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Saturday, August 4, 2012

Guess what? Religion.

This is one of those subjects where, although people won't admit to themselves they judge others, will have some people make up their mind about me one or two sentences in. I ask you to read this with an open mind. If you're a person of faith, it shouldn't be a problem. If your faith can't be questioned and remain intact, it's not faith to begin with. 

Yes, I'm "going there". I often do. I'm one of those that is often labeled as having lost his faith. I grew up going to church, with about the best bunch of supportive people you could imagine. I chose to be baptized at age 19. That was also when I "lost my way".

I had always been fascinated by science, and now that I was a free man (high school graduate) I didn't have any assigned reading, I got to choose what and how I learned. I learned as much as I could find about quantum theory and astrophysics. Opening my mind to new ways of thinking about existence, a thought kept tugging at the back of my mind. The right words were never there, so i kept plodding along. I read a little about Plato, Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, and Einstein, and that tug finally found the words it needed to sound alarms in my head:

There is little to no place in religion for the Universe. Writings are human-centered, and given what learning was available when writing, why not? But to keep the human-centric nature of existence didn't make sense. Sure, I understand people want comfort in an afterlife. People need to know that if they follow a checklist handed down by some guy on a podium each Sunday, they will live forever, without having to make any tough moral choices themselves. People need to know it's going to be okay.

I don't intend for this post to focus on any one religion. When I say "God", I'm not saying YHWH(Yahweh), Jesus, Buddha, L. Ron Hubbard, or anything specific. God is not a name. Like when you say "Dumbass", it isn't their name - you're saying what they are.

The Universe is huge. All of space-time, dimensions we can't fathom, and we are a minute speck on a minute speck get the idea. What we experience is the smallest fraction of what is in the Universe. So why would any All-knowing, all-seeing God even put that stuff there?

Who knows? First of all, a being that can be aware of every subatomic particle winking in and out of existence from the beginning to the end of time is a being whose thought processes we cannot hope to fathom. Not in the space of an old book that talks a lot about who begat whom, and what to eat on what days, certainly not in the imaginings of a science fiction author. This is a level of thought that we couldn't even begin to define with all the words in all the languages people have or will ever have.

I began to realize religion, from what I've read, is taking these immense, wondrous and often exotic workings, most of which we will never experience in our tiny little pinprick corner of existence, and dumbing it down to fit into a book. Even the book is dumbed down. One bite-sized sermon, often out of context will feed your spirit for a whole week. Let someone else read it to you, tell you what they think it means, and just obey.

That line of thought started to trouble me even more. Worship a God that has brought all this marvelous stuff into existence, but get angry at people who try and learn about it. Also, if you enjoy any of this great gift, you're sinning.

“We are all connected; To each other, biologically
. To the earth, chemically.
 To the rest of the universe atomically.”
Neil deGrasse Tyson
Some of the more alarming products I've seen of the dumbed-down-existence practices, is "Intellegent Design". It is not science. The argument "It's too complex, there has to be something doing it..." or  
"You can't explain it, it has to be God." Is saddening. Neil deGrasse Tyson, of the Hayden Planetarium, said that when you think of God in these terms, God becomes "an ever-receding pocket of scientific ignorance."

So far, the best I've been able to come up with, as far as God goes is something like this:

God is infinite - everything we can and can't see. God encompasses an infinite existence. We are finite beings. We look from the inside, learning more and more all the time, but as our time is finite and ends, we take our experiences and perceptions from the finite to rejoin the infinite. Even using the term "God" evokes images of someone who is basically a magical human.

I don't even know how much I believe that. It doesn't matter what you believe, believing something, no matter how loudly, won't change what's going on. If there's Karma, or an afterlife, you just wind up looking like a jerk for eternity. Treat people with respect. Grow as a person, and help others grow. Be willing to change what you think to accommodate what you learn.

God's not some creepy old white man in the clouds spending the bulk of his energy telling us what to eat on what days, or campaigning for Republicans. What I believe is God, simply put, is everything. Even referring to it as "God" kind of dumbs it down. There doesn't need to be an agreed-on being. It's not up to us. Believe what you honestly feel is right, out of the positive feelings you get, not out of fear, or hatred, or anything someone tells you makes you any better than anything else.
Since I've lost my way, I've never been more spiritually enlightened. I marvel at existence every day, from the subatomic to the interstellar, there's always more to learn, and then still more to realize that we haven't even begun to question. I've found much more peace in that than could be written in words.

