Saturday, January 29, 2011

Near the Beginning...:
#52: Action!

Near the Beginning: Action!
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Saturday, January 22, 2011

Near the Beginning...:
#51: Adam Idol...

Near the Beginning: Adam Idol...
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Monday, January 10, 2011

You Are Here...

People don't give themselves enough credit. Honestly, most people would rather credit "fate," "destiny" (the name of an ex-girlfriend in high school, believe it or not...), or even "god" for the good and bad in their lives. They spend thousands of dollars on self-help books, meditation courses, individualized retreats... I can't help but wonder if, when we gave up on hunting and gathering, domesticated beasts, harnessed electricity, and learned how to prevent or cure our natural enemies, the gaping void left behind--that nagging feeling that a saber-toothed tiger was just above us on that ledge ready to attack and eat us--needed to be filled by making ourselves our own worst enemies if only to prevent the onset of craziness. To save ourselves, we must doubt ourselves. (Hmm... Sounds like something I need to put on a T-shirt and sell for $19.95 at a personalized retreat for finding your inner pygmy goat...)

Recently, on our way home from an event at a friend's house, Richard turned to me, a concerned look crossing his face: "So, what do you believe in?" Ah, my poor semi-Christian husband. You see, we had been discussing (among other things) stones as a reminder to better ourselves, new age meta-physics, and a few other things to be sure--you'll forgive me if the seven glasses of wine make things a bit fuzzy... So, to ease his confusion (and, being as how he lives with me and isn't quite sure!), let's ease his troubled mind:

What do I believe?

Lets start with some basics, and work our way from there, okay?
1. I believe there may or may not be (but most likely is "not be") a god(s).
This will break my mother's heart, I know. She thinks I am turning my back on something she knows to be true: That God does exist and cares for everyone and everything in this great greenish-blue planet we call Earth. But I counter that "knowledge" of god to say, "How can I turn my back on something I truly don't believe is there?" True, I used to. I grew up taking for granted that everyone knew there was a god, and those who chose not to believe in him (or her, I suppose) were simply being ignorant or obtuse, knowing truly in their heart of hearts there must be a god. It was simply their "sin nature" that prevented them from "knowing" this god.

My sin nature must have caught up with me, eh?

There never will be, never was, and never can be definitive proof of a god(s). That some people "know" is simply where opinion gets caught up with faith, and a dangerous mix ensues in which one should take "blind faith" on anything they cannot know for sure, thereby justifying the previous, first hand belief of "knowing." In other words, by saying you "know" there is a god(s), but saying you can never know completely this god(s), and so anything about him must be taken on "faith" would only harm and not help a belief in this god to begin with, wouldn't you think? Conundrum of the human history, I suppose.

We (as the human race overall, not as individuals) say there is a god(s). But we say he is so high above us, so much more than us, much more than we could ever comprehend, and all we have to go on is our senses and these "letters" he left us in the forms of Holy Books and Revelation. But the only way we get these books and revelations are from people, the very things that can't hope to comprehend or know him. And so what are we left with? A bunch of people who can't know god, but "know" god, and therefore foible blindly around in the hopes that we get something right, something that sounds good, and pray that god(s) will not hold us too accountable for the very reasons we are said to worship him...

I think this is the part in a movie review that would say "buffoonery ensues, but plot lacks direction and able actors." To say you "know" there's a god, but you cannot "know" god, and must rely on people about god and his attributes, personality, rules, reasons, with a healthy dose of faith and naivete mixed in, with salt to taste...? I'm sorry, this just doesn't cut the mustard.

I'm actually okay with the idea that perhaps there are unknown beings of great power somewhere out there in the cosmos. However, until science can show probability, possibility, and provability--observation and empirical data--one must assume that the five senses we have are all that can be trusted. Being as how there is no evidence, no photographs, no tiny bits of deity DNA floating about the jetsam of the universe... Well...

Some people have said that this means I am setting up man as a god(s). I shall try to explain why this is also untrue.

