Jin Joins In, or, Our Hands Are The Tools Of Heaven

the sun is shining early in the morning and the sky is clear and blue. or at least so is the entire 16 meters of sky or so that is visible from the banks of a small narrow winding creek running through a small narrow winding valley which barely divides two long narrow mountain ridges. three little old men are seated lotus fashion on the earth before a conglomeration of sticks and stick weeds. structures constructed roughly in a circle around one long pole stuck in the ground and braced with three other short poles atop which flew a tattered piece of cloth that might once have been black, which had a rough white circle painted in the centre of it. the installation been fashioned in the absolute roughest of manners into what appears to be an attempt to make a small collection of about a dozen of the ugliest gazebos ever made. they were each made of between four and five upright sticks simply stuck into the ground, atop which was lashed with vine a circular shaped framework fashioned out of even thinner and more crooked sticks rising to a conical point. around this was tied loosely with yet more vine the dried stems of a variety of tall poorly dried stick weeds in an imitation of thatching that would have been impressive if made by small children. however this particular group of structures was not made by small children. or even large children. this entire project was the work of one very old little man.

po: (looking skeptical) what is it?

hama: are they for burning?

po: these are almost as pitiful as hama’s bangra shack. speaking of which! do you know I’ve seen people on the road actually stop and throw water at that lice infested hovel! like it was a real shrine or something!

hama: i told you it doesn’t matter. now you’re surprised to see that apparently it really doesn’t matter. if there’s a shrine by the road anywhere people will stop and throw water. that’s just what people do. they can’t help themselves.

jin: it’s true! I’ve seen it too. people throwing water and praying to our hama. even when hama is there himself people still throw water at the altar! they even leave bangra sometimes! what hama did there really works! so i decided that I’m going to start a project of my own.

po: so let me guess that’s what those piles of brush and weeds are then?

jin: yes! i built a village!

po: that’s being generous with yourself, there’s nobody in it

hama: if you build it, will they come?

po: but we already live in a village… or didn’t you notice?

jin: i built it so people could come and give up the world. where they could live together and dedicate their lives to worship. if people do come then it will be a new kind of community. people will commonly come to commune in this community

hama: like a new tribe?

jin: well not exactly no… it will be different from our village. people will renounce their worldly possessions. no one will own anything. everyone will own everything in common. the people will work together in complete harmony and share everything. thusly they may be dedicated wholly to worship

po: so you’re building a village for poor people?

hama: yeah like a leper colony except without any lepers? or will there be lepers?

jin: no no no, no one is going to be poor. everyone will be wealthy.

po: but you just said no one would own anything. that’s pretty much a defining characteristic of poor people. that’s why we call them poor in fact.

jin: no the people in the village will have everything they need. they just won’t own any of it. it will be free for anyone to share with anyone else.

hama: so nobody owns anything? but everyone shares everything?

jin: yes. exactly

po: people will be sharing things they don’t own?

jin: yes!

po: (jumps up and points at jin) so it’s a village of thieves then!!

jin: NO! what?!?! nobody is going to be doing any thieving!!!

po: people going around sharing other peoples stuff is a bunch of people going around thieving and trading away the spoils!!!

jin: no! you can’t steal something if nobody owns it! nobody is going to own anything!

po: i don’t know it sounds like a bad habit to get people in to if you ask me! what about when they leave your village! if they go into another village and start sharing things that belong to other people then that’s thievery! you’ll get them strung up in a tree somewhere with a sign!

jin: why would we need to take anything from another village?! people will share what they have here! nobody is going to need a sign

po: (looking around in puzzlement) but they haven’t got anything here! and if they haven’t got anything and they don’t own anything then how are they going to get things they plan on sharing with everyone?

jin: the people will produce what they need here in the commune! they will work together. everyone! there will be no divisions between them! men and women will work side by side and share not only the product of their labour. but share their duties and obligations equally. young and old men and women everyone will be the same! it will be a glorious community of divine worshipers

hama: i don’t think i understand. it reminds me of something though….. if i try and use an example…

po: oh! an example!

jin: yes! an example!

