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I used to be a devout follower of Bokononism, the fake religion created by Kurt Vonnegut in Cat’s Cradle. Bokononism is based on “happy lies.” Adherents realize that life is miserable and that the pronouncements of their leaders to convince them otherwise are shams. But what better than to pretend to happiness, rather than spend each day depressed? Years after Cat’s Cradle was published, science weighed in with the discovery that forcing a smile onto one’s face will actually improve one’s mental outlook. (So there.) These days, however, the strain of forcing a happy face at the most unhappy lies that current leaders tell us is a little harder. Thank heck, then, for Swami Beyondananda (aka Steve Bhaerman), an obviously fake mystic who has some obvious, yet oft-overlooked, political advice that sounds both happy and, if not totally accurate, not entirely worthless, either. My personal conversion to the swami’s cult is based in large part on his shameless, groan-inducing wordplay. Even master punsters the Firesign Theatre might wince at Beyondananda’s nonstop japery—along the lines of “bozone layer”: the “delicate laugh force around our planet caused by rising levity.” In setting his strategy to improve humankind—specifically, ugly Americans—Swami asks, “Do the Ends Justify the Meanness?” He wants us to “Invest in A-Bun-Dance, Not Scare City,” by which he means we should “[create] sufficiency by getting off our assets, moving our buns, and dancing to the music of the spheres.” Addressing the economy, Swami warns, “Serf City, Here We Come?” He even offers an alternative religion, “Presleyterianism,” based on the “Three Commandments of Elvis: Love Me Tender. Please Surrender. Return to Sender.” But somewhere between the setups and the punch lines, Swami offers numbers and graphs—and factoids along the lines of the number of lobbyists per member of Congress big drug companies employ (1.2)—to both set us thinking and support his giggly premise. Because the current political debate devolves into a battle between (dull) reason and (clueless) faith, all reasonable citizens should put their faith in the power of a good laugh. In the end, the joke’s on us anyway.

—Dave Nuttycombe