Kirby, Colomboscope and A Rant Against All These Idiots

I was at Cinnamon’s Colomboscope the other week. To be honest, I liked it.

Well, some of it.

Most of it was a bunch of expats explaining Sri Lanka to foreigners. Generally, this includes well-meaning but meandering discussions on class conflict and a lot of thought on where Colombo is headed.

This is ironic, because the people actually listening to this were definitely not the Common Man – you couldn’t have found a more culturally disconnected bunch of people if you’d tried. There were your expat teens (ratio of clothes to makeup – 1:1000), your Colombo inbred aunties, your Sri Lankan hippies (it’s too hot to be really hippy, but hey, we try), your irate bloggers and a bunch of people killing time until TEDx.

To wit, this is the sort of people who will nod their heads, say “we need to look at this problem before it overwhelms us” and then break for lunch leaving the actual thinking to someone else. The Common Man, Homo Communia, was definitely not one of the species present. Homo Intelligentsia was also in short supply.

(Note that Shadow Scenes was brilliant – and thoroughly thought-provoking, and totally should be put up on a website somewhere so that people can rip stuff off it and share on social media and spread the ideas.  Groundviews has an excellent album of the exhibits on Facebook. In fact, I’ve taken one of those images for the featured image of this article. Thanks, Sanjana.)

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But back to the bourgeoise story.  Thus it was that I found myself in a couple of sessions,  listening to a Buddhist monk and an Christian breatharian. More specifically, the Venerable Upatissa Thero, Theravada monk and possible British wit, and the Reverend Kirby De Lanerolle of WOW, which to my great disappointment stands not for World Of Warcraft, but for Works Of Wonder.  Before we get too hung up on the “Christian” label, let me point out that modern Christianity has more divisions than a Sri Lankan political party, and so I use this in a very general sense.

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Kirby is famous. He’s been on National Geographic, which is usually an honor reserved for crocodile hunters and rare African cats. He also made the papers last year when a story started circulating of a Sri Lankan man who claimed to have lived for five years without food. He’s also the co-founder of the Warehouse Project.

The monk went first. These were two separate parts of the same session, so it wasn’t a debate. Upatissa Thero came to the stage and was introduced: a British citizen who became a Mahayana monk and then stumbled onto Zen Buddhism and ended up here in Sri Lanka as a Theravada monk. “Well, it seemed a good idea at the time,” he explained jovially.

Upatissa was a jovial monk. People have asked me to write about him, but perhaps the closest I can get to actually describing the guy is to say that Sri Lanka needs more monks like him.  His crowning statement was regarding a question on prayer: “Hey, man, I don’t know all the answers. Try it. It it works for you, that’s cool. All I’m saying is I have a different path.” Pretty soon the monk had the audience laughing and was arguing Richard Dawkins with a more scientifically bent member of the audience.

Upatissa is a reminder of the sad irony of Lankan Buddhism: that many of those not born in the land of Buddhism grasp it better than we seem to do. Modern Sri Lankan Buddhism is a far cry from the philosophy that it’s touted to be. Buddhism has become a bona fide religion. You are born into it, whether you like it or not. You go to the temple with your family, whether you like it or not. You put down flowers in front of an effigy and pray for whatever – better luck, more money, more rice. On paper, we say it’s respect for the Buddha. Inside, it’s the worship of idols. The temple is more like a guilt trip – more like a illusory reset button of sorts. We’ve missed the wood for the trees.

The stranger, having looked at the plain from atop the mountain, perhaps understands its shape better than those who are born and die in the flatlands.

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Then it was time for Kirby.

By [all 36 million] the gods, what an orator. Kirby is an elevator pitch on a different level. He began by extolling, rather vaguely, his sinful past.This he eased into his philosophy, dishing out phrases such as “I was looking for the next high: then I found the Most High.” I’m not going to repeat his words, but someone please hire this guy to pitch companies to venture capitalists.

Kirby is full of bullshit. His church and beliefs espouse things worthy of a Supernatural episode. I’m not going to rant against it, because my interaction with him was very limited, but here’s the takeaway:Screenshot_163

One, he’s smart. Smart enough to take scientific fact and represent it as the proof of God. He’s also working with a set of beliefs that let him to just that. If I’d asked him about the curvature of space and time, no doubt he would have said that that’s clear proof that God works in mysterious ways.

Two, he likes the sound of his own voice.

Three, he genuinely believes that his God and Jesus is the right path.

Notice something about these three points? They’re basic attributes of most successful religious preachers, not just Kirby. As long as a bunch of people believe that their Invisible Friend in the Sky is the One True Guy, we will have people like Kirby running the marketing operations. It’s inevitable.

In fact, if Kirby is guilty of anything, it’s the rest of his drivel: that faith can heal (try telling that to all the cancer patients, old sport),  that you can get by without a doctor, and if you believe in something, reality will make it so that it happens. I’m sorry. The universe is a large place. It does not care about the delusions of a speck of dust.