2. I believe man is god, man is devil, but always, man is simply man.
It's hard being perfect, isn't it? We know we will never be so, but we can imagine perfection in ways that seem perfect to us when in all actuality, it is simply just a different way of doing "fucked up." What is the one common denominator in all of our philosophical problems and issues? Man. Who is the one being that tries to interpret, define, and distribute this divine-ness to others? Man. Who is the one that heals and wounds? Man. The one who gives and takes? Man. The one who arbitrarily decides right from wrong, better from worse, and bad from good? Man. It is all about us, whether we like to admit that or not. Not individually, no. That's too narcissistic. Not ethnically or racially, either. We don't like differentiating like that, even though we do consciously and subconsciously. So we divide ourselves up most brutally over the things we cannot explain with logic. Religion. We say our way is the way, our way is it, the end, the answer. And right now, about 7 billion others also think they have the answer, even the ones who profess they don't--like me--think they have an answer.

We, as mankind, are the common denominator. We even make our god(s) like us in every way conceivable, from the Greek gods who were a tad slutty and twisted like a very good soap opera, to the one that made himself like us to save us (talk about making man your god!!), to the ones that simply couldn't give a rat's ass about us if they were so inclined. Our gods are as varied as we are. Coincidence? Or some truly bizarre way of revealing the answer? Maybe after a few more millennia, we'll have enough bits and pieces from all the religions that have come and gone to come up with the one end-all be-all philosophy that makes everyone feel special and loved and absolutely right while allowing for everyone else to also feel that way... Who knows? (Psst! No one!)

Our sense of a perfect divine has changed with the whims, knowledge, and times of ourselves. Why is god so interchangeable, so fluid? Because he is of our own making. Why does the "devil" appear also to be so fluid and time-chained in his abilities to "tempt" and "destroy"? Because he is also us, and of our making. Nothing more, nothing less.

I set man up not as a god or a devil. We do that ourselves, each and every one of us. And I don't believe it's because we truly believe there is a god, either. God is simply our way of coping with not only the unexplainable and unknown, but also of dealing with our fragile egos and sense of "Are we alone?" in this universe. We've always sensed something bigger than ourselves, but not because there is a god(s). But because, just by looking up at a sun, moon, and stars we cannot touch, it is proven that we are small. Because we die and cannot prevent it no matter how much we dance around a fire, chant up a storm, or sacrifice the masses. Because we see so much that is still unanswered, no mater how much we poke, prod, test, and retest. As time passes, we gain more knowledge. Things we used to hold so dear we killed over it are now distant memories and fading history.

Remember when someone dared assert that the world was round? This didn't affect anyone or anything. It didn't change the Catholic Church's salvation message. It didn't cause people to suffer and die. It didn't change the price of tea in China... But people died over this idea.

Saying there is no god will not change one damn thing. Saying there is a god won't change anything either. But don't say you know. Because you don't. You can claim faith, walking on water, answered prayers and the like because you know there's no way to test, prove, or deny any of it (yet). The only thing you know is your faith, feelings, and opinions, all thrown together in the casserole of your life. But that's all you know. You know your opinions and beliefs. And that's all any of us will ever know for 100% certain.

3. I believe in iced teas all-benevolent goodness.
Truly, it is the one thing you can always count on that I will drink until my dying day. Like most things today, it causes cancer in some way, shape, or form, I suppose. I'm sure there's a study out about the dangerous effects of drinking nothing but iced tea for weeks on end, but there you are. What does this have to do with Man, God, and Devil?

Isn't it clear? Iced Tea is my god. Without it, I'm the biggest, most grouchy-ass person in the universe. Whole ecosystems have been devastated, species wiped out, and worlds cataclysmicly ended due to my "drinking problem." I live and die for Iced Tea, I wake up and drink it, I drink it before I go to bed, and every single waking moment of thirst in my life is satisfied by a gulp of this precious liquid. It needs to be in my refrigerator, in my lunch bag at work, at friends and families houses and parties. I am its willing slave; I am its god, for without me, the tea could never be my god; but without tea, I could never hope to attain a good day without it. Make sense? I'm sure a lot of you will have fun picking apart this analogy, saying why it may or may not work as an analogy, but be that as it may, the nitty-gritty truths apply. (Batteries not included; ice cubes sold separately)

I've also recently begun treating water as my god. Morning, noon, and night, water slides down my throat, making me more healthy, making iced tea that much more delicious when I grab that jug instead.

4. Three Things That Are Always True: Death, Taxes, and Fundies
Throughout history, in all of space and time, these are the three things that keep man going.

Knowing we will die keeps us always searching, always looking, always wanting to "know."

There is always someone who has power over us, and takes from us (sometimes with our consent, sometimes without), and our destiny will always be influenced by someone else in power somewhere.