hama: (clears his throat and takes a breath) yes… for example… i have heard stories of the city state of platchulpoot. they say that the armies of platchulpoot go out into the platchulpoot valley and raid villages there. they burn the villages down so that the villagers have no homes to return to. then they round up the villagers by the hundreds and march them back to the city. when they get to the city they are auctioned off at the public slave market, and they are bought by the many and various firms that control and manage all the business in platchulpoot. the price that the firm pays goes to the cities coffers and is considered to be tax that the slaves supposedly owe the state of platchulpoot. which the state claims it is owed for things like building the roads that the platchulpoot armies used to come raid the people’s villages and march them back to the city. after they are sold as slaves. then whatever firm it is that bought them will march them off to a dormitory somewhere in the city. there they are stripped of everything they might have managed to keep with them. if they are of a different tribe they are marked with platchulpoot tattoos to show that they belong to the platchulpoot tribe so that even their identity is stripped away. they are all made the same, men and women and children and elders. none of them owns anything, they have no ancestors, no kin, and no home but platchulpoot. the only rights they have are the rights of cattle or property. the slaves are poor and so they all share whatever they get in common. they are fed and housed and clothed by the firm that buys them, and so they all work, eat, sleep, and dress together as one all exactly alike. they must work until they have fully paid their bond. which they owe to the firm that bought them at auction and in doing so paid the taxes they were said to owe. when they have paid their bonds they are no longer considered slaves. as they are no longer slaves then so they must leave the dormitories in the city which are for slaves only. then they have no where to go but to the filthy disease stricken slums that surround platchulpoot and then there they are called “citizens”. they cannot leave platchulpoot. no one may travel on platchulpoot roads without a passport. and no one but high ranking officials appointed by the king or nobles who are relatives of the king or powerful merchants from firms sanctioned by the king can get a passport. the ordinary citizens are forced to live in their base poverty outside the city walls and sell their labour where they can for whatever they can get. these “citizens” of platchulpoot are more wretched than the slaves even. those captured from foreign villages sneak away from the city whenever they get a chance. those who can’t sneak away, or have no home to return to, or who were born in platchulpoot and have no other home or tribe, often sell themselves into bondage to a temple within the city walls. or such ones might sell themselves to one of the firms within the city. my point in telling of all this here is that i might explain the plight of the slaves. what jin has said brought them to mind. they live as you say without worldly possessions of their own and yet are completely dedicated to whatever work they must do. they do not live in the world. somehow they are apart and separate. yet they do not live without food or clothing and they are not allowed to steal. their behaviour is governed by strict rules of conduct and if they do not follow such rules they may be punished. and yet without such slaves platchulpoot could not exist. everything which is done is done by them. nothing moves in the state of platchulpoot unless the slaves move it. it is at once terrible and magnificent.

jin: YE GODS!! i want nothing like that! the slaves of platchulpoot are apart from the world but it is because their world was taken from them. everything has been taken from them but the desire for what they have lost! and the desire for what others may have has been increased! though they have nothing they still have their desires. and furthermore they have not the freedom to seek after what they desire. they are stuck between wanting and not having. they cannot get and therefore cannot have anything. even the choice has been taken from them but not the desire. to give up the world one must truly choose to give it up. if a person has not chosen to give up the world then they have never truly given it up

po: oh i see, you want the people here to CHOOSE to be poor instead of kidnapping them and forcing them into poverty?.

jin: i want the people to choose to be wealthy! they may only become wealthy when their desires have all been satisfied! for it may be easily seen that to live in want is poverty! but what is not obvious is that it is possible to have a great many things and still be consumed with desire! to want a thing, and then to have it, and for desire to be not satisfied in the having of it, this is jealousy, greed! because of desire one may want not only what one may have but also what others may have. because of jealousy one may want to keep others away from one’s possessions. i wish for the people to give up their desires and in the giving up of desire to feel satisfied in their souls. when people have given up desires and are satisfied completely, satisfied in spirit, only then can they be truly wealthy. we shall be wealthy in our souls here!

po: yes and poor in your bodily frames! you’ll starve to death in a few weeks with no food or clothes or houses or even tools with which to build. you will have a colony of beggars then and i’d rather be a leper than a perfectly healthy beggar.

hama: oh? and why is it better to die than to depend on others? don’t we all depend on others for everything anyway? whether they buy things or those things are given to them. almost everything everyone everywhere has comes from other people.

po: but we don’t simply beg for what we have! we don’t take things without giving something in return! we all do our share to reciprocate what we receive, it isn’t all going just in one direction. sure i depend on the carpenter to build my house, and i depend on the weaver to make my cloth, and the blacksmith makes my tools. but i am a farmer! i put my hoe in the ground! i work! i grow crops and i save seeds and the food i produce goes to feed the others who produce what i cannot produce by myself.

hama: (shaking his head) yes yes we exchange gift for gift, we trade with money, we barter this thing for that, we borrow and we lend. but what is wrong with accepting what is freely given?

