Before we start this journey, I would like to ask those of you who despise anything that isn’t “directly game related” to turn away…go farm KEMs or simply just save yourself some time and emotional distress. This is meant for the REST of you, who in a “grinding period” (as we are now) may be looking for a little insight, fun, and metaphysical diversion.
Fair enough? (Although I hate that phrase…something is either fair, or it isn’t).
This update/event has been one of the craziest, most divisive updates in recent memory, and for reasons that the programmers and writers could scarcely have imagined. OK. Hold on. Who are we kidding here? They knew it was going to incite some discussion, and some controversy, but most likely didn’t expect such clear division between “isms” from the players. So many “isms” choose from…and so few answers.
But, as it is playing out, Homer has continued to lead us all on a spiritual quest for enlightenment (whether we wanted to go down some of the paths or not). And in the final chapter (is there ever actually a “final” chapter as it pertains to everlasting life?) it’s mostly meant to be just, plain, fun.
Let’s break down Homer’s journey…
The opening dialogue in the first frames of the Act I, started things off poorly. Let’s be honest about it…nobody who has a chosen faith of any flavor likes to be called a “nutjob.” The ensuing debate between Lisa and Ned over the origins of Christmas and Paganism did little to help, and likely poured gasoline onto the fire.
But, when HOMER gets involved, we are faced with the need to look at religion in a broader context (mostly because his religious views circle endlessly around the food involved with each).
Homer: Is it true, sweetie? Are we having a Bacon Winter Carnival?
Lisa: “Pagan.” Why would anyone have a Bacon Festival? Stupid.
Homer: Don’t mock my religious beliefs! You don’t see me forcing my Baconist teachings on Pagans, do you?
Lisa: No. You’ve been very open-minded about that. Great job.
And there we have it…Homer’s first attempt at being inclusive and not divisive. But it doesn’t stop there…
In Act II things go further off of the rails, with all sorts of misinformation and poor interpretations of Pagan mythology. By the time the “book of shadows” makes its way into the dialogue, the writers are making fun of Paganism, and lazy, TSTO players in one, quick, exchange between Lisa and Willie.
Lisa: This Book of Shadows is just a collection of creepy, witchy nonsense.
Willie: So? EVERY book is a collection of creepy, witchy nonsense. What with all them words, and them strange symbols…
Lisa: Willie… you CAN read, right?
Willie: Aye! Unless it’s in-game dialog. No real man reads in-game dialog.
Ironically, many of you who just blow through the in-game dialogue may have missed that exchange. As well as Homer turning Willie’s horrifying suggestion of human finger sacrifices into “chicken fingers.” Why not? It’s rumored that human fingers taste like chicken when deep-fried anyway…and they are far better than the squirrels that Willie forces everyone to eat, in order to better understand his version of Paganism.
By the end of Act II, EA has done their best to offend virtually anyone who “believes,” whether it is Paganism, Christianity (with its dedication to lavish gift giving) and almost everything else in between. By the end of Act II…the entire crew is off of the rails. Lisa has turned “Goth,” Burns has taken a turn at becoming a “new God,” and Ned is following any man in a collar, including Lovejoy and the Parson (who is more difficult to follow, as he tools around town in a golf cart, which is far faster than Lovejoy’s train engine).
Act II ends at the same time as 2016…with about the same amount of satisfaction and contentment. In short, hardly anyone felt “resolved.”
The year starts with some basic shaming of the elderly, by making Grandpa wear a New Year’s diaper, and a hotly debated task for Maggie that was either dismembering a “real sheep” or a “stuffed sheep” with a huge kitchen knife on a Pagan alter…neither of which was exactly PG in nature.
The FINAL Chapter in Homer’s quest for enlightenment starts with a lesson for Homer and the concept of “Karma.”
The Wiki describes “Karma” as:
kar·ma – noun
(in Hinduism and Buddhism) the sum of a person’s actions in this and previous states of existence, viewed as deciding their fate in future existences.
Ok. So right away, we see that this is a concept of two different religions (which represent almost 1.5 Billion believers in the world), but also represents some of the basic concepts of Christianity (do unto others as they would have them do unto you). In other words, “what goes around, comes around.”
As usual, Homer’s connection to enlightenment revolves around food and drink…
Homer: Okay, I gave a penny to a homeless guy. I even picked up a piece of trash. Can I have my million dollars now?
Apu: That’s not how Karma works. You need to put in some effort, and you’re never exactly sure when the benefit will come.
Homer: Oh, so it’s kind of like drinking.
But now, as we move into the final stages of “Homer the Heretic” we see a twist coming…once again, offered up by Lisa, and another Springfield religious leader…and finally…the ultimate religious leader.
Lisa: Ned, you must be on my side about people cherry-picking religious practices?
