There's nothing quite like watching wrestling on TV. Especially when you watch the best pay-per-view event of the year, with all the right booking decisions and the first five-star match in a long, long time (it's not just me, Dave Meltzer agrees).
My only worry is that creating the hype around the finish to the John Cena v. CM Punk match involved keeping so many things absolutely secret that it could've starved WWE Creative of booking information which may mean that they have less to work with going forward. It looks like The Miz will win the WWE Championship on Monday week, which means that, unless that match ends in a controversial finish, we're setting up for The Miz v. John Cena for the belt at Summerslam (surely no one can question the latter's right to be in the main event after the magnificent storytelling we saw him contribute to at MitB), which feels like a spent rivalry.
The only possible swerve I can see as of this moment is an immediate cash-in on the winner of Miz v. Mysterio by Alberto Del Rio, which would give us Del Rio v. Cena or, at a stretch, Del Rio v. Cena v. Miz/Mysterio (whoever drops the belt to Del Rio). There could be layers of complexity added to this as well - a gimmick match or outside interference. The latter would only work if it's by Punk himself (which would eat into the credibility of his contractual deadlock-driven departure) or The Rock (which is plain unlikely). Coming off the high of MitB, my heart isn't exactly singing at these prospects.
Looking slightly more long-term, I'm really unsure about this Triple H-taking-over angle as well. He's done nothing to prove that he's got it in him to be lead booker - indeed, his only aggressively groomed acquisition speaks no English, was drafted to the main roster too soon, forces his opponents to work with him under dangerously difficult lighting, has created zero emotional investment from fans in four months since his debut and is now under suspension for failing a drug test.
Moreover, lest people forget, Hunter was part of The Kliq, alongside Shawn Michaels and Kevin Nash, both of whom have more than a working relationship with WWE currently and could easily lobby for more face time on WWE programming (Nash already has), very possibly at the expense of up-and-comers. To be blunt, Hunter has rub a lot of people the wrong way in the past and, now that he's ostensibly in control of booking, it isn't difficult to imagine a scenario where the only way to get noticed is to rub him a certain way. For all his dislike of John Laurinaitis (who has more in common with Michael Cole than you might think, in that he's intensely disliked and is a poor man's J.R.), Hunter has neither found a replacement for Laurinaitis or proved that he is, in any way, better in convincing talent to sign their deals.
The other note of caution is sounded by economics. Despite the Punk angle over the last month, TV numbers haven't picked up at all - the 6/27 Punk promo drew a peak rating of 3.16 (symbolic, if something ever was, of the Stone Cold T-shirt Punk wore that night) and the highest rated Raw since then hasn't topped 3.2 (I stand to be corrected by the MitB PPV figures as and when they come in, but I will be surprised in the extreme if they top Wrestlemania 27, even though MitB was a far superior show in terms of content). Quixotically, it appears as if the Punk factor has had no effect on the bottom line (apologies for another not-so-subtle Stone Cold pun). I don't know why.
It's got people talking, though, and that's usually a good thing. Post-MitB, though, given the amount of expectation that now rests on the shoulders of the WWE and Hunter in particular, I'm not so sure.
There has been a routine behind guests coming home for dinner for as long as I can remember. It usually begins in early afternoon in the kitchen and ends with dessert and/or a cup of kehva (which inevitably results in someone asking my Mum about the recipe/ingredients). Over the years, even our little skirmishes before the arrival of the guests - what each person should wear, when we should emerge from the bedroom (we have a tendency of never greeting the guests at the door as a full complement), what should be laid out on the dining table - have started to follow similar patterns.
We tend to visit the same topics over the course of the pre-dinner conversation as well - a wide range of moral-of-the-story anecdotes, the state of higher education in India, how everything around us is now a big business, a few funny stories about mutual friends, a couple of semi-stories that never reach their conclusion because it turns out that the acquaintance one person in the conversation is talking about is unknown to everyone else, a couple of stories about how some acquaintances are known to everyone else (and hence the 'what a small world' conclusion) and, more recently, owing to the direction my life has taken in the last few years, everyone's two cents on law and the legal profession.
Dinner draws those threads into an even bigger tangle - more stories emerge and it turns out that we know more people than we did an hour or so ago. However, the dialogue is less intense now, due to the greater attention to the food on the table. From a culinary perspective, the dinners we host are never too complicated - we're restricted by my Mum's refusal to present at dinner something that hasn't been made in the kitchen that day (cumulative conditions) and by the inability of the rest of us to cook anything at all. Hence, the focus tends to be on ensuring that the guests have eaten enough, though we're not nearly as bad as some of our relatives for whom guests refusing a second (or, in cases of extremely disagreeable relatives, a third) serving is a treasonable offence, or at least a reason to put those guests at the back of the line of people to be invited to dinner again sometime.
