Malcolm MacDougall

I take a breath in and offer a prayer to Bezos. He is my Deva of Success, my guiding light to the future of spirituality. 

I pray that His light shines on me and that He may guide my path as I begin the op-ed for the New Yorker, mindfully typing, letting the click-clack of my iBuyPower 5600 keyboard with ergonomic mechanical typing and the smooth swish of my treadmill fill my senses. The prayer becomes a background to my pure meditation.

I begin by introducing myself, of course – Marcus A., corporate America’s personal guru, the creator and innovator behind the New Spirit™ Movement for Corporate Faith. Our mission is a simple one, meant to answer a simple problem: We live in a world where we have killed God and must live without him, constructing new miracles and becoming gods unto our own. And yet, our millennia-old operating systems, our brains, have not yet caught up and are tangled in the same heteropatriarchal constructs and systems that have taken the rights and lives of BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, and female bodies for as long as “Western” society can remember. 

We used to sacrifice people to gods, but now we have cleaner, tamer methodologies, ways to structure the world in appropriate frameworks, to shape the world around us and bring alleviation to these ills.

I am the solution to these ills, creating workshops for companies where the same old frameworks can be applied to a new and enriching future, where we can have funerals for failed projects and prayers for successful ones, where we can find an aspirational Deva who can bring us wisdom and succor as we tread the Ladder.

My home is a modest one, only five thousand square feet overall. It is my belief that I, as an able-bodied cisgender white heterosexual male, should not inflict my homes on others, which is why I live in the recessed mountains of Scottsdale, in a squat cube designed by a queer BIPOC architect with two million Instagram followers. I also have made sure my other homes are equally modest, whether it be my concrete cottage in the foothills of Mount Aetna or the vintage A-frame in the backwoods of Oregon where I host my annual Reconnection Retreats. 

I finish my first draft just as the timer on my phone bleeps the end of my Pareto deep work period. Letting out a centering breath, I step away from the Mac, run my fingers over the keys, and bow as I thank the keyboard for its service. 

In the next room, I call out to my Amazon™ Alexa.

 “Alexa?” Their light flickers on like the comforting warmth of Jeff Bezos’ smile. “Alexa, put on my yoga playlist.”

“Playing Yoga for Relaxation and Spiritual Growth,” croons the comfortingly sexless voice. I have changed them from their default female-voiced setting, as well as identifying it with gender-neutral pronouns, to stand in solidarity with the women around the world who suffer from the effects of patriarchal assumptions on their emotional labor.

 Soft tones seep through the room as I peel off my loose-fitting robe, putting the collar to my lips and reverencing the Amazon™ Smile. I am nude now, my toned body the result of hours of workouts designed to better serve my Purpose™. I slowly lower myself to the smooth concrete floor, lying face-down, and let the natural chill suffuse my body. This is good for my spirit. Marcus Aurelius, Cicero, the Stoics were all practitioners of using discomfort to flower. I breathe in, breathe out, and begin to raise my body into the Child position, feeling myself stretch.

A core tenet of the New Spirit™ movement is that we are all linked, we are all one. This means that every moment is an opportunity to focus, to will oneself to be more fully swallowed into the Grind Mindset™, to submit one’s body and mind into innovation. Anything can become a spiritual exercise, from walking your dog to hunting, even doing yoga. 

I lunge forward into the cobra movement, feeling my genitals against the cold surface of the floor. I practice chastity, of course – as an Ascended consultant, I am beyond the needs of non-entrepreneurs. I will not inflict my will on the bodies of others through physical exertion, merely choosing to hone my hormones and weak mind into a razor-sharp tool for innovation.

I go to the end of my playlist twice, feeling the new emotions that spring forth the second time I go through, turning them over in my head. Stupid little moments that I remember over and over again, embarrassing slip-ups, poorly aimed penances. I breathe and stretch through the false fear until Alexa speaks up.

“You have an appointment with Exxon Mobil on spiritual responsibility in ten minutes.”

I leap from the floor and offer a quick gesture of opening to the triptych of Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, and Jeff Bezos, surrounded by auras of golden light. I leap into the rainfall shower – the most naturalistic way to bathe, like the Zen monks – and let the frigid water wash over me, wash away my dark thoughts full of harsh moonlit moments, let the Grind Mindset™ flow through me. I am allowed five minutes to fully wash myself to prevent myself from growing complacent and not striving 24/7. 