po: it is not wrong to accept charity if one is in need. there can be no harm in the act of accepting what is freely given. but it is wrong to live solely on what one can get from others without giving anything in return. it is wrong for the same reason that the king of platchulpoot is wrong to take slaves and force them to pay taxes when he gives nothing in return. the slaves are made to labour in great hardship that he may receive the gifts they give him, while he does no labour at all. he produces nothing, even that which he gives to others was made by other hands. all that he has he has taken from others and all that he can give away he takes from others. yes the king of platchulpoot claims that he has given the people many things. but those great projects which make the city of platchulpoot famous even up here in the hills were created only to satisfy his vanity. even if the city demands a thing the city is his vanity. the roads he has commanded to be built his armies use to march across the land and to haul the spoils of warring and taxing back to platchulpoot. the king has commanded aqueducts be built to bring fresh water to the city and brought the finest doctors and the best medicine and ordered sewers and tunnels to be built under the city to carry away waste so that it is not exposed to the sun or air. but these works he commanded because disease bred in the slums where the poor are so crowded and filthy threatens even the nobles in their mansions, behind the walls of platchulpoot which are renowned. it is said no army in the world can enter platchulpoot when it’s gates are shut! but the common people who do not even live within the city walls threaten to lay waste to the city! it is the king who commanded that slaves be brought to build the city and populated it’s slums with commoners who he taxes to maintain it. his greed, pride, vanity has commanded a city so large and extravagant that it is crumbling under it’s own weight. all these wonders that have been worked. they have been worked by the common people and paid for by the common people and the common people have no use at all for such things. for all his life, no matter how long he lives, the king will never make a thing of worth. he is worthless. his very life causes hardship to all who support him. better he should die and leave the people in peace.

Hama: it is his jealousy that causes so much hardship. He has desire that he cannot satisfy. He has power over others but not over the world. 10,000 souls tremble at the stamp of his foot and he is at the mercy of them all. But he is not accepting what is freely given he is taking what was never offered.

hama: how did we end up here?

jin: i thought we were born here?

po: no jin built a bunch of brush piles and started calling it a commune!

hama: oh yes and you were saying they couldn’t not own stuff

po: no i was saying they didn’t have anything and jin started saying they didn’t need anything and I’m pretty sure he’s gonna feel pretty differently about that around dinner time.

jin: (scowls at po) jin: ok fine so people will still need possessions. the village itself will still have property. but we will share it in common anyway. no one person will be any different than any other.

hama: that will make marriages awkward i’m sure

jin: i mean no one will be better or worse

hama: who is to say if any one is better or worse anyway?

jin: i mean greater or lesser

hama: everyone the same size?

jin: YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN!!! (gritting his teeth at hama) everyone will be equal in standing. no one will be wealthier than anyone else. we will all be free of want and jealousy and therefore we will truly be free as people. that will make us all wealthy. we will work together as one united whole. we will ignore our differences and cooperate whole heartedly like…. like…

po: like a village?

jin: YES! exactly! like a village! ….. except uhm you know…. more…

hama: like a family?

jin: YES! like that! like a family.

po: ….

hama: ….

jin: but different

po: ….

hama: ….

jin: maybe it would be better if i start from the beginning.

po: yes, i think it would

hama: yes, i think it would

jin: the other day after hama explained his shrine to us i couldn’t stop thinking about a thing that he had said. he said it was the mind of man that was holy! i couldn’t stop thinking about that! we worship the gods because we believe they are holy, but really it is us the worshippers who are holy. believing in divine things creates the very divinity we believe in, which means that it is we who are divine. we create divinity within ourselves and then we bestow it on the gods by worshipping them. if we have a need for gods then we will find them anywhere and everywhere we look. we will create gods to worship without even realizing we have done so. if gods are to be found wherever we look then we should look within ourselves. if we look within ourselves and we find godliness there then we should look within each other. so i thought that if hama can build a shrine to himself and others will come and worship there, then what if i built many shrines where people could come and worship and be worshipped?

(po and hama sit together in a hush. all is quiet amongst the three for a few moments)

hama: you have seen much more than i showed you jin

po: i like your idea jin but all this stuff about giving up desires and everyone being the same I just can’t get on board. Of course we’re slaves to our desires but they’re OUR desires that’s why we’re slaves to them. There’s no point and no fun in being a slave to someone else’s desires.

Jin: but people’s desires make them miserable and greedy. Why keep fighting a reality you can’t control? Why not give it up?

Po: because we have no idea we can’t control that reality. We can’t even see how little effect we have. We can’t see how much effect we have, or any of the far reaching consequences of the actions we take. We are blind, dumb, ignorant, selfish, animals bumbling around in the dark and knocking into things. But we’re so remarkably blind and dumb that we have no idea we’re blind and dumb. We just keep on knocking around bumping into stuff and imagining rainbows and unicorn turds the whole time. But that’s the wonderful thing about people is that they don’t know they have no choice and no effect so they choose and they effect things anyway simply because they think that’s how everything ought to work. Of course our dreams never reference reality. They’re dreams b’gods. They aren’t meant to reference reality. They’re all that protects and saves us from reality. Giving up your dreams and deciding you don’t care if you’re alive or dead doesn’t make you free. And it certainly doesn’t make life any more worth living. it’s the dreams that make you free, and dreaming makes life a thing we desire.