I'm not saying I'm right and you have to accept it, then again, what's true and what's not isn't really up to us, no matter how much we try and say otherwise.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Getting Something Back

Way back, at age 19, I decided to start running to get in shape. I loved it. I managed to run every day, which is a big deal for me. less than 6 months after I started, I was stopped by my first arthritis flare in my ankle. I had no idea what it was at the time, but it scared me, and had me on crutches or limping for 5 months.

After that, it came and went, but the swelling kept my foot from bending correctly, so no more running for me. The arthritis got progressively worse, sometimes keeping me bedridden for weeks. Then, between flares, it was all I could do to get some of my strength back for another round of flares.
I even climbed several mountains in the meantime, when my joints permitted, but being able to jump or run, to propel myself through the air one leg at a time, wouldn't come to me. It had been frustrating to say the least.

I read up on everything I could, and was particularly interested in the effect of dopamine in autoimmune diseases. I had noticed if I was in the middle of a flare, but I heard a good song, or something else that made me happy despite the pain, I'd sometimes get an amazing, euphoric feeling, and that would set about recovery for that round.

I don't know if anyone knows the full story of what I've gone through over the last two years, but it's been rough to say the least. Through it, I found new ways to look at things, to figure out what's really important, figure out where I'm going, and to feel halfway decent about myself for I believe the first time in my life.

January had me bedridden two separate times, but I didn't let the depression from prolonged pain win that time. I've had only minor flares since, the most recent on my hand lasting for LESS THAN A DAY.

I thought that was good news, but today, while out walking London, I did something, just to see if I finally could, and I'm sure I looked a lot like a drunken asshat.

I ran.

Sunday, April 29, 2012


I've heard a lot about people wanting to shut down borders, and complaining about pressing 1 for English.

We are a country of immigrants. Don't take my word for it, ask the Statue of Liberty.

"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me.
I lift my lamp beside the golden door."

True story.
-Emma Lazarus, “The New Colossus”

This was selected as THE greeting to people coming to our country. It was to represent what we all work for – a better future, and the freedom to change things for the better.

People don't seem to be able to respect the fact that there are other languages in the world, even worse if some of them make it into our country. For anyone semi-literate in history, it should be recognized as a possible turning point toward something dark. Look at what has happened to other countries when they've shut out others, or blamed people of another culture for their problems.

Americans are used to convenience rather than effort, especially if it means their horizons might be broadened, or something might make their life experience just a little more enriching.

But...but...but they get stuff!

There's a lot of posts on social media saying things like "In Korea they beat you with splintery wooden dildos but in America you get a golden unicorn that poops heroin that they can sell to neighborhood youths, and  benefits." - food stamps, social security, driver's licence... wait a second.

Anyone who has applied for anything knows that you need a social security number to get anything like this. To have a social security number, you must be a citizen. And if someone steals a social security number to get a job? They pay a third of their income into SS, and will never see a penny of it.

So, people have chosen to forgo common sense, especially when it means they can blame everything wrong in their lives on people with brown skin. Stay classy, America.

Beyond the common sense, there's a lot of actual facts about immigrants. They come here to work. They see opportunities we Americans wouldn't consider. Take a look at northeaster Ohio. Immigrants coming to work and start businesses have grown local economies by billions.

So, the history and facts aren't on your side. Maybe it's all about how hard it is to press a button for English when you're on the phone. It took me longer to type that sentence that it has ever taken me to press "1".

Speek thuh langooedge, leik i doo,

I do favor those within out borders learning English. Not for my own peace of mind, but because their stories and voices can be added to the rich tapestry of the America I grew up loving. Our country is made up of too many other cultures to think, even for a moment, that everyone should magically speak so we can understand them as soon as they are within our borders.

If someone comes here to work, they are doing something. They are, by nature, a part of society. They have a story, one which deserves to be told, and added to our own heritage. 

To people that have lived here all our lives, check your own lineage. A lot of you wouldn't be here if immigrants weren't allowed, especially if they didn't speak English.

To people coming here in search of a better tomorrow, I thank you. More people who grew up in America need to follow suit.

As problems arise in a society struggling with globalization, mass communication, and people being forced to recognize the reality of a bigger Earth than what they see outside their own windows, we need a richer, more varied society to work together to come up with unique and effective solutions.

