Who’s the Pope?

Back in my high school and university days, I hung out with a gang of childhood friends. We loved our weekends and typically would get together Friday night and play poker or bridge at Lumpy’s house. As the evening wore on we would get hungry and jump in a car and head off to the Burger Baron for hamburgers and chips. All except Grant. He was a Catholic and was bound by papal decree to eat no meat on Friday’s. We gave him a hard time about this. We were spiritual anarchists, free to eat as we pleased while Grant was a serf of the church, bound by their code.

Reflecting back those many years, I saw that we considered ourselves quite free then, and later when I was the first of our mob to turn 21, then the legal age of consent, I would buy us a case of beer and join my underage and scofflaw friends with burgers and beer. Grant had no trouble with the beer, by the way, but stuck with the Pope on the meat thing. We didn’t think too deeply at the time about drinking while under age and I certainly didn’t think about being a bootlegger. The consequences of our breaking the law would have been far more severe than Grant breaking the meat edict. He could spill the beans to his priest on his next confession and perform some penance. We might end up in court and depending on the judge suffer anything from a slap on the wrist with a small fine to something more severe. We never thought about that. Clearly we never thought about our lawmakers and politicians in the way that Grant thought about the pope. Thinking back, we never thought about anyone that way, not even our parents. I was Popeless. I’ve never had a spiritual or political person above me to whom I felt any sort of obedience.

What’s at steak here is much more than being the pope about eating a hamburger on Friday. It’s about who’s calling the shots. What can I eat? What can I drink? What and where and when can I smoke? How about what job can I pursue, where can I live, who can I marry? What choices are really mine to make?

I did a bit of research on meatless Fridaysand quickly was overwhelmed with way too much information. I know for most of us whether we have meat on  Friday or not is considered a personal choice. When something as simple as this choice is taken over by someone else, the issue soon becomes more dramatic than Ben Hur. Follow the link I’ve given and you’ll see what I mean. The complications and justifications that fall out of this simple intrusion into free choice become horrific.

For a much more serious example of having someone else choose what you and I can ingest I strongly recommend Chasing the Screamby Johann Hari. This book is all about the war on drugs and what this war has cost humanity. I cannot offer a better example of the unintended consequences that can follow turning over your freedom to choose to some authority.

Now, as I write these words, I’m proposing that each of us reclaim our right to choose. I’m proposing that we take on living a life that has us come alive, to play and work together following  a simple code, one with only three rules: do no harm, be your word, and everything by agreement. I am proposing that we build A World of Honour together from these simple proposals. In such a world, who is the Pope? Who calls the shots? Do we have a pope or ping or any other form of ruler?

I’ve already offered my answer to this. In your world, you call the shots. Looked at this in another light, you are the Pope. In my world, I am the Pope. I call the shots. “Oh, wow!”, some might say, “I can do whatever I want!”, with a mischievous gleam. But doing what we want is bound by our agreed-upon rules. “Whatever I want”, as long as what we do is harmless to others and not in disagreement to any promises we’ve made. A World of Honour is not some nihilistic playground for vandals, thieves and psychopaths.

We are honour bound to each other in this ideal world. This is heady stuff. Suddenly you are the pope in your papal domain – but so is everyone else in theirs. But this begs the question. What holds our current world together? What stops us from doing harm to each other? Is it fear of being caught out, fear of being put in prison for breaking the law? I say it’s not fear that holds our world together but respect. We live together mostly as mutual popes already. But we don’t know this. I’m saying that we’re ignorant of this and it’s this ignorance that keeps us in the dark – and keeps us tolerating external rule.

Another word for what holds A World of Honour together is responsibility. In a world of equal popes, each of us is responsible for keeping our code. There is no higher authority to keep us common folk in line because there are no common folk. There are only equals.

That’s my ideal. To live in a world of equals – not equals in importance or wealth or talent or any other measurement except that of being equal in being master of our domain.

One thought on “Who’s the Pope?

  1. I would prefer to live in a world where we agreed we were not the pope. Why do you need a pope role in your world (which I might remind you is actually mine, or at the very least we share it until such time as we agree on whose it is or can no longer make agreements)

    I understand it wasn’t until 1966 that the Catholics had freedom to not eat meat, I cannot calculate the year when your buddy Grant chose to not eat meat on Fridays, so I am not sure if this is a critique on the poor quality of the fish burger at Burger Baron, or whether or not the pope was involved..


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s