A Survey of Suburban Shamanism
The discovery of one of the some of the oldest Koran fragments at Birmingham University reminded me that here at the Mill we have some important religious texts just sitting around. Brother Basil, our beekeeper and a member of the Order of St. John the Dwarf, is one of the leading experts on Suburban Shamanism. Several years ago, when money was flowing into “online learning” ventures, we tried to get a piece of that revenue stream for ourselves by offering an online survey course on the subject. Basil even talked us into buying some commonobula, which are the opposite of incunobula, and that’s how we ended up acquiring a first edition of Fat Elk Speaks, one of the most important Suburban Shamanism texts.
The course was a bust. Only one person besides our sockpuppets signed up, and they stiffed us by using bitcoin slugs in our online learning vending machines.
Below are some of the highlights of the course. If you would like me to send you a floppy disc with the entire course on it, just send me your debit card number and the little three digit “security number”, your name, your address, SSN, mother’s maiden name, name of your first pet, make of your car, and the mascot of your high school sports team. I’ll send you the course in the mail. It will be well worth it.
There are many suburban creation myths. These are two of the most popular. The first has the typical celestial couple whose antagonism generates the initial creation.
1. The god and the goddess were watching T.V. in Familyroomtentouch (the land of the gods). 2. An argument broke out over the remote control. 3. The goddess, enraged by the sloth of Norm, castrated him with a hypee (a set of grass clippers). 4. The blood of his wound fell to Earth. 5. The first drop fell and created the cul-de-sacs. 6. The second drop fell and created the houses we dwell in. 7. The third drop created the malls. 8. Then the goddess looked upon what had been created and said, “In your sloth you have made a place for cats and dogs. 9. I will call it ‘Suburbia’. 10. Let there be beautiful spots for the animals,” and there were yards and trees so that the cats and dogs would have places to play. 11. Then she said, “but who will care for these animals? 12. Who will drive to get them food and chewy toys?” 13. So she created suburbanites, that we might care for the animals of the goddess.
Here is another, more intimate, account of creation. This comes from the “S” writer, whose ardent monotheism is evident in the first sentence.
1. Mama G woke up from a long nap and said, “Let us make consumers in our own image.” 2. So she reached into the center of the earth and retrieved two packages. She tore open the two packages and poured their contents on the ground. 3. Then she cupped her hand, reached it to the bottom of the Deep and withdrew water. 4. She held her hand over the sun until it boiled and then poured the boiling water onto the dust pile. 5. She stirred, and lo, the first two suburbanites appeared on the asphalt.
12. They were confused. The man looked at her and said “what are these cards thou hast given me?” 13. Mama said unto him, “those are credit cards. Only put gas on the one with the horse. 14. You shall be tempted to buy soda and chips with it, but you should only put gas on that card. 15. The other card, the one with the two circles, can be used for everything else.” 16. The woman listened to the creator, but the man had stopped listening after “soda and chips.”
Early Suburban Hymns
The early suburbanites performed many ceremonies. The most important of these was the stove sacrifice, which involved pouring butter or bacon grease into the flame of a range top. Doing so transforms something in the material world (fat or butter) into a vapor that rises to heaven and, thereby, enters the spirit world. Here is the earliest known hymn from the stove sacrifice. It would have been chanted by a priest or priestess while stirring a pot.
Laud Hotpoint, the stove on which
I melt this soma (butter)
Praise be the milk and shredded cheese
The boiled macaroni
Suburbanism is fraught with superstitions, ritualized fears, and items of folk wisdom that are generally referred to as the “taboos”. There are thousands of Suburban Taboos. No single suburbanite abides by, or even knows, all of the taboos… but every suburbanite is reluctant to break some of them. Here are a few of the more popular:
- Don’t put a fork in the toaster
- If you make a face while drinking orange juice it will stay that way
- Always change the default password on your router
- Turn the hot water off first when taking a shower
- Don’t shovel or rake the roof
- Discard any cans that are dented
- Always check the oil before using the lawn mower
- Don’t put an empty milk carton back in the fridge
- Too much fertilizer can burn the lawn
- Stretch before you shovel snow
- Wash the pot after you use it
- If you don’t clip the trashcan, raccoons or dogs will get into the garbage
Suburbanites believe that every item in the universe has “magic”. Even out-of-date Yodels have “magic”… not much, but some. It is important to know which items have “much magic”. Things that have “much magic” should be treated with respect. Abusing these items may anger the gods. The following are items with “much magic.”
- The gray box in the basement with all the switches in it
- The red switch at the top of the cellar stairs
- The cable box
- Coriciden D tablets
- The refrigerator
- The microwave
- The tank in the back of the toilet
- The remote control
- The Lawn Mower
The following items have “a lot of magic”
- Tea Kettles
- Shower, bathtub and sink drains
- A Water Pik
You may be wondering where T.V. is on this list. The T.V., to suburbanites, is a diety. You perform puja to the T.V. by turning it on at least once in the morning and once at night.
There are many suburban legends. Most are concerned with imparting a fundamental moral truth through heroes that represent the cultural apotheosis of the suburbs. One such legend is the legend of Crazy Paulie.
Crazy Paulie wanted to seek a vision, so he ate a bag of Doritos and fell asleep on the couch during a football game. As soon as he had one foot in the spirit world the white ice cream truck appeared to him. The driver of the truck told him that to get laid he must “have a car.” Paulie awoke from the dream and went out to the street. He took a can of motor oil and punched a hole in it with a pen. The oil spilled out and ran in a stream down the street. Paulie followed the stream. The oil kept pouring from the can and he kept following the stream. For three days and nights he followed the stream. Finally, the oil pooled beneath a 1978 Chevy Nova. Paulie entered the house of the car’s owner, the King Herothgar. Paulie delivered his yelp to Herothgar. Spake Paulie:
It is I, Crazy Paulie,
The boy who broke the windows at the A & P
And had intercourse with the Middle School Social Studies Teacher
I have come,
I want the Nova
Herothgar, realizing that Paulie was favored by the gods, sold the Nova for $700. Paulie quoth:
I shall call the car
and my parents and teachers can
kiss my ass
But the car exploded later that same day. It had blown a head gasket. Quoth Paulie:
I forgot the edicts of the gods
And my hubris has brought me low
For I did not get a used car checked by a mechanic
Before handing over cash
Suburbanites often use koans as a tool of spiritual mastery. Here is the response of the 20th century Suburbanite Master Chewy when questioned by his wife.
The wife of the master entered the family room. “Are you ever going to clean the mirror in the bathroom?” She asked. The master replied, “What mirror? What bathroom?”
We hope you enjoyed this brief survey. Unfortunately, time does not allow us to give even a passing introduction to suburban religious holidays, the analects of suburbia, the lawn restoration of 1979, or the neo-suburban philosophers of the early 2000s. Perhaps, if time and space allow, we can take up some of those topics in the future.
[From the Archives: This article was originally published, and possibly edited, by the publication The Currentivist on July 22, 2015. I have scraped and republished it because I can’t figure out any other way to leverage the Medium backlist.]
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