We need you. 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Bill of Rights... What About Responsibility?

 Citizens' Rights and Responsibilities

Last time I was at the hospital, I saw, posted on several walls, a document entitled "Patients' Rights and Responsibilities". It was a overly-verbose way of saying you have the right to treatment coupled with the responsibility to pay your bill. I thought that was a very good way of putting something. You have a certain right, and with it go certain responsibilities.

 I started thinking about the Bill of Rights, and that it needed a "Bill of Responsibility" to compliment it. It's been circling the vortex of ideas in my head for some time. People who label themselved "Gun lovers" sparked it, but once the concept was there, I saw that it applies to all rights.

 Americans love their rights, but not all respect their responsibilities. I do NOT favor "Takin' our guns", but people who post things online against gun control are really hurting their case. People insist on taking loaded weapons in to where a public official is speaking, just 'cuz it's their right. No matter that you plead for guns to defend yourself and family, but the Secret effing Service is there! What makes you such a special person?

 People post pictures of a sign basically saying "Hey, violate my neighbors. It'll be funny 'cuz they don't have guns! I do, so don't mess with me!" That is stupidity in it's raw form, there. Burglars tend to avoid your house while you're in it. But, you did tell them to go for your guns first. Then, if you do get home, guess where your guns are? Pointed at you.

 All the same, people laugh at this callous disregard for safety and human life. Not to mention, just come off like a bunch of trigger-happy morons that should have their own island, away from society in general.

 I know people aren't like that, for the most part. Just the loudest ones. People do go to extremes if they feel their rights are threatened, even if it's imaginary. Did you know, for all of Obama's "Comprehensive plan to take your guns" - I didn't make this up, people believe it - The only gun laws he's signed actually allow more freedom, like carrying a loaded weapon into a National Park.

 I spent enough time on guns, let's just go down the list.

1.  Freedom of speech, Press, Religion and Petition - You have the right to say what you want, print what you want, believe what you want, and call for action by your elected representatives if you want something changed.

 You have the responsibility to think before you speak, really think, research before printing, Accept that if you have your right to believe what you want, so does everyone else and make sure your petition is a good thing for all, not just you wanting your own way.

2. Right to keep and bear arms - It specifically mentions the potential need of a citizen's militia, in turn, citizens will have the right to arm themselves. A government that wants too much control will try and deny these rights if it foresees a civil war, or another Revolution.

 You have the responsibility to store guns responsibly, use and care for them responsibly, to show people you're not a trigger-happy moron who wants to fire his guns just because he can.

3. Quartering Soldiers - No one can force you to house a soldier. If something awful happens, and our soldiers have to fight on home ground, be nice and let one stay with you if it's needed. This amendment really hasn't had too many issues over history.

4. Search and Seizure - No searches without good reason. You have the right to say no to a search of your property or person. You have the responsibility to let them in when they do have a warrant.

5. The Rights of Persons - You have the right to keep your yap shut if it might get you in trouble. You still have the responsibility of not being a lying douche.

6. Right to a Speedy Trial - You have the right to have your trial as quickly as possible. You have the responsibility to realize there are other people in this world, and some got in line before you.

7. Right to a trial by jury - You have the right to a trial by a jury of your peers, if you think you deserve a "Hey, guys, be bros" type of case, that isn't black and white. You have the responsibility to nut up the rest of the time, no matter how much you don't like it. Speeding? Yeah, you went fast. Pay your fine and think about amendment #6.

8. Excessive bail, cruel treatment. - Again, you will be punished, but the punishment should fit the crime, but only up to a point. You still have the right to be treated as a human, no matter what you do. You have the responsibility to just not go there. Don't be Manson.

9. Rule of Construction of Constitution - Constitutional amendments grant rights, not take them away. You have the right to propose new amendments to guarantee certain freedoms, and never to take them away. You have the responsibility to realize you can't add an amendment to take away the right to marriage for anyone. Seriously, guys, it's right there. You have the responsibility to realize that even if you don't agree with something, other people get the same rights as you under the law.

10. Rights of States - The constitution is what covers the US. Anything not there, States have the right to pass laws on. The responsibility is to do what's right, not always what's popular to a local, loud few.

 Watch this, then watch C-SPAN. You'll swear you're high.