In keeping with the "our lives are always influenced by us" philosophy, fundamentalists and conservatives are those who are afraid of the unknown and hold fast to the tried and true of their past, usually handed down from previous generations. I'm sure there were several Greeks who balked at the idea of a Hercules being born of god and virgin and that it was heresy. Fundies need not be of the Christian persuasion any more than so-called "liberals" are always godless.

No matter the century, the size of the population, or the cubic square feet of Pluto's size having any sort of bearing on it's planetary status in this universe, death, taxes, and fundies will always be here, for good or ill, and it's all our fault.

These are some of my more fundamental beliefs. Take them for what you will. Most of them are beliefs in motion, evolving and changing as I experience this life and live it to the fullest extent I can. But until next time, This I Believe.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

See Ya Later, Alligator...

This isn't what I planned on blogging about, but I spewed it out nonetheless, mostly because when I was doing some surfing on the subject I did want to blog about (Possibility versus Probability), I read other things that made me think fear is the ultimate motivator for irrational belief.

I have always been fascinated, actually, by people's enjoyment of being scared. From the haunted hayrides, the corn mazes, the creepy houses, the horror flicks, the screaming and the blood--it boggles me more than fundidiots!

I personally have never liked being scared--indeed, even mild suspense can sometimes get to me, although I will state that I love a good suspense flick much better than a horror flick. My brothers would actually make fun of me when, if they happened to be watching a horror movie or show on the television, I would vacate the living room as soon as I thought something even remotely horrifying was about to make an appearance. Whether suddenly having to go to the bathroom, or making up some other such excuse, I would take that time to play the "for-once-not-being-played" Nintendo, or have the bedroom for silent reading. (We three boys shared a bedroom until I was seventeen, at which point I demanded my father build a wall in the basement at a key point in which I could finally secure my own room...)

I sometimes wonder if this is how I try exert control over my environment? Or is this me being a slave to my fears? I don't fear fear--in fact, there isn't much I do fear! I just don't like that feeling of unknowing, of the surprise that's coming, and ultimately, of the nightmarish stories my subconscious imagines in the dead of the night! I remember I once made it through (what I now realize is the cheesiest flick ever made) a whole screening of the movie Alligator, and for years afterward, I had a nightmare in which a giant alligator was coming down Toll Gate Road, trying to gobble up my family... And while I can appreciate the cheesiness of it all now, back then I was terrified at the idea of loose alligators. Go figure, eh?

I must then ask myself, why doesn't the fear of eternal damnation hang over me, or even my subconscious, to the point where I must err on the side of "caution" and "believe" just to save myself the fear of hell fire? Is it that, as an adult, I can appreciate the "cheesiness" of fire insurance for a consciousness that won't survive past my heart beat? Or, on the flip side, is it my survival instincts of self-preservation that keeps me from even contemplating the notion, much as I wouldn't contemplate watching a horror movie?

I think it must be the first, as the second, the "contemplation," has been discussed both here and on other blogs, about the ludicrousness of such a netherworld created by a being to punish beings he created and doesn't want to punish... The circular, anti-rational logic of it all, is more reminiscent of a fire insurance policy, nay, perhaps even a panic button people can hit at will in an effort to absolve themselves of misdeeds and "less than nice" thoughts or actions!

In the ultimate of ironies (much like having a spoon when all you need if a knife), one must remember two key tenants: One, that you need Jesus blood to "wash away," or "cleanse" your sins, even though through some sort of loophole, you still end up paying the price of sin (i.e, death), but end up with life "eternally" in the presence of the one who died for you; and Two, even though you have been "washed" or "cleansed" of these sins, you will still commit acts of "wrongness" or "misdeeds," and thus continually need to regret and repent of these misdeeds (although it must be pointed out, in most Christian circles, misdeeds do not end your salvation, just a close relationship with said god).

And you have to wonder (or, at least, I have to wonder) why wouldn't "salvation" erase the sin nature, thus leaving you sinless the remainder of your life? OR, barring some sort of teleological law about such a scenario (although a study of the holy book will reveal no such block to sinless nature through salvation), why not then BAM! automatic everlasting life? Why the need to still die if Jesus truly paid the price for all our sins?

As you can see, it reduces into an acrimonious harmony of illogical thought and circular rationale...

