Dinosaurs of Slack

Reflections from Deep Time in the Church of the SubGenius

Now that the Sacred Scribe of the Church of the SubGenius, Rev. Ivan Stang, is in harness writing for Culture Clutch, I suppose I may mix in my own observations as a long-time SubGenius, myself.

I think I’ve paid the dues. Each year in the climate-altered, near-tropical heat of the American Midwest (the steaming jungles of lower Ohio) I am speechifying at a certain annual SubGenius national gathering– more on that another time –preaching my sermons before crazed backwoodsmen and uninhibited, fanatical priestesses.

While the nation and the world slumber on, generally unaware of our existence (let alone our clandestine, ubiquitous penetration into the culture at large), we consolidate our gains.

Most, if not all Culture Clutch scriveners are, in point of fact– no kidding– dyed-in-the-wool SubGeniuses. Try that on your pianola.

And we elderly Subs plod onward, inculcating the Doctrine as we have, lo these many years.

As survivors from an apparently prehistoric past unthinkable to those who cannot envisage a pre-digital era, we ruefully observe the future we anciently predicted continue to come into being in this foretold (by us) Apocalyptic age.

It seems that the more twisted and insane the politics of our time becomes, the more the predictions and teachings of the Church (non- tax-exempt) seem to come into their own.

For example, one of the primary ideas we profess is, The SubGenius Must Have Slack.

Not that a SubGenius must be a “slacker,” whatever that may mean, or may have once meant.

No, they– we, search for personal time and space unsullied by the expectations and tropes of the surrounding System. And– pracice makes perfect! –we’re not surprised we end up finding that wished-for Slack.

Now, as we look around, we’re noticing that over time, incrementally, our vaunted ideal of Slack has become the wished-for destination of most other people, too.

These days you don’t have to be a SubGenius to seek out a personal state of being, unafiliated with the ostensible goals of Society at large. That yearning is becoming near-universal, even as traditional ambitions– to political, academic or economic goals– seem to be losing their luster by comparison among great sections of the population.

But we SubGeniuses are not dispirited.

Slack, to a SubGenius, is the ultimate value. Not just the opposite of tension, as its name suggests, it isn’t the byproduct of a favorable outcome– but the outcome itself. And it means much, much more than simply a relaxed state.

What it doesn’t specifically mean, for a genuine SubGenius, is a state of happiness resulting from the acquisition of some manufactured object.

That’s why the whole SubGenius thing remains peculiarly uncommercial, confounding the hopes of would-be entrepeneurs with a brainstorm that hey, they can make a lot of dough off this “Bob” stuff. Somehow they never do manage to spin SubGenius straw into Conspiracy gold.

Everything that comes at us from the culture at large, that assaults us continuously through all our connections and commmunication sources, suggests that one more purchase will complete the arc of our contentment.

If only, if only, we could upgrade to the next trendy electronic device or experience the fashionable cuisine du jour!

If only we could replace the TV with the most recent model, hi-def, 3-D or what have you.

If only we could get a table at that restaurant all the “real” people are talking about!

To live today is to be in a constant state of being pelted by these suggestions.

The shared arena of telecommunications, with its robotized, artificial intimacy, ensures that we’re bombarded pretty rapidly and continuously, too.

But SubGeniuses classify all such aims as what we call… False Slack.

Because experience shows that the attainment of the desired consumer object does not, after all, fill that empty spot in the soul. Instead, desire, still unrealized, leapfrogs to the next telecommunications device, the newest app, the trendiest haircut or the even hipper restaurant.

But you know, dag-blam it, these, too, it invariably turns out, will fail to bring true Slack. The satisfaction gained from them or any other material rewards is fleeting, if ever really achieved at all.

No, Slack comes, via the pleasure of time on one’s own, from a certain autonomy. The proud weirdo’s disengagement from the crowd.

The mighty advertising industry to the contrary, it is not possible to have everything. To attempt to follow that curve is to fail for certain.

To find the recondite refreshment of Slack, you only need to make a certain adjustment in the scale of your own personal values.

Look at the oft-seen pipe-smoking Head of “Bob,” the ubiquitous SubGenius symbol.

The depiction of SubGenius symbol J.R. “Bob” Dobbs doesn’t really project coolness or ironic detachment all that much, does it?

Nor does it wear the smirk of a “winner.” For us, succeeding while everyone else fails isn’t what it’s about.

If that inanely grining Face epitomizes anything by its expression, it is simply glee, enjoyment.

Get your house in order, get your ducks in a row. It’s later than you think.

As proto-SubGenius William Dunbar, a Fifteenth century Scottish poet advised,

“…be merry,
And give not for this world a cherry.”

And may you find whatever it is that brings you Slack.

Illustration by Hal Robins

About the Author
Hal Robins is a renowned underground comic artist and his work has appeared in Last Gasp’s Weirdo, Salon Magazine’s Dark Hotel and many other publications. For decades he has been the co-host of KPFA-Pacifica Radio's “Puzzling Evidence” program. Reverend Hal is the Master of Church Secrets for The Church of the SubGenius. As Dr. Howland Owll, he has served as MC for many unique San Francisco events, and is the principle of The Ask Dr. Hal Show, still currently running both as a live staged event and in-studio on Radio Valencia (radiovalencia.fm) Friday evenings. Hal contributed his unique vocal talents to the award-winning interactive game Half-Life.