Hama: yes of course we create our realities ourselves and with each other. we are both part of and partner in the reality we share. There is no ultimate reality under the reality we create. There is only what we create

Jin: but we cannot create it all!?!? Platchulpoot doesn’t stop being a place just because I live in yuchi village!

Hama: well of course not. I never said that did i?

Po:You said we create everything

Jin: you did hama I was there.

Hama: yeah i know! That’s what I said!

Po: then you said we can’t create everything.

Jin: at least you seemed to imply there is more than what we create…

Hama: well you’re not the only two people in the world you know! The people in platchulpoot create the reality of platchulpoot. The people in their thousands believe that they must obey the king and the king for his part believes that thousands of people must do what he says. These people accomplish an astoundingly absurd thing by believing things which compliment each other. Thus it is that they cooperate in creating a reality which none of them could even affect on their own. And of course none of them believe that it’s all impossible hogwash and utterly absurd. Even if that’s exactly what it is. Because it is of course. But obviously if they realized it was all unattainable absurdity then of course instantly it would be. There is no ultimate truth which underlies the reality we see. Only absurdity and chaos.

Po: now I’m definitely not joining this colony of nuts

Hama: you think there is more don’t you.

Jin: it can’t just be chaos hama there’s too much order in the world.

Hama: you confuse chaos with death jin when it is life. Chaos is not the absence of order jin it is the simultaneous existence of every possible order all happening all at once. The absence of any order is death. Only emptiness. Chaos appears in the emptiness and instantly fills it to the brim with order. So much order you can’t move about the place without knocking into something. So much order that it creates utter disorder. This is clearly absurd. And in the face of and using as material this absurdity we create reality because reality couldn’t possibly be more absurd than the chaos it was made out of. Even though of course that’s exactly what it is. It is a mercy and a blessing that we are all occluded as we are. If we could see that there really isn’t anything more than our dreams then we would know that there is no point in trying to be happy since happiness is an impossibly absurd thing.

po: therefore i’m keeping my stuff.

jin: aren’t you afraid your things will just breed desire and jealousy in you po?

po: not as much as i fear that leaving my things will breed starvation in me which will breed desire and jealousy.

jin: i guess you have a point po, we have a need for things which does not respect our higher intentions.

po: no jin in your haste you have decided to forgo the desire for earthly things and reach for the heavens. isn’t it sufficient to be godly? does one need to also suffer to be godly? i do not mean that people should embrace greed and spend their life in the chasing after empty desires. i mean only that to go naked with a begging bowl is not a way to worship oneself. and to ask others to do likewise is not a way to honour them. there must a balance in our lives. better to live simply but live well. do not build a roof so extravagant that the walls collapse under it. but do not huddle in open like beasts. build a happy home, a pretty home, a comfortable home. do not worship money, but do not depend wholly upon others to live. be neither rich nor poor but honest and simple and happy. This is the same as to be godly because it obeys our desires and compliments everyone else in their own desires. to give a blessing is to receive a blessing. when we give our blessings to others they reflect the light of our grace back on to us, to not except the blessings of others is to rob them of the grace of giving. To believe that we are all working for the same things makes it possible for us to attain them. a community of godly people is a wonderful idea but i do not believe that the people in our village are ungodly. we are kind and generous and grateful with one another. we are all equal in standing no one is in charge and no one tells us how to live. how much more godly could we be than to be at peace and to prosper together??

Jin: but what of evil po? People often do each other wrong or cause each other harm in chasing after their desires.

Hama: what is evil? what is good? who is to say this or that is good or evil? We create good as well as evil.

Po: but we desire good!!!. What good is a good that isn’t any good? What’s the difference between that and evil? I say follow your desires foolishly. How can you be a fool to chase after what you desire. If you can attain your desires and be satisfied by them then the satisfaction will let you stop chasing. It’s not chasing desire that is bad it’s when you skip the catching and being satisfied part that the chasing causes trouble. know what it is you truly desire before you chase it. work together with others to attain it. and when you have it be grateful and be satisfied.

Jin: but can everyone get what they want?

Po: it’s easy if they want things everyone can get.

Jin: so what do we do with the village then?

Hama: i don’t know

Po: i don’t care

Jin: alright then it’s unanimous!

Po and Hama: what?

