On George Carlin: Grumpy Old Cynic or Truth-Teller   Leave a comment


In my many interactions with some people in my social network, I see videos of the late George Carlin being as always provocative and controversial in his jokes. George Carlin’s comedic style was always multi-faceted but it was largely Dark, Insulting and Sarcastic even Satirical geared toward predominantly toward 2 topics that in America is often socially unacceptable to talk about: Religion and Politics. When I was a child I was exposed to him from the childhood TV Show Thomas the Tank Engine and again in my teenage years in my own spiritual search and by my personal, local and smaller social network. I will confess that when it comes to his Religion jokes I can find some humor in them, although he paints a broad stroke on ALL religion, I like to think that he mocks the popular understandings of religion (aka the various manifestations of Fundamentalism) that most people have rather than the deeper realities and wisdom of Religion itself. I find a high degree of agreement with George Carlin however, when it comes to his choice of political philosophy. In this post I will be writing about my views on George Carlin in more detail, only after that to tie George Carlin’s Cynical sense of humor back over to Christ for I believe that reconciliation must be had between 2 forces that seem irreconcilable. Following this I will discuss my own personal battle with Cynicism, Despair and Frustration in life.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of George Carlin

As this sub-section suggests I will go in order of good to bad of the legacy that is George Carlin. As I said earlier when it comes to George Carlin, I am in near-complete agreement with him on his Political Discussions and to a partial degree on his Social discussions. His outlook is mine, namely that America is owned and controlled by a partnership of Government and Corporate entities, if he were alive today I am sure that he would feel quite comfortable in agreeing with me that America is a soft-fascist State Capitalism, a Corporatist Nation. His politically incorrect posture I find to be a wonderful strength of his in his unabashed joke-telling, for it does point out certain truths to the world we live in today. His ability to speak truth through a humorous medium comes armed with its own benefits that can get people motivated to make a change in the world.

However, in light of this good that I commend him on, there is a darker side that I find to be distasteful, but no one is safe from harsh criticism when George Carlin is making jokes. His views on Religion are at best provocative and challenging yet at worst misinformed and hate-filled, George Carlin is as some know born and raised Roman Catholic at a time when the Church was very strict, legalistic, and serious we often get scenes of harsh discipline on children as they are terrified in the corner cowering in fear of the clergyman or nun who slaps with a ruler. This view is an unfortunate fact due to the poor religious education that is given to Catholics, many people would get Angry with George Carlin for expressing such hate-filled views of God and Religion. However, I try to check my anger and remind myself that I must sympathize with him because I know my own and others religious formation was nowhere near the best it could have been! Therefore, while his making a mockery of religion is painful to hear, it shows the state of religious education within the Church that continues up to this day, I know it continues up to this day because had he espoused this view and the audience boo’d him off the stage it would have exposed George Carlin for being severely misinformed, yet instead the audience laughed with him rather than at him. I give you the video below not to equate George Carlin’s entertainment to Justin Bieber’s entertainment but to show how the Faith is not even seen or understood:

Of course, another view of his which I find to be a bit distasteful is his outlook on humanity which is dark and seeing his own species as a “mistake” that will be taken care of in due to time, this misanthropic view I find to be dangerous and unhealthy. Although, I do believe that humanity ought to and must learn from its mistakes and be able to accept criticism I do not believe that being a misanthrope is the best way to go about this. What I find to be eerily hypocritical is that people who would espouse a Libertarian Point-Of-View also cite this same individual for their reasons why they want freedom, now I cannot say for sure that these people know that George Carlin believes in the idea that humanity is a worthless mistake, however if they do know this, then they ought to change their political opinion over to something more Authoritarian if not Totalitarian because, it belongs to the arrogance of the dictators, despots, politicians and bureaucrats of the world that people have no value in themselves and must be prodded like animals to accomplish anything. The irony to George Carlin is that his outlook on humanity is one that comes from a poor religious Catholic upbringing of that dark Augustinian notion of Humanity, you would think that a man brought up and rebelled against his Catholic background would adopt something the opposite, of course I find that Secular-Protestant Calvinism to be even more fitting for the American culture which Carlin grew-up and rebelled in. Of course, even in this video there is some truth to be had, George Carlin is a critic and has a lot to criticize but again we need to be watchful and separate wheat from chaff:

The Legacy of George Carlin will be remembered as Nietzschean and the psychology behind George Carlin’s jokes will be remembered as both a harsh critic yet a frustrated cynic filled with a sense of despair toward life. The ugliest part to the Legacy of George Carlin, is how seriously people have given consideration to a man who devoted his life [in large part] to cracking jokes and acting. In Christianity we are told to put on the mind of Christ, but in our post-modern society we have traded the mind of Christ for the mind of George Carlin in both its good, bad, and ugly characteristics. It is on this count that I point out why I am a Christian, because I am able to incorporate the Good parts and leave behind the bad and ugly parts yet those who would put on the Mind of Carlin cannot do this, and I want to take the time to explain below how this is true.

The Mind of Christ with the mind of Carlin: Commonalities between George Carlin and Jesus Christ

For a long time now people believed that Religion and Spiritual Discipline MUST BE serious work, there is no room for joy and laughter. For a long time now people have often believe that the contemporary understanding of a cynic is the antithesis of the religious point of view, however today I will show that neither is entirely true, to do this I will use Christ himself to reconcile with George Carlin’s perspective. It should be no surprise to us today that Christ was against the institutions of His own time, yet in light of the Religious Right in America Christ has appeared to be as one who is the supporter of Status Quo, such an Image of Christ I find to be heretical and misinformed. Christ mocked and attacked the religious institutions of His day as well as the political institution of His day. Christ used humor and joy to spread the Truth of His Gospel to a suffering and dark world. Christ spoke bluntly and was a man of controversy and political incorrectness!