He’s also guilty of  influencing idiots like Prince Leone, a sort of deluded religious word salad generator who recently spat out a grammatically compelling argument against free will, where he pointed out that God, not voters, actually placed Maithripala Sirisena at the forefront of Sri Lankan politics.

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And no, I am not responsible for this terrible Photoshop – it’s off his own page. This man would have gone places in the 14th century, though perhaps not as a graphic designer.

Let’s just say that sometimes I’m glad I live in a mostly Buddhist country with a bunch of other faiths and cultures thrown into the melting pot. The last thing we need is to be governed by madmen with the Host of Delusion and Grandeur at their backs.

32 thoughts on “Kirby, Colomboscope and A Rant Against All These Idiots”

  1. Pingback: Kirby, Colomboscope and A Rant Against All These Idiots | සතුටු වැස්ස බ්ලොග් කියවනය

  2. Sacramento Upatissa is not British, he is (United States of) American … more specifically Californian, even more specifically Sacramentan (hence his name) … his British-style humour comes from the fact that he’s a California Geek … they take their BritCom rather seriously …

  3. I myself as a Christian find it hard to digest Kirby’s beliefs. Trust me when I say this.. many Christians question his views and teachings. Though he calls himself a Christian his teachings are definitely not inline with the fundamentals of Christianity… so I wouldn’t categories him and his teachings with the “C” word. But that’s just my view.

    Either way let me not judge another’s faith regardless of what it is; as long as it doesn’t disrupt anyone’s fundamental rights.

    But let me stop with this comment. The organisers should have picked a better “Christian” clergyman (or should I say an actual Christian clergyman). Their choice is like a cricketer attempting a drive to a bouncer. Of course unless it was their intention from the start.

  4. Kirby and his church are a fraud.

    People who have tried to be breatharians have starved, those who claim to practise it and live need to cheat.

    http://www.theguardian.com/uk/1999/sep/22/gerardseenan1

    http://gawker.com/5905479/woman-dies-of-starvation-while-on-an-all-sunlight-diet

    http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2012/04/27/eat-the-sun-sun-worshiping-fantasy-versu/

    It is not unsurprsing that Kirby and his family were associated with the politicians from the MR regime, he was the coordinating secretary to some minister I believe. Birds of feather flock together.

    I am very suspicious of these new found religions, they are very effective at gaining followers and raising cash, but very little if any transparency in accounting and almost no accountability.

    Some basic standards are explained here:

    https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/355533/faithgovenglish.pdf

    1. …but very little if any transparency in accounting and almost no accountability.

      Same with every church, temple, synagogue, kovil, and mosque in the whole wide world. The big churches anyway. No diocese (or televangelist) ever publishes financials. So Kirby is just doing what’s normal in his line of work.

  5. After reading this, I again rue the fact that I had no idea about this event else would have definitely gone… If only to see the Kirbinator in action. I feel evangelists should be sucked into marketing by multinational companies. Think they’d do less damage!

  6. Hi, your post was just as shallow and indulgent as the people you are criticising. Plenty to be said about Colomboscope and it’s well-meaning contradictions. Even more to be said about the damaging effects Kirby’s brand of evangelism. But if you’re not going be substantial, thoughtful and constructive, with sentences like, “His church and beliefs espouse things worthy of a Supernatural episode. I’m not going to rant against it, because my interaction with him was very limited”, you’re just going to sound like a five hundred word oxymoron.

    PS: I wouldn’t have spend the time of day commenting on this post, if it weren’t for the number of times it appeared on my wall. Confirmation bias is so share-happy.

    1. If I want to be substantial, thoughtful and constructive, I will. If I want to indulge myself in a rant, I will 🙂 It does say “Rant” in the title, does it not?

  7. I think its sad.

    You begin by glossing over the event, speak glowingly of a Buddhist clergyman and then disparagingly of a Christian one.

    Thing is, this is not a debate on faiths or beliefs. Colomboscope was formed with the idea of portraying people, places, lifestyles and their ideologies.

    So what if he wants to eat air (or whatever it is that he eats?) that’s his ideology and since it works for him, he preaches it.

    So does the monk. Except, he is more genial about it. And even if he woke up tomorrow and decided he would quit his robes and become a hippy, endorsing free love and herbal joints, then his fans would have to deal with that..because essentially his personality will not change. Just his beliefs.

    This article reeks of intolerance. Really surprised to see it coming from you.

    1. To me, this is a debate on beliefs – and I have given my opinion as such. Being tolerant does not require me to sit by without calling out bullshit when I see it (as you yourself have exercised this right – if you believe my post is BS, you call it out). Of course both you and I are entitled to our opinions.

      By the way, if you seriously believe that someone’s personality does not depend on their beliefs, I suggest exploring psychology a bit more.
      Cheers, and have a good day 🙂

      1. I respect your point of view. I guess what rankled is that Kirby and his gang are labelled as Church/Christians and that was juxtaposed with the monk and his faith and life patterns..
        Kirby cannot be compared to the generic Christian, he does as he wills and hides under the umbrella of his grandpa who was a Methodist Minister (which is how he has now been made a ‘Bishop’ (?) )

        As for tolerance, yes, there is being politically correct, and then there is being tolerant becuse we need to respect others beliefs. Having said that, I do occassionaly wonder where to draw the line.