Jin: were building a shrine to the god jin!

po and hama: harumph!!

hama: well if i’d known everyone was going to go around turning philosopher and trying to copy me i never would have called that bangra shack a shrine and made up all that stuff about gods.

jin: it’s not copying if you do it better

hama: haa! lets see people in your shrine before you start claiming anything about being better!

po: well i guess he’s sort of got us roped into helping with this already

hama: who said i was helping

jin: didn’t you say you were helping hama?

po: he’s already had us helping correct his doctrine

jin: i never made any mistakes!! if anyone made mistakes it was you two!! you misunderstood what i was trying to tell you is all

hama: well if you could explain yourself it wouldn’t be so hard to understand you.

jin: well if you’d both get up and help me with this mess we might be able to make one half assed shack between us…

hama: Who knows maybe someone will move in and become a priest…

po: well if they do move into it then lets hope they bring their own stuff! putting together all the stuff you need to make a new village is more than three old codgers like us can raise.

hama: what do you need for a new village anyway?

po: young men.

jin: what about young women

po: jin….. i’m a married man

three little old men help each other off the ground and amble around in different directions in order to gather materials with which to start work on another house. all swearing and joking and teasing each other. the mountains rise above them all the way to the clear blue sky. the sky rises further all the way to the stars. and the stars go on forever after that.


Hama Helps Himself, or, The Mind of Man is Holy

hama, jin, and po sat on the side of a hill and stared at what hama had made. before them rose a framework of poles notched and fitted together and then lashed together tightly with vines. it was a simple rectangular A framed hut with a roughly thatched roof that reached all the way to the ground on it’s two longest sides. one of it’s narrow sides was covered with more poles lashed together leaving what was the front of the structure open. it was surrounded by a simple and very rough fence made of shorter poles which had been hammered into the ground a few inches apart with small branches woven between them. a single pole rose from the roof of the structure near the front entrance to which was tied a flag of simple tattered and faded black cloth with a simple white circle painted in it’s centre.

jin: what the hell is it?
hama: it’s a shrine (beaming with pride)
po: to what?
hama: to the gods you fool! what else are shrines for?
jin: what god
hama: i don’t know…. does it matter?
po: you went to the trouble to build a shrine and you don’t even know what god you built it for???
jin: even worse you don’t care!?!?!
hama: the god isn’t the important part of building a shrine! the building of the thing is the important part!
po: and you called me a fool not a minute ago
jin: hama this doesn’t actually make any sense

hama: since when did gods take the trouble to start making sense??? i went over to yame town last week and i noticed they’ve got 5 churches to the same god! and not one of those churches even teaches the same doctrine! any self respecting ruler would strike four of those churches with lightning for heresy!!! but human rulers aren’t gods and that’s why they would strike them down over such a silly thing as teachings. it’s plain the gods don’t care how you worship or they wouldn’t let everyone go around making up their own teachings and then attaching them to whatever god they wanted!

po: maybe the gods don’t care if you worship them at all huh? did you think of that?
hama: they’d better care! if people forget the gods then it’s the gods that’ll wind up in a piss poor shape!
jin: what do the gods care if people remember them? they’re gods. they can do whatever they like

hama: because it’s the mind of man that’s holy. gods are like kings in one respect, you can tell how great a god is by how many worshippers he has. that’s the only mark a god will ever make in this world. sure maybe whatever world the gods live in they can do whatever they like there but in this world you gotta have people on your side. it’s the same for gods or kings or anybody else! manpower is real power!

jin: so are you starting your own religion then hama? you looking to become a god in the next world?
hama: (cackles wildly) no! I’m looking to become a god in this world!!

po and jin look at each other with puzzled expressions and then slowly look back to hama. a few moments pass while hama cackles with maniacal laughter and po an jin just look at him as if he’d suddenly gone mad right before their eyes.

po: i knew it… it’s his age… he’s beginning to lose his mind
jin: i didn’t think he was that old really
po: well it’s different for everyone i suppose. it must have just caught up to him earlier than it does for most people
hama: (still chuckling) you’re both right and you’re wrong too!
jin: you were right po
hama: it isn’t old age you couple of horsedeers! but i have gone mad! yes I’m pretty sure I’m completely insane! bonkers! totally lost it!
po: that’s even more worrying right there… crazy people are always the last to find out but it seems like hama here found out before anybody else
hama: and that’s not the only thing i knew before you two did either!
jin: yeah you found out there were 5 churches in yame! what were you doing in yame anyway?!?! i thought the only reason to go there was to burn dope or get burnt by prostitutes???
hama: lets just say i like a good fire and leave it at that
po: i thought you were walking a little funny
hama: and i thought the youth were supposed to respect their elders!!
jin: oh come on one year doesn’t make you anybody’s elder
hama: it makes me elder by one year!
po: and crazier by a damn sight
hama: if you two would shut up for a minute I’ll explain!!!
jin: alright old man explain away
po: this ought to be good