Ned: Absolutely. We should cherry-pick the hardest parts of each religion and force ourselves to do it. That’s the only way God will know how much we love Him!
Rabbi Krustofsky: Homer, I see you’re trying out several religions. Might I suggest Judaism?
Homer: No thanks, not interested.
Rabbi Krustofsky: But how can you be sure if you haven’t tried it?
Homer: I’ve tried Kosher pizza. And that told me everything I need to know.
In this interchange, I suspect we learn that Homer’s real diversion from Christianity may have come from his discovery that the communion wafers are bland and tasteless. So…the “body of Christ” could use a little seasoning?
I am not going to reveal the rest of the dialogue that is coming in this episode. However, I will say that if we are to actually follow Homer in his quest to find some sort of enlightenment, it is best to start by realizing the Community of TSTO is a disparate, wide-ranging, core of dedicated players who are forced daily to suspend reality in order to enjoy the game. The characters in our game regularly walk through walls, walk across water, and fly across the landscape using a wide range of non-air-worthy tools, all of which go against our understanding of the laws of physics (which Lisa makes note of in her final conversation with God).
But in the end, perhaps the FINAL LESSON to be learned from these events, is that there is no single, defining immutable truth that gives us “the only” answer as it pertains to our reality or place in the universe (or beyond).
What seems clear, is that there is a connection in this community of players that reaches beyond borders, cultures, or beliefs, that should bind us together in our similarities, rather than divide us by the small differences that bring out the worst in all of us.
The fact remains, there is no “right way” to believe, or for that matter not believe, in something larger than the basic existence we experience on this earthly plain (or space/time if you choose). There are only shades of what we feel intuitively, colored against the science of what we can prove.
But, I suggest that the best of who we are, can never be quantified by science or religious scripture.
The debate really comes down to mankind clinging to the notion (and raw intuition) that there “must be more” than the basics of this life, including some sort of reward for living a life of sacrifice and good works while we are here.
I’m not going to go into my own beliefs, but just to be clear that I don’t have an “agenda” (as some have accused me of in the past), I will state that my beliefs are shaped by my experiences, continued education, and a wide-world-view that there are threads of “the truth” in virtually every religion…as well as science and physics.
“A human being is a part of a whole, called by us “universe,” a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest… a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”
Interesting…and very hard to disagree with, if you take off your own special “ism” cloak.
In my experience, the limitations of most religions, are that they start and stop with their written text, and alter the broader experience and opportunity to understand the universal aspects of what makes us all the same. In the end, we all want to be loved…and feel as though we live a life that is relevant and important…thereby justifying our existence here (and perhaps beyond this mortal coil).
In the end, the primary differences between religions, as well as the overarching quest in science, comes from the two big questions, “How We Got Here” and “Where Are We Going When We Are Done?” The former is answered in part in the Simpsons episode “The Monkey Suit” (s7e21) when Ned works to get creationism taught in schools.
The latter is up for debate, as there are countless versions of “the afterlife” and perpetual life (through reincarnation), that give us all a second chance (or unlimited chances) to get it right…and be rewarded.
I actually don’t believe in traditional descriptions of “heaven” and “retribution” due to a brief dance on “the other side,” in the mid-1990s. But I do believe in the physics of energy…and the eternal nature of its existence in this space/time, and beyond.
I’ll leave you with two quotes…one from a book I read recently for our “book club,” the other from Homer… You can choose which is more influential in your belief structure.
The first comes from a great book called, “All the Light We Cannot See” by Anthony Doerr. This book started out as novel about a small chapter in WWII, and ended up being so much more…
“And is it so hard to believe that souls might also travel those paths? That her father and Etienne and Madame Manec and the German boy named Werner Pfennig might harry the sky in flocks, like egrets, like terns, like starlings? That great shuttles of souls might fly about, faded but audible if you listen closely enough? They flow above the chimneys, ride the sidewalks, slip through your jacket and shirt and breastbone and lungs, and pass out through the other side, the air a library and the record of every life lived, every sentence spoken, every word transmitted still reverberating within it.
Every hour, she thinks, someone for whom the war was memory falls out of the world. We rise again in the grass. In the flowers. In songs.”
Let’s face it…TSTO and religion create a slippery slope for anyone who truly believes. But, as a community of tappers, it is our chosen path to disregard the potential for rancor, and indignation during the COUNTLESS DIGS on religion served up by the show, and the game…and simply agree to be lifted up in the spirit of mutually shared experiences, that make us One!
We are, above all…Tappers. And let us have faith that EA and the writers will bring us redemption for the past few weeks, by bringing us the “BEST UPDATE EVER” in 2017…or at least enough bonuts to make us forget, when they don’t.
Here’s to the search for enlightenment…or bonuts. Whichever comes EAsier.