Fear, at its core, must be substantive, if it is to remain effective as a motivator (much like "justice" and "mercy" must have finite, measurable punishments for finite, measurable deeds, but that's for another time...). Fear is defined by Websters as "1 a: an unpleasant often strong emotion caused by anticipation or awareness of danger." In other words, you need a reason to be afraid, to have fear... Otherwise, your fear is considered irrational, and thus, is categorized as a "phobia." Phobia, from Websters, is "an exaggerated usually inexplicable and illogical fear of a particular object, class of objects, or situation."

Hell, or even the once-removed cousin through marriage thought of eternal punishment, is a christological phobia. An irrational fear. Inexplicable, illogical, and brought on by an exaggerated fable of yesteryears beliefs. The reason hell has lost much of its umph in driving hoards to a "saving knowledge of Jesus" isn't due to a sudden gambling urge against Pascal's Wager, but by a continuing body of knowledge which points in the direction of logic, not pointy-tailed red-horned devils on one shoulder and beatific angels on the other...

And while my primal subconscious may still be dealing with the supposedly very real threat of being eaten by alligators (or its related off-shoots), I can rest easy in the knowledge that
  1. Alligators are real.
  2. Alligators have eaten people.
  3. Alligators do not live in northeastern Pennsylvania.
Thus, there is a basis for the fear, and my conscious realizes this. The rational, logical portion of my brain recognizes the facts, and makes a decision which supersedes the more primal nature of "fight/flight," and as long as I don't feed this "fear" with heresy, false logic, and panicky hypotheticals, I sleep easy and don't plan my entire life, indeed my every thought and whim, on the basis of fear.

And, this I believe is most fundamental, fear, while maybe not widely recognized as such, is the sole motivator of continued religious belief, and it flourishes best in the minds of people who entertain false logic and hypotheticals...

Perhaps, as humanity continues to advance sociologically and psychologically, more people will confront the irrationality of god and his supposed eternal promises (not to mention punishments)?

It almost stretches one's faith in humanity to think so...

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Something Random This Way Comes...

Yes, that is a pygmy goat.

No, I don't know why I chose that particular picture.

As I happen to find true every year about this time, I find myself yearning for certainty and simply staring out the window at dead trees and flowers of a summer gone by once again. Perhaps it's because my birthday draws near, or maybe I suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, or perhaps it's just because I hate not knowing if I can possibly survive the ennui. (Thank god my name isn't Neville, for multiple reasons...)

But now I'm just drowning in my own self pity, so--onward and upward.

Do you think the Mayans may have been off by a year? Perhaps it's 2011, and not 2012, that the world ends, what with all the dead fish and birds that are cropping up with an alacrity that defies explanation (unless you truly are a believer in the Stargate program). Once can't help but wonder if maybe--just maybe--climate change is more than just a liberal lie meant to make right-wingers suffer from migraines. Of course, since pygmy goats have yet to fall from the sky or wash up in rivers, perhaps it's just coincidence, never mind the raining cats and dogs... (not part of the Mayan prophecy either...). But do you think that one dog giving birth to seventeen puppies in one litter could be the fulfillment of such a thought? Perhaps Etana just wanted to give the the Duggars a run for their money--let's face it, seventeen in one shot is a whole hell of a lot more impressive than nineteen over the course of decades...

Here, have another random photo:

Yes, that is a naked man riding a fish. Some people know him as Titan: no one actually believes in him anymore (i.e., we're all a little bit atheist), but it sure makes for a better garden statue, than, say, a dead guy hanging from some wood. But that may just be me.

Which reminds me of that quote:

"If Jesus had been killed twenty years ago, Catholic school children would be wearing little electric chairs around their necks instead of crosses." --Lenny Bruce
Hmm... Not quite the romantic symbol now, is it? It also would have negated that Roman soldier from having to stick a sword through his side. (Can you say "Needless violence much?") Notwithstanding the crown of thorns bring fried (the reinvention of potpourri...), it's funny to entertain the notion that, had that Jewish-Mexican dude Jesus been alive just twenty short years ago instead of "back then," right-wing persons would have been all about the death penalty (thus ensuring their savior's demise) while it would be up to us "liberals" to try to get his sentence changed to life imprisonment. Not that claiming to be a god is a sentence worthy of death these days (Oh, how enlightened we have become!), so we can only assume that, in order to have made sure he could have died for all our sins in today's day and age, he would have had to have been a terrorist, or, at the very least, a mass murderer. (Again, however, a lot less romantic of a notion...)

Don't you just love random?