hama: (clears his throat) alright this here shrine is pretty shabby I’ll admit. i built it myself and i didn’t spend any money on it and i didn’t even spend much time on it at all either. honestly the only reason i built it was to give myself something to do outside the house so i wouldn’t have to spend all day being nagged at by that alligator woman of a daughter in law my son dragged in on me. i didn’t know when i started building it that it was going to be a shrine. i was thinking I’d make myself a nice quiet little hut with a view of the ridge tops across the hollow where i could chew some bangra in peace and spit wherever i wanted and take naps. but before i got the second pole cut my machete broke. it was so old and rusty and worn out that baba the blacksmith told me it would be as easy to make a new one as to try and repair mine. so i asked him if he could make me a new one and he told me that it would be a while before he could get around to it since he had so much work to do and that i ought to try and find one to buy. which is how i ended up in yame.
as i said though when i was in yame i don’t know exactly why but i started noticing the churches they had there. i mean really i was like you. i couldn’t figure out why there are churches in yame of all places! but it turns out that people live in yame! which everybody knows but i don’t mean just merchants and gangsters and prostitutes. little old ladies and children live there too. i found out that there must be a dozen or more churches in yame. and as i said i counted 5 churches of the god yato. 5 at least anyway, yato is a pretty popular god it seems. but no 2 of those 5 even call yato the god of the same thing. it’s all church of yato god of degenerate gamblers, or church of yato god of hopeless addicts, or church of yato god of homeless beggars. sure all of that makes yato out to seem like a pretty nice guy but it made me begin to wonder.
so i got my machete from the market there in yame and came home to finish my bangra shack. but i couldn’t stop thinking about the gods. why do the gods care about degenerate gamblers or hopeless addicts or homeless beggars? that’s the sort of thing people ought to care about because those are problems that effect people. gods aren’t homeless or hopeless are they? sure some of the gods can seem pretty degenerate if you listen to their sagas but it isn’t so much a problem for a god as it is for people. gods don’t get venereal diseases or pay child support or get into debt with loan sharks. it isn’t even the gods who live in their churches, it’s people who live in the churches and collect the alms and take in those who need the help of the gods and teach the teachings they say the gods have revealed. then i thought what everybody thinks which is that the teachings of the gods are probably all made up by the people who live in the churches. it made me wonder where the gods come into it at all!

po: maybe there aren’t any gods! did you think of that?
jin: he’s got a point there most people don’t seem interested in gods at all until they want something or really need their help.

hama: yes i thought about that. in fact i almost stopped thinking about it right there. i mean the exact thing i thought was that animals don’t pay any attention to the gods at all and they seem to get along fine. right? have you ever seen a raccoon build a shrine or a church? have you ever seen a fat dog pray?

po: (laughing) no but I’ve seen a fat dog beg plenty of times
hama: HAA! exactly
jin: what?
hama: po got it on the first try
po: i did?
hama: you did
jin: he did?
hama: he did
po and jin: i don’t get it?

hama: well there’s a big difference between people and animals. and what is that difference? actually don’t answer that i know there’s lots of differences, there’s lots of animals! and they’re as different from humans as they are from each other. but humans are very different. we build houses for one thing and yes i know beavers build houses too but humans build villages! yes i know ants and termites build cities but humans do so much more. we make clothing, we make tools, we speak languages, we plant crops, we hunt and gather and we tend to and breed flocks of other animals. we’re smart we humans are. oh sure any one of those things you can find a bug or a fish or an animal somewhere that probably does it too but none of them do all of it. what’s more you can’t teach them to do it. animals instinctively know how to do what they do. they don’t need to be taught how to do it but more importantly they can’t be taught how to do it.

jin: hold on a minute there Mr prophet! you can teach a dog to do all kinds of things. and it’s not really even very difficult. i mean i taught my dog not to poop in the house. and that’s definitely not something that’s a natural dog instinct let me tell you.
po: and if you say the word dinner around my dog his ears perk up and his mouth starts watering.
hama: yeah but can you teach a dog to knit a sweater?
po: can a human learn how to smell rats under the ground?
hama: wait wait wait you guys are missing the point
jin: yeah yeah yeah and i guess the point is that humans are like gods to animals
hama: actually yeah that’s pretty much the point
jin: so what does that have to do with the actual gods. humans are right here in this world and they’re not hard to spot at all. hell we even actually do stuff for some of the animals. the gods never do anything for anyone.
hama: how do you know the gods don’t do anything?

jin: because there’s no way to prove it either way. you can’t prove the gods don’t exist you can’t prove they do exist. if lightning strikes your home you can’t really prove the gods did it. lightning strikes all the time. it has to strike somewhere. eventually it’s going to strike a house. but in the same breath you can’t prove the gods didn’t do it either. it’s an argument with no point and no end. but you can say that gods don’t speak to people. or at least that the gods don’t speak to you. and you can say that if you pray for a loaf of bread the gods aren’t going to make a loaf of bread appear out of nowhere. oh sure people say all the time that their prayers have been answered but they can’t prove it. likely as not it’s just simple coincidence that answered their prayers. so whether the gods do or don’t do anything no one will ever know it. that’s just as good as not doing anything.

