Fruity Jesus and His Dancing Sofa
FRUITY JESUS AND HIS DANCING SOFA – How Your Brain Makes The World Up As it Goes Along and Why That’s Probably For The Best
Roll Up For The Mystery Tour
I was brought up in the Roman Catholic faith. Now, I can’t go through the whole process here for the benefit of you non Catholics out there. It’s long and tortuous and no one really comes out the other end understanding it anyway. This is because anything which doesn’t stand up to any kind of logical scrutiny can be labelled “A Mystery of Faith”, and becomes out of bounds for discussion.
You Want A Nice Dill Pickle With That?
Labyrinthine as the whole thing is, it is possible to give a very quick précis of what it is like to become a fully dysfunctional Catholic. It’s like being force fed pickled guilt. And just when you think you’ve swallowed it all, you’re given something else to feel universally responsible for at the precise moment the previous thing works its way back up and repeats on you. It’s the guilt that keeps on giving. In that respect it’s like watered down Judaism. Israel Lite if you will.
That said, my first two years at Catholic primary school were rather enjoyable, but only by default. My childish interest was maintained purely by Mondegreens. You may not know what a Mondegreen is, but I can guarantee that you heard dozens of them. In 1957, a lady called Sylvia Wright penned an essay. In it, she recalled how, as a little girl, she loved a folk song called “The Bonny Earl of Murray”.
The first verse contained the line “ They killed the Earl of Murray and Lady Mondegreen”. But actually it didn’t. It was “They killed the Earl of Murray and laid him on the green.” So she dubbed misheard song lyrics “Mondegreens” thereafter, though I’ve always preferred the term “Rhymney” from Douglas Adams and John Lloyd’s book “The Meaning of Liff.”
When I was an infant, we had assemblies every morning. There was obligatory hymn singing, which I actually quite liked. My favourite was “Lord of the Dance”, but only because I had misheard the chorus. Only the older children had hymn books, and the youngsters were expected to learn the words by just copying what everyone else was singing, When the chorus of this particular song went “Dance dance, wherever you may be/ I am the Lord of the Dance, said he.” I was singing : “ I am the Lord of the Dance Settee.”
Snoopy vs The Red Baron
Jesus, to me, was a man who galloped around the Holy Land in days gone by riding an enormous dancing sofa. Settees are what we called sofas back in the late Seventies. I also thought he was made entirely out of fruit. Mainly apples, plums and bananas, if I recall the mental image correctly. This was because of the line in the Hail Mary which went “Blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.” This picture I had in my head caused me great amusement. I thought Jesus was cool.
Then of course, we got older and so got access to the hymn books. And we were taught the meanings of the prayers in preparation for First Holy Communion. It turned out that Jesus was, in fact, merely God and not a man composed entirely of fruit who owned a dancing sofa. I was gutted. It was my first personal tragedy, though on the bright side it did stop me believing in God before the ides could fully take root. Plus later it took the sting out of being told there was no Santa Claus, seeing as a fruity man in command of animated furniture is something of tough act to follow. Though a close second might have been my idea that Jesus’ aunt Elizabeth had a bright red bi-plane and a leather flying suit. When the teacher said “Elizabeth was barren.” I thought she said “Elizabeth was a baron”. The only baron I’d heard of at that point was The Red Baron.
Dad. Do You Know This Piano’s On My Foot? You Hum It, I’ll Play It.
Hymns were not the only things we were made to sing at that school. For some reason, the music teacher (i.e. she was the only one who could play the piano) was keen on us learning The Beatles’ entire back catalogue. This was partly to make us think that making your own music was cool, but mostly because they were the only group she had all the sheet music for. Lovely idea, just a shame that the fab four had split up the year most of us were born, so we hadn’t the vaguest idea who they were. So her “look kids, we’re actually singing The Beatles” enthusiasm was a little lost on us. But there was one song we would request to sing, even when she hadn’t got her sheet music out and ready, and that was “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer”.
Maxwell’s Silver hammer is about a young man who goes around murdering people with a hammer. Bear in mind that this was in1979 and The Yorkshire Ripper was at the height of his frenzy. Our teacher thought this was all youthful exuberance, but we really just liked smiling at her and thinking about serial killers. A demonstration that misunderstandings between adults and children work both ways, particularly in the regard of children being cute and innocent.
If Reincarnation Exists, I want To Come Back As Warren Beatty’s Fingertips
All has been confusion and crossed wires ever since, and Rhymneys are the most obvious expression of this. For years, whenever I heard “All Along the Watchtower”, I thought one of the lines was “Let us stop talking falsely now, the owl is getting laid!”. Similarly in Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain” : “Your hat strategically tipped above one eye/ your scarf it was Africa”. Now, I’m a reasonably intelligent man, so why on earth would I happily accept that Jimi Hendrix was advocating sex with nocturnal birds of prey? Or that Warren Beatty was capable of utilizing an entire continent as neckwear. Ooh, I hear you internet nerds cry, that’s if it was about Warren Beatty. It might have been about James Taylor or Kris Kristofferson or Mick Jagger.
Of course it was about Warren Beatty you fools. Who else would have been good enough in bed to make someone like Carly Simon write a song that bitter about being dumped by him years after the fact? And it is a very bitter song, despite its superficial coating of white man’s overbite, wedding disco schmaltz and the transparent attempt to make it seem ironic.
Sudoku For The Innumerate
So why are there websites devoted to the thousands of Mondegreens observed over the years? Why does all drama and comedy spring from giving people different metaphorical scripts and standing back to watch the tragedy/hilarity that ensues from them getting it all wrong somehow? Well here’s an interesting fact, and I got this from a book and not the internet, so it might even be a true fact. Your brain has a little clock in it that ticks about once every tenth of a second. Every time it ticks, your brain renews your picture of the world. Millions of new impulses bombard your grey matter in a great wave 600 times every minute. How does your brain make sense of this colossal amount of raw data, how does it process it all? The answer is very simple. It doesn’t. It ignores the vast majority of it and uses expectations and experience to fill in the rather substantial gaps.
But I Thought Sex Was Invented in 1999
The human eye, for instance, has about 130 million light sensitive cells on its retina. The optic nerve bundle attached to said retina has only a million or so nerves in it. Most of what your eye sees is ignored or received highly selectively. The rest of the senses have similar mechanisms. This is why slight of hand and optical illusions work. Why we think Hendrix wants us to excuse him while he has a homosexual snog. Though you could be forgiven for that last one. Hendrix was so tickled by it he actually sang the altered lyric on occasion. You see, all this internet stuff we like is older than you think. Even pornography. They had that before computers were invented too, apparently.
Education is misunderstanding. Relationships are about misunderstanding. Life is about misunderstanding, that’s what makes it interesting and worth living. And most of what you think of as reality is made up by your brain anyway. The sooner we all realise that, the better we might all get on. That’s what I think, but there’s a chance I may have misread the situation entirely.
© Copyright Michael Grimes 2013