the Beatles or Jimi Hendrix--been as awesome, as beautiful and terrible as this music? No. Not remotely. Listening to Mozartís Stadler quintet for clarinet and strings or Mendelssohnís Violin Concerto in E, you can hear that this is a piece of music written by a very brilliant man, far more brilliant than you could ever hope to be, but BachÖ itís hard to believe itís even a human artifact. Itís like the difference between Venice or Angkor Wat and the Alps. Listening to the Toccata and Fugue in a cathedral is like getting to sneak in and watch the Big Bang. It is better than the pastrami at Katzís.
Next week, the conclusion of our series: trashing Buddha.