The Pentabarf is Discordia’s equivalent of the Ten Commandments. Well, “equivalent” isn’t the right word.
Other religions sort out morality for you. They give you a moral compass; a list of things that you should do, and a list of things you shouldn’t do. Some people need this kind of guidance from above to make sense of the world.
Eris is not into this idea. She doesn’t think we need to keep passing forward this twisted and conflicted moral code from thousands of years ago. One of the problems with organized religions is that its adherents must internalize a bunch of conclusions that somebody else reached. They wrote down their conclusions, dressed them up in symbolism and mythological language, and told people that it’s the right way to live. If they made a mistake, or their conclusions aren’t relevant to the present day, it’s hard to roll back that dogma.
Flash forward a few thousand years. People are interpreting the bible literally, they are trying to make sense of modern times using a 2000 year old moral code, and it’s made them very confused about right and wrong. That’s how you get insane groups like the Westboro Baptists, who think they’re serving the greater good by picketing gay soldiers funerals and making everybody pissed off and miserable.
Mal and Omar built Discordia to reject zealots. They did not want to see religion wielded as an excuse to crucify and persecute people. Literal or fanatic adherence to religion short circuits critical thought. So they built in a trap – Discordians are required to blaspheme and perform heresy. Nobody can claim to tell the difference between real and fake Discordians, because there is no orthodoxy. You have to think for yourself, shmuck.
The Five Seasons
One of the recurring patterns in Discordian thought is the seasonal cycle. Chaos, Confusion, Discord, Bureaucracy, Aftermath – that’s the cycle Discordians are interested in. Things start off in a state of primal Chaos. Then they progress towards Order as we try to make sense of that Chaos. The Order crescendos into prominence before becoming subsumed by Disorder. This sets the stage for a new iteration of the cycle.
The Pentabarf follows this dance. The first commandment establishes what we’re talking about. The second commandment imposes a little order. The third commandment tells Discordians to commit all sorts of heresy, which in itself then becomes an orthodox tradition. The fourth one reinforces the orthodoxy and is purely negative in nature. THIS IS HOW DISCORDIANS ACT. HOW BUREAUCRATIC. Then the fifth commandment pulls the rug out from under you and teases you for letting yourself believe in that bullshit.
Finally, let’s take a look at this line:
after 10 weeks & 11 hours of intensive scrutiny he discerned that the message could be read by standing on his head and viewing it upside down.
These are not just random numbers. There’s a joke here if you look for it.
10 weeks and 11 hours is a specific amount of time: 1691 hours.
Notice anything funny about that number?
If you stand on your head and view it upside down, it’s still 1691. Right-side up or upside down, it’s the same thing.
Mal and Omar would like to show us that opposites are balanced, another recurring Discordian theme. As Mal-2 suggests in the Greater Poop interview, even false things contain truth. This is important to establish, as Discordian thought plays with the inverse of traditional thought. Nonsense can teach us something about sense.
On page 00009, Mal-2 will return to this theme with a Niels Bohr quote “The opposite of a trivial truth is false; the opposite of a great truth is also true. “