Once dinner is done, there is a five-minute interlude where nothing seems to happen - this appears to me to be a combination of the satisfaction of being well-fed, the minimal turnaround time we (as hosts) have in getting the next leg of the evening ready and moving the venue away from the dining table and back into the living room, the guests' awkwardness in not knowing what to do while we go from being perfectly normal fellow dinner-eaters to suddenly scurrying around trying to wind up the dinner table and move dishes to the kitchen (any help by the guests in contributing to which is, of course, cheerily and summarily turned down) and the lingering thought in the back of everyone's mind that all the threads that have been so carelessly laid out now need to be packed in.
The dessert and/or kehva part of the evening is like the recap to a saas-bahu episode - it is great that you could find the time to come, we totally have to do this again (on a larger scale, inviting all the hapless unknowing people we dragged into the conversation this evening, if possible), a reciprocal visit demand to the home of the guests is placed on record and immediately accepted, with a vague time-frame mooted but never finalised and a bullet-point plan of taking some discussions forward, sharing contacts of the abovementioned hapless unknowing persons and a promise to stay in touch and plan the next such dinner is drawn up.
We hosted one of these dinners today and I realised that no matter how long it's been since the last one and no matter how different the surroundings are of what we now call home, some things will never change.
I re-read the following extract from an email I wrote to a close friend about two-and-a-half months ago, which articulates my views on God and other things probably better than I have ever managed anywhere else - read, share and feel free to disagree:
"I honestly believe that the shortest distance between two points always seems most appealing to people and even if you, individually, grow up to resent it, there isn't much of a chance you'll make other people think the same. And that's because taking the shortest, easiest route rather than a longer, more enriching one is a genuine dilemma - you'll wake up one day thinking you should pick one, you'll wake up another day convinced about the other.
And given that most people have other things to worry about in a more immediate sense than the procedural propriety of their ways (and that's exactly what it is), they're more likely to fall on the easier side of the line. Which is why people always want disproportionately more than what they've worked for (or, in [my] eyes, deserve); which is why most peoples' lives ([mine] included) tends to be a constant exercise in finding a way around their limitations rather than embracing them.
If you push this line of thinking to its breaking point, someone in defence of the majority of people will say something to the effect of how a lot of our circumstances are either insurmountable or pre-ordained and therefore there's no harm or wrong in blaming circumstances (or explaining our shortcomings or failures with reference to circumstances). Now, I've searched for a long time for an effective counter to this and, at least vis-a-vis the "pre-ordained circumstances" part, I don't have an answer. Which is perhaps why belief in God or a supernatural entity is so common - it becomes this repository which we debit with all that we don't understand.
That line you quoted ("whereas in earlier ages, religion led to a degree of fatalism, contemporary understanding pulls paradoxically towards an acceptance of risk but away from a tolerance of results when they occur") is extraordinary - not for how cynical it is, but for how unpolished and central an expression it is of what we think. Think about it - the earliest people who first started debiting the God account with everything they didn't understand would've noticed, over a period of time, that human development, especially science, started to chip away at that debit account and started to place more and more power with human reason. Assuming humans have not regressed significantly, it would seem to suggest that, at this point in human civilization, we know more about the world than humans before us did. Yet, stubbornly, we hold on to that earliest form of faith which taught us to attribute everything outside our control to God. And, naturally, we find it difficult to accept that things are often in our control because we just don't want to act on it.
But your other question - where do we go from here - is the harder one, of course. I think one thing we must do is keep questioning. It is what has brought us this far and it is, paradoxically, the reason why, today, we think we know less about the universe than anyone before us when, in fact, we know more. But alongside that questioning, we must arrive upon and stick by a settled core of meaning that we're comfortable with on most mornings when we wake up. You can make this settled core of meaning as narrow or as broad as you want - you could encompass religion, spiritual belief, self-belief, morals, ethics, values or any combination of them, if you want.
My own experience has taught me that the larger your settled core of meaning, the more peace you see in the world around you. To me, that's the immediate benefit - I like feeling a sense of order around me and, in fact, I've grown to want it. The long-term instability/uncertainty, of course, is that I will often try to fit things into this picture that can't be fit. But that frustration, over the last couple of years or so in particular, has also come with the growing acceptance that there's no harm in admitting that there still are things about the universe that I don't understand. There's no shame in that whatsoever because to insist otherwise, I feel, would be to say that I've got it all figured out. And that, of course, doesn't agree with my settled core of meaning.
A lot of this struggle, predictably, will be with faith and what you believe in. I'm in no position whatsoever to prescribe anything to you, of course, but I did start feeling at some point that God must exist because there's just no point to existence otherwise. It's very emotive and it's very instinctive, but it hasn't let me down so far. :-)
But to be entirely honest with you, I don't have answers. I'm only trying."
I've been wilfully caught up in the self-defeating quest to get to know myself for years.
I've never expected anything beneficial to result from such a quest.
I tend to evoke extremely polarised reactions from people I get to know in passing. Consequently, only those people who know me inside-out would honestly claim that I'm a person who's just "alright."
It's not a coincidence that the description I've laid out above has no fewer than, title included, eleven references to me (make that twelve).
I'm affectionately referred to as "Ego."
I think that last statement might have given away a tad too much.