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Wubba Lubba Dub Dub!| Arun Philip

Arun Philip

The title of this article is a catch-phrase from the adultswim show “Rick and Morty”. It means: “I’m in great pain. Please help me”. This sets the tone of the main character, Rick Sanchez, and of the show as well. Here, I would like to talk about one of my favorite episodes from the show, “Get Schwifty”.

 The episode starts with a giant talking head’s appearance, causing changes to the Earth’s gravity, and thereby causing immediate climate change etc. It has only one thing to say, “Show me what you got.” Rick immediately recognizes it to be a Cromulon, and what it wants: an original hit song. Rick and Morty go to the Pentagon and inform the US president what they know. Unfortunately, all the famous musicians are dead, and it is up to Rick and Morty to make the next “it” song.

 Meanwhile, the appearance of the Cromulon have caused many disasters such as earthquakes. A new religion is formed known as Headism, headed by Principal Vagina(real name, possibly Scandinavian), which worships the giant talking head. When Rick and Morty perform their song(Get Schwifty), the Cromulon is visibly pleased, which Principal Vagina and the rest of the Headists mistakenly believe to be a result of their efforts.

 However, to overcome this obstacle, Rick could have gone to any other dimension and continued his life there, like Rick and Morty did in “Rick’s Potion #9”. However, Rick has a fighting spirit, a rebellious streak, that forces him to want to fight till he can. It is his desire to rebel, and not some survivor instinct that makes Rick agree to help the US government.

 Freedom, I feel, is the one true thing that Rick treasures more than anything. It is not constricted in being able to do whatever he wants, but is also about how he gets to decide what he wants. He is disgusted at the prospect of being a puppet, and enjoys being a puppet master- but it’s OK if he isn’t a puppet master.

 In “Rick’s Potion #9”, Morty is walking around hazily, confronting an existential crisis, which is only amplified by Mazzy Star’s beautiful “Look on down from the bridge” in the background, while Rick just pulls out a beer from the fridge and joins Summer, Morty’s older sister, to watch TV. Both Rick and Morty went through the same experience, i.e. of burying their own dead bodies, yet Rick is surprisingly nonchalant.

 Rick knows that his existence is pointless, and that everyone else’s is even more so. This realization has led him to the person that he is today, not caring about danger or consequences, and trying, yet failing, to care about his family. The only thing he truly cares about anymore is not being pushed around. And alcohol.

 One thing I like about R&M is its ability to not glamorize anything. Being a satire, of course, this quality is paramount, but its predecessors (The Simpsons etc.) do have a tendency to look at classic family values as some holy grail that has to be protected at all costs.

 It would have been very tempting for the writers to make Rick some Superbrain Le Moose (a la Sherlock), or vilify his intellect, as a Brain v. Heart storyline, but luckily, they didn’t.

 Rick is unhappy. That is the story of R&M. He is unhappy because no one can, or hope to, understand him, a fact he is aware of. No one is willing to listen to him, except for Morty, who does so religiously. For Rick, however, this is an exercise in futility, because Morty can’t understand science as well as he can, but he enjoys the process nevertheless. It is as pointless as “rational” people trying to debate with “religious” people to “impart reason”, and vice versa.

 This is where “Get Schwifty” links in a larger way to the entire show. The episode “Get Schwifty” is, in effect, making fun of religious practices, but in keeping with the philosophical approach of the show, we look at the bigger picture- how different is following rational thought from following religious thought?

 R&M has taken an antagonistic view towards religious practices, mostly, rituals done in blind faith. Wisecrack’s analysis of this episode was very interesting. They took help from Aristotle’s list of logical fallacies. For example, the “Cum Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc Fallacy” i.e. thinking that the occurrence of an event is due to the occurrence of a preceding event. This is illustrated when as soon as Prinicipal Vagina finishes his prayer, the head gets happy and leaves, while in fact, this was caused by Rick and Morty’s performance.

 But an interesting aspect is how the writers have chosen to show Headism not just as an example of bizarre religious rituals, but on why and how people believe.

A paper named: “How Convenient! The epistemic rationale of Self-validating belief systems” gives the idea that people who are religious, or believe in a deity, are not simply believing for the sake of it, but that they are also rationalizing, but only over rationalizing to a point where it becomes absurd. While the absurdity of this is debatable, this points us to a surprising direction- that religion isn’t always about blind faith.

The Headists do not just choose to follow someone or something, they see a direct logical relation between the disasters coming to a stop, and Principal Vagina’s prayers. This appealed to their reason such that they were satisfied. How different is that from the practices of the “rational” people?

The sense of absurdity is only manufactured when we apply one system of logic in another, completely different, system.

But does that mean that any one system is wrong? Possibly. But does it mean that any one system is correct? I can never know. It also means that I can never know if another system is wrong.

Another thing I’ve noticed with the rationalists and the religious are their similarities. To name a few, their obsession with one fundamental authority (“Logic”, “God[s]”), a strict adherence to certain methodologies that somehow ends up defining the entire system (“pointing out logical fallacies”, “rituals”) and a concrete belief that they’re right.

What does this mean? This means that the “rational” and the “religious” are almost one and the same, in the sense that both of these systems work on several axioms and a blind faith in them.

So, how do we live in a world where no one can be sure whether they’re right or wrong? My answer is: Let It Be. Stick to your guns, and hope that you’re right but remember that it doesn’t really matter if you’re right or wrong, and just enjoy some music if you can.

I’d like to end by quoting the prayer AA members recite:

                     “God, grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change,                        the courage to change the things we can,                         and the wisdom to know the difference “.

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