po: yeah it amounts to nothing more than whether you believe in something or not. blind faith, educated belief in the end there’s not really any difference because there’s no such thing as proof as far as the gods are concerned.

hama: exactly.
jin: ????
po: ????
jin: ????
po: ????
hama: what?
jin: i think you forgot to make a point there.
hama: oh no i didn’t forget you just made my point for me is all
po: and what was the point again? and who made a point exactly?
hama: well i think you guys both worked together to make my point for me really… that’s kind of deep there if you think about it isn’t it
jin: well tell us the point already you old lout
hama: alright alright no need to get personal I’ll tell you
po: (scowling) ….
jin (scowling) ….

hama: ok, well, it isn’t the gods or the deeds of the gods that are important. it’s the believing in gods that makes humans different. to use dogs as an example again. sure dogs believe in humans, of course they do. as you pointed out we’re right here. we feed them and take care of them. but what happens if we go away? the dog will try to find us of course because dogs are loyal. but if they can’t find us then i guess in the end they will look for another human. in the end which human cares for a dog isn’t important. any human will do as long as the dog gets fed. that’s how the dog see’s the world. as a place where humans feed and care for dogs. and dogs are loyal to humans. the difference is that for one humans have taught dogs that this is how the world works. they learned to worship us from us.
but what about humans? no gods feed us or take care of us. but all the same we look for gods to believe in. it doesn’t matter in the end which god, any god will do. and anything can be a god. but where did we learn this? the gods didn’t teach us to see the world this way. we learned to see the world this way on our own. humans don’t see the world the way it is. we see the world the way we think it is. animals can look right at the world and see what’s really there. but humans look at the world and we see what we think is there. wolves don’t care about directions, they don’t think in terms of north or south. the deer went that way. the wolf goes that way. it doesn’t need to think about which direction that way is. it is just is. because that’s how a wolf is, it just is. if we strip away everything down to the bare reality then that’s all you get. is just a very very bare reality. wolves aren’t bad or good or pretty or ugly or anything like that. they have no value at all. they’re just wolves. they hunt, they eat, they sleep, they mate, they are.
but humans can’t see the world like that. we see the world through our beliefs. humans are good, wolves are bad, deer are pretty, po’s wife is ugly (po: hey watch it) everything has some value for us. we measure things in terms of value, of better or worse, of should be or shouldn’t be, will be or might be. things that have never and will never exist are completely real to us. honour and love and justice and mercy, those are values that we live our lives according to and we never even notice. it’s a good time to plant now or it was a bad season for hunting. and this way of seeing the world lets us do things that animals have never done. we build homes and families and futures for ourselves. we build communities together. we invented language by speaking to each other, and in order to speak to each other we had to be able to believe that we could understand others and make ourselves understood. and it works. it works damn well and there’s no way to doubt it. we can create and destroy and change our world in ways animals can not because we can believe in things that don’t exist.
but we can’t control our world, in the end even with all the power we have to create and change our personal and collective reality it’s the underlying reality that ultimately holds power over us. we are born and we live and we die and we have no control over when or where or how that comes to be. so humans being creatures that shape reality but cannot control it. we shape our reality to give us a way to believe that we have some control over it. we created the gods to be our allies in this endeavour. they’re supposed to be on our side, we can petition them for help in matters we can’t control and they’re supposed to help us. it doesn’t matter if we can or can’t prove that they exist or whether we can or can’t prove that our petitions actually get any real results because reality is something we make up as we go along anyway. we marry and get pregnant and we pray to the gods that the child will be born and be healthy and happy and the mother will be healthy and happy and the father will be strong and loving and happy and if in the end all that comes to be then it doesn’t matter if the gods heard our pleas or if there are any gods at all or even if we believe that our prayers had anything to do with any of it. the important thing is that we got what we wanted and we are glad to have it. if we rush to thank the gods afterwards then all the better. we got what we wanted and we can be thankful. we have someone to thank for what no one could possibly have given us or done for us.
to extend that logic we can be thankful to any gods we believe in for everything we have done ourselves or as a race of humans. we could not have done any of it if we had not laid ourselves a foundation to by believing in so many impossible little things. and we might never have attempted it if we had not believed in such a great big impossible thing as the idea that it could even be done at all. what’s more we didn’t plan on building civilizations or cultures or languages or cities or nations. we sat out believing we could understand each other and make ourselves understood. and we proceeded from there never knowing where it was we were going but pressing forward anyway with the faith that we were bound to get to a place we wanted to go. we believed in ourselves of course and we should! but we believed in the universe that it would not crush us, and eventually that the universe even meant to help us on our way. such an absurdity obviously but look where believing in absurdities got us.