Even in Christ during the end of His life He encountered despair, during His ministry He encountered frustration as well, however He didn’t allow this to change Himself at the fundamental root of His being, which is Love. A Love mind you that is not merely wishy-washy, superficial, or sentimental, but a Willing the Good of the Other, As Other! This is the fundamental difference between The Mind of Christ and The Mind of Carlin, for if it was possible that Christ should allow Cynicism, Frustration, and Despair into His Heart and get carried away by it so much so that it would change Him at the Fundamental Root of His Being, He would never had willingly gone to the Cross to fulfill the Will of God.

This points to the fundamental truth, namely that these traits and perspectives are limiting to our freedom and rooted in Fear rather than Love itself, for The Glory of God is Man Fully Alive! However let it be known for a few reasons that Jesus was not seen to be a speaker of the ancient Cynic school found in ancient Greek culture. It has been said that sometimes humor is the best tool to convey the truth, there is something rather liberating when truth is given to us in something we can be joyful about. To be even more clear before moving on to the part of this post, Cynicism as understood in its original and ancient term was a philosophy in which,

“… virtue is a life lived in accord with nature. Nature offers the clearest indication of how to live the good life, which is characterized by reason, self-sufficiency, and freedom. Social conventions, however, can hinder the good life by compromising freedom and setting up a code of conduct that is opposed to nature and reason. Conventions are not inherently bad; however, for the Cynic, conventions are often absurd and worthy of ridicule.” – Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Today however, the Cynic is often understood according to the 1st or 3rd Definition provided by Dictionary.Com in this case as one who is, “bitterly or sneeringly distrustful, contemptuous, or pessimistic.” Judging by the jokes of George Carlin he could fill either Era of Cynicism, but more so the more contemporary understanding because Carlin resembles the ancient Hedonist way of living rather then the ancient Cynics way of living. The contemporary understanding of a Cynic is one that I feel only gives an excuse for apathy and indifference, this I do not agree with, of course I do believe that in trying to make a change in the world one must first be the change they want to see in the world, as Gandhi put it.

My Own Battle with Cynicism, Frustration, and Despair

After the death of both my grandfathers in 2004 I was more than frustrated with God, I was angry and I gave into despair toward life. At the heart of this new modern cynical outlook in life was a sense of betrayal: I was distrustful of men and God. I gave up on God because I thought God gave up on me. The remainder of my Sophomore year in High School,

“… was spent in complete denial of God, and I lied to myself claiming to be things I was not, other people my age around me saw this and could see the difference but knew I was not what I deceived myself into what I wanted them to believe I was, all in a rushed attempt to put up a mask for all to see, when they knew and I knew it was not me.”

However this was only my initial contact with the psycho-spiritual pollution that is cynicism, the second time in my life came when I put my trust in Conspiracy Theories and when I was going to graduate from High School in 2009, at that time,

“… I felt justified in my actions because my beliefs made it clear that I was God and I could do what I damn well please to take charge of my life. Although meek with those around me, I was filled with an aggressive streak in my heart, and I was like a King trying to horde and micromanage every little aspect in my life, through various occult ritual and practice. So in the end one could say, that my manipulative side surfaced once again, but in the form of a passive aggressive resistance to anything that I interpreted as a threat to my micromanaging behavior.”

Eventually I gave up on the cynical perspective and a new age was beginning in my life around the same time I was in the 2nd Half of my First College experience back in the Spring Semester of 2009 when,

“… Toward the waning days of my occult practices and the rise of coming to a more psychotherapeutic awareness of spirituality, I felt a voice in the back of my mind saying, ‘Turn back to Christ’ like as if I have strayed too far off the path… Humorously and Ironically enough, had I done more investigation on the Early Church instead of just assuming that everything in my life was a lie and angrily rejected it all, I probably would have gone through a different path and not have had the experience I had regarding both my life in the world and in the spiritual realm. But God knows how I would have acted, had I not gone down the path I did at the time I did, all that is good that happened at this time I can give credit only to God, and that which went wrong at this time I can only shamefully accept responsibility for my own micromanaging arrogance.”

Fast forward to last year in Summer of 2010, after coming out of a mini-attack from cynicism after losing my job in the Winter of 2009 and spending time in politics during the Winter of 2009-2010, I sought to rebuild my social life and became acquainted with someone I now call a good friend of mine, who picked me up from my latest cynical fumble and encouraged me to get back to finding a job and improving my life. Upon finding a job in the Spring of 2011 I find my life improving for the best and with the next 8 months off starting at the end of December I can now make up the time lost that I spent when I was in politics last year to make some serious money before beginning a new school.

The battle with me and cynicism is one that is ultimately rooted in despair, feelings of betrayal by society, desire to control the outcome [to a very precise degree] and disappointment from personal failure to achieve in life, it is a constant battle, one that will be lifelong, but having come to a more existential awareness and appreciation of the 3 Theological Virtues: Faith – Hope – Love I do believe that integration with the Mind of Carlin is possible with the Mind of Christ, now more than ever.


Posted December 3, 2011 by jimbo9889 in Social Issues, The Objectives

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