    2. The day these beliefs stop promising miracles for money to the desperate, then it would be about beliefs. There is a difference between preaching your faith and performing a con. The only reason you think that this point of view is somehow intolerant (although the writer may be) is because I’m guessing you have no idea of the destructive things that Kirby’s church has been up to.

  8. Do you mean the gold and diamonds that appear out on ordinary Perera & Son’s cutlets? It’s amazing what the bakers to the nation can get up to. The congregation praying for BMW’s – truly the church of mammon.

    1. Depends on what you mean by prayer. “Intention, o monks, I call karma,” the Buddha is reported to have said. If one meditates with intention — such as mettā for a friend or an enemy — observable changes often become manifest. Changes in oneself, of course. But also in others, as I have personally observed. One or two incidents could be coincidence. As Rupert Shelkirk points out, “The plural of anecdote is data,” and over the years I’ve experienced a lot of data.
      What I wanted to get across in the talk is the idea that we are individually and personally responsible for our own spiritual awakening, and that there are many ways to reach that state. So I wanted to be an encourager, a facilitator, a cheerleader for all those Buddhists, Christians, Muslims, and those urbanites who consider themselves spiritual but not religious. Those who up to this point have shied away from spiritual things.

  9. As much we are all entitled to voice our opinion, it would be nice for a change to appreciate things for what they are.. The beauty of that building( albeit in the eye of the beholder) would not have been known to many with out this.
    It’s some thing I will not forget. The complexity of the view, the smells and the art that it show cased will probably never happen again. And Well done to the organisers and artists. And thank you.

    1. Which building? If you’re talking about Rio the movie theater, i have met several people who have managed to sneak in with their friends to watch R rated movies during their school years. And its a very common sight for those who either walk past Slave Island or for people like me who hop on a 138 after work. We’ve seen enough of it trust me.

  10. “In fact, if Kirby is guilty of anything, it’s the rest of his drivel: that faith can heal (try telling that to all the cancer patients, old sport), that you can get by without a doctor, and if you believe in something, reality will make it so that it happens.”

    Actually some Christian priests will claim that sufferers of cancer have been cured by God, and will be able to get some “believers” to claim that they have been healed by the power of God. However, they do get stuck with this argument: http://whywontgodhealamputees.com/ Ask them why won’t God heal amputees?

  11. Kirby is the only publicly known member branded as a shady character, supported by his wife Feona, of the illustrious LANEROLLE family famous for Renowned Scholars, Artists,Professionals, Educationists and Chieftains who reached eminence in their respective fields. The famous Lanerolles for 13 generations , starting with the French Envoy the Lt of the Royal Navy of France Sieur Nanclers de la Nerolle (1672 A.D.) served the Church and State alike with honesty and with dignity. Writings of reliable Lankans such as Sir Paul Pieris, Prof. S. Arasaratnam, Dr James T.Rutnam, and Mr Tissa Jayatilake and the presentations of Ms Yasmin Rajapakse at Alliance Francaise de Ceylan and at the National Archives this year speak for the facts of the family’s achievements. Please be truthful Kirby! One cannot be a person of one book-the Bible. Read more…all around you are not fools. Empty vessels make a lot of sound like you. Those who know the other Lanerolles know that they have quality in every way. Self appointed leaders like you with your own titles are in a Fools’ Paradise. Feeding the needy physically like you is good! All else that you do and interpret are shallow and are not bright! Its a shame for all hardworking Lanerolles.

  12. I’ve got something to say……. but my voice is submerged in love. I would but say it is worth spending sometime in looking into the belief of science that proclaims earth is round but has no proofs attached to it. NASA has zero pictures of the full earth yet man went to moon and yet there are so many satellites in space, what we have is all composite images CGI. All blindly believe those images are real and never doubt it, the reason being, science is always true and considered divine truth.

    I challenge you to blog about the spoofs or truths that science created in the society, so that the generations can avoid being dumb fools believing with no proofs.

    Love you dear. Jesus bless you with wisdom knowledge and understanding

          1. hmmm I doubt an existence of a turtle of such size. But there are scientific proofs and scientists who are not dumb as me to prove this theory.

            Here’s a link to atleast consider those proofs. http://www.atlanteanconspiracy.com/2015/08/200-proofs-earth-is-not-spinning-ball.html?m=1

            I would like to add that the father of the spherical model Sir Copernicus did not have any scientific evidence to prove his heliocentric theory. I assume your very smart and intelligent. Did you ever ask your professor how did Copernicus prove his theory??? This is not a debate but a plethora of ideas to alteast consider the other side of the proof rather than blindly refuting it.

            Anyways if your smart intelligent and curious the you would atleast consider going through the proofs rather than argue about it.

          2. Yudhanjaya Wijeratne

            If you honestly believe the world is flat, it’s you who need to go through the proof, not me. Learn basic physics and look around.
            Either that, or you;re stupid. Go waste your time elsewhere.

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