jin: …..
po: ….
jin: ….
po: ….
jin: well…
po: yeah…
jin: yeah
jin: ok i guess you could look at it that way
po: well i hadn’t really thought about it that much
jin: and however you look at it po’s wife is pretty ugly
po: well not really
jin: no not really i suppose, but…. she is
hama: that’s how things work with humans. you can know a thing, you can know it’s true, you can know it for a certainty. but in the end you believe what you can beleive and what you can’t believe you just can’t
po: well what does the mother of my children have to do with this sorry looking shack you’ve built anyway?
jin: and how exactly are you planning on becoming a god in this life?
hama: (chuckling again) oh yeah that
po: yeah that. a pitiful hovel with a flag in it doesn’t make you a god you know. anyway you basically just explained in a roundabout way that you don’t believe in the gods anyhow.
hama: oh well i figure if you can’t beat em join em
jin: beat who?
hama: the gods you donkey who else!
po: how are you planning on beating the gods?
hama: by joining them
po: ok
jin: oh fine….. how are you going to join the gods? other than dying of old age any day now
hama: I’m going to worship myself!!!
po: and what good will that do? you’ll be the lowliest god in the world with just one believer…

hama: like i said it doesn’t matter. you gotta believe in something. humans can’t help themselves. it’s the human condition, belief is the framework we’re built on top of. you’ve got no choice as far as believing or not believing. just when you think you’ve opened up your eyes and started to see the world for what it really is you catch yourself checking pennies to see whether they’re lying heads or tails before you pick them up. the human mind searches for things to believe in and the more you try to deny a perfectly acceptable system of beliefs the more unreasonable things you catch yourself believing. sure you may deny the gods on the ground that they can neither be proved nor disproved and do your best to put faith in unreasonable things out of your life but all that does is leave you open to anyone who claims they can prove anything. you might think believing in yato is something no sane person would do because nobody’s ever seen or heard from yato but then you end up scammed into buying snake oil in the marketplace because your neighbours swear it worked for them. and they swear it worked for them because they already bought it. because everyone told them the same. no one wants to admit it didn’t work for them because they think it worked for everyone else.

jin: so you’re saying snake oil doesn’t help your joints?
hama: I’m saying you gotta believe in something. so i believe in the god hama. if i want to win at gambling I’ll pray to hama, if i want my son to have successful hunts I’ll pray to hama, if i want my daughter in laws child to be a son or a daughter I’ll pray to hama. if i put my faith in hama i can keep my faith at home and i don’t have to go looking for anything else to believe in. either consciously or unconsciously or subconsciously or any other way.
jin: what have you got against snake oil?!?! it really does help my knees you know!
po: so what everyone should pray to themselves? is that just a roundabout way of framing that idiotic “believe in yourself” nonsense they always tell children?
hama: everybody can pray to whoever they want to! but the god hama is a fine god. never did anybody wrong whether they beleived in him or not!
po: well the god hama doesn’t look much I’ll tell you that
hama: yeah and the god po never did anything for anybody!!
jin: i mean really have you actually tried the snake oil? i bet you never even tried it!
po: (scoffing) the god hama! oh the great god hama! doesn’t even have a scripture! not a prophet or a priest or anything! god of bums is hama!
hama: (smiling dryly) then why are you so jealous huh?
po: jealous!! oh right I’m jealous that’s a good one!
hama: and sitting here in front of hamas shrine too!
po: ooooooh yeeeeaaaah ain’t it just lovely toooo! till a stiff wind comes along anyway!
jin: anyway I’ve got to go home and rub some more on, it takes a while for it to start working snake oil does.
hama: well if your bad knees are working again you can help an old man up. doing the thatch has finished my back and m back was broke anyway
jin: i’ve got an extra bottle of snake oil at home! you really ought to try it! it’ll do a sore back a wonder of good!
po: (to himself) the god hama…. i can’t believe i walked up here
hama: (winking) well if you’re too tired hama always welcomes weary travellers into his shrine!
jin: fine come on then my daughter is making stew.
po: i hate stew!
hama: you eat stew all the time!
po: because I’ve got no teeth i can’t eat anything else! which is why i hate stew
jin: well you’ll love my daughters stew then!
hama: and why is that?
jin: oh once you taste it food will be the last thing on your mind!

jin, po, and hama leave the shrine and make their way down the hillside bickering and hobbling along as elderly men everywhere tend to do. the evening sun illuminates hama’s shrine behind them. the god hama unseen by human eyes as all gods everywhere always are, strokes the stray cat which every shrine is required to have, and watches them go until they are out of sight and hearing. hama then turns and walks into his hut where for the past few days he has lived for centuries. and begins to review the petitions of the faithful.