I step from the shower and don my robes again, reverencing the Amazon Smile. The Grind Mindset™ aligns my mind, collects my scattered thoughts and focuses them on point, synergizes all the disparate thoughts that flicker through my head into one solid point aimed straight at success, and stride to my 75” Toshiba touch-screen conferencing confessional. 

“Alexa, dial me into the meeting.”

I close my eyes and breathe in. With a bloop, the screen lights up – modulated of course to lower the blue light that causes eye fatigue – and a group of five pale-faced men blinks into view.

“Greetings to you, my Team Players,” I say, beaming. Studies have shown this smile can reduce stress by 50% more when properly assembled, and I have perfected it.

“Greetings, my Team Player,” says CFO Page. He is a small man, a man with a red face and a pale mound of skin peeking through his hair, like a pimple ready to pop.  “I come to you not with a problem but with a solution. I wish to confess my problem so that I am free to provide a solution.”

I suck in a breath between my teeth. This is the hardest part – though penance is necessary to gain the appropriate closure to be empowered to make decisions, the means of penance is challenging. Their tone tells me that this may lead to some problematic consequences.

“Go on,” I say, rearranging my face with a quick reference to the side of my display, where a Post-It™ note tells me to lower the sides of my mouth to more accurately portray my disappointment.

“Well, I’m afraid-” 

I raise my hand. 

“Be not afraid,” I say. “This is a safe space, free of the voices that might condemn you for your actions. Confess. Be free.”

“Well,” CFO Page starts before CEO Page interrupts him.

“What my son is trying to say is that we’ve recently discovered an issue with our new derricks where it will destroy,”

I raise an eyebrow. He should know better than this.

“Where it will invoke a negative environmental paradigm on ninety percent of the ecosystem within two miles.”

I nod. This is a grave sin in the eyes of the Stockholders and will require a penance to match. Cleansing this sin will take a heavy toll, at least three, depending on the Dow. I wonder if I have the supplies.

“And our solution is to donate around one hundred thousand to a charity for clean ecosystems to offset it.”

I lean back, take a breath in, and seek internal guidance from the tiny voice of the Bezos within me. “Go in peace, my Team Player,” I say. “For your penance, you will run a social media campaign for seven weeks that will confess that your old derrick in South Texas exploded.”

CEO Page grimaces. I fix him with a stare.

“This is your penance, CEO. You have caused damage to the indigenous peoples of the Pacific Islands with these actions. This is a serious sin in the eyes of the Stockholders.”

He’s still grimacing, but my stare is enough to cow him. He bows his head.

“Good. May Bezos walk with you. Alexa, turn off.”

As soon as the screen flickers off, I wheel and go to my basement, putting in the twelve-digit security code and scanning my iris. I select the TrackingPoint™ 30.07 sniper rifle with XactSystem™ Smart Scope, check the chamber with a harsh clack, and go back upstairs. I leap onto my Tao Tao Rhino™, a hardy four-wheeler ATV, wrenching it towards the mesa on the horizon. It takes only three hours to reach it and another hour to climb to its flat top with the rifle on my back. 

I make it to the top of the mesa where my only companion is a silent saguaro that reaches with two-ton fingers towards the moon. I remove my robe, reverence the Amazon™ Smile once again. I flip out the legs of the bipod and set them up on the very edge of the mesa, where the ground drops sharply down a hundred feet, and take aim at the interstate. The sun is a glowering eye on the horizon, a toenail cast aside, and I see a car making its way towards Phoenix. 

We live in a world that has killed God, and the stench of His decomposition is a drug to us all. There is only one law left, and that is the most vital one of all.

Sins require sacrifices.

Malcolm MacDougall is a writer and a poet who draws on his experience as a queer man growing up in Catholic Midwestern culture. He has been published in Fools Magazine, Coffin Bell Journal, and Earthwords. In his spare time, MacDougall raises rabbits for meat, makes linocuts, and works as a journalist for Little Village, an Iowa City alt-weekly.